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collaborative drawing onlineThe chalk gives way to the mouse. The canvas to the screen. But essentially online whiteboards try to do the same thing that real world whiteboards used to do in our good ol’ school days. Online whiteboards though have gone a few steps beyond the mimicry.

Dabbleboard, a whiteboard application brings its own host of features to heighten the whiteboard feel. Call it a ‘thinking’ whiteboard.

For the uninitiated, let me just define virtual whiteboards. Whiteboards are software applications that allow for collaborative communication through writing or drawing, in fact all the attributes of a real world whiteboard (and more).

Dabbleboard is currently in beta, though the features provided make for a well rounded and proficient web application. Starting with it is as easy as walking up to a whiteboard. Sign-in and enter.

online whiteboard

When you look at the spartan interface, your impression will be that it should be easy to use. In fact, it does not disappoint. Drawing squiggles, doodles and approximations with a mind let loose on the interface is not only easy but also fun.


The ‘intelligence’ bit comes from the flexible way the application understands the basic shapes of our drawings and with a click turns it into smooth lines and shapes. Drawing everything from an organizational chart to a mindmap is straight simple. For all your mistakes, the undo / redo button is but a few pixels away.

Dabbleboard lives up to its name. Its fast and flexible nature is its main ‘draw’. Draw freehand, draw shapes or just write text; select, copy, resize, delete, all functions seem intuitive. The user does not need to hunt around for the next tool to use. A good feature is that Dabbleboard saves your previous drawings and makes them available on the left sidebar. This area is the personal library. Save and reuse previous drawings you painstakingly made. You can also borrow liberally images and drawings made by other users from a public library.

To further your aspiration to be a Picasso you can also use some available ‘Toolkits’ to start off with your drawings. These can be easily incorporated into your library for use. If you think that an idea can be better expressed through an image, just upload one from your computer (or from a web link) and use it or just blemish it with doodles.

The real time collaborative environment is where whiteboards find their greatest application. The online collaboration facet of Dabbleboard allows a group to share a common drawing space to make and edit their images. Of course for co-ordination, only one person can be making the changes at any single moment of time! The application is prompt with its notifications.

The user can share the images publicly through the public library or privately in a secure collaborative environment. (The site mentions the use of a 160 bit key for encryption and a SSL mode in development) Quite handily, the images can also be downloaded in ‘.png’ format or emailed to any address. They can also be shared publicly in blogs and social networks through embeddable URL’s. To cite the site, if anyone makes a change in the Dabbleboard copy of the drawing, it gets updated in the embedded shared image too. To further add to the collaborative environment, there is a chat (with video chat) box too. You can’t get more real time than that.

collaborative drawing program

Ostensibly to make it more popular but with a thought on utility, Dabbleboard offers a developer API which can be integrated with other websites/blogs/services. A user can login with his ID, doodle an idea and share it with others.

Though still in beta, Dabbleboard offers enough to keep one interested. With more development hours and user feedback some of the rough edges like shape detection can only get better.

The plusses so far outweigh the minuses – I liked the ease of use between drawing shapes and writing text. The speed is noteworthy especially when one considers the collaborative nature of the software. Reusing my clips not only saves time allowed me to create some ‘templates’ for e.g. organizational diagrams.

For the final byword – an unostentatious, well rounded collaborative whiteboard.

Do you use Dabbleboard?   Or do you use a similar alternative?

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  1. Dom Derrien
    January 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Saikat,

    As reported in my blog spot, I use Dabbleboard to convert my drawing in PNG files.

    That's a really nice tool. Thanks for your review.

    A+, Dom

  2. Sahil Parikh
    November 25, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Hey Saikat,
    We have been exploring the Dabbleboard API and its use within DeskAway. It works pretty well so far and Zohair has been very responsive to our emails. Personally, I think Dabbleboard can be something very useful for collaborating teams.


    Founder, DeskAway

    • Saikat
      November 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm

      Yes, I really liked their 'minimalist' kind of interface. Your site is pretty nice too. A whiteboard though is something it lacks. It could be really useful in truly collaborative environment (+Twitter+blog). Their integrated video chat is something I find potentially useful. It's usefulness could be something akin to real world classroom teaching interactivity

  3. Zohair
    November 17, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Saikat, this is Zohair from Dabbleboard. Thanks for the comprehensive review! Regarding "To cite the site, if anyone makes a change in the Dabbleboard copy of the drawing, it gets updated in the embedded shared image too," I don't believe we offer that yet, though that would be useful indeed. Please drop me an email if the language on the site needs to be clarified.

    • Saikat
      November 17, 2008 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Zohair,
      Probably a slight misinterpretation on my part. I was looking at the parameters given on the Developer API page of your site. The Developer ID being the same as the login ID at Dashboard. It was probably a wrong reading of the line 'most of the parameters are passed to the (embedded) swf'. Apologies for the mistake...but hey! that would be a real cool feature :)