Monday, March 05, 2007

Web-based Interactive Whiteboards

Whiteboards were being bandied around some years ago, well before the term Web 2.0 raised its head, as the answer to network collaboration. Trouble was you needed software installed on your PC or Mac to make them work and that came with all the limitations of such systems. They needed to be cross-platform applications and anyone you wanted to collaborate with had to have the same software, sometimes even the same version as well - sigh!

The term "interactive whiteboard" is more readily associated with those large touch sensitive boards used in classrooms and training courses but "electronic whiteboard" is a closer description as there's not that much interaction involved. These are really just simple input devices with some clever software running the show.

Now there are several useful looking and free implementations of web-based interactive whiteboards that'll run via your internet browser so no more compatibility issues and everyone has a web browser, don't they? These are truly interactive as they allow more than one user to update them at the same time. Here are a few that I've found that look worth investigating if you're looking for that kind of functionality…

scribbleskrbl Online  Service - With skrbl (scribble) you can write notes, sketch drawings, upload pictures and files. You can switch between freehand drawing and rich text entry modes easily and it saves and syncs your work automatically.

skrbl whiteboards are about real-time collaboration so, while you can work away in private if you want, you can also pass out your whiteboard URL to allow others to join in and add to the content.

There's an interactive trial mode if you want to try it out before signing up but it can get a bit erratic if there are more than one of you scribbling away simultaneously. Still, it gives you an idea of how it all works.

ThinkatureThinkature Online  Service - is about instant messaging inside a virtual workspace. With it you can set up a collaboration environment, a meeting room or a personal web-based whiteboard or even use it as a planning, brainstorming or outlining tool.

Thinkature is based on cards you design and place on the virtual workspace. These can be freehand drawing objects, text boxes or images copied from the web or uploaded from your own system and you can draw connecting lines between cards or use move them forward or back in the workspace.

There's also a voice chat facility so you can have a conversation with other users of your workspace while you're all together so there's not even a need for a separate phone conference to keep things fresh and productive.

Imagination CubedImagination Cubed Online  Service - This is a straightforward, collaborative whiteboard where you can invite others to join in by instant messenger or e-mail. There are no accounts required and you're up and running as soon as you load the page.

Imagination Cubed has more drawing tools than the systems mentioned above and you can choose from a pen with various brush styles, shapes, stamps, lines and text. You can select a colour for each tool, set the background colour or pattern of the workspace and there's even a grid you can overlay as well. The one downside is that text is limited to a single font and face, all you can change is size.

How storage of drawings is managed is unclear but you can send a link to your sketch to an e-mail address. Power boarders will appreciate the undo function and the ability to replay all the drawing actions taken to build the whiteboard as a movie.

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