Ahhh, the whiteboard. From board rooms to class rooms, it has become the blank slate of a generation. And while nothing can be as freeing (or horrifying) as an empty sheet, the whiteboard can be entertaining for kids creating doodles or hangman games or productive for adults who sketch out budgets or wireframes.
In my work flow, I spend a lot of time in front of a whiteboard or with mapping software, so I was excited to learn that Avici Software was bringing Whiteboard HD to the iPad. The $4.99 app had some nice features and incorporated some of the tools I regularly use. But how would Whiteboard HD actually stack up?
The toolset is everything you’d expect from a basic whiteboard – basic shapes, text, line and freeform drawing tools. You can also add an image from your photo library – either as an object or as the diagram’s background. Changing stroke color for lines or objects is pretty easy (as long as you tackle them up front) and comes with a lot of options. But changing those stroke colors or simply adding fill becomes unintuitive and pretty cumbersome. After creating an object, you have to change tools and select the object you want to change. Then go to the Inspector, scroll down and find the menu item and choose the flyout menu to change the color. The same procedure is necessary for adding fill. You have to repeat it for every single object you want to change. You cannot affect a line or object’s stroke weight. The application has deeper menus, but they are only available via the Inspector or an under-advertised, unintuitive two-finger tap. Whiteboard HD would definitely benefit from better documentation.
Another complaint is that your work is limited to the iPad’s screen size. You can’t create a larger document and you can’t scroll or zoom in or out. This creates a lot of problems because – in order for text be legible – you can’t fit very much on the iPad’s screen. I also had some buggy issues where items would sometimes shift away from where I had put them. Also, I had enough of a problem getting the delete button to recognize my finger tapping it, that it seems worth mentioning.
Still, Whiteboard HD has a lot going for it. Copying diagrams and sharing your brainstorms is easier than you’d think it would be. Duplicating a diagram is a simple, two-tap operation. And exporting is a breeze. Whether it’s to your photo library, e-mail, and new Box.net and Dropbox support, Whiteboard HD allows you to export your work in a variety of formats. You can even use it for a presentation, with built-in, external monitor support. (To that end, Avici has added a pointer tool that turns your touch into a laser pointer on the screen.)
Yes, Whiteboard HD has a lot of potential, but a lot of hurdles, too — and because of these limitations, Whiteboard HD is left feeling a little neutered. It’s not really the big productivity app that it could be (and that I want it to be). At the same time, it’s a lot more than a simple sketch app.
On the upside, Avici seems to be pretty responsive to updating this piece of software and some of the negatives I’ve pointed out are items that the development team has said they plan on fixing or incorporating sometime in the future. So there’s hope for Whiteboard HD. I just can’t get overly excited about it right now.
Whiteboard HD, $4.99 at the iTunes Store.
Edit: updated price.