Office work is back, but it’s not back to how it was before. This means that tools like the whiteboard—a staple of classrooms and meeting spaces—have taken the digital leap. Fast, easy, and visual collaboration is too important not to have a virtual option.
Of course, a product sprint team, say, and a high school Calculus teacher use whiteboards entirely differently. I tested dozens of online whiteboards to find the best ones for a variety of needs. I’ve been working remotely for my entire tech writing career—almost a decade now—so I have a lot of experience with testing apps and actually using online collaborative tools. I’d be happy to work with a team using any of these picks.
The 5 best online whiteboards
Miro for turning ideas into tasks
Stormboard for creating multiple whiteboards in a single brainstorming session
MURAL for big remote team meetings
Limnu for teaching students remotely
InVision Freehand for annotating design files with a team
What makes a great online whiteboard?
How we evaluate and test apps
All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who’ve spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it’s intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We’re never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
Almost any sketch or design app can technically be used as a digital whiteboard if you need to sketch out a few ideas for your team. If you’re sharing your screen over a conference call, you could even use MS Paint. But that doesn’t mean they’re the best tools for the job.
Similarly, most online conferencing software and office suites have a whiteboard built in. Zoom has Zoom Whiteboard, Microsoft Teams has Microsoft Whiteboard (which is also a standalone app), and Webex has, you guessed it, a feature called Whiteboard. (Google was a little more creative and called its whiteboard product Jamboard.) But if you’re visiting this article, you either don’t want to use these built-in tools, or you need a dedicated online whiteboard tool that offers more advanced or specific features. To that end, I only considered dedicated digital whiteboards when putting together this list, not any app that could be used—or said it could be used—as one.
There are a few key features that I felt a great online whiteboard had to have:
Unlimited canvas. While physical whiteboards might have size restrictions, going digital shouldn’t come with limits. I was looking for whiteboarding tools that have an unlimited, ever-expanding canvas, so whatever way your visualizations go, they can accommodate them.
Collaboration features. Using a whiteboard—whether physical or digital—is often a collaborative act. I required all the apps on this list to allow multiple users to collaborate in real time. Some apps allow private collaboration between team members, while others allow you to share a link or code so that even non-users can comment or add notes.
Ability to attach files. Your digital whiteboard shouldn’t limit the kinds of things you can add to it. I felt you should be able to attach links, images, and other files to your web whiteboard as needed for easy reference.
Presentation options. Because whiteboards are so often used for both ideation and presentation, I looked for features that allowed you to present using your whiteboard. This could be sharing your whiteboard online, exporting it, or a dedicated presentation mode.
Accessible everywhere. Whether you’re working on your own ideas or collaborating on a shared whiteboard with a team, chances are high that you’d like to have access to the whiteboard even if you’re not seated at your desk. This meant it had to be accessible through the web and ideally on mobile devices.
To find the best online whiteboards, I started out with a list of every relevant app that I could find and then compared each one against the criteria above. If an app looked like it could meet them, I tested it to see how it was to use. The specifics of the testing depended on the app, but it generally involved signing up for an account and creating a few different whiteboards to see how everything worked, as well as testing any unique or headline features. Quite a few apps failed out at this step for just being unpleasant to use. The differences between a top-tier web app and one that’s badly coded are impossible not to notice.
I then went back and re-tested the top contenders. I also compared the apps to each other: where two (or more) apps offered a very similar feature set, I went with the one that had a better overall user experience or pricing options, or was the more mature product.
At the end of all the testing, I was left with my five favorite apps—and a few alternate picks that didn’t quite make the list for one reason or another. Here they are.
Best online whiteboard for turning ideas into tasks
Miro (Web, macOS, Windows, iOS, Android)
Miro is available on any device—and on the web. To get started, choose from a long list of templates (e.g., UX design, customer mapping, and retrospective), or just start with a standard blank whiteboard. And you’re not limited to one template: you can add as many as you want to a board, zooming and scrolling with your mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen to navigate through the various templates on the board. Then add shapes, text, and sticky notes (drag-and-drop) as needed.
If you find yourself looking for more features, go to the Miro marketplace, which houses a list of apps you can integrate, allowing you to do things like update Miro cards within your Airtable base, or add a voting plugin that lets each user vote on designated objects.
Miro is built for more than just brainstorming. It also includes a set of features that supports managers who have to guide the process from ideation to implementation. With Miro, you can monitor what changes have been made, assign tasks, and carry on conversations with team members from within the interface. If you want to present the results of your ideation, you’ll love how easy it is to select and drag a portion of the board to create “frames,” so you can pan through the board in a more organized manner during presentations. (You can also just turn on the screen sharing mode so that all participants can see your screen while hearing your voice over the audio system.)
You can do even more with Miro by using Miro’s Zapier integrations. Automatically create a card on a board in Miro whenever you have a new task, entry in a spreadsheet, or form submission.
Miro pricing: Free for three editable boards; from $10/user/month for the Team plan that includes unlimited boards and integrations with Jira and Asana.
Best online whiteboard for creating multiple boards in a single brainstorming session
Stormboard (Web, iOS, Android)
Stormboard is a sticky-note-style ideation tool that handles the basics really well. It’s simple for anyone to drop notes or index cards with text, pictures, and even videos onto different sections of the board. The free version of Stormboard was one of our top mind mapping apps for this reason. But if you’re prepared to pay for a premium plan, each digital sticky note can house its own whiteboard, opening up a world of opportunity for big picture brainstorming and collaboration. As soon as you create a new Storm (brainstorming board), you can start adding your ideas. Any sticky note can then turn into a collaborative whiteboard that all collaborators can view and edit in real time.
Using Stormboard solves one of the major problems in any brainstorming or collaborative meeting: how to save each iteration so that it’s easy to review and revise moving forward. To organize, drag each whiteboard note around the board with your mouse. Board collaborators can then vote on each board, carry on a text chat conversation, and even assign tasks.
Because Stormboard integrates with Zapier, you can even automate your whiteboarding, creating new Storms or ideas based on activity in other apps. Or you can automatically send your ideas, comments, and tasks from Stormboard to other apps.
Best online whiteboard for big remote team meetings
MURAL (Web, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android)
The MURAL canvas can house multiple whiteboard areas, similar to Photoshop artboards, that you can rearrange and resize as needed. On each whiteboard, you can go with the standard blank white background, or choose from a variety of templates to add pre-built grids and content boxes for some additional structure. Many of the templates come with detailed instructions and facilitator guidelines, which makes getting started with MURAL really quick.
MURAL is particularly strong as a team tool, letting you create multiple “rooms” for your whiteboards, each with different permissions to limit access. You might have one room for your design team, one for your marketing team, and so on. You could also create rooms that correspond to various projects.
Remote teams who use MURAL for meetings (like Zapier) will love the digital version of some office staples, from timers (which you can use for focused ideation sprints) to chat boxes. It can be tough to share candid feedback in remote team meetings. That’s why I liked MURAL’s timed voting session, where you can allot a number of votes to each collaborator. To vote, click on an object on your whiteboard. Every vote is anonymous and tallied automatically.
MURAL also integrates with Zapier, letting you do things like automatically create new tasks in your project management tool based on your whiteboards or create new MURAL stickies based on form submissions.
MURAL pricing: Free for 3 murals with unlimited members, from $12/user/month for the Team+ plan.
If you’re looking for a MURAL alternative, I also liked Lucidspark. It’s a little bit newer and lacks some of MURAL’s polish, but it’s a serious contender.
Best online whiteboard for teaching students remotely
If you’re used to having a physical whiteboard for your presentations and brainstorming sessions and are reluctant to go all-in on digital, you might lean toward Limnu. It feels so much like a real whiteboard that you can almost smell the markers. (Just make sure to practice writing with your mouse or trackpad!)
But Limnu does a lot more than give realistic marker drawings: it also includes collaboration features that make the jump to teaching online feel much easier. To invite others to view your board, click on the share icon and copy/paste the link. You can even limit their permissions to view-only, if you want. Since your virtual students don’t need to go through a lengthy signup process to join your whiteboard, you don’t have to worry as much about tech headaches blocking your teaching session.
Limnu pricing: Free plan available with 14-day access to whiteboards; from $5/month for the Pro plan; $8/user/month for the Team plan that includes team boards
Best online whiteboard for annotating design files with a team
InVision Freehand (Web, iOS)
InVision Freehand gives designers the opportunity to sync their Sketch and Photoshop files or create mockups using the built-in wireframes, and get real-time feedback from teammates and stakeholders. Each logged-in user appears as an icon on the top-right corner of the whiteboard, with a dot indicating the color of the “ink” for their markups. Adding text and uploading files is as simple as a click of the mouse on the top toolbar.
When the Present option is selected, all collaborators on the board can sit back and watch as the focus stays on your own cursor, or get walked through a series of pre-configured “Frames”. The downside: Freehand doesn’t include any group chat tools, though you can communicate through comments. You’ll have to have another app lined up for visual, audio, or text communication outside of the board drawing.
InVision Freehand pricing: Free plan available for unlimited freehands; from $4.95/user/month for the Pro plan.
Which virtual whiteboard should I use?
Because almost any app can be used as a whiteboard app, the best whiteboard app comes down to the features your team wants the most. If you don’t need anything specific, but your team uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, or Google Meet, then the best option is probably the one that’s built in to the software you already use every day.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for dedicated whiteboard software that offers more integrations, advanced features, and customization, then one of our picks above is probably a better fit. They all—in their own ways—offer a great collaborative whiteboard experience.
This piece was originally published in March 2019 by Maria Myre. The most recent review of apps was in May 2022.