Zoom Whiteboard Alternatives for Remote Brainstorms

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Hosting a remote brainstorming session can be one of the most challenging parts of working from home. Whether you’re leading a session or an active participant, keeping everyone engaged and focused can be difficult. 

With the right tools , your remote brainstorms can be productive and efficient. In fact, if you’re already using Zoom video conferencing, you likely have access to one tool you might not even know about – the whiteboard feature. 

If you’re not a Zoom user, don’t worry – there are many other whiteboard options for a meaningful remote brainstorm . If you’re ready to make the most out of your next brainstorm, here’s a deeper look at a few alternatives to the Zoom whiteboard.

How to access whiteboard on Zoom

To access the Zoom whiteboard feature, you must be in an active meeting. Since the Zoom whiteboard feature is accessed via screen sharing, it’s also important to make sure you’re clear on-screen sharing permissions before your meeting to avoid any awkward technical difficulties.

As a reminder, only the Zoom meeting host can allow participants to screen share during a meeting. However, prior to the meeting, a host can configure the settings to allow participant sharing. 

Additionally, be sure the whiteboard setting is enabled for your Zoom account. To enable whiteboard for all users in the Zoom account, you’ll need to sign into the Zoom web portal with your admin credentials. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Account Management and then Account Settings
  2. From the Meeting tab, toggle Whiteboard to the on position from the In Meeting (Basic) dropdown.

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If you’re not an account admin or on a group plan, you can also enable whiteboard for your own use using these same steps. 
Once you’re in an active Zoom meeting, follow these instructions to access the whiteboard feature. 

  1. Navigate to the black meeting controls bar and click on the green Share Screen button.
  2. Select “Whiteboard” from the Basic screen. Once selected, the whiteboard title will switch from white to blue in color.
  3. Click share from the lower right corner of the Basic screen to enter a whiteboard screen share.

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Once you click share, you’ll immediately enter a screen share with all meeting participants. In the screen share, all participants will be able to view the whiteboard from your screen.

The last thing to note about accessing the Zoom whiteboard feature is that it’s available for both mobile and desktop users who are either hosting or participating in a meeting.

How to use the Zoom whiteboard feature

Once you’re in the Zoom whiteboard screen share, there are a lot of collaboration tools for both meeting hosts and participants. 

During an active sharing session, all annotation features are clearly displayed in the black control bar. You can also move the control bar anywhere on your screen. 

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Here’s a look at a few of the whiteboard annotation features.

Text. This tool is pretty self-explanatory, but once you click the button a text box immediately appears on the whiteboard. Hosts and participants can add text to the box and then adjust color, text box size, font size, and style by using the “format” button from the black control bar.  

Draw. This flexible tool allows hosts and participants to draw free form with the pencil tool or select from a variety of shapes and lines. 

Stamp. The stamp tool is an excellent way to quickly add preset annotations to a whiteboard. Users and participants can select from an “x,” a checkmark, heart, arrow, star, or question mark to make simple annotations with one click. The only downside to this feature is that the colors of each stamp cannot be changed.

Spotlight. This tool has three unique options for spotlighting different areas on the whiteboard. Both the spotlight and the arrow selections are straightforward in that they create a small red spotlight or an arrow when a user hovers over or clicks on a certain area of the whiteboard. The vanishing pen is a new feature that allows users to freeform draw in any color. Moments later, the drawing gradually fades to where it is no longer visible on the whiteboard. It’s important to note that the vanishing pen is only available if you are the person who started the whiteboard session. 

Clear. The clear tool has some additional flexibility, especially beneficial for brainstorming sessions. When you click on the clear button, there are three options, allowing you to clear all drawings, clear only your drawings, or clear viewers’ drawings. This can be especially useful if you open a brainstorming session with an ice breaker and want to clear a few responses before moving forward.

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Once you’re sharing a whiteboard in a Zoom meeting, you’re not the only user who can collaborate on the whiteboard. To open collaboration to all participants, navigate to the “More” button with the three dots located in the far-right corner of the black control bar. Simply select “Enable/Disable Annotation for Others” to allow multiple participants to collaborate on the whiteboard. 

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The Zoom whiteboard also allows the host to select and move drawings or text from other participants, which can be helpful to keep the screen organized and tidy as the brainstorming session progresses. 

Once your brainstorming session is over, click the save button to automatically save and download the whiteboard as a PNG. If you’d prefer a PDF, simply select the file format from the dropdown icon next to the save button. 

Don’t worry if you forget to hit save at the end of your sharing session! Once you click stop share, your whiteboard will automatically save as a PNG, giving you the option to retrieve it right from your screen. 

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Is the Zoom whiteboard the best whiteboard for remote work

The first step in determining whether the Zoom whiteboard is the best whiteboard for your brainstorm is to think about the type of brainstorm you’re hosting and the participants involved. 

In today’s remote and hybrid working environment, it’s more critical than ever to be conscious of how your employees learn and what keeps them engaged. For example, having a visual setup both in-person and remote can inspire collaboration and motivate your employees to remain fully engaged during the brainstorm. 

Not all whiteboard alternatives are created equally though, and while it’s tempting to lean on the convenience of the Zoom whiteboard, there are some limitations that could be killing the efficiency of your remote brainstorms.

The downside of the Zoom whiteboard

  1. Canvas size. One of the biggest downsides of the Zoom whiteboard is the canvas size. When you’re sharing a whiteboard, you’re only limited to what’s on the screen.
  2. No document imports. You cannot upload images or documents to your Zoom whiteboard. While you can annotate a document in a screen share, it’s a totally separate feature from the Zoom whiteboard.
  3. No task management integration. Since the Zoom whiteboard does not integrate with any third-party project management software, you’ll have to be sure you keep a list of all follow-up tasks outside of the meeting and then manually upload them later.

Simply put, if you’re hosting a brainstorming session and seeking a basic online whiteboard feature, the Zoom whiteboard can get the job done. If you want to maximize your remote brainstorms, though, consider an alternative with features specifically designed for the new workplace – one that is both in-person and remote. 

Zoom whiteboard alternatives

There are a variety of alternatives to the Zoom whiteboard, all ranging in type and cost. Today, you can access online whiteboards via apps and software or even as features in other video conferencing platforms.

Before you get started exploring different alternatives though, it’s crucial to understand what features you need for the type of brainstorming session you’re hosting. 

These are only a few of the most important features to look for when considering alternatives to the Zoom whiteboard, but it’s a great starting point to identifying what makes the most sense for your business. 

  1. An infinite canvas. One of the largest benefits to using an online whiteboard is the freedom to continue collaborating without running out of space.
  2. Sharing and export features. Everyone needs access to the whiteboard to collaborate, whether in person or remote. Additionally, once your brainstorming session is over, it should be easy to save your work and distribute as needed. As a bonus, seamless integration between remote and in person participants is helpful for hybrid setups.
  3. File uploading capabilities. Easily adding photos and documents to a canvas during a brainstorming session can provide helpful context and serve as a point of reference for participants.
  4. Call outs and sticky notes. It should be easy for everyone to make annotations and capture feedback at exactly the right place.

One of the top online whiteboards is Miro , which recently acquired one of its popular free competitors, AWW App. Miro checks many of the boxes in terms of essential features, offering an infinite canvas, sticky notes, and the ability to upload files and documents. Miro also integrates with a variety of project management tools to allow for task assignments right from the app. 

Miro online whiteboard Miro online whiteboard

MURAL is another online whiteboard with similar features to Miro, like an unlimited canvas and sticky notes, as well as a drag and drop feature for adding images and files. MURAL also includes a timer feature, which could be helpful for keeping sessions focused. 

Mural online whiteboard Mural online whiteboard

However, there is a monthly fee involved for both Miro and MURAL. Both options are relatively close in pricing. While they both offer free versions, they are limited in features.

If you’re a Google user, the Chrome Canvas app allows users to automatically sync all drawings to a Google account. Since Chrome Canvas is a web app, you don’t need to download or install any additional software. 

One of the biggest benefits of Chrome Canvas is its simplicity. By simply typing canvas.app.chrome into your browser, you can get drawing on a blank canvas immediately, choosing from a pencil, pen, marker, or chalk. 

While Chrome Canvas closely mirrors a traditional in-person whiteboard, having only free-hand drawing capabilities might not be ideal for your brainstorm.

You can, however, upload an existing image to draw on instead of working off a blank canvas. Once you’re finished, you can export the session as a PNG or share it via your Google account. 

Chrome canvas Chrome canvas

The video conferencing platforms GoToMeeting and Webex also have similar whiteboard features to what Zoom offers. 

The Webex whiteboard feature is a bit more robust in available tools, allowing you to upload several different file types to annotate or mark up with a variety of drawing and call-out tools. 

GoToMeeting is more limited in annotating and drawing capabilities, with a fewer call-out and highlighting features. Additionally, the erase feature only allows a full canvas reset rather than in a single area. 

Using a smartboard for peer work

Smartboards are effective tools for remote brainstorms because they offer more features than the Zoom whiteboard without costly monthly fees. Smartboards also make for easy integration with other commonly used tools your business might already be using, meaning less work for your team post-brainstorm. 

Vibe smartboard for remote brainstorming Vibe smartboard for remote brainstorming

While an online whiteboard may compare favorably from a features standpoint, there’s no guarantee the additional software will work seamlessly for your employees at home and in the office. You might be limited in canvas or contributors, depending on your budget and plan. 

With an unlimited canvas, a Vibe Interactive whiteboard gives your team the freedom to collaborate in real-time from anywhere. There’s no need to worry about screen sharing, collaboration permissions, or clunky features that can hinder creativity. 

Your brainstorming session doesn’t have to be reduced to a single static file that cannot be edited either. Vibe whiteboard sessions can be sent to participants to continue collaborating, meaning everyone has an opportunity to participate in a way that matches their strengths.

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Make brainstormings matter with the Vibe smartboard

Want to experience Vibe for yourself? Check out our team running a brainstorming session on a vibe smartboard while using the web application on computers.

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