If you had to pick a theme for Apple’s most recent software releases, it would be productivity. While iOS 14 saw the debut of redesigned widgets, iOS 15 doubled down on productivity with Focus. And the Freeform app looks to complete the trilogy with new iOS 16 updates.
Apple’s new app(opens in new tab) provides a blank canvas on which you can work alone or collaborate with other Apple users across macOS 13.1, iPad OS 16.2, and iOS 16.2. All of this is now available to download from Settings > General > Software Update as of today (December 13).
While the Freeform app was first shown off at WWDC 2022 in June, it was made available to users in November with the first public beta releases of macOS 13.1, iPad OS 16.2, and iOS 16.2, allowing you to sign up for a testing phase to see what’s been changed and fixed.
Since then, I’ve been testing it on an M1 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021), and a Macbook Pro 14-inch (2021). And my iPhone 13 Pro, and while it gives me hope that Apple hasn’t missed the mark in terms of productivity. It also makes me wonder if this is a precursor to how apps might be used with its rumored headset.
Freeforming a project with ease
When you launch the app, you’re presented with a blank canvas and a menu bar at the top from which you can insert text, sticky notes, images, and shapes, as well as a toggle to use an Apple Pencil.
This is a freeform project mapping space, as the name implies. The canvas can be as empty or as filled as you like.
But it goes beyond that. You can invite friends and family to contribute to this canvas, sparking new ideas or expanding on old ones. You can also include rich links to websites and video links that will play when you select them in Freeform. Direct access to what would normally be third-party functions simplifies canvas creation and management. It makes it easier for my wife and me, for example, to build ideas across the canvas.
The app’s design is pure Apple – a few options at the top of the app to choose from. It is all wrapped up in an app that works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’s great to see a brand-new app that works so well right away. And Freeform’s great design will entice you to incorporate it into your workflow.
I’ve been working on a Freeform canvas layout to plan the placement of my home smart cameras (I bought three during Black Friday weekend). I have a spot in the dining room for our dog, Jolly, and a sticky note describing where the camera could go on my Freeform canvas.
My wife will occasionally add a photo to another section of the canvas that defines a different room of the house. And I’ll see her update on our shared workspace indicating where the camera should be placed and when it should be recorded.
It’s a good example of how Freeform could be used. But there’s an AR aspect to the app that makes me think it’d be ideal for Apple’s rumored headset. It seems tailor-made for the next frontier.
Productivity in an AR world
Consider wearing a headset that launches Freeform and allows you to collaborate on a virtual wall with your existing canvas attached. You can rearrange the sticky notes and photos with your hands. It is similar to a scene from the 2002 film Minority Report.
Collaboration and productivity are themes that Apple has been emphasizing in recent years. It is for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac products, and something like this could only accentuate that focus.
Regardless, Freeform is a fantastic first version from Apple. And it’s an app I’ll use alongside my to-do apps when another big project comes along. Download Freeform App.