Next-gen digital whiteboards: 7 shared canvas apps for visual collaboration

Online whiteboards were just the beginning. With hybrid workforces on the horizon, today’s visual collaboration tools are a key component to keep everyone on the same canvas when brainstorming, planning, and managing projects.

visual collab tools lucidspark voting

Digital collaboration platforms have seen an explosion of interest over the past year, as all-remote teams look to provide better ways for employees to brainstorm, develop products, manage projects, and more. Once used mainly by software development teams, these platforms have expanded horizontally to include users from across the enterprise looking for visual collaboration tools that go beyond the basic whiteboard function found in online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex.

As teams begin to explore return-from-remote strategies for the post-Covid era, companies may want to look at these tools to provide visual collaboration for their employees. Not everyone will return to the office, and many organizations are looking to deploy a hybrid work strategy where some employees work in an office some days of the week, others come in on other days, and whoever’s not in the office works remotely.

In this scenario, you can’t return to meetings where people brainstorm with sticky notes or draw ideas on a physical whiteboard. All of these processes need to exist in a continuous digital form.

“A topic of conversation that comes up every day now in a hybrid environment is, ‘How do we provide collaboration equity, so that those who are remote have the same access to the same information and influences?’” said Mike Fasciani, senior research director for digital workplace applications at Gartner. “The physical whiteboard is less relevant in that kind of setup.”

Practices established during the pandemic, such as exploring visual collaboration tools, will likely remain in a hybrid world, Fasciani said. “The hybrid work environment just presents new challenges around how to integrate the virtual world with our physical conferences. It’s an ongoing challenge that hasn’t quite been solved yet.”

When investigating these apps, the first big thing companies should note is the difference between a collaboration canvas and a tool or app that simply emulates the features of a physical whiteboard, whether it’s a standalone whiteboard app or the whiteboarding feature inside a meeting app like Zoom. A big difference is that collaboration canvases provide persistent workspaces that people can access and add documents, images, videos, designs, diagrams, and other types of content to over time. Many also offer templates, scheduling and task assignment, enterprise-level security and administrative tools, and integrations with popular third-party enterprise apps.

Software development teams are still the likeliest group to use visual collaboration platforms, but other teams across the enterprise are showing interest in the tools for brainstorming, designing, planning business strategies and processes, and creating storyboards for anything from new product designs to marketing plans. Project managers are also gravitating toward these types of purpose-built collaboration applications, Fasciani said.

Despite the widespread interest in such tools, Fasciani advises companies to start with a small pilot program rather than deploying a visual collaboration app to everyone immediately, as if it were an email or web conferencing app. At around $10 per seat per month, these applications can get costly when you are thinking of deploying to hundreds or thousands of users.

“Before you go out and equip everyone in the organization with a seat license, you really want to start small and make sure those power users in those use cases are actually seeing some benefit before you expand further,” said Fasciani.

To help you find the right visual collaboration tool for your organization, we’ve gathered information on several established and emerging collaboration canvas platforms.


Bluescape is a digital platform for visual collaboration in a hybrid work environment. Its infinite workspaces provide teams with a secured, shared meeting place and content repository for group activities including brainstorming, planning, and decision making. While everyone in a company can benefit from improved collaboration, Bluescape said, key roles include planning and strategy teams, creative teams, and product teams.

In addition to whiteboarding, presentation, and annotation capabilities, the platform provides an enhanced alternative to screen sharing, as users can interact with multiple pieces of content at the same time instead of sharing screens in a linear fashion. Features such as content watermarking and video uploads with synchronized playback are one of the reasons the vendor counts media and entertainment companies among its customers.

visual collab tools bluescape Bluescape

Bluescape users can work with multiple pieces of content at the same time. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Other features include templates for consistent formatting across meetings, presentations, or projects, and integrations with key enterprise tools including Office 365, Google Docs, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Outlook. Videoconferencing integrations include Cisco Webex and Zoom.

Noteworthy feature: Bluescape offers unique clients for mobile devices, browsers (laptops/desktops), and touch-enabled in-room displays, including multi-screen installations. Once people start returning to the office, Bluescape said, it will offer a common platform that enables in-room, room-to-room, and room-and-remote collaboration.

Security: All data is encrypted at rest and in transit using TLS 1.2+ with 256-bit AES encryption. Data is stored in a public or private cloud (see enterprise features, below), with support for bring your own key (BYOK), allowing customers to manage their own encryption keys. Single Sign-On is supported through SAML 2.0. Bluescape is NIST 800-171 and NIST Cybersecurity Framework compliant, and is also ISO 27001 certified.

Enterprise features: Multiple deployment options, including a Bluescape-managed public cloud, managed virtual private instance, partner- or customer-managed private cloud, and on-premises. Administrators can access self-serve reports and graphs to see data on utilization, consumption of users, workspaces, and clients.

Pricing: Bluescape said it focuses on enterprise deployments, working with customers to create a cost structure that scales to their needs. Contact sales for more information.

InVision Freehand

Originally developed for internal use by InVision, the Freehand online whiteboard aims to solve collaboration pains felt by organizations with a remote workforce, allowing users to share ideas quickly. It started as a tool for designers and product teams but is useful for any type of team looking to collaborate visually. Part of InVision’s digital product design and development platform, Freehand can be accessed at

Designed to be intuitive and easy to use, the tool includes more than a dozen templates developed by the likes of AWS, Asana, Atlassian, Microsoft, Salesforce, and American Express for everything from brainstorming to customer journey mapping. The company said these are not random templates but were intentionally sought out and included to help teams with their most pressing challenges, whether they are design sprints or marketing plans. Users can also create and upload their own templates for their own use or to help others.

visual collab tools invision freehand InVision

InVision Freehand offers business-critical templates developed by American Express, IBM, Atlassian, and other A-list companies. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Other features include voting (synchronous and asynchronous) via animated emoji reactions; tasks that meeting facilitators can enable; version history; exporting; and deep-linking. Conversation tracking is in early release. The InVision platform integrates with Jira, Trello, Slack, Photoshop, Sketch, Dropbox, and more.

Noteworthy feature: Live meeting integration with Microsoft Teams lets users create and share a whiteboard directly within a Microsoft Teams meeting to replicate the collaborative energy of an in-person whiteboard session.

Security: User sessions are encrypted in transit via Transport Layer Security, with support for TLS v1.2 and TLS v1.3; all data at rest is encrypted with AES-256 and stored in the U.S. Third-party auditors perform annual SOC2 Type 2 validations for security and confidentiality compliance.

Enterprise features: In-app audit logs, IP allow lists, advanced user roles and permissioning structures, configurable access management controls, single sign-on, system for cross-domain identity management (SCIM), auto-provisioning and deprovisioning, and multifactor authentication.

Pricing: Free plan for individuals and small teams allows collaboration with up to 10 users in unlimited boards; Pro plan is $8 per user per month, billed annually, and allows collaboration with up to 15 active users and additional perks. For enterprise features such as team management and advanced security, companies can pay by the seat or as a bundled cost.

Klaxoon Board

Klaxoon’s flagship application, Board, is accessible from any device, with no installation needed. The visual workspace allows users to share content in several formats through ready-to-use templates, with an unlimited canvas size to let teams share, prioritize, and organize ideas visually.

Board was designed for several teamwork scenarios, such as running a weekly meeting using a visual collaboration approach. To that end, Klaxoon’s Live app (included with Board paid plans) adds videoconferencing for up to 15 participants to the mix. Board also integrates with Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, Cisco Webex, and Zoom. With cross-functional teams in mind, the app comes with a large library of meeting templates that aren’t reserved for experts or specialists.

visual collab tools klaxoon board Klaxoon

A Klaxoon Board can include up to 15 video participants. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Klaxoon also offers a suite of apps and tools for use with Board that add features such as polling, word clouds, quizzes, and challenges to boost interaction in meetings. Klaxoon’s suite integrates with Dropbox and Microsoft Teams, with Jira integration coming soon. Offline access to Board is available through a hybrid software/hardware approach (via Klaxoon Box and MeetingBoard).

Noteworthy features: Board’s different view modes, such as whiteboard, Kanban, and list, allow team members to sort information faster. And the ability to launch other Klaxoon apps and tools from the Board app allows participants to think about visual collaboration differently. The Quiz, Survey, Capsule, Adventure, and Mission features, for example, let facilitators test their team’s knowledge and learn from each other in a variety of formats.

Security: All user data is encrypted in transit via TLS 1.3 and at rest via AES-256. Backups are also encrypted. User data is hosted in data centers located in Europe, and is administered from Europe. European data protection legislation (GDPR) applies. Single Sign-On authentication is supported as an option.

Enterprise features: In addition to SSO and SCIM, Klaxoon offers an administration console designed to drive adoption within the organization, with data such as activity monitoring and number of interactions generated per user. Its internal consulting department and global network of partners provide customers with meeting audits, visual collaboration training, and other support.

Pricing: Free to try out the Board templates (up to 10 participants, one-shot template use); Board plan (up to 100 participants, unlimited boards, includes Live videoconferencing app, template library, 5GB of storage) is $9.90 per month; Suite plan (adds Klaxoon Suite apps and management features, with 10GB storage) starts at $12.90 per month. For Enterprise plan (up to 300 users, adds more management, security, and analytics features, with 100GB storage), contact sales.

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