Infinite Canvas

A Discord friend shared this link the other day:

The infinite canvas is the foundation of a new class of apps from design tools, to code editors, and workspaces.

So like Figma. You essentially have unlimited space in all four 2D directions to create things and drag them around. That is as-opposed to apps that force you on to a fixed-size place, like a Photoshop document.

I think all four directions is an important distinction. You might call Google Docs “infinite” in that it expands downward infinitely, but it ain’t an infinite canvas app. The point of infinite canvas apps is that it is like having a very gigantic desk where you can spread things out any-which-way you want and your own body never gets in the way. I’ve heard people say it’s about “matching how they think”.

I categorize tools like this as position: absolute; tools, because of my CSS brain. You drag things exactly where you want them and they stay there. There is no flow or responsiveness on purpose. Some people love it, and some people hate it. I know someone that liked most features of Microsoft’s OneNote but thought the infinite canvas aspect “ruined it.” I can respect that. I’m not sure note-taking is where you want absolute positioning. I’ll bet ya a million bucks Notion wouldn’t be nearly as popular if you had to drag on fixed-position blocks into documents rather than have them just flow naturally.

Now we have Apple releasing Freeform, which is very explicitly infinite canvas. This style of app is in the water. Speaking of Figma, FigJam is only a year or so old, and that’s proven to be popular. The browser that I’m writing this in, Arc, has “Easels” which are almost infinite canvas (you can’t go up). Invision Freehand, Microsoft Whiteboard, Miro, Muse… the list goes on. Even Zoom slapped on an infinite canvas whiteboarding tool, which seems smart.

Figma and Sketch have artboard concepts that bring a fixed-size space to an infinite canvas, which is kinda great as you get the benefits of both.

What do you make of all this?


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2 responses to “Infinite Canvas”

  1. Elly Loel says:

    Honestly love it, can’t wait for the category to mature. I’m eagerly waiting to see who does note taking and task management best on an infinite canvas, currently trying Clover but I’m not sold on it.

  2. bobiko says: also allows you to create canvas notes. officially recently, so it still has a lot to catch up on, but it has a lot of potential.

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