Apple has put a lot of focus on productivity for its recent software releases. While iOS 14 brought the first appearance of redesigned widgets, iOS 15 doubled that with Focus, and soon Freeform looks set to complete this trilogy with a new software update.
This is a new application (opens in new tab) from the company where you get a blank canvas, and you can work alone or with other Apple users with macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2 and iOS 16.2, all available for download now starting today (December 13) by visiting Settings > General > Software Update.
While Freeform was first shown off at WWDC 2022 in June, it was made available to users in November with the first public betas of macOS 13.1, iPadOS 16.2, and iOS 16.2, which let you sign up for a test phase to see what changes and what has been resolved.
I’ve since tried it out on an M1 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021), Macbook Pro 14-inch (2021), and my iPhone 13 Pro, and while it’s given me a sense of hope that Apple hasn’t hit the mark missed in its productivity focus, I also wonder if this is a harbinger of how apps can be used with its rumored headset.
Freeform a project 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, alongside a toggle to use an Apple Pencil.
If you have a learning style where you can plan a project by mapping out what you will create on a blank canvas, this is where Freeform comes in.
But it goes deeper than that: you can invite friends and family to collaborate on this canvas, generating new ideas or building on existing ones. You can also place rich links for websites in addition to video links that play as soon as you select them within Freeform. This way it takes fewer steps to use another app to view it, and it’s been easier to build some ideas on the canvas with my wife, for example.
The design of the app is pure Apple – a minimal number of options at the top of the app to choose from, but enough to get the job done, wrapped in an elegant app that works on iPhone, iPad and Mac. Compared to other apps like Reminders and Safari, which have undergone a slight redesign in recent years, it’s great to see a brand new app that works right out of the box is great to see, and you’ll want to fit Freeform into your workflow thanks to its great design.
I made a canvas where I wanted to put some smart cameras in my house since I bought three over the Black Friday weekend. I have an area in the dining room where our dog, Jolly, sleeps, and I have a note describing where the camera might go.
Every once in a while my wife adds a photo to a different part of the canvas that defines another room of the house, and I see her updates on where to place the camera and when to record.
It’s been a great example of how Freeform could work, but there’s 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 Freeform, and you could collaborate on a virtual wall, to which your existing canvas is attached, and with your hands you could rearrange the sticky notes and photos, similar to a scene from the 2002 film Minority Rapport.
While using the app, it felt like Freeform could be a fantastic showcase for the headset when it goes official in 2023 as these use cases would be perfect for this product. Collaboration and productivity are themes that Apple has been enhancing for its iPhone, iPad, and Mac products over the past few years, and something like that could only reinforce that focus.
Either way, Freeform is a fantastic first version from Apple, and it’s an app I’ll be using alongside my to-do apps when another big project comes up.