“ Excalidraw ” is a free real-time shared whiteboard software. We just talked about this software in the Radio 4 program “L’Altra radio”.
Now that many training and events are happening on line, people are looking for tools to share content in real time, a “blackboard” or “panel” space like in a classroom where you draw or paste posters. Some videoconferencing software (like BigBlueButton, which we use at CommonsCloud.coop’s Meet) has a built-in whiteboard space. But if we want a tool with more features and that we can use simultaneously, even without being connected to a videoconferencing tool, “Excalidraw” can be a good option.
It is free software. It has an MIT license, which is a so-called “permissive free” license. If anyone reading this has system administration skills, you’ll find the code on GitHub to install it.
If you don’t, you can connect to the official website and use it directly from a browser. It is a “young” project, just over a year old, it began to be developed in January 2020, but it is fully operational.
What can it be useful for? Obviously, for the simple fun exercise of drawing together with other people. But, in times of teleworking and online training, we are living in, it can also be a blackboard on which to prepare a scheme or diagram on which to work or make contributions in the framework of a workshop or a co-creation session. The kind of dynamics that we do in physical spaces with posters or stickers on panels can be done in an online space with Excalidraw.
How does it work?
You connect to the web and if you want to share the session, you click on a little button with some little people (“live collaboration”). By clicking on this little button, you’ll get a link that you can share with the other people connected to the same whiteboard. The connection is encrypted point to point.
It has the typical tools of vector drawing programmes: the drawing pencil, lines, arrows, geometric figures, text. You can change the colours and also the style of the lines, making it more technical drawing or more informal. If you prefer a blackboard you can press the “dark mode” button, or you can also change the background to a colour.
Like all vector programmes, the graphic elements are objects that can be moved independently and to the front or the back by layers.
If you want to save the result, you can either save it as an “image” or export it and then reload it later for further work.
The interface elements are available in several languages, including English.
There are other free tools like this one for sharing an online “whiteboard”. We are testing several of them, so that we do not have to use proprietary tools or tools that impose unethical conditions of use and data transfer.
Since March 2017, we have been regularly contributing to the programme L’Altra Radio hosted by Cinto Niqui. You can listen to us on the programme’s website. L’Altra Radio makes audiovisual culture available to everyone. It deals with Information and Communication Technologies and their impact on contemporary society. Radio, television, internet and applications are the main characters of this magazine born in 1980, with more than 2200 programmes on air.