How to Use the Apple Freeform App on iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Freeform Mac Hero Mte

When it’s time to visualize your thoughts and concepts, Apple’s Freeform whiteboard app is the ideal tool on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. This powerful productivity app lets you brainstorm on your own or share ideas with others with all the tools you need to bring your concepts to fruition.

How to Set Up Apple Freeform

To use the free Freeform whiteboard app, make sure your Apple device(s) are up to date. Your iPhone, iPad, or Mac will need to be updated to iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2, or macOS Ventura 13.1 or later.

On iPhone and iPad, you’ll see the app icon on your Home screen. On Mac, you’ll find it in the Applications folder or Launchpad.

  1. When you first open the app, you’ll be asked if you want to enable iCloud Syncing. This allows you to access your boards on your other Apple devices. Select “Go to Settings” on your iPhone or iPad and open the Settings app. On Mac, open the System Settings app.
Enable iCloud Syncing prompt in Freeform
  1. Select your Apple ID at the top. Choose “iCloud” and turn on the toggle for “Freeform.”
Freeform toggle in iCloud on Mac
  1. You may be asked to merge the local Freeform data with that on iCloud. Select “Merge” to continue.
Merge data prompt in Freeform

Once you set up Freeform on your device, you’re ready to use its features.

Tip: if you are looking for a way to sign a PDF document on your Mac, the Preview app will work far more effectively than Freeform. You can even use your iPhone or iPad to transfer your signature to your Mac.

How to Create a Freeform Board

Create a board with a simple tap or click in Freeform:

  1. Select the Create a Board icon (pencil in a square) at the top of the app window.
Freeform Create a Board icon
  1. When the blank board displays, you’ll see the default name of “Untitled” on the top left, which you can change. On iPhone, tap the three dots and pick “Rename.”
Freefrom Rename on iPhone
  1. On iPad, tap the arrow next to the name and select “Rename.”
Rename in the Freeform board menu
  1. On Mac, select the current text and replace it with your own.
Freefrom rename field on Mac
  1. You can use the zoom option on the bottom left to increase or decrease the board space. Use the zoom drop-down box or the plus and minus buttons to pick a percentage.
Zoom settings for a board

Tip: learn how to zoom in and out on Mac.

How to Add Items to a Freeform Board

With Freeform, you can add all sorts of items to your board to collect and display your ideas. You can also adjust each item to fit the space, change the font, or choose a color.

The customization options are in different places on mobile and desktop. On iPhone and iPad, these options are in the item’s toolbar.

Sticky Note format options

On Mac, you’ll need to right-click the item for the additional options.

Freeform Mac right-click menu

Add a Sticky Note

  1. Select the Sticky Note icon in the toolbar to add a note to your board, then enter the text.
Sticky Note icon
  1. Drag a corner to resize the note or select it to drag it to a different spot on the board.
Resizing a Sticky Note
  1. Tap or click the note to open the toolbar, then choose a different color, create a list, or change the font format, alignment, or size.
Sticky Note format options

FYI: read on to learn of other ways to add a sticky note on Mac.

Insert a Shape

  1. Select the Shape icon in the toolbar to include a shape on your board. You can pick from a category in the pop-up window like Basic, Geometry, Animals, Activities, and more. Alternatively, you can search for a particular shape by using the magnifying glass icon.
Shape icon
  1. Drag a corner to resize the shape or select it to drag it to a different spot on the board.
Resizing a Shape
  1. Tap or click the shape to open the toolbar, then change the color, add a border, and format text within the shape.
Shape format options

Add a Text Box

  1. Select the Text Box icon in the toolbar and add text inside it.
Text Box icon
  1. Drag a corner or edge to resize the text box or select it to drag and move it anywhere you would like.
Resizing a Text Box
  1. Tap or click the text box to display the toolbar, then choose a font color, create a list, or adjust the font format, alignment, or size.
Text Box format options

Insert Photos, Videos, or Links

  1. Select the media icon in the toolbar to add a photo, video, or link. You can also insert a scanned document, use your device camera, or on Mac, add a sketch from the Freeform app on your iPhone or iPad.
Media icon and selection
  1. Tap or click the media you want to add to display the toolbar and take additional actions:
  • Photos: replace the image, crop it, or view it in full screen mode. You can also apply a shadow, round the corners, and lock the image in place.
  • Videos: replace the video or view it in full screen mode. Like photos, you can apply a shadow, add rounded corners, and lock its position.
  • Link: edit the link, open it in your browser, duplicate the link, or lock its position on the board.
Media format options

Good to know: unsure how to edit a video on Mac? We can show you how!

Add a File

  1. On iPhone and iPad, tap the Media icon and choose “Insert From” to add a file.
Insert From in the Media drop-down on iPad
  1. On Mac, click the Choose a File icon to add your file.
Choose a File icon on Mac
  1. Once you locate and insert the file, select it for additional actions. You can replace the file, view it in full screen mode, lock its position, or add a description.
File format options

Use Markup

  1. On iPhone and iPad, you’ll notice the Markup icon in the toolbar. Tap it to display the markup tools like a pen, marker, and eraser.
Markup icon and tools
  1. Using markup, you can also jot down text with your finger on iPhone or scribble with an Apple Pencil on iPad.
Drawing added with Markup on iPad

Other Freeform Board Options

You can also duplicate a board, make a board a favorite, hide the grid layout, export your board as a PDF, or print your entire Freeform board.

On iPhone, open the board and tap the three dots at the top, then select an action.

Freeform more actions on iPhone

On iPad, tap the arrow next to the board name and choose an action.

Freeform more actions on iPad

On Mac, right-click the board to duplicate or favorite a board.

Duplicate or Favorite in Freeform on Mac

To export or print on Mac, open a board, select “File” from the menu bar, and choose an option.

Export or Print in Freeform on Mac

Good to know: learn how to share files between Mac and PC on your network.

How to Collaborate on a Freeform Board

If working on a board with someone else is what you need, Freeform provides you a simple way to collaborate.

  1. Open the board and select the Share button on the top right.
Share icon
  1. Before you choose the sharing method, you can adjust the permissions at the top of the sharing pop-up window. Select “Only Invited People Can Edit.”
Access the board Share permissions
  1. You’ll see access and permission settings along with an option to allow others to invite more people to the board. You’re able to adjust these settings later, too.
Board Access and Permissions settings
  1. Choose a person to send the board to in Messages or pick an app like Mail, Slack, or another option, depending on your Share settings, to share the board.
Sharing a board in Messages

Edit Shared Freeform Boards

After you share a board with others, you can manage the board permissions, invite others, or stop sharing the board.

  1. Select the icon for your collaborator(s) in the top right and choose “Manage Shared Board.”
Manage Shared Board in the Share menu
  1. You can use the plus sign to invite more people, adjust the permissions near the bottom, and allow collaborators to add others. Additionally, you can copy a link to the board or stop sharing it with the options at the bottom of the settings.
Shared board settings

How to Manage Your Freeform Boards

When you open Freeform each time, you’ll see All Boards front and center so that you can select one to work on. On the left side on iPad or Mac or using the arrow on iPhone, you can also choose from Recents, Shared, and Favorites. If you’ve removed boards, you’ll also see Deleted Boards that remain accessible for up to 30 days.

Multiple boards in Freeform
  1. To see additional actions on iPhone and iPad, long-press a board, or on Mac, right-click a board. You can rename, favorite, share, duplicate, or delete the board.
Freeform board actions
  1. On Mac, you can also switch between your boards easily by displaying the tab row at the top, similar to Safari. Select “View -> Show Tab Bar” in the menu bar.
Show Tab Bar in the Freeform View menu
  1. Click the plus sign in the far-right tab to create a new board and switch between your open boards using the tabs.
Create a Tab using the Freeform tab bar on Mac

Tip: are your shared Freeform boards not syncing properly? It could be a network issue. Discover how to fix Mac Wi-Fi problems and dropped connections by following our guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a Freeform app widget?

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a Home screen or Notification Center Freeform widget available for iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Hopefully, this is a feature Apple introduces later.

Can I delete the Freeform app?

You can uninstall the Freeform app on iOS or iPadOS just as you can any other app. However, as of this writing, you cannot uninstall the app on macOS.

Is Freeform available on Windows?

Unfortunately, the Freeform app is not available on Windows at the time of this writing.

Image credit: Unsplash. All alterations and screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse
Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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