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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Draw.chat free online whiteboard (etc) collaboration tool

Screengrab of draw.chat's homepage.

Draw.chat is an innovative collaborative progressive web app, or PWA, which allows users to communicate in visual drawings as well as through text chat, audio, videos and by uploading files.

Progressive web apps are technically normal web pages available through modern browsers such as Google Chrome, but they look more like something users would see on a mobile. They allow all kinds of tricks that regular web pages wouldn’t too, such as being able to draw a response in a chat window, swap files and work on a mobile as seamlessly as a PC.

Draw.chat describes itself as a free online whiteboard, but the site also allows video conferencing and text messages with offline notification. The video conferencing side allows images and files to be dragged and dropped into the chat, while the text messaging option will suit those more used to chatrooms than video conferencing.

Draw.chat is powered by Sketchpad.pro and has an extensive lexicon of keyboard shortcuts available for Windows and Mac systems, These cover all aspects of tool use, navigation and editing functions. It looks fairly simple to use, whether on the elderly Mac laptop I own or my more modern Android phone.

A meeting is initiated via the Start Meeting button available on most pages of the site. It’s as simple as that. Collaboration is easy, whether users write, draw or speak their ideas by preference. I can see this PWA appealing to the severely dyslexic people I have worked with, who were able to understand pictures much quicker than words, as well as those who prefer to speak to someone face to face and people like me who prefer words on a page.

Yes, there have been drawing apps before which have a chat element; the similarly named DrawChat or Draw Something (both 2012 releases), for instance. But this isn’t an app. It doesn’t appear in Google Play. Users simply type draw.chat into their browser and the site will load. On a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile, it looks and works the same. And unlike many apps, this PWA has a solid business purpose. It can bring together collaborators from around the world in a couple of clicks, and allow them to share ideas across different media simply and quickly, crossing boundaries of language and expression.