How it works - Shared Desktop

As well as being able to communicate live, both teacher and tutor will have access to a remote desktop. 

This is not computer sharing, the desktop is on a remote server. The desktop contains several programmes for users to share. It also contains two document folders. 

These belong to the teacher and student respectively. When logged on to the site users can up-load documents to their folder at any time, whether involved in a lesson or not. This means that those documents are available to both users during the lesson and can be reviewed and changed and those changes can be saved. Using Xournal, described below, allows users to annotate pdf documents and save the annotated document for later.


OpenOffice allows users to open and save popular document formats such as Word and Excel. Click here for more information.


Xournal allows easy editing of pdf documents. Both student and tutor can 'write' on a pdf document using the special mouse provided with's supplied equipment. Text and other annotations can also be added. Any changes made can be saved. Full instructions for using Xournal are below.

Using Xournal - the drawing and selection tools

The pen

The pen is the default drawing tool in Xournal. It comes in a variety of colors (see the color toolbar buttons and the Color submenu of the Tools menu) and thicknesses (see the thickness toolbar buttons and the Pen Options submenu of the Tools menu).

The eraser

The eraser lets you erase what you have drawn. By default, stylus buttons 2 and 3 (mouse middle or right buttons) are mapped to the eraser tool.
The eraser comes in three different thicknesses (selected using the thickness toolbar buttons), and can operate in three different modes (Eraser Options submenu of the Tools menu):

  • Standard mode (default): the eraser deletes portions of strokes previously drawn using the pen or the highlighter. In this mode, if you erase in the middle of a stroke, the remaining portions of the stroke are automatically split into shorter strokes. The background of the page (and the lower layers) are not erased.
  • Whiteout: the eraser is actually a thick white pen, and simply covers whatever lies underneath, including the background of the page.
  • Delete strokes: whenever the eraser comes in contact with a previously drawn stroke, the entire stroke is deleted.

The highlighter

Like the pen, the highlighter comes in a variety of colors (the default is yellow) and thicknesses. Use the color and thickness toolbar buttons to change these settings.

The text tool

To insert a new text item, click at the location where the text is to be inserted on the page, then type it in or paste it using the contextual menu (note: no wrapping is performed). To modify a text item, click inside it. The font and point size can be modified using the "Text Font" command in the Tools menu (or the toolbar button). The color is the same as that currently selected for the pen (and can be modified using the toolbar buttons).

Text items can contain arbitrary Unicode characters, provided that a suitable font is installed on your system. However, languages written in a direction other than left-to-right might not be handled properly. If a journal contains some items in a font that is unavailable on your system, another one will be substituted. (Also, text items will be lost if the document is opened in a version of Xournal prior to 0.4). Finally, note that the printing and PDF export features only accept TrueType and Type 1 scalable fonts (do not use any bitmap fonts), and that the typesetting of the text may be slightly different in the printout.

The ruler

The ruler is not a tool by itself, but rather a special operating mode of the pen and highlighter tools. When it is enabled, these tools paint line segments instead of curvy strokes. For simplicity, selecting the ruler when not in pen or highlighter mode automatically selects the pen.

The shape recognizer

The shape recognizer is also a special operating mode of the pen and highlighter tools. When it is enabled, Xournal attempts to recognize geometric shapes as they are drawn, and if successful will replace the drawn strokes accordingly. The shapes that can be recognized are: line segments, circles, rectangles, arrows, triangles and quadrilaterals. Polygonal shapes can be drawn in a single stroke or in a sequence of consecutive strokes.

The recognizer is set to be as unobtrusive as possible, and should not interfere too much with handwriting. (It differs in this and other ways from another shape recognizer written for Xournal by Lukasz Kaiser). As a result, it may only recognize shapes if you draw them carefully and deliberately. Specific tips for better recognition: (1) for circles, a closed curve that isn't quite round works better than a rounder curve that doesn't close; (2) for arrows, it is better to lift the pen before drawing the tip of the arrow, and make sure the tip consists of two straight line segments; (3) for very elongated rectangles, recognition tends to be better if you lift the pen between consecutive sides.

Default tools

Each tool (pen, eraser, highlighter, text) has a default setting (color, thickness, ... for the drawing tools, font and size for the text tool) associated to it. The "Default Pen", "Default Eraser", "Default Highlighter", and "Default Text" entries of the Tools menu select the appropriate tool and reset its settings to the defaults. The toolbar also includes a "Default" button which resets the currently selected tool to its default settings, and a "Default Pen" button.
The "Set As Default" entry of the Tools menu takes the current settings of the currently selected tool and makes them the new default.

Thickness buttons

These three buttons control the thickness of the current drawing tool (pen, eraser, or highlighter). The thickness can also be adjusted using the appropriate sub-menu of the Tools menu.

Rectangle selection

This tool lets you select a rectangular region of the current layer. All the strokes which are entirely contained within the rectangular region are selected. The selection can be moved within its page by clicking inside the selection rectangle and dragging the cursor. If the cursor is dragged to a different page, the selection will be moved to the topmost layer of that page.

The selection can be cut, duplicated, etc. (including to a different page or to a different journal) using the copy-paste toolbar buttons or the corresponding entries of the Edit menu.

Vertical space

This tool lets you insert or remove vertical space within the page: all the items of the current layer which lie entirely between the cursor position and the end of the page are moved up or down.

Note that the background, and items on other layers, are not affected. Also, if you insert too much vertical space, some items may fall below the bottom of the page and become invisible. These items are not lost: to retrieve them, either use the vertical space tool again to remove the excess vertical space, or change the page height to an appropriate value (using the "Paper Size" entry in the Journal menu).

If you drag the cursor below the bottom of the page (so that the entire block being moved has become invisible), the items will be moved to the next page (topmost layer); however, any items that were already present on the next page are left unchanged. Similarly, dragging the cursor above the top of the page so that the entire block being moved becomes invisible results in the items being moved to the previous page.

Hand tool

This tool lets you browse the journal; dragging the cursor scrolls the view.

Undo and redo

All operations performed on the currently open journal (drawing, erasing, cut-and-paste; adding, deleting, and reformatting pages; etc.) can be undone and redone at will using the Undo and Redo toolbar buttons or the corresponding entries in the Edit menu.
There is no limit to the depth of the undo/redo stack. It is cleared only when you quit the application or open a new journal.