Microsoft has released a preview of their Whiteboard app for Windows 10 which includes collaboration options if you’ve got an Office 365 account. Here’s how you can try it, with help on some features.
You can use the Whiteboard on your own or with a group online (combined with audio/video conferencing). To use the collaboration features, one of the participants needs an Office 365 account.
Download from the Windows Store.
This is a very ordinary app, even for a public preview. We’re reluctant to be harsh on this preview app but it’s a good example of why Windows 10 apps haven’t got a lot of interest. There’s little online help or hints about what the app can do.
The current version is limited by an opaque interface which is hard to grasp with no help for newbies to the app. Some telepathic connection to the development team seems to be the only way to discover the options available (or not).
The current preview crashes regularly (good thing it has autosave). Here’s what we found during the apps lucid moments.
The main toolbar looks like this, but only when the app window is wide enough.
If the window isn’t wide enough, some tools like the highlighter and ruler just disappear! If you’re wondering where a certain tool is, widen the app window. Unlike the Office ribbon which shows everything even in a very narrow window.
The tools, left to right are; Full Screen, Undo, Redo, Delete whole whiteboard, ‘Finger Inking’ (mouse or touch), a variety of pens with no color selections, eraser, selector, Send Feedback, Web Search, Settings.
There are two settings at the moment.
Ink to Shape
Converts your drawing into a shape, like a circle, square or rectangle. Office 2016 Windows for Office 365 has a similar feature.
Ink to Table
Draw a square/rectangle then lines inside to make a grid. That should work, similar to the Draw Table tool in Word,
We could not get this to work. The lack of help, typical of Windows 10 apps, means there’s no direct way to find out. Microsoft’s app design doesn’t seem to include any proper provisions for help. That would not be a problem if the apps were as intuitive as Microsoft hype boasts. We had to dig around the Microsoft site to find this out-of-date page which, at least, has some guidance on Whiteboard features.
Insert an image by Copy / Paste or drag and drop from Explorer.
The ruler becomes an overlay on the screen
- one finger will move the ruler up/down or left/right.
- two fingers rotates the ruler.
- three fingers rotates the ruler by 5° jumps.
Draw a straight line by select a pen or highlighter then drawing along the edge of the ruler.
Tap and hold or right-click for some options for images and shapes.
Copy, Cut, Delete and add alternative text.
Tap and hold/right-click on a blank part of the screen.
Paste, Insert Image, add ‘Post-it’ like Note, add image from camera.
Once you have your finished whiteboard, what can you do with it? Not a lot, at the moment. The Share option has the limited Windows 10 app options with nothing related to Microsoft Office (except OneNote).
There’s no simple option to save the whiteboard to a plain image (there was but it’s been dropped from the current public releases). No versioning to keep interim versions of the whiteboard.
Each virtual Whiteboard has an ‘infinite’ size. Microsoft says that’s a good thing, but we found it difficult to navigate.
We could not find any zooming options. Occasionally a ‘100%’ tip appears so presumably there’s some zoom option available, but where? Without proper help or even a complete toolbar it’s a mystery.
Moving objects around is a hit/miss affair.
Hoping for better
We hope the Whiteboard app will develop into something good but this version had no business being released to the public. People are only going to be disappointed and frustrated when the Whiteboard hype doesn’t come close to the December 2017 reality.