Scapple for Mac (née "TheBoard"/"Vellum") - feedback wanted

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bgood
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Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:00 pm Post

What I like so much about Vellum occurred to me last night. When I started writing my novel I created a document in InDesign. It was based on a concept map that I had seen that really intrigued me (http://www.dubberly.com/concept-maps/a-model-of-brand.html). It looks fantastic and I thought I could do that for my book. It was too much work. My initial idea was to assemble it and then print it on a large format colour printer to put on the wall.

I think it's probably overkill for the fast and dirty, throwing ideas against the wall way that I used Vellum yesterday but it's worth a look. Always keeping in mind that I'm counting on you to save me from myself when it comes to fiddling.

ge
geoffh
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Sat Nov 26, 2011 6:20 am Post

Hi Keith

Vellum is a great name, and it's good to hear you will be doing some more development of the app. I used it yesterday to think up a flowline for a science paper I'm writing. It was very useful overall for the task, and particularly so now that I could drag in images of graphs etc that I had already created.

The one "missing feature" that I felt most acutely in that exercise was that I could not move around the work space without using the horizontal and vertical scroll bars. I would have liked some way of using the mouse directly to drag the entire workspace around.

cheers

geoff

ed
edmo
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Sat Nov 26, 2011 5:26 pm Post

Hi Keith,

Vellum looks great.

One more vote for a preference to toggle borders on/off as a default. I'm in the "borders-always-on" camp.

Thanks.

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xiamenese
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Sat Dec 10, 2011 3:07 am Post

Hi Keith,

I've realised I have a very good use for Vellum, in consequence of which, I have a couple of feature requests — which I think might be useful to some others.

Being one whose employment is trying to help Chinese post-graduate students of interpreting and translation to write more natural English, one of the hardest nuts to crack, it seems, is discourse structure and the logic and flow of ideas. In this Chinese structures totally differently from English. A Chinese sentence is built of a string of "minor sentences" separated by what look like commas, and normally without logical connectives between them. Also, the kernel proposition of the sentence is the last of these minor sentences. In syntactic terms, Chinese does not permit adjuncts after the head and its complement — adverbials and adjectival phrases/clauses, all precede the verb or noun respectively.

During recent lectures I have started breaking short paragraphs down into the basic propositions of which they were built, and discussing the logical relations that exist between them, how they could be structured and ordered, and the consequences to the text.

In explaining to one student yesterday, why his "freeform" approach to writing the content of a paragraph did not result in a good "translation" of the source text, it struck me that getting them to think in mind-map terms of the propositions and their possible relations might be a good way of helping them.

Of course, it soon occurred to me that the ideal software was Vellum, in that it does not impose parent-child structure, so I could play with alternative linkings. I can use colour and/or text size to indicate structural ranking of propositions. But they have to be turned into a linear sequence as sentences and paragraphs, so what I would like is an on/off option that the link-line when one drags one note over another should have an arrow-head pointing in the direction of the latter note. The proposition in the note dragged would then be shown to be intended to precede the target note in the intended sentence order.

I attach an example of what I mean. It would make it even clearer if I could have arrow-heads.

Other features, which have probably been suggested already:

1 Set border type and border colour would be maintained for all new notes until changed
2 Ability to duplicate notes

The second of these is more important to me than the first.

Cheers
Mark
example.pdf
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geoffh
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Sat Dec 10, 2011 12:10 pm Post

Hi Mark

Similarly, I've found it much easier to teach paragraph structure (to Indian biology postgrads) using a visual mapping approach, eg see an old version of my course here:
http://communication.ncbs.res.in/Scienc ... tpage.html

The visual approach gets around the problem of "text-blindness" that many students have when confronted with linearly presented ideas. They cannot see the clustering, and flowlines, that are however obvious to them in a map. Then again, for very proficient writers (and there are quite a few of those too in my classes) the "atomisation" involved in mapping is often actually counterproductive, at least in the short-term.

(My rather prescriptive ideas of how an 'academic' paragraph should be structured are partly derived from those expounded (less prescriptively) by Gopen, Williams etc (eg see http://www.amazon.com/Expectations-Teac ... 0205296173). I have now also abandoned expounding the strict division of labour amongst paragraphs (description, reporting etc) that I suggest in that old version of the course linked above.

Currently I use the open-source, crossplatform (windows, Linux, Mac) mapping app Freeplane for creating exercises, since I teach all over the country, and never know what system the students will have access to. Freeplane has ten billion bells and whistles which is both good and bad. Luckily one can create one's own highly stripped down edition of FP, so that the version used by the students doesnt overwhelm them with the wealth of options that are so handy for the teacher.

I'm curious if you have come across any good comparative studies of cross-cultural differences in the writing of academic discourse (e.g. paragraph, "essay" structure). I searched around a few years back, and what I found was of marginal quality. My institute's library however does not have access to the right sort of journals for such work. I really enjoyed your description of the way in which Chinese sentences are composed.

We can always continue this in 'And now for that latte' if you want to (ie apologies to everyone else for heading off-topic)

cheers

geoff

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xiamenese
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Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:11 am Post

Geoff,

Thanks for the interesting reply. I'll give it some thought and follow up your links when I have a free moment.

My immediate thought is that, although we are both concerned with discourse structure, our two cases are slightly different, in that, if I understand you correctly, you are teaching science students to create academic discourse on the basis of what they have learnt and their own thinking. I, on the other hand am not teaching academic discourse as such; my texts are essays and blogs — some of them of no great literary merit and I often suspect not that well-written in Chinese — economic and political texts, commercial and promotional texts, etc. The content is someone else's thinking, already structured in an entirely different language — the students' native language — with a different discourse structure.

Of course, the issue with translation, which cannot be simply resolved, is how faithful or how free the rendering into the target language should be. Discussion of that is not part of my courses, which are concerned with helping them to understand, and hopefully learn to control, the inferences conveyed by different syntactic forms, sentence structures and discourse structures. Working on the principle that the communicator's aim should be to structure their language in such a way as to ensure that the receiver will draw the inferences intended with the minimum of processing effort, for the range of material I use, my rule of thumb is to retain as much as possible of the source text, both in content and ordering, while structuring their text in a way that is natural to English. On that basis, of the two out of the many alternative possibilities for structuring the content of the paragraph I give in my example, Alternative structure 2, retains more of the source structure and therefore is to be preferred as a translation, even though were I writing this myself I would probably have followed Alternative tructure 1, or even a further variation on it.

When it comes to mind-mapping, this is the first time I have found a real use for it. I have played around with X-Mind — also free, and I believe cross-platform — and Freeplane. Although I felt more comfortable with the former, I still found it constricting in requiring me to think in hierarchical terms from the start. Vellum, in this, seems more inspiring. Mind you, I do have OmniGraffle Pro, and I can do the same thing in that as in Vellum, and it has all the graphical bells and whistles I need and more. But I still like the freedom of the blank canvas in Vellum.

As you say, though, we can continue the discussion if you wish through PMs, or email, or in ANFTL. As for off-topicking, it seems to be a tradition on the L&L forums and is not frowned upon too severely by the mods, who are even known to indulge in it themselves!

Cheers
Mark
The Scrivenato sometimes known as Mr X.
iMac 27" (late 2015) 10.15.7, 24GB RAM, 512GB SSID
MBP17" (late 2011) 10.13.6, 16GB RAM, 2TB SSID
2017 iPad, iPadOS 14, 128GB, Apple Pencil
Scrivener, Scapple, Nisus Writer Pro, Bookends …

ge
geoffh
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Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:28 am Post

Hi Mark

Very informative looking at your three paragraph structures - I would also be leaning towards the Alt Structure 1 for my own writing. Interestingly all three end up, it seems to me, with an emphatic point located at the very end, which seems a typical pattern of narrative mode (which I don't have to think about much in my work). In expository text, I think the majority of paragraphs will have their "big moment" near the start of the para.

Freeplane has recently introduced non-hierarchical node entry (partly because I was extolling the value of such in their forum, after using Vellum). One just double-clicks on the map background and a node appears.

XMind (which like FP is a fork of Freemind) is cripple-ware now, but even more of a worry is that the developer team is the polar opposite of the Scrivener workhorses, in terms of support and adding new features. Their forum on Google Groups, is useless as well. Pity - when you first use XM (and I used it in my course for 18 months) it seems so promising. I'll take a look at Omnigraffle Pro

cheers

geoff

dr
druid
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Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:05 pm Post

I just discovered that Scrivener cannot read/import Vellum files.
Made a nice display of characters in a novel, but can't place it in the project
So, I ask again, what sort of Export Options will be available?
A simple RTF would be nice, for starters.

PJ
PJS
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Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:38 am Post

druid wrote:I just discovered that Scrivener cannot read/import Vellum files.


Why not just take a screen shot and drop it into Research? Works fine for me, and maintains the graphic format in which the ideas were first organized.

ps
You can't conquer stupid — or cure it — with more stupid.

dr
druid
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Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:15 am Post

PJS....great tip! I also just tried Print as PDF, and that works out fine, too. Thanks!

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KB
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Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:19 am Post

Yes, it's PDF-only for now - I can't introduce import in Scrivener for a program that doesn't exist yet, and for which I have yet to decide on export capabilities. :) I'll be working on Vellum a bit more in the new year, I hope - although its name is going to have to change, as someone has just brought to my attention that there is already software out there called Ashlar Vellum. Dammit.

All the best,
Keith
"You can't waltz in here, use my toaster, and start spouting universal truths without qualification."

mb
mbbntu
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Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:11 pm Post

Ashlar Vellum sounds like an extraordinary contradiction. Masonry made of paper? What will they think of next?

Martin
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

dr
druid
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Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:24 pm Post

How about a name from your area, like

Penwith

Pen with dexterity, alacrity, velocity

And all without a Pen!

:mrgreen:

ph
philm
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Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:15 am Post

Hi Keith,

Am I ever glad I found this forum thread! :D An hour ago, with just a .zip and a click, I launched an aesthetically simple and clean place to juggle ideas! Using Vellum's big board, I have been exploring alternative arrangements of documents in my current Scrivener project. My setup: I'm working in Lion; Scrivener is full-screen in desktop 1; Vellum is full-screen in desktop 2; I copy a document title from Scrivener's binder; I paste the title into Vellum. It took only 5 or 10 minutes to create what is in essence a two-dimensional Scrivener collection. By shuffling titles around on the board, I'm getting a new tactile sense of the structure of my project and where it needs improvement. Yes, I could do something similar to this with Scrivener's free form Notecards. But Vellum is a different experience. It is somehow less confining than the notecard paradigm. I like it.

Thanks for releasing this promising young sibling of Scrivener. Since the name "Vellum" has been taken, and given the earlier suggestion of borrowing the name of an English town, have you thought of naming it Bristol? (As in Bristol board?)

Phil

mb
mbbntu
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Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:41 am Post

Or Bristols -- plenty of nourishment there.

M.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)