If you had to identify the main direction of Apple’s latest software releases, this would be a great productivity tool. While iOS 14 marked the first appearance of redesigned widgets, iOS 15 doubled down on maximizing productivity with Focus, and soon Freeform is set to complete the trilogy with a new iOS 16 update.
Apples new app (opens in a new tab) gives you a blank canvas where you can work alone or collaborate with other Apple users on macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2 and iOS 16.2, all available for download starting today (December 13) by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
While Freeform was first unveiled at WWDC 2022 in June, it rolled out to users in November with the first public betas of macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2 and iOS 16.2, allowing you to sign up for the test phase to see what’s been changed and what has been fixed.
Since then, I’ve been trying it out on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro M1 (2021), the 14-inch Macbook Pro (2021) and my iPhone 13 Pro, and while I’m hoping Apple hasn’t missed the productivity-focused mark, I’m also wondering whether this is a precursor to how apps can be used with his rumored headset.
Freely shape your design with ease
When you launch the app, you’re taken to a blank canvas with a menu bar at the top where you can insert text, sticky notes, images, and shapes, as well as a toggle to use the Apple Pencil.
As the name of the app suggests, it is a free-form design mapping space. The canvas is as blank or full as you need.
But it goes deeper – you can invite friends and family to contribute to this canvas, starting new ideas or developing existing ones. You can also drop rich website links alongside video links that will play when you select them in Freeform. Direct access to features that would normally be third-party features makes creating and managing canvases so much easier, and has made it so much easier for me and my wife to create ideas on canvases.
The design of the app is purely Apple – minimal options at the top of the app to choose from but enough to get the job done, wrapped up in a sleek 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 have you want to fit it into your workflow.
I was creating a Freeform canvas layout for planning the locations of my smart home cameras (I bought three over the Black Friday weekend). I have a place in the dining room where our dog Jolly sleeps, and on my Freeform canvas I have a sticky note detailing where the camera can go.
Occasionally, my wife will add a photo to another part of the canvas that defines a different room in the house, and I’ll see her update our shared workspace to indicate where the camera should be placed and when to record.
It was a good use case for Freeform, but the app has an AR aspect that makes me think it might be perfect for Apple’s headset as it seems to be tailored to the next frontier.
Productivity in the world of AR
Imagine wearing a headset that loads Freeform and being able to collaborate on a virtual wall to which your existing canvas is attached. You can move sticky notes and photos with your hands, just like in a scene from the 2002 movie Minority Report.
While using the app, it felt like Freeform could be a fantastic showcase for the headset if it becomes official in 2023, as these use cases would be perfect for this product. Collaboration and productivity are topics Apple has been improving on its iPhone, iPad, and Mac products over the last few years, and something like this can only sharpen that focus.
Regardless, Freeform is a fantastic first release from Apple, and it’s an app I’ll be using along with my to-do apps when the next big project comes along.