Using a Virtual Whiteboard in Video Conferencing

Group brainstorming sessions from remote locations has never been easier with the various whiteboard applications available. This article does through the basics of the integrated whiteboard features in Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as a free third party option called WhiteboardFox.

    When working remotely, it’s important to fully familiarize yourself with the tools at your disposal. If you only understand the basics of your remote tools, you end up missing out on included functionality that can significantly improve your ability to collaborate and be productive. Since video conferencing has become essential, we decided to breakdown a common tool that is rarely used, whiteboard.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams are frequently used meeting applications that have an included whiteboard feature. However, if you primarily use another app such as Hangouts there are third party applications available. We will go through the steps to start a whiteboard meeting, save your board as an image, and a few additional features that may be useful.

    Collaborative whiteboard in Zoom

    Zoom is booming in the world of remote work. The whiteboard function is easy to use and to turn on. After starting your meeting, you should see the option to share your screen at the bottom.

    Click the arrow next to the share screen button for more options.

    Click the green share screen button, and it will prompt you to select a window. Instead of picking your entire screen or one of your open windows, you can opt for Whiteboard. From here you can start drawing, typing, making symbols, and more.

    Zoom will display your windows for you to select from, but Whiteboard will always be at the top.

    To save your Zoom whiteboard image, just click the save icon in the upper right hand size of the window. This will save to a Zoom folder on your computer. When you exit out of whiteboard, this folder should automatically open up, or click the show in folder link immediately after saving.

    A cool feature that Zoom has is the Spotlight option. This basically acts as a virtual laser pointer so you can refer to parts of the whiteboard without having to draw on it or make a million arrows.

    Spotlight pointer doesn’t double as a cat toy, sorry.

    Using Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams

    The whiteboard feature in Teams works very similarly to Zoom. When in a Teams meeting (can be audio only or a video conference), click the share screen button in the middle of your options bar. Don’t see the option bar? Wiggle your mouse, as it hides itself to show more of the screen.

    The share button is in the middle of your options display.

    To the right of your options, you should see Microsoft Whiteboard. This will load a version of MS Whiteboard within Teams allowing you to collaborate and brainstorm together in your chat.

    The whiteboard symbol has a blue background, but the board itself is defaulted to white.

    Saving with Whiteboard in Teams can be complicated. The only option within Teams is to export to an SVG which many computers don’t have a native program to open and will default to a web browser. If you click export, the file will automatically export to your downloads folder on your computer. The alternatives are to either open in the free full version of the Whiteboard app and export to a .PNG, or to screen shot your image. (I recommend using snip and sketch for easy screen captures).

    Export your diagram to and SVG from teams or open the full app to export in another format.

    The full Microsoft Whiteboard application has more features like highlighting, the ability to select and move one part of the drawing, background options to grid out your drawings, and a variety of cool pens. The best feature of the full application or the Teams version is its integration with your Office 365 environment.

    Post a link directly to the Teams channel of your choice.

    Third party tool: Whiteboard Fox

    If you use another application for video conferencing such as Google Hangouts Meet or are just doing conference calls through your regular phone service, you can still use whiteboard through another app. There are a lot out there for you to explore, but we are going to go through the same steps as before on an easy to use and free application called Whiteboard Fox.

    Big orange button to start drawing.

    Start a meeting by going to Whiteboardfox.com and clicking “Start Drawing”. Send a link to your drawing to your teammates using email or instant messenger so you can whiteboard at the same time. Whiteboarding works best when you are communicating throughout the process so make sure you are on a call or a chat while using this application.

    To save your image, click the gear icon for additional options. The easiest way to save is to click snapshot. This will open the image as a file in your browser.

    Click Snapshot to export to a saveable and shareable image.

    Keep in mind, that image is not save to your computer until you right click and save as. You can bookmark that link to revisit the image online, but for more permanent storage I recommend saving to your computer and uploading to a server or cloud file repository.

    If you save image as… you can choose a destination on your computer or any synced online repository.

    Another fun feature is adding an image to your whiteboard as a background. This can be useful for showing a proof of an image and allowing markups to be made, or making more accurate diagrams. Just click the gear symbol and click “add pic.” This image will be behind any text or drawing you add.

    You may have a design that you want to be able to present and make notes on using this feature.

    Collaboration beyond using a virtual whiteboard

    Communication applications have so many additional features to help keep your staff connected. Exploring everything they have to offer, especially since most of these features are included, is a no brainer. For more collaboration tips, visit our section in the knowledge base, or check out our remote work resource center.

    Valiant Technology is the award-winning managed service provider to innovative industries in New York.

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