August 2012
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Replacement for think tool needed

The time runs out for my much loved Powerpoint 2003: Under Windows 8, my workaround against destruction of connectors does not work any more. So I tried to do without this pet tool when I finally moved from XP to Windows 7 — but failed. When I really want to concentrate on a content problem and need to leverage my “outboard brain” without being distracted by the tools, I keep resorting to this outdated tool, to put my raw thoughts on an empty slide, connect them, and move them around.

Here are the most promising replacement candidates and why I dismissed them.

  • Mindmaps? In all programs I know, the hierarchical focus is too obtrusive, even if they support cross links and free-floating topics.
  • Cmap by an HCI institute called ihmc.us. I was short of enthusiastic after discovering how easily the few strange quirks could be overcome,

    in particular the (ideological?) urge to label one’s connectors by “propositions”. With a little bit of routine, I could quickly draw countless many arrows without the recommended labels. Almost countless. Because whenever the map became full, the shift+drag sequence failed increasingly often. In the end, I sometimes needed 7-8 attempts, feeling like obsessed, to draw a single arrow without the damned proposition placeholder saying “????”. A conspiracy theory would probably suggest that they count my simple arrows and after a certain amount, exert some coercion for some arrows obeying their taste. But probably the coding is just not robust and scalable. But once got angry, you won’t tolerate the next patronizing quirk: Arrows’ heads are silently ignored when sloping downwards. Nobody responds to the forum question “What is the idea behind the default arrowheads style? “. Probably the project is abandoned.
  • Topicmaps with Deepamehta, the opensource software which I have often enthused about in this blog? The great visual concept is abandoned; they are focussing on general “frameworks”.
  • iMapping.info? If you don’t know this tool, give it a try. It pushes the boundaries of traditional zooming. But this also means sacrificing much visual flexibility.

Mindmapping, conceptmapping, topicmapping, iMapping — which one will be significantly improved? Probably none because mapping applications don’t fit on tablets?

31 August 2012 | Visualization | Comments

4 Responses to “Replacement for think tool needed”

  1. 1 Jack Vinson 5 September 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    Hey, x28! Still glad you are going strong.

    What about pen and paper?

    On the PC, I like PersonalBrain (now rebranded to simply TheBrain). But I think one drawback is that you only see the first level or two from the idea that currently has the focus. There isn’t an enforced hierarchy, like mind mapping tools, which is nice. [I've moved to the Mac, and PersonalBrain just doesn't seem to work as well in that environment, even though it runs just fine.]

    Another one that might be helpful was designed for drawing cause-and-effect diagrams but can work for generic relationships: Flying Logic. They even mention Concept Maps on their page.

  2. 2 x28 5 September 2012 @ 2:51 pm

    Hi Jack, I am very glad about your constant visits!

    Pen and paper? Pen is ok, but I have problems with paper since I grew up with slate and stylus. Thanks for the pointers, I did not know Flying Logic and will also revisit TheBrain.

  3. 3 Nicola Avery 19 February 2013 @ 10:50 am

    Hi Matthias - just read your blog - it is interesting to read about your experiences with mapping as above. I am at very early days of experimenting with html5 and have seen some html canvas examples of mapping but they seem to be primarily focussed on mindmaps so far.

    I asked people about using concept maps in some interviews and workshops here recently, people were interested in new ways of visualizing but there also seems to be an incorrect internal cultural belief - that it needs to look and behave like all our other applications or we’re less likely to use it.

    I’ve noticed in various places where I work, people try things out and they do adapt fairly easily when something is visually different, providing they can navigate easily.

    With people using a computer mouse or a swiping mouse you are moving something physically forward but looking at a cursor going up. I also noticed this with some learners I worked with in Second Life when they tried to learn how to move.

    Maybe it will change when we can create less square and rectangular shaped technologies.

  4. 4 x28 19 February 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    Hi Nicola, thanks for your encouraging comment. It’s nice to learn that there are still people around who are prepared to go beyond just mindmaps.

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