Whyteboard aids in teachable moments

More and more, computers and software are encroaching on areas that formerly required dedicated hardware. For instance, today you can supplant an electronic whiteboard with an application like Whyteboard – a tool that lets you mark up a virtual canvas with text and drawing tools such as a pen, eraser, rectangle, and circle.

One of Whyteboard’s main features is its ability to annotate PDF files. You can load a PDF into the application, where it is converted into a series of images, then draw as you please over the images. Developer Steven Sproat says the program has proven to be beneficial in teaching environments. “I’ve received feedback from schoolteachers in Italy who are using the program in their lessons. I developed the program to be really easy to use; the teachers I mentioned are teaching six-year-olds who also use the program, so things must be as straightforward as possible.”

Sproat says he began work on Whyteboard as a university project, and the desire to learn Python dictated his choice of development language. He used wxPython for the GUI. “These two have proven to be a great combination. I can code new features quickly, and there’s a wealth of support available through IRC, mailing lists, and Google.

“I decided to release the program as open source because I appreciate the philosophy. I felt that releasing my own application would be the perfect way to give back. I put it on SourceForge in order to improve my chances of having the program downloaded; at no cost to me, why not?”

Sproat says there are loads of “neat/hidden” functionality in the program. “For example, a recent version added in support for page up/down/home/end scrolling of the canvas. You can drag and drop tabs (named sheets in the program) to rearrange their order. Any sheets that you close can be restored, effectively restoring all data associated with that sheet.” Sproat advises users peruse the help manual for more features.

A feature on the drawing board (pun intended) for future versions is zoom capability. “Currently only one ‘viewport’ may be used; zoom would be useful. One of the features I’d love to add would be networking; having multiple users drawing simultaneously would be really cool. I try to release new versions as often as possible, but having recently started full-time work after many months of unemployment, finding time is an issue. However, I am very active with support, and I reply to all e-mail regarding the program. I investigate all bugs, and release fixes ASAP.”

Sprout welcomes help with translating the application. “I have some people who contribute regularly to my translations, which is massively appreciated. I’m always open to new, improved graphics, too. And many new features have come through suggestions from users. If people need to get in touch, a ‘send feedback’ link inside the program will e-mail me directly. Similarly, users can report any crashes that happen when the program is running directly to me from inside the program. I’m really happy with this feature; it has helped fix many bugs I’d never have caught myself.”

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