SyncPad is an app-based whiteboard for remote and local collaboration. Users can share images, pdfs and live sketches with co-workers from anywhere with an Internet connection. An unlimited number of people can share at one time, and viewing can take place on iPhones, iPads, or through a desktop or laptop web browser.
The app is priced at £2.99 for the iPhone, or £6.99 for the iPad. Once purchased, usage is free. Those just viewing the session can do so for free via a web browser, or by downloading the free SyncPad viewer app for the iPad.
How do you use it?
Upon opening the app, the user is invited to enter a room ID, and a room is created for the sharing to begin. Other attendees then enter this ID to join the room. An edit bar on the left provides basic drawing options, as well as the option to import pdf files or images from the mobile device library. Other mobile viewers wishing to share their own content must have the full app, but those just wishing to watch can do so for free via a web browser or the viewing app.
Is it easy to use?
The drawing tools themselves are basic (4 colours, 3 sizes and an eraser) and straightforward to use. I couldn’t quite figure out how to move onto a separate page, and it was purely by accident that I discovered how to switch rooms (tap the room name in the url at the bottom of the screen). With no menu and no help function, some of these options can be a tad confusing – but the sketching itself is simple and easy to do, even for beginners.
The real-time sharing works well, and sharing is almost instantaneous over a broadband connection. Sharing is slower over a 3G connection, but still usable. There is a function to email the sketch from the mobile device or to save the drawing to your photo gallery, and SyncPad also offers DropBox integration.
The iPhone screen is probably a little too small for full SyncPad capability. It would work well for viewing, but a sketch drawn on an iPhone might not look great on an iPad. The touch screen method of drawing is easy and convenient, but doesn’t produce the most accurate of sketches.
SyncPad does not allow the sharing of PowerPoint files, meaning that it cannot share full presentations. You could save individual slides to pdf, but this would be time consuming and would disable animations – essential for engaging remote audiences. SyncPad is better suited to annotate static images and diagrams than presentations themselves.
One issue immediately apparent is that of security. Room access is defined by room ID – so anyone who is aware of (or guesses) that particular ID can enter the meeting. Of course, you can make your room name as obscure as you like to function as a password, but in sensitive business meetings this won’t suffice – particularly as members can’t see who else is in a room. I did raise the subject with Davide, creator of SyncPad, when I interviewed him about the product, and he revealed that there are plans in the future to rectify this. Read our interview with Davide to see what he said. In the meantime, choose an obscure room name – and make sure you delete everything before you leave a room!
Another point is that anyone accessing the meeting via the full app can draw – cue complete chaos at a board meeting as everyone adds their graffiti to each other’s sketches! Davide mentioned that there are enterprise solutions available, but it would be nice to see ownership of the meeting handled in the basic app.
Is it worth it?
For the price, SyncPad is very useful. Of course, it can’t display PowerPoint, which limits its capabilites when it comes to presentations, but the app could prove very useful for annotating diagrams and designs. SyncPad’s strengths really become apparent in the live discussion and brainstorming of ideas. The developments promised do sound very exciting, and SyncPad will definitely be one to look out for in the future.
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