Brainstorm and Collaborate with Mural.ly
With all of the tools that exist for collaboration, it can sometimes feel as if the market for such products is completely saturated. But, some new applications prove this to be untrue by offering new and exciting functionality and usability. Mural.ly is one such tool. While TechCrunch has, rightfully, described it as “a little bit of Evernote with a whole lot of Prezi“, Mural.ly sets itself apart with its focus on both collaboration and usability.
Mural.ly can be used in so many different ways and offers so many different features that it can be hard to know exactly how to describe it. At its base, it allows users to create “murals” by dragging and dropping content onto a blank space or “mural”. This content can run the gamut from images to Word files to YouTube videos and everything in between. Web content, such as YouTube videos, can be dragged and dropped directly from the hosting site onto your mural and Mural.ly will in many cases even be able to detect and include information about the source. Once an item is on the mural, it can also be resized and moved with ease. To make the design process even more simple, Mural.ly also includes tools for snapping items into line with other items on the mural and for bringing images forward and backward in space, all of which will be very familiar to KeyNote or InDesign users. In addition to this outside content, Mural.ly also lets users create new content with tools to add text to your mural either on sticky notes or directly on the background as well as the ability to add shapes, stickers and what they refer to as “spaces” which are grids and diagrams that come pre-formatted within the application. Murals can be further customized with any one of nine available backgrounds.
To foster collaboration, Mural.ly also includes a number of tools that are specifically intended to encourage and simplify collaboration amongst multiple users. Each mural can be made public or shared with only select Mural.ly users to ensure that you reach exactly your intended audience. Murals also include tools to allow teams to share comments with each other. Each comment automatically displays the name of the individual who created the comment, which makes it easier to track thoughts and build consensus. For realtime collaboration, Mural.ly also includes a chat feature so that users can hold a conversation about their project directly on the mural. And, it allows teams to track who has added or changed the mural through a list that shows who has made each of the changes that have been made to the mural.
As an added bonus, as soon as at least 10 items have been added to any mural, the option of adding frames to guide viewers through the mural opens up. This option lends a Prezi-like functionality to Mural.ly since it makes it possible to click through the mural zooming in and out of specific mural elements along the way. This functionality could either be used as a way of guiding collaborators or other viewers through the mural or as a way of using Mural.ly as a presentation tool.
After trying Mural.ly out, I think that it brings together functionality that users may have seen in other tools in a way that is easy-to-use and is perfect for collaboration. While users could definitely create murals for personal use and brainstorming purposes, I think that the collaboration tools are what really sets Mural.ly apart and will make it appealing to a wide range of users. My only complaints about the tool were that I had trouble adding the occasional item to my mural (one Pinterest item loaded immediately, another caused an error) and I wish the it was able to generate a better preview for certain types of files, such as Word documents and PowerPoint presentations. Overall, I found Mural.ly to be very intuitive to use, which, when combined with the built-in collaboration elements, would make this a great option for teams that are working together on projects whether in the workplace, the classroom or anywhere else.