Here's Your Brainstorming Toolkit 🚀 Wonder Tools
How you can sketch out with Jamboard, Figjam and Miro
In this Wonder Tools post:
✍️ How you can use Google’s Jamboard as a free, simple whiteboarding tool
🖼 Introducing Figjam, a playful idea jamming resource
🎨 Why Miro is a useful pro alternative to map out big ideas or projects
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Google Jamboard is an easy, free starter
Whiteboard tools have a few core functions:
Insert shapes, text and digital stickies — Post-Its — on a visual canvas
Drag things around and draw connections to show relationships
Invite others to view your board or collaborate
Save and export your canvas for use in other documents or presentations
Bottom Line: For quick brainstorming, I find Google Jamboard to be the simplest whiteboarding tool. It doesn’t have the full functionality that Miro and Mural have, so it’s best when you’re not developing complex diagrams. Here’s how to use it:
Sign in with your Google account to create a blank brainstorming board. It’s free to make as many boards as you want. Start by trying things out with a mess board. Throw everything in to learn the functions.
Set an optional background for your canvas if you’d like to work on top of a map or other image. You can upload a background image from your computer, from Google Drive or Google Photos, or with a built-in Google image search.
Add ideas with stickies (Post-Its), shapes, or text boxes. To add one of these elements, select from the tool palette on the left.
Unlike Miro and other more powerful whiteboard services, Jamboard just has one simple palette, so it’s easy to pick up quickly.
From the tool palette, click on the image icon to add a picture.
Write or draw with a digital pen, marker, highlighter or brush.
When you’re done, download a PDF or a PNG (image) file. Or use the share button to share a link privately or publicly with collaborators or viewers.
Helpful features 👍
Like Google Docs, Jamboards can be private or shared with particular people. Or you can make Jamboards publicly viewable or editable. To see a public example, take a look at this board about delicious snacks 🍇🍟. Add your favorite edibles to test out the tool.🍿🍩
You can add multiple sections to a Jamboard to divide up your brainstorming into discrete topics. That’s useful if you fill up the first page, as I did in this example of a Jamboard I used when leading a workshop recently. We were thinking about the pros and cons of news consumption on various platforms.
Unlike Miro, Mural and other more powerful whiteboard tools, Jamboard doesn’t come with templates for specific kinds of brainstorming
There’s no presentation mode, as there is in Miro
Jamboards can’t import content from other online services
Figjam is an easy-to-use, free new alternative 🖌
Figjam is a free beta whiteboarding tool that’s a bit more sophisticated than Jamboard and a bit more fun to use. Its unique features:
A timer lets you manage brainstorming sessions
A cute stamp feature lets you stamp a thumbs up, star, +1, initials or emoji onto a canvas you’re working on to signal agreement, support or emphasis
A cursor chat feature lets you talk with collaborators while you work together
Limitations and considerations
Figjam is still in beta, so its features may evolve. As of now it lacks an export feature, so you can’t quickly save an image except by taking a screenshot.
You can use Figjam without Figma, a popular online design tool. But they’re designed to work together.
Miro, the most powerful creative canvas
Miro is the whiteboarding tool I rely on for mapping out big projects or ideas with multiple elements. I like how it provides a giant canvas that works well for group workshops. I also use it solo, to play with ideas and to connect thoughts visually. Since my freehand drawings look like chicken scratches, I like Miro’s built-in icons, shapes and handy built-in frameworks and templates, from business model canvases to team-building icebreakers. Miro has a huge feature set, which is probably why more than 20 million people use it.
Platforms: Works on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and the Web.
Pricing: Free to use with three boards. $8/month/user for unlimited boards and additional features. Free for educators and students! 💯
Integrations: Miro plugs into many other tools, like Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
Downsides: Complex at first. Multiple tool palettes. When lots of people are using it together and the canvas is large, novices can at times get lost or confused.
💭 Final thoughts on whiteboarding 🤔
I love giant whiteboards and dry erase markers. Digital whiteboards aren’t the same. They lack the look, smell and feel of physical boards. But I’ve grown to like how they help visualize and organize non-linear ideas. They’re great for three things:
Open-ended brainstorming with digital Post-Its
Mapping out upcoming projects using frameworks like the Lean Canvas
Creating visual documents that illustrate connections between concepts
They’re also handy for collaborating live or asynchronously with others online. Reply to share your input on whiteboarding or to share a tool, template or question. - Jeremy