Shared whiteboard: Summary

2 Apr 2008 - 1:47am
8 years ago
1 reply
2261 reads
Jonas Löwgren

Dear list,

I received several useful suggestions in reply to my recent query
about shared whiteboards for distributed design sessions. I thought I
might summarize my findings briefly -- it might be useful for
somebody else on the list.

To reiterate, my spec was:

> I am looking for a setup to share a virtual whiteboard in
> geographically distributed design sessions.
> - runs on Mac and Win, or (better) platform-independent
> - supports free-hand drawing
> - imports bitmap files or screen shots to draw on
> - more than one user can draw simultaneously
> - runs without installing very complicated dedicated server software
> - freeware, shareware or affordable payware
> My intention is to use it together with audio/video conf such as
> Skype for a small project team (2-4 people) to run focused creative
> sessions.

And here are the options I considered, in alphabetical order.

Adobe Acrobat Connect -- full-fledged IP conferencing system, seemed
very nice and powerful way beyond my little spec, a bit expensive for
a makeshift project. -- drawing program, not a shared whiteboard. -- great interface, intended for reviewing of
finished concepts rather than for collaborative sketching. -- no freehand drawing, only vector
e/pop -- Windows only (according to Jeff Howard). -- no freehand drawing, only vector shapes. -- no image annotation (according to Jeff
Marratech -- free client for Mac, Win, Linux; meets all req's, has
audio, video, chat etc -- full-fledged IP conferencing system.
Octopz -- browser based; only one user at a time can draw.
Persony -- only vector shapes. -- mainly for non-synchronous proofing. -- browser-based, meets above req's in principle,
seemed a little immature.
Skype 3.0 is apparently going to have a whiteboard function, but it
is not yet available for Mac. -- browser-based, shared whiteboard plus annotations,
meets above req's but seemed quite unstable on Mac/Firefox. -- full-fledged IP conferencing system, but only one
user at a time can be the "Presenter" and do things like drawing. Not
Yugma -- sharing desktops, one user at a time active.

Based on my review, my first choice was Marratech: It is mature and
quite complete in terms of functions, and the Swedish university
network has decided to support it which means that they provide free
meeting rooms (= server space). Since the client is free in the first
place, that would add up to a zero-cost solution of business quality.

Also, having audio/video/chat in the same tool as the whiteboard
(rather than as a separate app or as a telco service outside the IP
network) has a few advantages in terms of meeting coordination.

However, it turned out that we never got Marratech to work through
the firewall used by the company I am working with on this project.
Pity. I am sure it would be feasible for a more technically
knowledgeable person.

On the other hand, it turned out the company had a corporate license
on parts of Webex, specifically the whiteboard parts. So, that is
what we settled for.

We have used it in conjunction with a telco phone meeting (hosted by
Webex at the cost of a local call). It is OK but the concept of
allowing only one user at a time to be active on the whiteboard tends
to formalize the climate of the meeting.

I guess we will be using it more for meetings where we explore
material that people have prepared prior to the meeting, and possibly
to make decisions. Not ideal, but workable.

And the idea of holding actual creative sketching sessions remotely
still remains to be tried out in another project, some other time.

Thanks to all list members for your input on this topic!

Jonas Löwgren


2 Apr 2008 - 2:36pm
Greg Petroff


Does not fit your criteria but there is a really nice system from
polyvision called "Thunder".

It has the nice function of maintaining "information persistence" and
can be booked through outlook to remember where you were at when you
left off your last meeting


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