No virtual whiteboard is perfect for everyone – and every virtual whiteboard service seems to shut down after a few years. While we’ve recommended several over the years, the only one still around is Twiddla, which is so feature-rich that it might feel too complicated (and ugly) for some projects. If so, try the simpler app RealtimeBoard.
If your brainstorming involves slapping a bunch of sticky notes or index cards on a wall and moving them around, and you need to recreate that process online, RealtimeBoard is an easy-to-learn solution with a free collaborative option.
I’m working on a fiction project with a writing partner, and we outline our stories on a physical whiteboard to better track their structure. But sometimes we need to work remotely. So we started using RealtimeBoard. We toss up virtual Post-It notes for each story beat, fill them out, and shift them around. We can easily duplicate Post-Its and snap them into alignment. We can zoom and drag the board around pretty intuitively. We can edit a board at the same time while we talk over Google Hangouts. The app helps and guides us just enough.
A story outline on the RealtimeBoard Mac app. Screenshot: Nick Douglas/RealtimeBoard
But all these options feel either too complicated (we don’t need to assign a team member to each Post-It) or too restrictive (have you ever tried to swap two cells in a spreadsheet?). Because RealtimeBoard is still kind of visual and sloppy, it helps us work as if we were at a real whiteboard together, and not at a piece of software. It works in the browser and in dedicated Mac, Windows, iOS and Android apps. And it’s free.
At least, it’s free for a team (of any size) working on just a few projects at a time. If you want to run more than five active boards, or make boards accessible to only part of your team, you’ll need to pay $US480 ($618) a year. At that point you should shop around. But if you’re just a scrappy little team, try the free version.
Whiteboard apps are a weird balance of functionality and practical skeuomorphism. They’re part word processor, part MS Paint, part desktop publisher, part vector editor. Even on touch interfaces, it’s impossible to fully recreate the intuitive feel of markers, pens and Post-Its on a physical whiteboard. All this to say that every whiteboard app kind of sucks. But for our purposes, RealtimeBoard really managed not to suck.
RealtimeBoard [Home page]