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Apple's Freeform: 21 Tips and Tricks

Friday December 23, 2022. 05:00 PM , from MacMost
Here are some techniques to take your Freeform boards to the next level. Learn how to add backgrounds, create connection lines, import charts, use clipart, add audio and so much more.

Check out Apple's Freeform: 21 Tips and Tricks at YouTube for closed captioning and more options.
Video Transcript: Hi, this is Gary with Here are some Apple Freeform Tips and Tricks.
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So Apple's new Freeform App, which is part of macOS Ventura 13.1 and iOS and iPad OS16.2, is a real hit. Here are a whole bunch of things you may not have known that you can do inside of a Freeform Board. The background of any board is going to be white. If you want it to be some other color all you need to do is add a shape behind everything. For instance it would be nice to have a black background color here. If I create a shape, I'm just going to use a rectangle there, and I stretch it to cover everything and I click on the Fill Color, change that to black, and select it again, go to Arrange and Send To Back. Now I can center it on the rest of the elements there. Now I've got a nice black background, at least for this section of the board.
If I want to avoid accidentally selecting the background I can now go to Arrange, and Lock, and now I can easily select items in here without accidentally selecting the rectangle in the background.
On the iPad or iPhone if you want to rotate anything you pretty much just use two fingers on the Touch Screen. On the Mac you can still rotate things, but of course you can't use two fingers on your screen. Instead go to anyone of the corners here and hold the Command Key down. Then you can see the pointer change there and I can click and drag and rotate the image or text or shape or whatever it is to any angle I want.
One thing Freeform could be good for is to create flow charts and organizational charts. But to do that well you need to have connection lines. Now on the Mac you can go to Insert and notice that there's a Connection Line option here. Select that and you get the little curved line there. So you don't actually need to use that Menu item. You could click here and then select the curve right there and that's actually a connection line. The blue dot connects two things. So that's how you would do it on the iPad and iPhone where you don't have a menu like that. Then all you need to do is drag the first blue dot to one item, the second blue dot to another item, and now they are connected. You can use the green dot here to change the curve. But if you just tap on it or click it you'll also can change the type. Click there and now you can change it to, say, this style here. Move the green dot to get it to connect like you want. You can even Copy and Paste or Option Drag to duplicate it and now connect this one here as well. Move the green dot like that and you can see it even snaps. So now I've got a nice set of connection lines. I can actually move this and you could see how the lines follow it.
Now on the iPad you can use the Apple Pencil or your finger or your finger on the iPhone and you can select the Drawing Tools and you have a set of tools there at the bottom. You can use the the tool I have selected here now and actually draw a shape and it will fill it in like that. But you could also use a regular drawing tool, like this, and then when you're done you can select that Fill Tool and then tap in the middle and it will color it in. Then you could change the color here on the right. Tap again to color it in differently. You can divide it and then select Fill, select a color and then color in just that section.
Now when you draw several shapes on the screen like that if I want to move one of those around the key is to use the Selection Tool at the bottom. It's this one right there. Then I can circle what I want and now that I've got it selected I can drag just that one item around. In fact if you're using that selection tool at the bottom you can just actually use your finger, tap and select an item there, and then move it around. If you Exit the Drawing Tool you notice that the drawn items are together as one object. So you have to go back to the Drawing Tools there at the bottom, use the Selection Tool there at the bottom and then you can tap each individual shape.
Another interesting thing you can do on the iPad and iPhone is you can trace something really easily. So I brought a photo in here. I can use the Apple Pencil. I'll tap in here to bring up the Tools. Choose one of the tools there. Choose a color. Maybe set it to a larger size. Then I could trace around an object if I want to create a shape from a photo.
You have a whole bunch of alignment tools that are just working automatically inside of Freeform. So if you create a shape like this and let's say I Option Drag to create a new copy and place it right here, you can see how it snaps to the middle, if I Option Drag again to create another copy I can snap them to align. But also notice I can snap to evenly space them. You saw how there were arrows right there. As I dragged it figures out what I'm trying to do and allows me to perfectly space these items. I can keep going and create another one that is perfectly spaced. In addition if I had another shape here and I wanted to get the same size as this, it will snap to that. So if I get it to just the right size, it kind of snaps in, you could see it is indicating that this is now the same size as those other four shapes to the left. You have controls for this in View, go to Guides, and you can have Center Guides, Edge Guides to match like the left and right edges of shapes. You have Relative Sizing which is what I was just doing. Relative Spacing as well. You have the same thing on the iPad and iPhone but you have to go into the Settings App and then to Freeform. There you've got your Center Guides and Edge Guides and Spacing Guides. It seems to work for sizing as well. You could see it in action right there even though it doesn't show that as one of the Options.
Now the standard way to create a Link is to click right here or go to Insert and choose Link. Then you can type the URL. Hit Insert and you get a Link that looks like this. What if you want to have just a plain looking Link. You could do that as well. Create a Text Box like this and then in the text box you can just type the URL like this. You could see how it automatically gets the underline there. So now I've got a plain text link that actually works. If you select just the text that's a link and you Control click on it, two-finger on the trackpad or right click on the mouse, there's a removable link option there.
Now when you create something like this and you want to use it somewhere else, like say in a Pages document, you could go and export as a PDF and then you're going to get a really nice PDF that can be imported. It's going to be transparent just like it should. I've got Fills for these squares here and the rest is transparent. I can bring that PDF into a Pages document like this and I could resize it because it's PDF it looks great at any size. However note that if you've got a board like this, that's got a whole bunch of images in it, exporting as a PDF is going to create a fairly large file. Each one of these images is a full image even though it is really small here on the board. So you can see the resulting PDF is 15.4MB. That's because you can really zoom in on these. Look at this image right here. It's meant to be a small thumbnail but you could see I could get a lot of detail out of it because it's high resolution right there.
Now on the Mac in Preview you do have the ability to go to File, and then Export, and then for the PDF you could choose a quartz filter and then reduce file size. Then we'll save this out. What is it going to do is it's going to compress all of these based on the fact that they are really small in the actual image. So now the second one here is only 337K. But if I try to zoom in on the image there you can see how it's lower resolution.
Now you can't create charts and have tables and things like that inside of Freeform. But that doesn't stop you from going into another app, like Pages or Numbers or Keynote, and then creating one there. Then selecting it, copying it, switching into Freeform and then pasting it in there. It actually works except it's converting it to an image. So if I zoom in on it I can see the pixels starting to show here. Of course it is not editable in any way. But it is still a nice semi-transparent image.
Now while the shapes in here give you a lot of different options, if you do want to bring in some ClipArt you can actually use semi-transparent pdf's if you've got access to such things. For instance, this one right here, if I drag it in, you could see instead of creating a link to the file it actually brings it in. This is a nice semi-transparent pdf here. It's got really nice sharp lines that look good in any size. Also, Freeform works with EPS files. So if you have a piece of ClipArt that is an EPS file you can bring that in and you can see that is going to insert it as an EPS, not as a linked file, and it has really nice edges right in here. Sadly though it doesn't support the newer SVG file type.
Now if you want to add a sticky note you can create one easily. But changing the colors only gives you these options. However, on the Mac you do have more options. With it selected I could go to Format, Show Colors and bring up the Color Chooser. I can choose any color I want. Better still I can make it semi-transparent so it can float kind of on top of other items like glass. While this will show up and work fine on the iPad and iPhone I can't find anyway to choose a different color and transparency on those devices.
An alternative is to simply use a shape. You can use either the basic square or maybe a rounded rectangle shape. The advantage of using one of these is that you can now choose any color on any of the different devices. Just like the Color Wheel there. Choose what you want. Also you could make these non-square. So you can have a little sticky note like that. Of course you can put text in it just like you can in a Sticky Note. The only real difference is how the shadow looks.
Another thing you can do with shapes is you can combine them the same way as you can do in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. So let's go and create a teeshirt shape right here. Then let's add another shape and we can just pick anything like perhaps this. We can take this shape, let's change its color so we can see it a little bit better. Like that. Put it in the middle here and then we could, of course, just group these two together and it's just two shapes grouped. But I could also, with both shapes selected, go to Format, Shapes & Lines and I can unite them in various ways. In this case I'm going to subtract them and it's going to cut a hole in the first shape. So now I've got a new shape just like this. I could also go to Shapes & Lines here and break it apart and then I've got the separate items. I could go to Shapes & Lines, make Editable. Now I've got all the points. I can drag them and change the shapes as I want.
When you have some text like this you can click on the Color Chip there to change the color and select more text colors. To use the Color Wheel there you can click here and you can select some basic styles. But you could also select Fonts. and it will open up the Font Panel on the Mac. That will allow you to choose the typeface and then some of the typefaces have all sorts of different styles that you can access here in the Style Column.
Another thing you can use the Text Box for is for emoji characters. So I'm going to use Control Command Space to bring up the emoji chooser. The Globe Key and e works as well. Then you can choose from the various different emoji symbols. There are all sorts of different ones that you can choose for all sorts of different uses. Once you bring one of those in you can resize it to make it fairly large. You can hold the Command Key down, angle it, use it as quick ClipArt for your Freeform Board. Just remember all the different things that are available in here. Like, for instance, you've got flags for every country. Lots of different types of arrows. Lots of symbols. There are thousands of different things you can use.
You also can find lots of other ClipArt online and png's, jpeg's. All the standard formats work great. Even animated GIFs will work in a board except they don't play automatically. So, for instance, a little rotating planet like this won't just play. But if you make it large enough so it has the Play button there you can actually play it like a video. You can, of course, get rid of shadow and border around it as well.
You can also import Audio files. So I can bring in an audio file, AIFF format works, WAVE, MP3 works. Then you get a little player here. It doesn't really look great visually but you do have the Play button and you can play it. Now if you want to record something there is no recording option inside of Freeform. But you could use the Voice Memos App for that. Guess what? You can drag a voice memo from the Voice Memos App right into Freeform and it will import it in and you've got it right there. So it is fairly easy to record some audio bits and then bring them in. You could even bring in music from the Music App. It doesn't work with the Apple Music Service since that is streaming, but if you have a regular audio file that is in the Music App you can drag and drop it over and it will actually add it to the board. You can add several here. So you can have a board that is music oriented with notes about each piece of audio and then you could play it.
Now sometimes you may create something that you want to reuse over and over again but you don't want to build it from scratch each time. Like, for instance, say I want to add an image here with a background and a caption. I always want to do it in the same style. So instead of recreating it or finding one and duplicating it you can create a Clips Board. I've created one right here. I put together this little collection of three elements. You could even select it and then group it like that. Then anytime I want to use this I could go into here and Copy it. Go back to the board that I'm currently building and Paste it in. Now it is fairly easy to go in and edit this. I'll double click here so I'm just editing the image. I can click here and place the image inside. I can double click on this and I can change the caption. Everytime I want to add an element that looks like this I just go back to my Clips Board instead of creating each of the three elements individually. So fill this Clips Board up with anything that you create that you think you may want to reuse.
My last suggestion is using Freeform as a presentation tool. Now you could just do that by hooking the Mac, iPad or iPhone up to a projector or you could be Sharing your screen using AirPlay to Apple TV. Another way to do that is to actually have two devices. So you could, for instance, be actually working on the Freeform Board on your Mac but you could have your iPad connected to the projector and showing the exact same board. They are going to stay in sync so as you update the version on your Mac the one on the iPad is going to change and that's the one that people will see. So now you can see I'm showing my iPad here so that's connected to a projector. I could say the selecting things and changing them here and you would see that change then on the iPad which would be showing on the projector. This could be a really interesting way to use this in a classroom or meeting room.
So I hope you found some of these Tips and Tricks for using Freeform useful. Thanks for watching.
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