How to brainstorm and plan events with friends and family
Have you ever tried to plan a big event with friends or family – like a vacation, home renovation, or reunion – and wished you could put everyone on the same metaphorical page?
With apps that support collaboration, you can bring all parts together in the same online whiteboard, calendar, document or other file. And you can start with freeware that might already be on your phone, tablet, and computer. Here is an overview.
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems include free apps that support group participation. These generally work best if you and your cohorts are all using the latest version of the same platform, using an Apple ID or a free Google Account. But beyond apps, you can collaborate on projects in a web browser with files stored and synced to Apple’s iCloud servers or Google Drive.
Starting a collaboration is easy. Just choose your app, create a file, and choose who to share it with.
Some projects benefit from a single place to store everything, everywhere, at once, such as photos, sticky notes, web links, documents, and doodles contributed by multiple people. In that case, consider an interactive digital whiteboard app. Like whiteboards in an office, these digital boards allow people to add, delete, and edit content, but participants using them can contribute and see real-time updates from the board on about any device.
Apple’s Freeform app provides a canvas for big ideas, and the company’s site has step-by-step instructions for using it on an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Once someone starts a Freeform board and shares it with others via Apple Mail, Messages, or AirDrop, group work begins. Tables can also be exported as PDF files for those who don’t have the app. Apple’s FaceTime service is integrated for real-time video calls during a collaboration session.
Google’s Jamboard is another online whiteboard application. It works on Android and iOS devices, as well as Google Chrome and other web browsers (not to mention Google’s expensive cloud-powered whiteboard hardware). The person who starts the “jam” file must have a Google account, but this is not required for other collaborators. Files are stored on Google Drive and Jamboard allows collaboration on a Google Meet session. Google’s support site has instructions for using Jamboard anywhere.
Documents, spreadsheets and more
Some projects may not need a whiteboard, such as a local softball league schedule. For simpler projects, working together on a shared document, spreadsheet, or presentation can be more efficient.
Apple’s iCloud-based office software suite of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote enable collaboration, as does Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides software that stores your files in Google Drive. As with whiteboard apps, participants must be invited, and the person who started the file can set permissions for who can do what.
You can also share notes and lists online from your phone’s free utility apps. In Apple’s Notes and Reminders apps, just tap the “action” icon (the square with the up arrow) to access the menu to share the files with others. With the Google Keep app for Android and iOS, you can share lists, drawings, and notes; just open the item you want to share, tap the three-dot action menu, and select Collaborator.
Apple’s and Google’s calendar apps let you create and share calendars, which can be used for things like coordinating summer camp schedules, contractor work, and other complex events at- beyond the default family calendar you may already be using.
To set up a new calendar in the iOS Calendar app, select Calendars at the bottom of the screen. Choose the Add calendars option, name the new calendar and press Done. To share it with others, select Calendars again at the bottom of the screen and tap the circled “i” icon next to the one you want to share. Select the Add person option, enter the email addresses of the people who will share the calendar and press Add.
Although Google Calendar for Android and iOS lets you view and edit shared calendars from apps or a browser, currently creating and sharing calendars can only be done from the browser, not apps. To create a new calendar on the web, open Google Calendar on the web and in the Other calendars area on the left side of the screen, click the “+” icon, then click Create new calendar. Name it and click Create Calendar.
To share it, navigate to the My Calendars area on the left side of the browser, hover over the desired calendar, and click the three-dot menu icon. Choose Settings & Sharing, then scroll down to the “Share with specific people or groups” section to add your people.
It might take a few steps to get everyone connected to your timeline or project, but after that, you’ll literally all be on the same page.
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