How to Use CloudPanels

Our goal is to make CloudPanels as easy and fun to use as possible - but part of being easy is having instructions right at your fingertips if you need them, and part of the fun is not missing out on anything, so we included this tutorial.

Getting Started : iOS apps | Web client | First panel | More panels

Making Your Mark : Drawing | Typing | Changing Colors | Erasing | Images

Moving Around : iOS | Web client

Collaborating With Others : Invitations | Sharing panel content

Signing In and Out : Exiting iOS app | Switching accounts

When All Else Fails: Restart CloudPanels : Restarting on iOS

FAQS

Getting Started

OK - you've found us on the web, heard about us from a friend, or seen us listed in the App Store. Now that you've downloaded the app, how do you get started?

Get the iPad and iPhone applications:

At the Apple app store you will find an application for CloudPanels that runs on both iPad and iPhone for iOS 7 (it works on the earlier version iOS 6 too). The first time you launch CloudPanels, you will be taken automatically to the web page that allows you to sign in with your Facebook account info. Once you've finished the sign in process and authorized the use of the app you will be taken back to CloudPanels where you can get started.

Use the free web client

Anyone can use CloudPanels for free right from our website. The My Panels section is where you can go and do almost everything that you can do from the iPad and iPhone applications. When you first get to that web page you will be asked to log in over at FaceBook. Once you've completed that - you will be given a dialog box to assist you in creating your first panel.

Making your first panel:

Once you've signed in, you should automatically see a dialog box giving you the option of creating a panel. Simply specify the name for your panel and pick a background you like. Once you click OK, you will have a beautiful new clean panel to work on.

To make additional panels:

simply click the "New" button on the top of the My Panels list accessed from the Panels button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

Making Your Mark

With CloudPanels you can create and share lists, visualize a diagram, doodle with a friend, play games, or make plans with a group. That's what this section is about: creating something from nothing.

Drawing

Drawing on CloudPanels is easy enough for a kid and simple enough for even us adults. To draw, just click on the pencil-shaped drawing icon, choose a color, and scribble on the panel. Viola! You are an artist.

Typing

The basics:
To type, just select the typing tool. Then go to the panel and click where you want the upper left corner of the text to be. A text entry box will appear with a blinking cursor where your first letters will appear. A keyboard will rise on the screen and you can type away. When you are done, you click the green check mark to submit your text.

The fun stuff:
The text entry box has some colorful handles in its corners. Each handle has a different purpose.

  • The green check mark is used when you are finished typing and you want to commit the text to the panel. Be aware that at this time you cannot edit the text again once it has been committed to the panel. All you can do is erase it with the eraser tool.
  • The red 'x' handle closes the box and discards any text that was entered.
  • The lower right corner triangular handle is for resizing the block of text. You can drag it to make the text block bigger or smaller.
  • The blue bumpy handle is there to move the block of text around on the panel so you can get it right where you want it.

No Zoom while typing tool is active
We may figure out a graceful way to improve this in the future - but for now, if you have the typing tool active you cannot zoom the panel. Select the drawing tool and you can zoom again. That's why panning and zooming is disabled when the typing tool is selected.

Note:

You can type multiple paragraphs into a text entry box, although at this point you can't style, size, or change the color of your text. We're working on it!

Changing colors

CloudPanels has six colors to choose from. These colors can be used with either text or drawing. In order to change colors, you must first select the color you want to use - and then choose the tool you want to use with that color.

Erasing (some and all)

The eraser tool works just like the old-fashioned ones you'd use on a blackboard. You can swipe it across any drawn lines and letters typed onto the panel. It will even erase portions of an image.

On the iOS app the eraser tool is found by clicking on the pencil tool. This causes the eraser tool to slide up into view - at which point you can click on it to select it and start erasing.

Erasing really is just drawing with clear ink, which is cool. The once case where it may be less cool is when you erase parts of an image. Keep in mind that if you move the image later - the clear ink will stay where you erased - and not attached to your image.

Bigger corrections
In addition to the eraser, you can also undo your previous gestures. On the iPad, Undo is found in a list of corrections option accessed by the undo arrow in the upper right corner of the screen. On the web client - the Undo button is located just below the zoom settings. A button to erase an entire panel is located in the same list as Undo on the iPad, and as a separate button next to Undo on the web client.

When you've erased a panel CloudPanels will send a message to anyone currently on the panel letting them know you've started over. If a guest is not currently on the panel they will get this same notice the next time they visit.

If you no longer want the panel to appear in your panel list you can choose delete the panel entirely. On the iPad, Delete Panel is found in the Settings dialog box, accessed through the gears at the lower right corner of the screen. Simply slide the Delete setting and click 'Done' to close the Settings. Similarly, in the web client the Delete button is found in the 'Info...' dialog box. If you are a guest to the panel, this will simply remove it from your list and only your list. Other guests will still have access to the panel. If you are the person who created the panel in the first place and you delete it - it will be deleted from your panel list and the panel lists of all of your guests.

Working with Images

You can add an image to your panel as well. This is a fun way to share pictures, review charts, or add graphics to your panel.

On the iPad, click on the Photo tool that looks like a camera in the tool bar. Next, click on the panel where you'd like the upper left of the image to be located. This will then bring an option to take a picture or choose one from your camera roll. Once the image has been obtained, it is placed on the panel. The process is similar on the web client; click the Add Photo button, select your picture, and click OK. The image will appear on the panel and you can move it into position with the blue handle or resize it. CloudPanels will support bringing in .jpg, .tiff, and .png files.

To change the size or location of a photo on your iPad, you need to select the Move tool. The Move tool is stacked with the Photo tool. Click the camera shaped Photo tool, when the arrow shaped Move tool appears, click on it. Now you can select the photo that you want to work with.

Changing a photo in the web client is the same. Click the Move Photo button, the other tools will become disabled, and click on the image you want to modify.

Moving Around

A CloudPanel can be viewed on different devices (iPads, iPhones, and web tablets) with different size screens, resolutions, and orientations so we added a number of controls to help you get around to see your work. We will cover only iOS devices here. The web client will be discussed below.

Pan and Zoom on iOS

Zooming and Panning on Apple's touch devices is part of what makes them so fun to play with. Because one-finger movements are used for drawing, erasing, typing, etc - all of the zooming and panning needs to be done with two fingers. Two fingers that are moving left or right together scroll the panel left and right respectively. Spreading two fingers apart makes the panel get larger. Pinching two fingers together makes the panel get smaller. Zooming and panning can be done at the same time to help you get around on the panel quickly.

Helpful hint:

If you have the typing tool active you cannot zoom the panel. Select the drawing tool and you can zoom again. That's why nothing happens when the typing tool is selected.

Landscape and portrait
There is no way to turn the panel itself from its portrait (vertical) orientation to be landscape (horizontal), but on the iPad or the iPhone you can rotate the device in order to view the panel with a wider perspective. This is good to remember when you are working on items that might be wider than the portrait display or if elements of the panel get into a position where it would be easier to reach them in landscape mode.

Hidden secret zoom feature
Sometimes you want to see the whole panel at once, other times you want it to fill the entire width of your screen, and other times you just want to zoom way in. On the iPad and iPhone you can switch between these three views (fit, fill, zoom) by tapping on the panel title at the top of the screen. This is really handy and you'll love zooming around this way.

Navigating in the web client

The web client is primarily designed for use with a mouse on a desktop computer. While you can use the web client on a tablet such as a Kindle with their Silk browser, navigating with the touch gestures described above will be inconsistent from device to device - but the mouse gesture will work fine.

Zooming is done by sliding the zoom-ball on the line between the mountains. Additionally, you can click on either of the mountains to incrementally move change the zoom.

Panning around on the panel is done with the Hand tool. Click the hand and then use it to push the panel around to get to your desired location. Also, if you want more display space you can click the tab that extends from the blue sidebar into onto the panel. This will slide the entire sidebar away, giving you access to the entire display.

Collaborating with Others

The essence of CloudPanels is working with others, sharing your thoughts, showing your vision, or participating in a visual group activity.

Now we'll show you how to get a collaborative session started and how to use CloudPanels tools to stay connected.

Inviting others

It takes only 3 clicks and the typing of an email address to invite someone to your panel. Once they get an invitation email, it is equally simple for them to join you. We made it simple on purpose, so you could easily bring in someone while you're talking on the phone or sitting around a table. Here's how:

Click one: Choose Invite a guest... from the Share button located at the top right corner of the screen, or the Invite... button at the bottom of the tools sidebar on the web client.

Click two: Enter in the email address of the person you wish to welcome into your panel.

Click three: Tap Send (iOS), or Share (web)

Extra credit clicks: You can also type in a short message to your guest letting them know what this invitation is all about - but it's not required and you can simply send the prepared text that is in the Invitation dialog box.

What they will see at the other end
Your guest will receive an email from CloudPanels.com containing a greeting, the text you have included, and a button to launch CloudPanels either in the iOS app if they have it or in the web browser. Once in CloudPanels, they will enter their Facebook info and view the panel from the drop-down panels list in the upper left corner.

If your guest(s) want to continue to use CloudPanels and create their own panels or share with other people, they are already good to go. Their new panels will appear in the panel list right along side the panel that you invited them to.

The only complication to all of this is that sometimes CloudPanels invitations end up in a junk mail folder. This breaks our hearts but there is nothing we can do about it other than to say if your guest has not received their invitation within 5 minutes or so that they may want to check their junk mail folder.

Sharing Panel images

On the iOS app it's easy to share a copy of your panel. First, zoom the view so that you are seeing the part of the panel you which to share. Then, click the Share button in the upper right corner of the screen. Here you can either put an image of the panel on your camera roll or onto the clipboard. With the image on the clipboard you can easily paste it into an email or post it on Facebook. Sharing images of panels from the web client can be done by using a screen capture tool such as Grab that comes with the Mac or doing a 'Print Screen' command on a Windows device.

Signing in and out

You should rarely need to sign out of your CloudPanels account, since your iPad or iPhone are personal devices, but if you need to sign out or switch to another CloudPanels account - here's how:

Signing out from the iOS CloudPanels app:

Simply click the Settings button (lower right hand corner of the screen) and then tap the Sign Out item in the list. You will be signed out from CloudPanels, meaning you will need to reauthorize the CloudPanels application when you come back in. Also, since CloudPanels shares its log-in status with Facebook, if you want to completely log out of CloudPanels - you will need to log out of Facebook as well. Signing into Facebook on an iPad or iPhone also signs you into CloudPanels.

Switching to a different CloudPanels account:

First you need to sign out as described above. Then you need to sign out of Facebook in either the Facebook app or the Facebook website and sign as the account user you'd like. Now, when you return to CloudPanels, it will request that you sign with your Facebook ID, this is when you can enter the information for a different Facebook account and thus also a different CloudPanels account.

When all else fails: restart CloudPanels

If CloudPanels starts to misbehave, like not showing the items you've drawn or showing content that you know is older than it should be, or if the screen just doesn't look right then you may have to restart the application.

Restarting the CloudPanels iOS application

To restart an application in iOS 7, you double click the physical, round Home button at the base of your device. This gives you a scrolling display of all the apps that are currently running. To kill an app, simply swipe its image upward. Clicking the Home button again will return you to your application list where you can launch CloudPanels again.

To restart CloudPanels on iOS 6, tap the Home (round) physical button on your iPad or iPhone, then click it twice in a row quickly. This will bring up the list of applications that are running on your device. CloudPanels will the one farthest to the left. You can then press and hold on the CloudPanels app icon until a red delete icon appears on the icon. Click this delete icon and it will disappear. Click the Home button again to exit delete mode. Click the home button again to return to the application desktop and finally, click and launch the CloudPanels icon again. The same panel will reopen and it will redraw again correctly.

On the web client it's super easy. Simply refresh your web page. This is usually done through a circular arrow icon in the toolbar or by pressing Command-R on your keyboard.

FAQS

Here are some frequently asked questions about CloudPanels and some frequently given answers.

What can I do with CloudPanels, like, what is is for?

Not to be glib, but what is paper for? More seriously - CloudPanels gives you a common, shared, graphical tool on the Internet. From there it's up to your imagination. Because it's visual and friendly, you may find it an easier way to share a message or spend some time with someone who is far away, share information for an upcoming event, have a common panel for posting dates or lists or action items.

What are some of the most creative ways people use Cloud Panels?

I have relatives who use it to draw with their grandchildren who are overseas in Bangkok. Another friend envisioned using it to help teach Arabic to soldiers overseas. We use it at home to play Pictionary with our family in the midwest. I use it to replace all of the to-do lists and notes that commonly cover my desk. I recently heard of a mom and daughter who play this game: one scribbles a random shape, then the other turns it into something recognizable and wonderful. Great game.

How many panels can I have?

For the free access to CloudPanels, you can have 5 panels that you use only for yourself and an unlimited number that you share with other people.

How many people can I invite to my panel?

At this time you can only invite 5 other people into a panel. We are toying with the idea of an unlimited number of guests who would fall into the 'view only - no touch' category. Let us know if you like that idea.

What's the size of a panel in pixels?

It is 1280 x 1920. If you are on an iPad 2 and zoom all the way in, you are seeing the full resolution of our panel. That's nearly the resolution of the new iPad and nearly twice that of the iPad 2. Over time our panels will get bigger and richer and more configurable, but for starters we wanted to keep it simple and easy.

How does CloudPanels affect my data plan?

CloudPanels often needs to talk to the cloud while it's running to keep track of changes on open panels and update guests. While we try to keep a light footprint on your data usage, please be aware that kind of like Maps and other apps that use a remote server, there is communications back and forth when the application is open and your device is turned on. If CloudPanels is not the active application on screen or if the screen is turned off - then we stop communicating with the server.

Where did the idea come from?

We have worked on graphical software for years. Things like PageMaker and scanners and digital publishing solutions. There has always been an opportunity to make the Internet more interactive and less bound to frames and text. This idea has been growing for years and it's fun to have it be available to everyone.

Why the name CloudPanels?

It encapsulates the two vital concepts to the product - cloud-based centralized storage of graphically assembled information. At night I have dreams of these panels just floating way above my bed loaded with useful info that I can grab at any time.

What's coming in the future?

Stay tuned! There is a bunch in the pipeline and we are just getting started. This is the most exciting thing about CloudPanels; there is no end of the wonderful things that can be added to the concept of the service. Better text is high on the list. Better drawing (tools, colors, effects) would be fun, as would bigger panels. Also, the ability to put anything on a panel would be nice (web links, videos, slideshows, files). There is really no end in sight. Go see our web page about future plans to learn what's cooking on the back burner right now.

Why do you use Facebook for sign-in?

Using Facebook as our only method of customer sign-in was a tough call to make. And because we had so many misgivings about it, we wanted to share some of our rationale for our choice. We hope to offer other sign-in methods in the future, but for now we are content with our choice to allow Facebook to do this part of the heavy lifting.

Security, Ease, Flexibility
First off, we wanted our customers to feel secure with entering in an account name and password with a new service. Facebook has great password recovery systems and good authentication practices. Tens of millions of people trust them to keep their passwords safe and their identity secure.

Secondly, we wanted it to be easy to get started. By supporting Facebook log ins, anyone with a Facebook account can immediately start using our service; no form to fill out, no squiggly security letters to squint at, no return email to wait for - just password and go. In addition, because your active 'logged in' status for CloudPanels is controlled by Facebook, if you are currently signed in to Facebook and you come into CloudPanels, you'll be signed in there too.

What we won't do
CloudPanels is about assembling content onto panels with limited groups of people that you want to exchange private information with. We get that. We respect your privacy. We won't share any user lists or personal info with anyone, ever. That's just how we roll.