Web-based Whiteboarding for Software Developers

I’ve been researching web-based whiteboarding tools to help facilitate remote design discussions, and I’ve found three free tools that are outstanding.

  • Thinkature is my #1 pick for software-specific whiteboarding, because it’s geared more towards creating diagrams than drawing. For example, it’s super easy to create boxes (just double-click), and populate them with text (double click inside the box). Linking two boxes is also straightforward, and the freehand drawing is decent. It also includes a built-in chat feature and voice chat, neither of which I tested. Note: at the time of this writing the freehand drawing is broken in IE7. I emailed support this morning and they already emailed back indicating they will look into it. Good support for a free service!
  • Vyew is my second choice. The UI is cooler than Thinkature, but I found it a little more daunting right off the bat, as it took me a few minutes to work through all the features. Although its freehand drawing capability is better than Thinkature, it’s more cumbersome to create boxes with text inside, which is at least 70% of what I do on a whiteboard when I’m talking about software. Vyew also includes a free voice conference line (though it’s not an 800 number), and standard text-chat. All in all it’s a solid service for the price (free).
  • Imagination Cubed is an honorable mention based on its super clean UI that works exactly like you’d expect. More for simple drawing than diagramming, it has limited shape support, no chat, and no ability to delete drawn items. Although it lacks advanced features, it does what it does while looking cool.
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8 comments ↓

#1 David on 12.21.06 at 4:34 am

Have you assessed http://www.ConceptShare.com?

#2 admin on 12.21.06 at 4:49 am

ConceptShare looks powerful, but it only allows 1 workspace for free. If you want more than that you have to pay $19 per month, which for my rare use of the product wouldn’t be worth it. Thanks for mentioning it, Rob

#3 A guy from Vyew on 12.22.06 at 7:45 pm

Actually, we are going to have visio like boxes and lines in our whiteboard in the next major version update. However, you can see a preview of what that is going to look like by loading the DiagramVyew plugin. You can use DiagramVyew and whiteboard at the same time now.

#4 http:// on 12.23.06 at 4:05 pm

Informative topic, was unaware of these tools, will give them a try next time I do a trans-atlantic design meeting. Merry Christmas 🙂

#5 Chris Kohlhardt on 12.23.06 at 6:02 pm

Please consider taking a look at our drawing tool, Gliffy. Gliffy offers UML shapes and UI mockup shapes for software developers. Chris Kohlhardt Co-founder, Gliffy Inc.

#6 admin on 12.24.06 at 12:36 am

Wow! http://www.gliffy.com/ is unbelievable for building Visio-like diagrams. Dead simple to use (if you’ve ever used Visio), responsive as a desktop app…this is an impressive piece of web software. In terms of whiteboarding I don’t think it allows real-time updates by multiple people without refreshing, but for a Visio substitute this is a great start. If Microsoft is looking to move Visio to the web they would be smart to buy this application rather than attempting to build their own. Rob

#7 Minette on 12.24.06 at 6:39 pm

Hi, thanks for listing Vyew as your second choice. We are trying our best to improve our features to become more accessible to the public and as you probably already know, we are in the beta session right now. I hope you continue using our program in the future. Thanks!

#8 Jon Chambers on 12.29.06 at 1:53 am

Hi there! We’re [still] really glad that you like Thinkature, and are really excited to hear that you’re using it for software design (we do the same, but we’re a bit biased). As promised, the IE7 drawing bug has been fixed. Cheers!