Apple has had a big focus on productivity for its recent software releases. While iOS 14 brought the first appearance of redesigned widgets, iOS 15 doubled down on this with Focus, and soon, Freeform looks to complete this trilogy with a new software update.
This is a new app (opens in new tab) from the company where you’re given a blank canvas, and you can either work on your own or with other Apple users across macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2 and iOS 16.2, all now available to download from today (December 13) by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
While Freeform was first shown off back at WWDC 2022 in June, it was made available to users in November with the first public beta releases of macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2 and iOS 16.2, which allows you to sign up for a testing phase to see what’s been changed and what’s been fixed.
Since then, I’ve been trying it out on an M1 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021), Macbook Pro 14-incj (2021), and my iPhone 13 Pro, and while it’s left me with a sense of hope that Apple hasn’t missed the mark in its productivity focus, it also makes me wonder if this is a precursor to how apps could be used with its rumored headset.
Freeforming a project with ease
When you launch the app, you’re brought to a blank canvas, with a menu bar at the top, where you can insert text, sticky notes, images, and shapes, alongside a toggle to use an Apple Pencil.
If you’ve got a learning style where you can plan a project by mapping out what you’re going to create on a blank canvas, this is where Freeform comes in.
But it goes deeper than that – you can invite friends and family to help contribute to this canvas, in way of new ideas or building upon existing ones. You can also drop in rich links for websites, alongside video links that will play once you select them within Freeform. This way, it cuts the steps in using a different app to view these, and it’s been an easier affair in building some ideas across the canvas with my wife for example.
The design of the app is pure Apple – a minimal amount of options at the top of the app to choose from, but enough to get the job done, wrapped up in an elegant app that works across iPhone, iPad and Mac. Compared to other apps such as Reminders and Safari which have had a slight redesign in recent years, to see a brand new app that works well out of the gate is great to see, and you’ll want to fit Freeform into your workflow due to its great design.
I’ve been creating a canvas in laying out where I wanted some smart cameras to be positioned across my home, as I bought three during Black Friday weekend. I have a space in the dining room where our dog, Jolly sleeps, and I have a sticky note describing where the camera could go.
Occasionally, my wife will add a photo to another part of the canvas that defines another room of the house, and I’ll see her updates as to where the camera should be placed, and when it should record.
It’s been a good use case of how Freeform could work, but there’s been an AR aspect to the app that makes me think it could be perfect for Apple’s rumored headset, as it seems tailor made for the next frontier.
Productivity in an AR world
Imagine wearing a headset that would load up Freeform, and you could collaborate on a virtual wall, that has your existing canvas attached, and with your hands, you can rearrange the sticky notes and photos, similar to a scene from the 2002 movie, Minority Report.
Throughout using the app, it felt as though Freeform could be a fantastic showcase for the headset if it does become official in 2023, as these use cases would be perfect for this product. Collaboration and productivity are themes that Apple has been improving upon for its iPhone, iPad and Mac products in the last few years, and something like this could only elevate that focus more.
Regardless though, Freeform is a fantastic first version to come out from Apple, and it’s an app I’ll be using alongside my to-do apps when another big project arrives.