How to Use Apple’s Freeform App on Mac, iPad, and iPhone

drawing with apple featured

Apple has created a free whiteboarding app called Freeform that’s now pre-installed on your devices. Learn how to use it here.

Despite there being millions of apps to choose from on your phone, only 38 of them are pre-installed iOS apps from Apple themselves. That was until the release of iOS 16.2, which added a 39th app to your device: Freeform.

What is Freeform and how do you use it? We’ll explain what it is and how to use the Freeform application on Mac, iPad, and iPhone below.

What is Freeform?

freeform board

Image credit: Apple

Apple describes Freeform as a ‘boundless canvas for creativity’ and that’s a pretty accurate description. In essence, it’s an infinitely large blank sheet that you can draw on, add pictures and videos to, pin sticky notes all over, or even drop documents into.

Freeform comes packed with tools to help you get creative. They fall under five main sections: Sticky Notes, Shapes and Lines, Text, Drawing, and Photos, Videos, and Files. We’ll take a look at each one in turn.

Your boards will sync across all your Apple devices, which is more necessary than it may seem, as not every feature is available on every device (Mac users lack some drawing tools, for instance). You can then share your boards with others and collaborate on them if you wish.

How Do I Get the Freeform App?

The Freeform app is automatically installed with iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, and macOS Venture 13.1 or later. When you upgrade your OS to one of these versions or higher, the Freeform app will appear on your device.

If your device is too old to upgrade to these versions of your OS, then unfortunately there’s no other way to install Freeform.

How to Use Sticky Notes in Freeform

Sticky notes are exactly what you would expect—yellow squares that you can place on your board and then add text to. You can then move these notes around to your heart’s content.

Frustratingly, whilst it’s possible to draw over the top of a sticky note, the drawing will stay where it is if you try to move the note.

To use Sticky Notes in Freeform:

  1. Tap or click the Sticky Notes icon to insert a new Sticky Note.freeform sticky notes tool
  2. On Mac, you may need to move your pointer to the top of the screen to see the tool icons.
    freeform mac tools
  3. Double-tap or double-click the Sticky Note to add text to it on your iPhone or iPad. On Mac, or if you’re using a Magic Keyboard, you can just start typing.
    freeform sticky note
  4. Type something onto your note.
  5. Tap or click anywhere outside your note to stop editing the text.
    freeform note with text
  6. You can now drag your note around and place it where you want it.
  7. To edit the note, tap or click it once.
  8. The Color icon lets you choose a color for your Sticky Note.
    freeform note color
  9. The Text icon lets you format the text, including the font, size, and alignment.
    freeform note text
  10. To delete a note, tap or click it once. On Mac, press Delete to remove it. On iPad and iPhone, tap the Trash icon.
    freeform trash icon

How to Use Shapes and Lines in Freeform

Freeform’s Shapes and Lines functionality allows you to insert and edit lines or select from a large variety of pre-installed shapes. This includes geometric shapes, as well as clip-art-style images, such as people or vehicles.

To use lines in Freeform:

  1. Tap or click the Lines and Shapes icon.
    freeform shapes tool
  2. Under the Basic options, tap on one of the line options.
    freeform line options
  3. The Straight Line icon inserts a line with a handle at each end. You can drag these handles around to change the size and orientation of the line.
    freeform straight line
  4. The Arrow icon does the same, but with an arrowhead at one end of the line.
    freeform arrow
  5. The Curved Line icon adds a curve with handles at each end but also one in the middle. This can be dragged around to change the shape of the curve.
    freeform curve
  6. To delete a line, tap or click it once and press Delete on Mac or the Trash icon on iPad and iPhone.

To use shapes in Freeform:

  1. Tap the Lines and Shapes icon.
    freeform shapes tool
  2. Select from one of the pre-installed shapes.
    freeform shape options
  3. Use the handles around the shape to resize it.
    freeform shape
  4. You can drag the shape around to position it where you wish.
  5. Tap on the shape and then the color icon to change its color.
    freeform note color
  6. To delete a shape, tap or click it once and press Delete on Mac or the Trash icon on iPad and iPhone.

How to Use Text in Freeform

The Text tool allows you to add text anywhere on your board rather than only on a Sticky Note.

To use text in Freeform:

  1. Tap or click the Text icon.
    freeform text tool
  2. On an iPad or iPhone, double-tap to enter your text. On a Mac, or if you’re using a Magic Keyboard, you can just start typing.
  3. When you’re done typing, tap or click outside the text box.
    freeform text
  4. To edit your text, tap or click once on it.
  5. The Color icon lets you select the color of your text.
    freeform text color
  6. The Text icon lets you format the text, including the font, style, and alignment.
    freeform text format
  7. The Font Size icon lets you change the size of the font.
    freeform text size
  8. To delete text, tap or click on it. On Mac, press Delete or on iPad or iPhone tap the Trash icon.
    freeform trash text

How to Use Drawings in Freeform

You can draw freehand in Freeform, but there is a caveat.

If you’re using Freeform on a Mac, the Drawing tools are missing. For some reason, Apple has decided that you can only draw freehand on an iPhone or iPad.

To draw in Freeform:

  1. Tap the Drawing icon.
    freeform drawing tool
  2. Select the drawing tool you want to use.freeform drawing tools
  3. Double-tap it to change the line width and opacity.
    freeform tool edit
  4. Draw with your finger or Apple Pencil.
    freeform drawing
  5. To use a different color, tap the Color icon.
    freeform drawing color
  6. If you make a mistake, use the Eraser tool to remove unwanted portions of your drawing.
    freeform eraser
  7. Double tap the Eraser tool and select Object Eraser to remove entire objects at a time.
    freeform object eraser
  8. To move a drawing, tap Done or anywhere outside your drawing to exit drawing mode. You can then tap on a drawing and drag it around.
    freeform done

How to Use Photos, Videos, and Files in Freeform

You can also add photos, videos, or other files to your board, move them around, and resize them.

To use photos, videos, and files in Freeform:

  1. Tap the Photos and Videos icon.
    freeform pictures tool
  2. Select the source for your photo or video.
    freeform file source
  3. Select Insert From if you want to insert a document on iPhone or iPad.
    freeform insert from
  4. On Mac, there is a separate icon for inserting files.
    freeform mac files
  5. When your photo, video, or file is inserted, you can use the handles to resize it, or you can drag it around to reposition it.
    freeform picture
  6. To delete a file or image, tap or click on it. On Mac, press Delete. On iPhone and iPad, tap the Trash icon.

Collaborating in Freeform

If you want to work on a board with other people, or just show off what you’ve created, you can share your board.

To share your Freeform board:

  1. Tap the Share icon at the top of the screen.
    freeform share
  2. Select how you want to share your board. This can be via Mail, Messages, or a shared link.
    freeform share options
  3. The recipient will be able to see and edit your board.
  4. If you want to discuss your work as you collaborate, tap the Collaboration icon on a shared board. Select Audio or Video and you can start a call with your collaborators with your Freeform board still visible.
    freeform collaborators

Drawing On Apple Devices

The Freeform application is a useful tool for creating everything from script outlines to epic doodles. It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice addition to the list of pre-installed apps that come with your device. You can also use it across a range of Apple devices.

If you use multiple Apple devices, then you’ll want to ensure they play nicely together. You can learn how to AirPlay from iPhone to Mac, or how to use your Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone when you’re wearing a mask. You can even unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch too.

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