When the Microsoft Whiteboard app team updated users four years ago at Microsoft Ignite 2017, no one could anticipate how rapidly workplaces could – and would – pivot to a remote workforce when circumstances required it. But as Microsoft has consistently demonstrated since mid-2020, the emergence of the hybrid work model has been a massive opportunity for them to continuously update their collaboration and productivity tools.
This week saw another iteration of the Microsoft Whiteboard app.
"Microsoft Whiteboard continues to evolve rapidly bringing people together in a rich visual collaboration workspace that allows you and your team to ideate and create confidently together," Mikutel wrote.
"The global pandemic has created a shift in how people work and learn, a shift that will become the new normal as we figure out how to function in a hybrid world."
The announcements were lined up based on what was available in the Microsoft Whiteboard app immediately, new features arriving in the next month, and expected updates which are planned to arrive by the end of 2021.
A Look at the Microsoft Whiteboard App Features Available Today
The new updates available immediately include:
- There’s a revamped user interface, including larger icons to improve accessibility for mouse, touch, and pen users. The inking tools and content creation menus on desktops, laptops, and tablets are now separate from the main UI. A new app bar across the top of the app window will adjust what is seen and accessible based on the specific properties of the board in use.
- Whiteboard added 40 new templates to assist in collaborative planning and idea generation by letting users select common workflow tasks, plus 12 new layout grids for the sticky notes feature; those sticky notes assist Whiteboard participants in adding comments and ideas during a group brainstorming session.
- In a nod to the need to add more social cues to video and hybrid meetings, Microsoft’s added eight new reactions, including a thumbs-up, a question mark and a gold star.
A Look at the Microsoft Whiteboard App Features Available Next Month
Microsoft doesn’t stipulate if these updates are expected in the next month (October) or in the next 30 days, but they should be arriving soon in either case:
- Native apps on Windows and iOS will be updated with all of the features reviewed above. There is no word on when the Microsoft Whiteboard app on Android, which is in preview right now, will get these updates. Microsoft’s plan is to have feature parity across all platforms and instances of the app.
- Consumer accounts will be supported across all platforms.
- Users will gain the ability to insert documents into a whiteboard canvas. Annotations will be possible on these documents once they are inserted for further collaboration.
A Look at the Microsoft Whiteboard App Features Available Later This Year
Whiteboard is being rebuilt on top of OneDrive for Business, so OneDrive for Business storage will become the default for new whiteboards as of early 2022. This means that deleted whiteboards will be in the Recycle Bin in OneDrive for Business, making them easier to recover if they’re accidentally deleted. Other notable additions include:
- Improved collaboration features, including a roster so participants can see who’s actively involved in a whiteboard and who’s powering the cursor behind a current contribution.
- Share control for whiteboards will be updated to align with existing Office sharing tools, and users can get back to their whiteboards quickly by finding them in their recent list or searching for them on Office.com.
- A laser pointer controlled by the mouse can draw attention to certain areas of a whiteboard during collaboration.
The upcoming features will require organizations to opt into OneDrive for Business to get the new capabilities by the end of the year.
Microsoft Whiteboard app is currently part of Microsoft 365, Office 365, Windows 10 (soon on Windows 11), and modern web browsers, plus it is on iOS and Android for mobile devices. The company has even released a specific version for Microsoft’s educational customers.