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

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Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:48 pm Post

I tried it. It looks good and simple. Please keep it that way. Some way of exporting as text is important.

Re name: How about "educe" or "evoke", both somewhat uncommon words but both representing a creative effort, a drawing out of ideas.

Don

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Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:47 pm Post

I've tried it, and found it elegant, intuitive, simple and practical. TheBoard opened so quickly, and was so straightforward and effective, that I definitely think I would use it. Especially if it were possible to attach Scrivener labels to notes (as you mention above), and if it were possible to export these labels along with the note (and, yes, to import into Scrivener by any simple means). I have bought an embarrassing array of mindmapping and idea-organising solutions in my time, but all of them seem like overkill for the tiny amount of very cursory non-linear mindmapping that I do, so I still end up using pen and paper instead of opening one of my licensed behemoths.

One tweak that springs to mind after ten minutes of use... Could there be a preferences setting (or even a default) to automatically shrink a note's box outline to fit the text it contains, so that box sizes don't have to be altered manually to move link lines closer to the text? Currently, a link is aligned to the middle of the box edge (or thereabouts if there is another link present). If the box contains a single word, then there is a lot of blank space as well; if the box has no border, then the link can look as though it is dangling in space, unconnected. Just a thought.

I really like the ease with which notes or groups of notes can be moved around. It's almost as much fun as an Etch A Sketch! :)
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KB
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Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:04 pm Post

Many thanks for all the replies. I'll reply properly tomorrow because I'm exhausted at the moment from obsessively checking all the Mac App Store news since we went live there late last night. :)

There are some fantastic suggestions here, though, from shrinking the text automatically to better keyboard control (and I like the name "Boardstormer"!). I'll go through them all properly tomorrow, but please keep them coming as I do appreciate it.

All the best,
Keith
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robertdguthrie
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Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:20 pm Post

If I may make a tweak on the name... Just call it "BoardStorm", so that a "BoardStormer" is a person who uses the BoardStorm.app, and "BoardStorming" is the act of using BoardStorm. Can't wait to get home and give this software a trial run.
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Sean Coffee
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Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:07 pm Post

That makes sense.

Also, I agree with auto-sizing the boxes so it doesn't have to be done manually.

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bargonzo
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:49 am Post

Sean Coffee said:
3. Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding your concept, but it seems to me that my hands are coming off the keyboard at the wrong time. The thing I really, really like about boardstorming (see!?! It's already a verb!) is that it's all about writing a bunch of stuff down first, and establishing connections later. It's mindmapping without the fiddling, which is genius. But the way it works now is, I write something down, hit ESC, then have to click on the board again to write something else down.


Either Keith has already changed it (have you?) or there is a simpler way. While playing with it, I just moved my mouse and doubleclicked and a new note began. No need to hit Escape at all! A much smoother operation--just move the mouse below the line you're typing (or wherever you want--under another note, to the top) and start typing again.

Also, you can zoom in or out with the "pinching" technique on the trackpad (the default shortcut on my computer changes Spaces).

I've tried mindmapping apps before, but have never got the hang of them or their multiple lines, shapes, etc. This reminds me a bit of the note-taking aspect of Tinderbox, which I've been trialling, but which is much to complex (and expensive) for me to mess with. I love TheBoard (and I like BoardStorm as a name, as well).

Edit: One question: How do you disengage the "Fade?" I clicked on the Fade button to remove the checkmark, but that doesn't seem to work.

Edit 2: I've been playing with it a bit and I feel strangely like e.e.cummings--creating whitespace around the text, connecting it with pauses, as it were. Making the box purposely larger than the text so that the connecting line is subtly distanced from it. I'm beginning to feel a poem coming on!
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:46 am Post

Ooh, a new toy to waste many an hour with! Fun. I'm just goofing off with this now to try it out and I'm liking it, but I'll have to give it a go with a semi-real boardstorming session later to get a better feel for how I'd really end up using it. At the moment I'm sort of in a brain-rut thinking about jotting down novel/script ideas, and I use the freeform corkboard in Scrivener for that as it basically does everything I want and more. So with the warning that I'm presently approaching this from that position (ie, perhaps not the ideal user?), a few thoughts--

1) Definitely agree with the desire for a speedy keyboard-only entry system, preferably Enter to escape and then Enter to start a new note. I'm fine with Opt-Enter or Shift-Enter for a line break in the note itself if it lets me use enter for a new note, although maybe I'm in the minority there. But Shift-Enter is a lot easier and faster to type than Esc. Even just sticking with Esc, though, allowing a new note with Enter or Cmd-N or something so you don't have to switch to the mouse would be fabulous.

2) On Cmd-N, it feels weird to have it create a new board rather than something inside the current board. I guess it's Finder-like, opening a new window...okay, maybe it's like a lot of programs...but I guess just because this feels like you're working with a lot of different pieces inside the same window, I expect Cmd-N to make me a new piece in that window. Especially if this gets a little expanded to include a split pane for arranging notes for export, with the ability to add a new note there. You're dealing in little moveable chunks, and I just anticipate the command will deal with new chunks. (I admit this may be due to spending too much time in Scrivener.)

3) Meta-data color tags. Someone said something about them back near the top of the thread, and I am all for it. I'm thinking something like the keyword system in Scrivener, though not necessarily as complicated as far as having a hierarchy or drag-and-drop and all that. Mostly just a way to quickly assign a color chip to a note and then somewhere to have a little legend to define each of the colors. I don't need to see the definition itself when I'm looking at the note, but I'd want somewhere to keep the list for reference. The main thing for me would be the ability to assign multiple colors to a note. I don't mind if you limit me (er, within reason), but I tend to be very color-oriented when organizing or linking ideas, so my actual paper notes don't end up with lines so much as tons of highlighter tick marks next to them to indicate what themes they're dealing with. Then I shuffle through my stacks of paper trying to find all the pink, then all the blue, then all the orange, and then figure out if a paragraph has more orange than blue and whether the fact that it has both makes it the Ideal Transition Paragraph...

So I don't need the app to try and organize for me based on color or do anything complicated--I don't want it to touch that at all. But it'd be nice to be able to assign a few color chips to a note so I can use that for my right brain as ideas develop, and then I can move the notes around on the board to group them by color myself as I start to build the connections and spawn new ideas off them. (That said, this is part of why I love working in the freeform corkboard as a brainstorming app, since I care more about the color coding and clustering than the actual lines, so this may be less relevant to most users.)

4) With that, possibly an option to color the lines as well? (That one could be arbitrary, like the color fill is now.) Just using the line color as an indication of what "path" or theme I'm following with an idea could be nice. Might be over-complicating things though, so I'm just tossing it out there. I could probably achieve the same effect with just the color-fill. The point of coloring the lines would be more so that when I have a bunch of lines bursting from a note scrawling across the page and intersecting with other lines that got in the way, I'll be able to see from the start note which thematic direction the linked notes go in, without having to follow the line all the way to the end to see what color is there. If that makes sense.

5) OPML for easy import into Scrivener would be lovely. Or if you go with just text export, perhaps a way to define or insert a separator between notes (which then could be used to automatically split the document when importing it into Scrivener). It'd be nice to have some option outside of OPML of course, since you might want to just whip off a quick text list to file somewhere or send to your colleague. And then I definitely like the ability that's already there, to print a PDF of the board so you get the layout and coloring and all that to share as well.

6) I love the zoom slider at the bottom. I like working and seeing the space fill up and then zooming down so I suddenly have so much free space to keep boardstorming in. Somehow that's energizing.

7) Any chance you'd consider minimal rich text? It's not a big deal, but a little bold to make a header or title for the note and then plain text under it to develop it slightly would help me focus visually. That said, I may be writing much longer notes than a mind-map/brainstorm app is supposed to get. But then that's part of the beauty of this one's simplicity--it doesn't cut me off before I finished've typing out my idea!

8) Which by the way is absolutely wonderful with this. I hate trying to use diagramy programs that give me an arbitrarily tiny text box to write in and then start scrolling my note out of view while I'm still typing the same blasted sentence. Argh. And then I have to resize. And then I have to fiddle and click again in the right spot to finish typing my note. Argh. Working in TheBoard is just so easy. Thank you.

9) Also I like that notes aren't connected until you connect them. While it's true that the ideas must be connected somehow in my head when I jump from one thought to the next, they're not necessarily connected at all in a way that I'd want to record, and I like that your application doesn't try to consistently link them for me.

10) Although with that, maybe if you did implement a keyboard shortcut to add new notes, if you wanted to get fancy (which I know you don't) you could create two, e.g. Cmd-N and Shift-Cmd-N: one to just create a new note, plain and simple; one to create a new note linked to the last note. (Er, that may have been suggested earlier? I remember something about a "chain" of ideas.) It'd be a nice shortcut for when you did want to link ideas as you're spewing them out, but it'd leave it as an option.

...Okay, maybe that was more than a few. It's so much fun! I have to keep boardstorming ideas. But drat, my tea got cold while I was typing. Could you add something to keep hot beverages from getting room temp while you boardstorm? Rewarmed tea is a travesty.

P.S. Also I like that if I create a new note and don't type anything in it, it goes away! It's so irritating to have random empty text boxes littering my screen because I misclicked.

UPDATE: I refreshed my tea and came up with a set of ideas for how I'd use this and why it might be preferable to doing the same thing in the freeform corkboard for small-scale stuff, although since I've now spent the whole evening not actually getting work done, I may have to save that for tomorrow. Anyway, I did come up with another small usability suggestion--resizing. You can currently only resize by dragging the right or left edge, and it'd be nice if you could do the same with the top and bottom edges as well. Just because I approach it thinking, "I want to make this shorter" rather than "I want to make this wider." It ends up the same of course, but I click the wrong part of the box first.
Last edited by MimeticMouton on Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:33 am Post

the_board_thoughts.tbd.zip
Responses to use of Enter to make new notes
(3.69 KiB) Downloaded 116 times
.:.
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MimeticMouton
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:52 am Post

AmberV wrote:the_board_thoughts.tbd.zip


1. Tab is genius. Also Shift-Tab.

2. Reminds me of Sigma Tau Delta and writing messages on the college dorm white board about going "off to buy STD supplies!" Suggestion then for Boardstorm or the like to not capitalize the S, in an attempt to forestall that acronym as well. 8)
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Sean Coffee
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:09 pm Post

MimeticMouton wrote:
AmberV wrote:the_board_thoughts.tbd.zip


1. Tab is genius. Also Shift-Tab.


Thirded.

Spent two hours last night boardstorming (sorry) a new idea. Even in this state, it's kind of addictive. I've always been attracted to mindmapping, but I never really did it very often, and until I used this app I hadn't figured out why. Boardstorm's (sorry) "in the beginning, all ideas are equal" concept is much truer to brainstorming than a mindmap or an outline can ever be. I tend to write to figure out what I'm thinking on a topic -- I rarely have much of a plan coming in. The act of mindmapping, though, sort of assumes that you have some idea of how to proceed, at least an inkling: it's hierarchical from the beginning, so it assumes that some thoughts/ideas are more important than others. Not so with this new app.

Keep going, Keith. You're on to something.

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johnz
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:42 pm Post

Hi, nice to have so smart people suggesting more or less what I think after some minutes of playin' around with this new toy :)
7) Any chance you'd consider minimal rich text? It's not a big deal, but a little bold to make a header or title for the note and then plain text under it to develop it slightly would help me focus visually. T

and
I love the zoom slider at the bottom. I like working and seeing the space fill up and then zooming down so I suddenly have so much free space to keep boardstorming in. Somehow that's energizing.

and
Also I like that notes aren't connected until you connect them.

and
P.S. Also I like that if I create a new note and don't type anything in it, it goes away! It's so irritating to have random empty text boxes littering my screen because I misclicked.


So, please, Keith, keep it simple (I can hear the Army of Complicators comin'... :D )
because no doubt
You're on to something.


Giovanni
Last edited by johnz on Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:42 pm Post

I have to chime in and say I've tried it and I really like it. I think I pretty much agree with what everyone has said about advantages that it has over other mindmapping software (I'm looking at you, NovaMind, and not in a good way). Basically I guess they all stem from the concept that notes are created as freestanding entities, not necessarily branches or sub-branches:

1. It doesn't force me to start working conceptually in a tree structure, branching out from one central concept. I never really got how that was so different from just making an outline. Main topic, sub-topics, sub-sub-topics, etc. TheBoard is so free. For once I actually feel like I don't have to know the structure in advance.

2. A ramification of that: I really like not having to view my ideas in a radial shape. I guess I usually tend to visualize my writing (academic, at the moment) more as a linear chain of ideas, and I like being able to line my notes up in a way that reflects that. You could say that structurally there is no real difference, I guess, but it looks different, and the whole thing about mindmapping is that it's a visual representation so…I appreciate that TheBoard doesn't impose a shape on the proceedings.

3. A second ramification: Another thing I have really disliked about mindmapping apps is that it always seems to be such a pain to draw inter-branch connections. What is up with that? Aren't cross-connections the whole point? If you can't do that, isn't it (once again) just a regular outline? So again I like the way TheBoard is completely flexible in that regard.

Also, I love the slider for zooming. That is really brilliant.

Personally, I wouldn't use much or any metadata (colors or keywords) and I'd be unlikely to use export options, with one exception: as has been suggested, I'd like to be able to import the board into Scrivener just for viewing, either as-is or via an export to .jpg or something. For me it would be pretty easy to create new cards in Scrivener based on the board, and my boards would have a lot of details that wouldn't each deserve their own card, so I don't care too much about translating what's on the board into the Scrivener binder. But I would like to have the visual representation for reference either in split view or as a quick reference, with my lines and spatial arrangement of notes "holding" the ideas in the places I've put them, as a reminder while I write of how I've conceived the structure.

Thoughts on the name: I am becoming fond of "boardstorming" although at first it made me think of 1) barnstorming in 2) an imperial storm trooper suit. :lol: Anyway, previously to that I had been thinking that there might be interesting possibilities in the linguistic (if that is the right word) connection between "card" and "map", in words like cartography, cartographer. But I like the idea of using board in the name, because that's exactly what it feels like, a big whiteboard. WhiteBoard? Or, um, CardBoard? (sorry)

So, last night I used TheBoard to thrash out the sequence of ideas for a tricky section of my dissertation--it really worked well. It felt a whole lot like sketching on paper, but cleaner, and more re-arrangeable. So thanks a lot for this! I think the concept is brilliant and I'm excited to see how it develops.

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johnz
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Fri Apr 01, 2011 1:54 pm Post

Hi,

what about BoardWay? MindWay? WhiteMind? MyBoard?

just to boardstorm... er', brainstorm around app name a little :)

Giovanni

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Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:30 pm Post

My biggest frustration with any of the mind mapping and brainstorming applications is the assumption that you are starting with a blank slate and all the information will be entered and organised as you proceed. I would like to be able to import notes en masse from an application like DevonThink or Scrivener and then do the organisation and linking of ideas. I am working on a PhD and have an extensive set of notes with citations and keywords. I can drill down to a keyword but will still have dozens of notes that I want to organise. Currently, I have to copy and paste each note into a mind mapping application and the thrill soon fades when you are talking a hundred or so notes.

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Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:33 pm Post

MyBoard


BoardWay is pretty fun, I'm already breaking into theme songs, but I have to personally veto MyBoard as it makes me think of MS. Also iBoard, for similar fruity reasons.
Jennifer Hughes
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