Nobody can belittle the universal impact of the Open Source movement, which turns 20 this February. The term ‘Open Source’ was coined (sometime during February 1998) by Christine Peterson, co-founder and the then executive director of the Foresight Institute. In a recent blog post, she shared a story that beautifully depicts how she coined the term. If interested, take a look.
We consider this amazing success of the open source paradigm as a great milestone in the history of mankind and celebrate this event by introducing a feature-packed Free/Open Source software, the OpenBoard.
OpenBoard is a drawing and annotation tool that uses a whiteboard, but allows us to bring other elements in. Basically, you can think about it as a slideshow creator; it is a Powerpoint type of presentation tool, where you create a series of slides. But with each of these slides, you can create drawings, annotations and other things. And like a slideshow tool you can import other elements into it. But the difference is that you can make it actually record what you are doing in real-time.
When you start the tool as you look at its interface, you will immediately realise that we are in a graphics application. When you start the program you get the standard whiteboard screen in the middle with different tool sets on the two sides.
However, you can change the default display mode to desktop (using the ‘Preferences’ menu) so that the whiteboard part of the app will get minimised and you can continue to work without worrying about the OpenBoard getting in the way.
OpenBoard program lets you access the Net right from its interface and to facilitate this it comes with a built-in browser. Nonetheless, if you wish to use your favourite browser (instead of the one provided by the app) you can change the browser settings to external (Preferences/External).
The app lets you capture your entire screen (or part of it) and add it to your presentation. When you are in the desktop mode you can use it along with other applications -use the desktop capture facility to incorporate output from other applications with your presentation. For instance, you can access the Net, bring in an image, annotate it with your own text/drawings and integrate it with your presentation.
If you wish to share the presentation with others, you can export it as a PDF document or a file in the OpenBoard native format. If it is in the OpenBoard format other users of the app can load it as a native document (in their OpenBoard app).
A notable feature of this whiteboard software is that it allows you to integrate additional apps with it and thereby enhance its core functionality. To get you started with this feature, OpenBoard comes bundled with a bunch of applications (you can get a list of the available ones from the ‘Home’ menu).
Any of the listed applications can be added to your presentation by simply clicking on it. The point to be noted here is that by inserting an application you are bringing its functionality to your presentation with a single mouse click.
To illustrate the point, let us assume that you wish to demonstrate how a web page is created from scratch. For this usually, we need an HTML editor. In this regard, the OpenBoard application ’HTML’ that allows you to write HTML code (and preview it) could come in handy.
Another advantage of this app worth a mention is its interactive apps collection, which can be accessed by clicking on the ‘Home’ button on the top-right. The interactive apps are a special type of OpenBoard apps that let you create interactive exercises. You can use the apps with its default options or customise it with your own exercises. The app ‘Order letters’ is a good example of an interactive app. Here the target (could be a student) should replace the letters of a word in the right order by dragging and dropping.
Moreover, the app lets us import existing video and images on to the page that we are working with. Real video can actually be running while you are annotating over the top of it.
The app can record all your activities and convert it into a video if you choose to do that. To record your session, simply invoke the ‘podcast’ option, which will display a red button. This button will help us record everything that we are doing. When you invoke the recording feature, it is recording not just your key/pen strokes, but it is also recording everything you say over the microphone. In addition, if you move over to other applications those also get recorded.
You will find many real-life applications for a tool of this type. For instance, if you are doing a sales presentation with lots of drawings and annotations, you can use this tool. In an educational setting, a student working on a problem can record her thoughts as she moves along and later the teacher can playback the recording and see the process that the student went through.
As mentioned earlier, pretty much everything that we see on the computer screen can be brought to the OpenBoard canvass. You can add-in different types of media. You can even bring in a website and give an annotated tour of it. When you bring in a website to OpenBoard’s canvas it loads just like it would do in any other browser. You can record yourself talking about this page highlighting some its features and save the project as a video file and share it with your colleagues.
The OpenBoard is just one of the several whiteboard apps out there. There are several other ones (like Explain Everything, which is a commercial product). In this regard, you may watch out the upcoming whiteboard app from Microsoft. The distinct feature of the product is that it let you collaborate with people from different locations in real-time. To get a taste of this upcoming product, take a shot at the application’s preview version available at Microsoft Store.