There are many instances when the ability to remotely collaborate on a project with a colleague is a real boon. The same is true outside of paid work, too. But people don’t always need to be a long distance apart for web-based collaborative working to be useful. Many voluntary and community projects and activities involve people who can’t always meet up to discuss and share their ideas, even when they live very close to each other.

Students working on projects may find it’s often more convenient to get together using a computer than to meet in a physical space, for example. And family members sharing the workload of putting together a family tree or organising a reunion can find the web offers a useful way to share ideas.

The ability to access an online repository of collective ideas can be more reliable than expecting one individual in the group to capture, organise and share information on behalf of everybody, too. See Business Advisor.

When we think of ‘collaborative working’, we tend to imagine document-sharing systems such as Google Docs. But what about idea-generation- and brainstorming-type activities? That’s where whiteboarding comes into its own. Such online services allow for the capture of freeform ideas and aid the generation of new projects by bringing together a group of people’s thoughts, all in one place.

Here, we look at two online whiteboarding services, each with a slightly different approach. Dabbleboard, the subject of our first workshop, is a freeform system that lets you create and capture ideas visually; Writeboard, meanwhile, concentrates on shared text creation. Both services have a place in the arsenal of any group wanting to share creative processes. Office software reviews.

Visual brainstorming with Dabbleboard

Step 1. If you want to do more than just write text documents that you can share with others, offers some graphically rich collaboration methods. Click Get Started, then look for the Start icon at the top left of the following screen. Click this, then choose New drawing to begin.

Dabbleboard 1

Step 2. Use the mouse to draw shapes onscreen. Dabbleboard does its best to recognise your doodles and turn them into regular squares and triangles. Click a shape and drag its four corner icons to resize it, copy it and move it around the screen. A pop-up toolbox also lets you rotate the shape.

Dabbleboard 2

Step 3. Click anywhere to bring up a text box that you can simply start typing into. You can copy, move and delete text, and you can add symbols and apply basic formatting by clicking to select a text box. You can also put text into boxes, or connect text boxes with arrows.

Dabbleboard 3

Step 4. You’ll need to sign up if you want take advantage of all of Dabbleboard’s features. These include multiuser groups that let you share access to an unlimited number of whiteboard projects. With the free account you can still share drawings with other people and download SVG image files of your drawing.

Dabbleboard 4

Step 5. Even without signing up you can chat with other people about a drawing by inviting them to join a chat session by email. This allows you a measure of collaborative working if you simply want to test the system before signing up for an account. Click the Invite Others box to the right of the screen.

Dabbleboard 5

Step 6. Other tricks you can try using the free account include importing documents and photos. These appear on the whiteboard as images that can be drawn over - we’ve added an editable caption box. To do the same, find and click the appropriate icon on the toolbar at the top of the screen.

Dabbleboard 6

>> Next page: Sharing documents with Writeboard