A New and Improved Microsoft Whiteboard

As many workers left the office, there were certain things that we quickly realized that we would no longer miss. Getting dressed up, the commute, making a lunch before heading out the door. Working from home certainly has some benefits.

But there is one thing I did miss, my whiteboard! I certainly wasn’t going to try and convince my wife that we hang one up in the spare bedroom, but I loved having a whiteboard to park ideas, sketch out concepts, or create visual checklists. I was introduced to Microsoft Whiteboard when our team decided to have a virtual happy hour and play Pictionary. I liked that I was able to share a whiteboard and invite collaborators. I ran Whiteboard on my iPad and stayed logged into Teams on my laptop. It was practical, the experience was user-friendly, and the collaboration capabilities were top-notch.

Since my introduction to Whiteboard, I’ve experimented with Whiteboard in virtual meetings, and it seems to work well. Despite the range of features and capabilities, I still found that it didn’t deliver the same familiar experience of having a team gathered in-person and reacting to a real-life whiteboard.

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Microsoft recently announced that they are bringing new features to Whiteboard. These innovations help support the demands of teams that are working remotely or hybrid. Microsoft Whiteboard provides users with a rich visual collaboration workspace that helps users work together no matter where they may be.

There are a few improvements that have already been made to the Whiteboard app, but a majority of the big changes come next month. Here is a preview of what users will see in the updated Whiteboard app.

Over 40 New Templates

During the pandemic, our team was searching for a dynamic way to collaborate and a tool that could support design thinking exercises. We discovered an app called Miro and conducted several brainstorming sessions (both internally and externally). We liked the app for its simplicity and templated approach. Whiteboard is adding templates for common scenarios like brainstorming, problem solving, and group projects. Microsoft added over 40 new and fully customizable templates to help teams get quickly and collaborate.

Screenshot of Microsoft Whiteboard
Photo: Microsoft

Sticky Notes and Note Grids

Brainstorming sessions are great but organizing input after the session is often a challenge. Whiteboard now enables users to choose from 12 different colors of sticky notes. This new feature allows you to use color coded sticky notes to quickly sort input or allow you to assign contributors a specific color. Note grids can be used to organize content on the whiteboard. Grids can also be customized with titles.

Reactions

Real- time collaboration online is missing something that we can truly appreciate when we collaborate in-person… contextual feedback. Reactions allow contributors and collaborators to share feedback using tools built right into Microsoft Whiteboard. We have found a lot of value in the “reactions” features within Microsoft Teams, so I am confident that we will also like this feature in Whiteboard.

Image of sticky notes and reactions in Microsoft Whiteboard
Photo: Microsoft

Insert Images

Images can now be inserted into Whiteboard! This functionality will keep collaborators in the Whiteboard environment as opposed to screen sharing. Inserted images stay with the whiteboard making images available after the collaboration session ends.

Shapes

Quickly create flowcharts and diagrams using Whiteboard. Basic shapes, lines and arrows can quickly added to a whiteboard. Once added, shapes can be resized, rotated and recolored.

Inking Tools

Whiteboard will now offer users 15 pen and highlighter color options and a range of thicknesses. These inking tools are easy to use and Microsoft has added additional features to make your like easier. If you hold down the shift key when using an inking tool, the line will “snap” to a straight line. No more wiggly lines that are hard to read. The same feature has been incorporated with shapes. If you draw a circle and hold the mouse or pen for just a second, it will snap to a perfect circle. This draw and hold gesture can be used to draw a straight line, circle, triangle, square, rectangle… or whatever shape you desire!

Image of ink shapes with pen using Microsoft Whiteboard.
Ink Shapes with Pen (Photo: Microsoft)
Switch to Draw ModeAlt + W  / Alt + W + 1 
Pen 2Alt + W + 2 
Pen 3Alt + W + 3
HighlighterAlt + H 
EraseAlt + X
Arrow modeAlt + A
Double arrowAlt + Shift + A
BeautifyAlt + B
Inking Shortcuts in Microsoft Whiteboard

Bring to Front and Send to Back

“Arrange” is an important feature as more and more objects are added to a document. You can now send objects to the back or move them to the front!

Collaborating and Sharing

In the upper corner of the screen, you can see who’s actively collaborating on the whiteboard in real time. If no one is using the whiteboard, Whiteboard shows you who made the last edit and when. This feature is excellent for hybrid teams working asynchronous. Share control should be familiar to Microsoft 365 users. This feature will allow you to select specific people in your organization to share the whiteboard with.

Image showing multiple collaborators in Microsoft Whiteboard.
Labeled cursors allow you to see who is updating the whiteboard (Photo: Microsoft)

We are excited by these recent announcements as we are always on the lookout for new tools that make internal and external collaboration better. We think this tool will come in handy when working with clients. If your team is embracing hybrid or remote work but looking for guidance, best practices, or more tools that can help your teams succeed, contact us for a free 30-minute consultation. We’d like to help!

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