There’s no shortage of apps where you can collect your thoughts and ideas when brainstorming a new project, planning a vacation, or any number of other tasks. Personally, most of my brainstorming (both alone and with others) is done in Apple’s Notes app.
However, with the release of iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and MacOS 13.1, Apple’s Freeform app is making its debut.
Think of Freeform as a kind of digital whiteboard. One where you can write, draw and add pictures and documents – alone or with others.
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Before deleting or hiding Freeform, take a few minutes to try it out. He can do a lot. Below, I’ll walk you through the top tips and tricks to help you get started with Apple’s new app.
The general layout of a table in Freeform
When you first open Freeform, you are presented with a blank table. You can pinch to zoom in or zoom out on a table, with the zoom level displayed in the lower left corner of the screen. There is no limit when it comes to zooming out distance, allowing you to add as much to a chart as you want or need.
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At the top of the screen you will find all the available tools. You can use the apple pencil to draw on a board, add a sticky note, select from over 700 different shapes, add a text box or add a link (with preview), images and documents. You can add these final items from the Photos or Files app, or even scan a document directly into the app.
If you’re using Freeform on an iPhone, you can use your finger to draw on a board because the iPhone doesn’t work with the Apple Pencil. On a Mac, you can use your mouse.
Edit or customize items on a board
As you start adding elements to your array, you’ll want to change its appearance. By quickly tapping on an item, you can bring up a small menu with options for adjusting various aspects of the item.
For example, if you add a shape, you can drag and drop it anywhere on the board or resize it by dragging one of the handles. But if you tap it to show the menu, you can change the color, add a border, add text, duplicate it, delete it, or if you tap the three-dot icon, you can show even more options. The whole experience is intuitive and easy to navigate.
Remember, if you run out of space, just zoom out or scroll in the direction you want to add more items.
You can collaborate on a board with friends, colleagues
You don’t have to modify and maintain a table on your own. You can invite friends or colleagues to work on the board with you, and if you’re both active and editing a board at the same time, you can even work on it together via a FaceTime call.
However, before you can share a board, you need to enable iCloud sync for Freeform. To do this, go to Settings > tap your name > iCloudthen touch Display all under the Apps using iCloud section.
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Scroll down the list until you find Freeform, then slide the switch next to it to the On position. You will need to repeat this on every device you want to use Freeform on.
Return to the Freeform app and tap the share button in the top right corner. From here, you can select a contact you want to share your current board with or an app you want to use to share a link to your current board.
Near the top of the share sheet, there is a line of text that says “Only invited people can edit”. If you tap on this text, you can customize the privacy settings of the board. You can limit access to those who are invited or make a board public so anyone can access and edit it.
When Freeform first appeared in beta, I created a public board and shared it on Twitter for everyone to access. It’s still available – click here to add it to your Freeform application and feel free to use it if you want to test it.
Who or what is Freeform for?
I have tried several times over the past few weeks to use Freeform and force it into my daily or even weekly routine. But, for me, it still doesn’t click. I see the value of tracing plans or ideas, but I’ve found the linear approach I’m confined to in the Notes app to be easier to use.
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I imagine people who use mind mapping apps will find Freeform a welcome addition to the platform – one that will only get better as Apple garners wider feedback.
But for me, I’m going to stick with the Notes app.
That said, I’d love to hear from people who end up finding Freeform useful. I want to know how and why you use it. Who knows, maybe this will give me the idea to start using it in my workflow.
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