Whiteboard HD, by Avici, is an app that does exactly what its name promises: It captures the experience of writing on a whiteboard–even better, the results are legible! The app can also be used to create flowcharts.
Whiteboard HD offers flexible and precise drawing tools, and the ability to import images and diagrams from iPhoto. It supports freehand drawing, but it also gives you the ability to manipulate text and standard flowchart-type objects with the iPad’s multitouch interface.Here’s a sample screenshot:
You can also do quicker, ad hoc images:
(I actually use Whiteboard HD this way all the time, sketching out drills and formations for my Little League and U-10 soccer teams. (Um, at home—I’m not demented enough to break it out for this purpose at practice. The only time I’ve ever taken the iPad to practice was to show Landon Donovan’s goal [YouTube] to the soccer team, since it’s a textbook example of certain principles you reinforce all the time in youth soccer.)
There are basically two modes of use. Anyone who understands the basic interface conventions of an iPad can start creating diagrams and sketches in seconds. (The end [final 30 seconds] of this YouTube video shows how easy it is.) It’s also possible, however, to fiddle with just about every aspect of the drawing tools. You can also invoke the Inspector, which gives you pixel-level control over many aspects of the drawing. (This takes some practice.)
Whiteboard HD supports the iPad’s VGA output, so you can put the emerging diagram up on a screen in front of a class or meeting. When you’re done, it’s easy to e-mail the resulting diagram to others.
Although Whiteboard HD is useful now, there are some features that would improve it dramatically. Some are relatively minor, such as support for Dropbox or TextExpander, or the ability to create templates within the app. The real feature that’s missing is the ability for users to collaborate on separate devices, sharing the same screen. That feature would make it more directly useful for small group work during class.*
For me, without the collaboration features, Whiteboard HD probably isn’t worth it yet. When I want to capture something off of a whiteboard, I just take a picture of it with my phone and upload it to Evernote, which both preserves the picture and runs it through OCR.
If, however, I were in a more design-orientated discipline, that might well change. At $5.99, it’s a fraction of the cost of something like OmniGraffle, yet delivers most of what you would use during class.
Of course, I’m self-deluded enough to think that my bad handwriting is charming. My students might well prefer that I use an app such as this one to ease their note-taking!
What features would you like to see in a mobile, digital whiteboard?**
* I was actually prevented from using an early version of Whiteboard Pro (a different app) by my school’s policy, which prevented wireless peer-to-peer connections. Sigh.
** I was assured today that academics don’t call them “whiteboards” because it’s racist, so people *only* call them “dry erase boards.” Double-sigh.
[Image by Flickr user emdot / Creative Commons licensed.]