Mi­crosoft an­nounces new White­board app

Mi­crosoft is giv­ing us more rea­sons to keep those dig­i­tal pens on our desks, writes MARK HACHMAN

Windows Advisor - - Contents -

Mi­crosoft wants you to use Win­dows 10’s ink­ing tal­ents in your ev­ery­day work life, and that’s why it’s of­fer­ing two new fea­tures: a cus­tom col­lec­tion of pens that will roam with you from de­vice to de­vice, and com­ing later, the White­board col­lab­o­ra­tive app.

Both build upon new ink­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties Mi­crosoft has in­cre­men­tally added to its hard­ware and its Win­dows OS, as well as Of­fice. One of the fea­tures of the new Sur­face Pro (2017), for ex­am­ple, is a more sen­si­tive Sur­face Pen with tilt ca­pa­bil­i­ties and an al­most un­no­tice­able pen latency, to make dig­i­tal ink feel smooth and seam­less.

Be­gin­ning in June, Mi­crosoft will al­low Of­fice 365 sub­scribers to ‘save’ a gallery of pen inks that will roam across de­vices as well as the Mi­crosoft Ex­cel, POW­ERPOINT and Word apps. Though the pens are be­ing saved in Of­fice, and not within Win­dows, the saved ink gallery is con­sis­tent with Mi­crosoft’s up­com­ing Fall Cre­ators Up­date, which builds upon shared Win­dows ex­pe­ri­ences across de­vices.

Those inks in­clude ‘galaxy’ and ‘rain­bow’ inks, which dy­nam­i­cally change colours as the pen moves across the screen. If a user wants to keep a rain­bow pen close at hand, they can save it within Of­fice, along with pen­cils, high­lighters, and more. Some­time in the fu­ture one of those Of­fice apps will be White­board.

Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft, there are two mil­lion min­utes of pen us­age per day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, es­pe­cially given the tens of mil­lions of Win­dows PCs. To its credit, though, Mi­crosoft isn’t giv­ing up, bank­ing on col­lab­o­ra­tion as one of ink’s key fo­cal points. Are you go­ing to grab a pen every time you want to hud­dle in a con­fer­ence room? Prob­a­bly not, but the op­tion’s there if you want it.

White­board: a true col­lab­o­ra­tive Of­fice app

If White­board sounds fa­mil­iar, it should; we first saw it last year as part of the Sur­face Hub, Mi­crosoft’s mas­sive

8in col­lab­o­ra­tive touch­screen. At the time, White­board was a sim­ple col­lab­o­ra­tion tool, where users could stand up and ink on the screen. If you weren’t in the room, though, you couldn’t par­tic­i­pate, a key lim­i­ta­tion Mi­crosoft solved with this it­er­a­tion of the soft­ware.

Now, each par­tic­i­pant in a White­board workspace can ink on their own tablet or PC, and the con­tent will show up on each other’s screen. In a nice touch, a small icon with the per­son’s name will ap­pear and hover next to the ink as each user ap­plies it. Be­cause White­board is due at some point in the fu­ture, cer­tain as­pects of it, such as the num­ber of sup­ported users, re­main un­de­fined for now.

The real magic be­hind White­board, though, is how White­board treats ink: as the foun­da­tion for dig­i­tal ob­jects that can be ma­nip­u­lated. Ink a tri­an­gle, and it trans­forms into an ac­tual tri­an­gle that can be pulled and ro­tated, even with small num­bers dis­play­ing the an­gle sizes. Inked boxes turn into squares, and

if they’re bi­sected or tri­sected, trans­form into ta­bles with fields that can be filled out.

White­board will be avail­able in pre­view this sum­mer, and to all Of­fice users this au­tumn,

Mi­crosoft said at the launch of the new Sur­face Pro.

Ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft ex­ec­u­tives, that sort of in­ter­ac­tion via ink will make its way into other parts of Of­fice, too: You’ll be able to lasso phrases in Word to select them, and delete them just by cross­ing them out. An ‘ink re­play’ fea­ture, taken from the Onenote Win­dows app, will also ap­pear in the Of­fice apps (though not White­board). Re­play al­lows you to scrub back and forth though inked ad­di­tions just like a video, al­low­ing you to fol­low a shared project’s evo­lu­tion­ary time­line.

Mi­crosoft said ad­di­tional ink­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will come to Of­fice over time, com­ple­ment­ing

Mi­crosoft’s even­tual hope that you’ll be able to nav­i­gate Win­dows us­ing just your pen.

As each par­tic­i­pant adds ink, a small icon ap­pears to show who con­trib­uted

White­board trans­forms ink into ob­jects, such as the ta­ble to the lower right

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