Digital whiteboard tools keep getting better and better, and the past few years have seen more and more products come on the market. The competition goes well beyond Miro vs. Mural (through I will cover both of them).
How do you decide which whiteboard tool is right for your team?
A collaborative workspace is critical for distributed and hybrid teams, and I want you to find the right one for your team. This article will walk you through a summary of 8 popular whiteboard tools to help you identify which is best for you.
[UPDATE - After my initial review my community on LinkedIn introduced me to new tools I hadn't tried before. Two of them are now in this updated review.]
You want to find a tool that matches your needs. I’m going to review these digital whiteboards based on the value they provide at the free and lower-tier pricing levels. I’ll look at them through the lens of working on a small team as well as working as a freelancer or consultant.
These are some of the factors I’m looking at as I evaluate the value they provide:
I’m reviewing the following tools:
Some essential features feel like table stakes for digital whiteboards.
If your going to collaborate online, these are the critical features you need to simulate a whiteboard-like space. I’m going to review these digital whiteboards assuming they have these basic features, and I’m not going to comment on them unless they’re missing or implemented uniquely.
I’ve been using digital whiteboards for the past four years and have seen the different products evolve over time. Overall each tool brings both the essentials and a little something extra. Some feel more basic, others like a more mature product.
Miro got my best overall evaluation. Fullest feature set. Enormous template library and community. You can tell they’ve been around the longest.
You can see the other superlatives I gave out.
I didn’t know what to call that last category exactly, but Creately needed a superlative because it has some unique and powerful characteristics that really make it an exceptional tool.
As I evaluated these eight digital whiteboard options, I found some more fun to use. I know that is a very subjective measurement, but creative thinking is a form of play for me. I believe this is true for many creatives, so as you try different tools take note if it feels more like work or play.
Mural is another top-rated whiteboarding tool. Mural calls its whiteboards “murals,” so I’ll try to be consistent with capitalization to keep the confusion to a minimum in this review.
Mural has all the essentials feature and some excellent additional free features. They’ve made more available for a facilitator to get started with online whiteboard workshops.
Here are the features we’ll look closer at
Mural has a solid library of templates you can use when starting a new mural. You can search through them by category. If you find a template you like but isn’t what you need a the moment, you can save it for later to easily find it again. You can also turn your own murals into templates for yourself or others to use.
Mural frameworks are like lightweight templates. They are very simple layouts to help you organize the content on your mural, and they help get a spontaneous activity going with minimal setup.
The content library is a unique Mural feature that I think is pretty cool. It allows you to save groups, frameworks or other things you’ve created, and you can then reuse them like you would use a component in Figma or most Adobe apps. The content library is a great free feature to keep you from recreating the same elements repeatedly.
Mural doesn’t place any limitations on what you can export or at what resolution, and this is available even on a free account.
Mural really shines with the facilitation tools it includes for free. Timer, voting, hiding elements, creating instructions, summon, and super lock are some great facilitation tools. Celebrate ads a bit of fun to the facilitation.
Mural offers a lot of integrations; however, many seem to only be available via zappier.
If you’re working with someone on a mural and want to talk through part of it, there is no need to schedule a separate call. You can initiate a voice call right from Mural.
Mural Scan is still in beta but is another powerful tool. Like Miro’s “sticky capture,” it lets you import a photo of a real-life whiteboard.
These were missing during my original review but not long after Mural released tags as a new feature. I was really glad to see this because tags are great when trying to identify affinity across lots of data points.
Features like reactions seem odd to be missing among Mural’s features. Mural also doesn’t have an element like cards, able to contain a second level of data.
This shows how collaboration can look in Mural
Overall, Mural is also very intuitive and feature-rich. Including many facilitation features for free is a big win, and I would say Mural has one of the best free offerings.
I give Mural the best value whiteboard and 4.5 stars.
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