Overviewer Turns Your iPhone Into a Document Camera for Online Zoom Classes

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 7 Jan 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and colleges to hold classes over Zoom. The novelty of this experience has worn off now as students and teachers are realizing the various limitations of holding and attending online classes. One common issue is the lack of access to a document camera with teachers which makes it difficult for them to show their worksheets to students during online classes.

Document cameras allow teachers to show their documents and other worksheets to students so they can see what the teacher is drawing or doing in their book. However, document cameras are usually found in classrooms, not in one’s home. Many teachers tried to use their iPhone as a document camera by using a Zoom feature that allows them to share their iPhone’s screen when it is connected to a computer via a Lightning cable. The experience, however, was frustrating at best as the app only worked in portrait mode and had various other limitations.

Developer Charlie Chapman saw his wife going through a similar ordeal and has come up with the Overviewer app.

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.

  1. There’s a bunch of buttons and chrome around camera view so it looks clunky

  2. The camera app doesn’t actually rotate when you turn it sideways (just some of the labels) so you can only share your phone in portrait mode which means huge black bars on each side of the zoom call and a tiny video stream of what you want to share.

This is where Overviewer comes in. It offers a landscape mode and does not come with any unnecessary buttons so as to offer a proper document camera experience. It also allows one to turn on the flashlight if the desk lightning is poor.

Chapman has primarily released this app for teachers and made it completely free to download and use. The app might have a limited use case but if it makes the life of even one teacher easier, the developer would consider his side project useful.

You can also use your iPhone as a webcam with your PC or Mac for online classes.