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What you need to know

  • Overviewer gives teachers a way to share their iPhone's camera across video calls for free.

Sometimes the best apps are those born out of necessity and that's definitely the case with Overviewer, an app created by developer Charlie Chapman. It's an app that's difficult to explain, but if you boil it down far enough it's actually really simple – Overviewer takes what your iPhone's camera sees and puts it into Zoom calls.

Why is that handy? Because the alternatives are big, costly machines and right now teachers are working remotely. Like Chapman's wife.

My wife is a Kindergarten teacher and when COVID hit she had to figure out how to teach a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds how to draw letters over Zoom. Initially she made her own document camera using her iPhone and the default camera app. Zoom has a wonderful feature where you can share your iPhone's screen by plugging into your laptop with a lightning cable or even wirelessly over AirPlay but when you open the camera app there are two issues.

Those problems are pretty obvious – sharing your iPhone's screen means those on your Zoom call have to see the Camera interface, for one. Secondly, the Camera app doesn't actually rotate into landscape – it only rotates the labels – which means you're stuck in portrait. But you're stuck, no more.

So being the dorky husband that I am, I quickly built an app that does nothing other than show what the phone camera sees with zero chrome, and properly rotates the whole app so that you can share it in landscape on zoom. This did the trick and she actually used it! But over time she'd point out little annoyances and I'd add a feature here and there to make it a smoother experience like a button to turn on the flashlight to light the desk, and one for forcing a rotation change. I also went ahead and fully supported streaming it over AirPlay as a sort of learning experience and before I knew it I had an interesting little app on my hands.

You can see how the whole thing works in Chapman's video below. There's also a blog post outlining more of the details, too.

I've been playing with Overviewer for a few weeks now and despite having no use for it whatsoever, it's easy to see how someone could really benefit from it. The app works well, too, which is what you need when you're dealing with a class full of kids!

You can download Overviewer for free from the App Store now.

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