Microsoft has launched a new version of its Whiteboard app for Microsoft 365, with features designed to help people collaborate better whether they're working from the office or home. It also updated its Teams, Fluid Components and Viva apps to make them work better both for hybrid remote and office-based workplaces.
As before, Whiteboard acts like a physical whiteboard, letting you draw, erase and attach sticky notes. You can also type, add and manipulate images to enhance a presentation. With the latest version, Microsoft is focusing on guided collaboration, as well as new content types, a new UI and expanded Microsoft 365 integration.
To that end, Microsoft introduced "collaboration cursors" that can help remote users see what others are doing on the whiteboard. And just like with a physical whiteboard, there's a new laser pointer that helps you bring attention to key ideas. The latest version also introduces templates to help you get started on a presentation, along with a "follow along" feature to guide users through ideas.
Rather than just having inking as before, you can combine shapes, lines, text and ink to create "collaborative diagrams." Another new capability, "insert image and documents," lets you connect ideas, annotate and iterate across different types of content. You can react to different ideas with new stickers, and use "fluid components" to bring in elements like tables or task lists.
Microsoft has also freshened up the UI with a new fluent toolbar, using its fluent design language introduced in 2017. That provides a single unified user experience across devices, operating systems and platforms. It also gives you pre-built elements from a creation gallery that works on devices as large as a Surface Hub and as small as a smartphone.
One of Microsoft's main competitors in this space is Klaxoon, which builds its own whiteboard-like collaboration tools. As it happens, Klaxoon introduced an update for its own whiteboard collaboration product just yesterday, with a similar emphasis on hybrid work/home workplaces, as TechCrunch reported.
Microsoft also emphasized hybrid work environments with the latest version of Teams, saying "we are focused on building experiences in Teams that are designed to ensure all voices are heard including the people not in the room."
To that end, Microsoft has integrated its Viva employee experience platform into teams. What that app will do is help employees schedule periods where they can work uninterrupted with Teams notifications silenced, and even use the Viva Insights app to do guided meditations and mindfulness exercises. If that sounds familiar, Amazon recently installed "Zenbooth" meditation kiosks to help overworked employees destress.
Microsoft also announced that it was expanding Fluid components for Teams meetings, OneNote and Outlook to make collaboration easier across apps. It's also introducing new chat features, message pinning and more in an effort to improve collaboration across multiple projects. Finally, Microsoft said it would roll out "front row" in Teams Rooms to make "interactions feel more natural and give in-room participants a greater sense of connection to remote participants." Most of these features are available starting today, but front row will roll out over the course of the year.