While designing my Practical Appreciative Inquiry online course pilot (now concluded, but email me if you are interested in the full-featured course that I’ll be launching soon), I auditioned various virtual whiteboard tools for online collaboration.
These can be very useful for a virtual team or distributed group to quickly knock together a presentation, a high-level plan, or collaborative vision boards for the ‘Dream’ stage of an Appreciative Inquiry process.
This doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive evaluation of every whiteboard tool and app out there (there are loads of them), but a quick comparison of the ones I tried out, with pros and cons.
I’ve also included the one I found after the course had finished, that actually would have worked much better for my needs than the ones I used.
I tested the free entry-level versions only, so this is what the pros and cons apply to.
- No signup needed
- Up to 10 users free
- Various text options (standalone, ‘sticky note’, box, speech bubble)
- Participants can upload their own images
- Eraser tool so you can erase part of an object
- Free session limited to 20 minutes!
- Limited palette of shapes (line, rectangle, round-cornered box, circle/oval)
- No arrows
- Ugly (to the eye of this Mac user) old-fashioned Windows-looking user interface. Rather ‘skeuomorphic’ design with drop shadows.
Tool aimed at software design teams
- Some pre-made images (aimed at software designers, but you do get smiley faces, ‘people’, lightbulbs, clouds, speech bubbles)
- Still not that many pre-made images
- ‘Undo’ button seems to be the only way to erase mistakes
- Boards on the free plan can have only up to 5 collaborators
- Very similar to the ‘draw’ tools in Microsoft Office, so no learning curve for most users
- You have to be signed in to Google (e.g. with a Gmail account) to be able to draw on the board
- Still quite a limited library of built-in shapes
Even many people who use Zoom.us as their course delivery or call platform (I prefer it to Skype as a) call quality seems to be a bit better and b) you can record the calls very easily without additional plugins) don’t seem to know that it has a whiteboard feature inside it. You can share the whiteboard with your call or course participants and allow them to draw on it.
- Right there in Zoom
- Eraser tool
- So limited that there’s not much of a learning curve
- Free version of Zoom only allows 40 minute calls if more than two participants
- Very limited library of shapes (rectangle, oval, diamond, arrow, heart, star, tick)
- Lots of templates (e.g. Kanban, customer journey, mind map, fishbone, Venn diagram, 6 Thinking Hats, and more!)
- Includes ‘Icon Finder’ app so lots of images immediately available – I found many choices for cars, dogs, even zombies!
- You can change transparency of objects
- Lots of export options
- Unlimited team members
- None that I could find
So Miro is the clear winner! I was actually amazed at how many features even the free version has.
If you liked this post, you will probably find this one by Greg Digneo useful too: 53 Online Collaboration Tools to Help Your Team Be More Productive (plus even more tools mentioned in the comments)
Do you have a favourite online collaboration whiteboard tool that you think beats Miro? Post it in the comments!