iThoughts, redesigned, reengineered, re-everythinged

23 05 2014

On May 13, 2014, Craig Scott, the developer of the mind mapping tool iThoughts released a new version designed for iOS 7. It took him 9 months of reviewing the new features of iOS 7, testing them (even Apple isn’t perfect), and redesigning the old version. So it’s understandable that the new version is not free but comes up with a really fair price (80% off). Craig got bills to pay, kids to feed and more.

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Let’s say it with an Apple slogan for marketing the MacBook Air …

Redesigned.
Reengineered.
Re-everythinged.

To make it clear, re-everythinged doesn’t mean that users have to learn it all again. It’s still an application which can be used intuitively and users migrating from the predecessor will not have problems to immediately continue working on maps.

Craig’s company …

Craig Scott about his company …

toketaWare is a small software development business based in the UK (just outside York.) When I say small, I mean really small. Currently it’s just me Craig Scott.
In addition to the iThoughts mindmap products, toketaWare also builds/maintains makeDoc and makeSlides (iOS apps for converting Markdown, OPML and text into MS Word and PowerPoint files).
Toketa is a term used in Judo to describe when a person has escaped from being pinned down i.e. they’ve broken free. Seemed apt somehow – software that sets you free. That’s the goal anyhow!

Craig’s philosophy …

Steve gave us the iPad and Craig the app iThoughts.
Well, in some way this might be an inappropriate connection between people and products. On the other hand there are only a few developers who were able to adapt an application to a touchscreen in such a perfect way and to internalize many of the intangible assets of Apple and it’s innovative leader of the past.

Craig Scott brought home the bacon.

He started developing his mind mapping tool already prior to the launch of the iPad in April 2010. It’s not only an excellent coding but also a deep insight in what Apple intended to offer it’s customers. In his lecture about mind mapping on Biggerplate Unplugged (London 2013), Craig called it Touchy Feely Mind Mapping.

A mind mapping tool is an application for improving knowledge and personality as well as summarizing facts and ideas. In so far there is indeed a virtual connection between Steve and Craig. Priorities for both were/are:

Focus (on essentials)
Say NO (to bells and whistles)

People appreciate apps that feel as though they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to the gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for. And, although people might not be aware of human interface design principles, such as direct manipulation or consistency, they can tell when apps follow them and when they don’t.

iThoughts follows

Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines

in a perfect way. To use the app a documentation is basically not needed bit in cases directly accessible from within the app, e.g. creating doodles.

For example there is one and only one taskbar which is divided into two parts with a Share control in the center. On the left side there are file management features and settings. On the right side you will find all features needed for editing a map with the most important control (i), the inspector, to set all the properties of topics.

Craig on his website
The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request – although there are some ‘core principles’ underpinning the whole thing as follows:

  • User Interface is everything
    if it’s not usable then people will not use it.
  • Interoperability is vital
    must play nicely with existing tools/services.
  • Stay focused
    mindmapping is what the app does.

The result of following these simple rules convinces everyone immediately after installation and it is the ultimate way to successful marketing via the Apple’s App Store.

The redesigned app …

In many articles about mind mapping I always talked about iThoughts as the most powerful tool for the iPad and a wonder of stability compared to other apps developed by really big companies (I’m just thinking about Google+ for iOS which crashed again while working on this post and looking up new notifications).

So it’s time to review the redesigned version including all the useful updates it got over time. All the powerful features let users create impressive maps. They can be shared in lots of different file formats up to nearly all needs.

A mind map is worth a thousand words so here is a full feature description of Craig’s tool. The map was created with the new version of iThoughts in June 2014.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The old version …

The old version can still be downloaded but not purchased. There will be no more updates and bug fixes. This is largely because Apple does not allow updates to apps unless they are build using the iOS 7 technology.

The migration …

After installing the new version you immediately feel back home.

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There is also an easy way to migrate from the predecessor and this is obviously in the line with Craig’s philosophy of perfectness.

After installing the new version there are two ways to transfer maps.

  • 1 If you already use a cloud folder synced to Dropbox then you can create a similar setup within the new version and have it sync your maps down.
    For more details see How to sync.
  • 2 If you are not syncing with Dropbox then you can use the ‘Send Archive … to app’ feature in the previous version to send a copy of all your maps over into the new version. Once you maps are successfully transferred you can delete the old app. Keep in mind that deleting an app always goes along with deleting all it’s data. This is due to the iOS file system. So first check out the new app and keep the older version for some time.

The anatomy …

If you are new to iThoughts it’s worth understanding the anatomy of an iThoughts screen.

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I created this map directly from toketaWare’s website (I hope by courtesy of Craig) by using the screen’s image as the center of the map, copied the outlined description to the clipboard and used the ‘text to map’ feature described further down to generate the topics. That’s it. Admittedly I did some further work to improve the layout.

The new features …

The following features are implemented in the new version … •

  • Universal app, you buy it once and install it on all your iOS devices.
  • Rich text support everywhere
    bold, italic, underline, fonts, sizes, colours – all in the same text block
  • Totally new cloud sync architecture – much faster and more reliable
  • Extensive bluetooth keyboard support
  • Multiple selection of topics (SHIFT)
    Left handed?
    If you’re left handed and find it tricky to use the SHIFT button then you can switch this to the other side in the ‘System Settings’ under the ‘Options’ menu.
  • Independently resize topic, image or text
  • New map picker with thumbnail previews, favourites and recycle/trash system
  • Imports Markdown format files•
  • Imports Mindnode and Simtech Mindmapper maps
  • Exports as a ‘website’ (package of HTML, clickable images and attachments.)
  • Export as multi page PDF (which can then be printed out and stuck together into a ‘poster’)
  • Research feature can now download websites for off line viewing (as a .webarchive)
  • System settings accessible from within the app
  • Relationship improvements (drag the actual curve – even drag the end to another topic) •
  • Choose a default colour for callouts
  • Infinite (effectively) and dynamic canvas which grows and shrinks to fit the map

These features have been retired permanently …

  • • Passcode protection •
  • Dimming branches (‘hide completed tasks’ and ‘show unfocused topics’) •
    Shadows
  • Novamind4 and iMindmap4 import/export support
  • TextExpander support
  • Support for WebDAV or Box.com cloud services
  • Splitting branches into separate maps automatically.
  • ‘Based upon’ options when creating new maps.
  • Version history for maps.
  • Paste Style
  • $date and $time variables

Well, no reason to shed crocodile tears. Well done Craig with one exception, the ‘Paste Style’ feature should be returned.

Some details …

My tagline on Google+ is ‘Doing things accurately’. So my blog posts seem to be long but there are two reasons why this is the case:

1 Reviewing a powerful app cannot be done with writing ‘Awesome …’, ‘Best app of the week …’ etc. it needs some weeks to assess a tool and give the reasons for a final rating.

2 Some developers do an outstanding job and in this case it’s simply funny for a leisure blogger not driven by Click Stats to go into the details.

So I think it’s worth spending the time to look at some tidbits of iThoughts and the sophisticated considerations Craig put in the code.

Using the Inspector

Mind maps can drastically be improved by using adequate connectors, colors, shapes, images, numbering, and size of topics according to its importance. Be aware that the appropriate usage of attributes may attract an audience, force further discussions, and last but not least remain in the peoples photographic memory for a longer time compared to a more simplistic layout. But you shouldn’t go over the top. A informative map in most cases shouldn’t be degraded to artwork.

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These images show the main features of iThoughts for improving layouts and with it, breathing life, attractiveness, and a better understanding into the map. All dialogs are integrated in the Inspector control (top right).

Using Links

Today nearly all kind of information is accessible via the Internet. It’s a giant knowledge base. To provide background information from within a mind map iThoughts allows the assignment of hyperlinks to a node. When opening a link app switching between iThoughts and Safari is not necessary because of iThought’s integrated browser. This is an indispensable feature for mobile devices because of their One-Window technique.

It’s also possible to seamlessly assign links to a topic by just tapping on Research in the context menu and using one of the options (Copy Link, Insert Link, Make Topic) offered in the browser’s task bar.

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Even if you are within Safari iThoughts can be directly accessed by using this bookmarklet

javascript:void(location.href=’ithoughts://link?url=’+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+’&title=’+encodeURIComponent(document.title))

which can be easily integrated in the bookmarks bar of Safari and allows permanent and fast access to iThoughts. See the instruction for installing the bookmarklet here

iThoughts bookmarklet for Safari

Commenting

Some maps are hard to understand because they often reflect a very subjective process of thinking about topics. To make it understandable for others it’s indispensable to add comment to topics.

iThoughts allows two options for commenting on topics.

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As a third way you can use a normal topic and place text into it like I did in the map ‘Anatomy of iThought’.

Note
Commenting or even creating topics can be done with Siri, Apple’s speech driven assistant which can be started by just tapping on the small microphone button to the left of the keyboard’s spacebar. To create a sequence of topics use the word ‘comma‘ which is interpreted as ‘create new topic’.

Adding attachments

Mind Maps visually summarize information but sometimes it’s necessary to refer to documents containing detailed description.

The map in my example is about security features provided by Apple. Basics of the 2-Step Verification for Apple accounts are explained in subtopics. I created a detailed description of the activation process and the usage in a Keynote presentation which contains a lot of screenshots and comments. To make it available in a mind map iThoughts allows to attach whole documents to topics.

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Here are the steps to go explained with a Keynote document…

  • Open Keynote
  • Use ‘Open in Another App
  • Select the presentation you want as the attachment
  • Select the file format (Keynote, PDF, Powerpoint)
  • Select iThoughts in the app’s menu
  • Use Paste to attach the document to a topic

While presenting your map to an audience you are now able to go into the details of 2-Step Verification.

Note
Attached documents are stored in the mind map file in their native format. So the source file travels with the map when sharing it.
The recipient can then work on the mind map as well as on the attached documents and send them back both.

Topics with attached documents are marked with small icons pointing to the source application. Use ‘Tap and Hold’ to open the document within iThoughts or use ‘Open in’ to further work on the attachment.

Further information is available under

iWork and iThoughts

Creating from text

Tap on any topic or select any piece of text within a map and one of the options presented will be an internet Research. Research will take the text and ‘Google it’ – using the built-in browser of iThoughts. Once you are on websites, press and hold on images, text and links on the page and have them turned into topics in the map. This makes it easy to quickly collate information from the web – without requiring a whole load of copy/switch app/paste operations.

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If you mark parts of a text within the built-in browser of iThoughts or any other app you can insert the text a topic, or several topics (if the the text is outlined) or a note. All formatting attributes are automatically stripped off.

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Sometimes it’s useful to collect ideas on the go with simple text editors like ByWord or PlainText. An outlined text then can create topics and subtopics if pasted into a map. To generate subtopics the text line must be indented by at least 4 spaces.

Creating Websites

iThoughts can generate (and email/upload) an associated HTML page. It contains what is known as an Image Map.
This tells the browser to treat different parts of the image as clickable Hotspots. iThoughts will automatically associate a hotspot with each topic – then associate that hotspot with a hyperlink (if the topic has one.)

This makes it simple to publish a static, clickable mindmap webpage.

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As an example – take a look at the following link – generated by iThoughts and uploaded to Dropbox then made publicly visible – essentially using Dropbox as a website hosting provider.

Mind Map Webpage

The process is as follows:

  • Create your map – adding links to topics as appropriate.
  • Select ‘Send Map To Cloud’ and choose the Website.zip export format.
  • Choose a folder to upload the file.
  • Once uploaded, use the Dropbox ‘Copy Public Link’ option (from your desktop) to get the public web address of the uploaded HTML file (you may need to make the folder public/shared.)

That’s it – your map is now published as a clickable web page. If you’re using Dropbox then you can use the built in iThoughts sync to refresh the image/HTML as your map changes.

Image maps on websites act as attractive navigators. People are much more about to retrieve information than with traditional link lists.

Map Recovery

iThoughtsHD automatically saves your work every 60 seconds (or when the app is closed/suspended.) It also creates a ‘snapshot backup’ (copy) of your map each time it is modified then closed. It keeps 10 previous snapshot versions (of each map) on disk – any one of which can be recovered.

In the menu under the ‘gear’ toolbar button is an option called ‘Save Archive’. This will take all your maps and zip them up into a single archive file then send that archive over into another app. Typically you would use this to send the archive into your Dropbox app – or perhaps your Evernote app. Those apps will then take care of uploading the archive into the cloud – and most importantly – off your device.

iThoughts will nag you each week to save an archive in this way.

The archive file is simply a zip file containing a folder structure of .itmz files. To recover a map, unzip it on your desktop, locate the map and send it back into iThoughts.

You can recover all the maps within the archive in a single operation by sending the zip file itself back into iThoughts. The contents of the archive will be restored into a new folder – your existing maps are not overwritten.

In addition to the above, each day (of use) iThoughts will automatically create an archive. By default, it will store the last 5 archives (days.) You can pull these archives over onto your desktop if necessary. This can be useful if you want to recover a deleted map.

Save, Export, Share

File formats of mind mapping tools are unfortunately not standardized. Each developer of mind mapping tools knows this. However none of the many tools pay attention to this fact by implementing adequate options to save a map in all the well-known file formats of other tool, except iThoughts.

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If you want to become a mapper you should register on BIGGERPLATE.com to access more than 50k mind maps and to upload your own maps to this work-wide largest mind mapping platform.

Using iThoughts you should know something about compatibility of the different file formats actually supported by Biggerplate as of June 2014. These are:

Application File format
iMindQ (DropMind) DMMX
ConceptDraw CDMZ
XMind XMIND
Mindjet Manager MMAP
iMindMap IMX
Mind Genius MGMF

When downloading a map from Biggerplate you get the best results within iThoughts if the original map was uploaded in MMAP (Mind Manager) format.

You can find further information about compatibility on Craig’s website

iThoughts FAQ, Compatibility

In addition to the above iThoughts can also import AND export OPML which is a relatively standard format for documenting hierarchical data (although it doesn’t support positioning, colours, shapes etc.)

Note
If you use the PDF or PNG format your map is automatically resized independent of the actual display on your device. Collapsed and expanded topics appear as on the screen. Complex maps need much space so that you have to limit expanded topics to the most important ones. Otherwise details will be too small to perceive. As an alternative iThoughts allows to export single topics and you may use this feature to seamlessly display important parts with a suitable resolution.

An extended keyboard

It’s in the line of Craig’s sophisticated coding to add useful features to Apple’s standard keyboard for writing and formatting text in shaped topics.

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You don’t like onscreen keyboards and prefer a BT keyboard?
Well, here is a table with all supported shortcuts

FAQ, Keyboard Shortcuts

Doodles
How to doodle

A doodle is a simple finger drawing tool within iThoughts. It is ‘vector based’ which means each line can be manipulated individually and continuously. Doodles can be attached to topics and exported as PDF, SVG or PNG files.

Use your finger to draw lines (known as ‘strokes’.) To move the canvas itself you must drag it with 2 fingers. This differs from the rest of the app, where a single finger is used to drag the canvas. If you accidentally draw a line when intending to drag the canvas (as I STILL do) then you can hit UNDO to remove it.

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The numbers in the image above are described as follows:

1 Tap on a ‘stroke’ to select it. When selected it will have a blue ‘glow’ around it. Once selected, any changes to thickness, dashed’ness or colour (#3, #4, #5) will apply to the selected stroke(s.) Tap on a selected stroke to see Cut, Copy, Paste type options (including options to ‘Send to Back’) Drag a selected stroke to move it.

2 Press and hold SHIFT whilst tapping on strokes to select/deselect multiple stokes. SHIFT then drag the canvas will create a ‘selection marquee’ to help select multiple strokes more quickly. SHIFT then drag an already selected stroke(s) will duplicate the stoke(s)

3 Set the stoke thickness. If a stroke is selected then it will apply to that stroke. If no stroke is selected it will become the default for any new strokes.

4 Set the stroke to be ‘dashed’

5 Set the stroke colour.

6 Share the selected strokes or whole doodle (typically in an email attachment.)

7 There is no ‘eraser’ type feature – you can only delete whole strokes by selecting them then tapping on the waste bin icon in the lower corner (or dragging/dropping the stroke onto the bin.)

Text Formatting

A gift from heaven Craig, Rich text support everywhere.

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Visualized information still needs text to understand the content. With the new version of iThoughts visualized accentuations now can also be done within textual information.

Linked Folders (sync)
How To

Your maps can be synced automatically between iPad, iPhone and desktop (Mac or Windows) by using Dropbox and iThoughts Linked Folders.

I’m a wretched failure when it comes to creating videos. So have a look at Craig’s screencast (5 min) which demonstrates the usage of Linked Folders.

There are some caveats to be aware of when syncing:

Syncing only happens if a device is connected to a WiFi network (by default) except you turned on Mobile Data Syncing in the iOS Settings.
By default local changes are synced 30 seconds after the app is closed.
Remote changes are checked for when the app starts (but no more frequently than every 10 minutes).

Improved Context Menus

I’m an old man but I also heard young people complaining about wavering hands causing a perfect disaster when arranging objects on a touch screen. So here is just one example of iThoughts’ improved context menus which let people think you are in full control of your fore limbs.

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There are many more new features implemented in the context menus which increase seamless usage.

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Just explore them.

Settings

Now Settings are accessible directly within the app. Thanks a bunch!
Have a look on the many options you have to customize the app.

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Please don’t ask me for explaining all the options. Just try them out or request for a fixed-price offer if you want me to do it for you.

Some cons …

Nobody is perfect and it’s surprisingly also valid for Craig.

  • Due to iOS 7 the new version is not as responsible as the old version. If you use multitasking it takes some time to wake up the app from suspended mode. I used an iPad 3 running on iOS 7.1.1 and I think it would run much smoother on an iPad Air with its 64-Bit processor.
  • An outlined collection of links still cannot be inserted as topics. The links are there but not activated. They are interpreted as normal text.

You remember the words of Craig “The roadmap for iThoughts is pretty much driven by customer request”. Don’t panic though. Let an email wing its way to the tech guy Craig with a severe reprimand and your suggestions. I’m sure he will take care but you should give him some time. Beside bills to pay and kids to feed there are some more things to be done, e.g. Christmas shopping, ironing, washing-up, and more.

Version history …

iThoughts was completely redesigned. So it’s obvious that there are bugs to be fixed and features to be added.

Feel free to download a regularly updated overview of iThoughts’ version history.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple Pages/Microsoft Word DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ

Some examples …

I created these maps with the predecessor or iThoughts and downloaded them from my Dropbox account into the new version.

Tap an image to zoom in.

Summary …

iThoughts is still the best mind mapping tool for Apple’s mobiles and the actual version is a quite significant step forward into Apple’s new design philosophy.

Related links …

About the new version …

iThoughts migration

About the predecessor …

iThoughts for the iPad

More about features …

iWork and iThoughts

Non-Linear Presentation

About a competitor …

Inspiration

About mind mapping …

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Mind Maps + Concept Maps

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Inspiration

20 03 2014

Mind maps and concept maps are a perfect way to visualize creative processes like brainstorming or summarizing hierarchically or non-hierarchically organized content like feature descriptions of a software product or processes.

In contrast to a mind map a concept map visualizes the whole system with it’s interdependencies and it’s not limited to a strict hierarchy as some points are bound to more than one parent topic.

There is an app named Inspiration (Inspiration Software Inc., USA) for Apple’s iPad which is suitable for creating concept maps whereas the app iThoughts (Craig Scott, UK) is recommended for creating mind maps.

Concept Maps …

Concept Maps visualise and communicate knowledge.

Joseph Donald Novak (born 1932) is an American educator, and Professor Emeritus at the Cornell University, New York, and Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human + Machine Cognition. He is known for his development of concept mapping in the 1970s.

From the outset, Concept Maps were designed to communicate. A student’s Concept Map can be systematically evaluated by their teacher, to assess their grasp of a subject. The scope of their maps and their level of understanding of the relationships between ideas are a reliable indicator of their “knowledge” – what they have learned and integrated, not just learned by rote. It is one thing to know facts, but relating them to each other and understanding their influence on each other takes us from information towards knowledge. Facts alone do not help us to predict behaviour, whereas knowledge represented by models does.
(Nick Duffill)

Summary …

Bringing Nick Duffill’s analysis of the differences between mind maps and concept maps to a very shortened summary:

Mind Maps are captured visualizations of fairly independent objects gearing for extensions and loosing much of their relevance for people who weren’t involved in the creation process.
The tree limb is just connected to the bole.

Concept Maps visualize knowledge of whole systems with interacting elements and logic operations. In contrast to a tree limb objects are connected with basically all other objects like the orbs in the solar system where the gravity and the magnetic and electric fields define the interactions.

If you are interested in a comprehensive description of the differences please read Nick Duffill’s excellent article about mind maps and concept maps (see the link below). He hit that nail square on the head.

The app Inspiration …

The app Inspiration (Inspiration Software Inc., USA) for the iPad (an iPhone version is not available) is intended to create concept maps as well as mind maps for:

  • Brainstorm new ideas and capture insights
  • Analyze information
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • Organize projects
  • Organize thoughts and topics for writing
  • Take notes

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Features ..

  • Simple usage because of a perfect UI
  • Diagrams are easy to build and saved instantly
  • Diagrams transform to outlines by just a single tap
  • Personalization with images, colour, shape, arrow style, and backgrounds
  • Using images from the web or the camera roll
  • Notes can be attached to any item
  • Hyperlinks can be added as floating shapes
  • Templates are available after installation

Filesharing …

Inspiration files can be shared as PDFs or in their native file format

  • with other apps by using the ‘Open in’ command
  • with other iPads via Dropbox or iTunes
    (iCloud is not supported)
  • E-Mail or export diagrams or outlines in vector PDF format

Impressions of the UI …

Work screen …

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Formatting of objects …

Tap on ‘i’ to access the formatting options.
Symbols automatically resize to fit the text that you put in them. You can also manually resize any symbol using the natural pinch interface of the iPad. To resize, touch and hold the symbol with two fingers then drag your fingers outward to make the symbol larger or pinch your fingers together to make the image smaller. The image will grow or shrink proportionally.

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Sometimes you may want to fine-tune the layout of your diagram. Inspiration Maps includes functions to align, evenly space, or nudge the symbols in your diagram. You must have at least two symbols selected to use the align function and at least three symbols selected to use the evenly space function. In order to select more than one symbol at a time, you’ll need to turn on Multiple Selection using the on the top toolbar.

Layout enhancements …

  • To align selected symbols
    Make sure you have at least two symbols selected.
    Then tap ‘i’. Tap the Style tab. Tap Layout Enhancements.
    Choose how you want the selected symbols aligned by tapping the top, center, bottom, left, middle, or right icon.
  • To evenly space selected symbols
    Make sure you have at least three symbols selected.
    Then tap ‘i’. Tap the Style tab. Tap Layout Enhancements.
    Choose to evenly space the symbols vertically or horizontally.
  • To nudge selected symbols
    Sometimes you may find that it’s difficult to be precise with your finger when you’re moving a symbol to a specific spot. Nudge comes in handy because you can have more control over the movement of a symbol or multiple symbols.
    Tap to select the symbol(s) you’d like to nudge. Tap the Style tab. Tap Layout Enhancements. Choose to nudge the symbol(s) left, right, up or down.

Outline interface …

Maps can be edited via the graphical user interface or, in case of hierarchical structures, via the outline interface.

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Shapes …

The update of Inspiration now contains 1000+ different shapes organized in categories.

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The pros and cons …

Pros …

  • Simple UI (user interface), perfect UX (user experience)
  • Maps can be organized in folders
  • Transfer of a map to a self-created folder is done by drag and drop
  • One and just one task bar at the top of the screen
  • Hyperlinks can be added as floating objects
  • Maps can be generated from an outline

Added new features in the update of December 9, 2013:

  • The app got tons of more or less useful shapes which can be accessed via a new control positioned top left and divided into several categories.
    Shapes also include well-known flow chart symbols.
  • Audio files can be added to every object.
  • Multiple selection of objects now can be turned on or off.
  • To refine the layout align, nudge and spacing controls were added.
  • Written or audio instructions can be added to any document.
  • Free templates can be downloaded for mostly scientific purposes in US English, UK English, French and Spanish.

Cons …

  • WebDAV is not supported
    The user is bound to Dropbox except he uses the ‘Open In’ command to transfer the map to a file management app. From their it can be transferred to other cloud storages.
  • Text color of hyperlinks cannot be changed
  • Text color doesn’t automatically change if the object color is changed
    Changing the background color from black to white should automatically change the text color from white to black.
  • Opening of hyperlinks only via dialog
    A nice-to-have feature would be the tap-and-hold gesture.
  • Connection symbols between notes and topics have a standard length
    Notes cannot be assigned to other topics.
  • Saving to Dropbox does not allow to select a folder
    The app uses /apps/inspiration maps as the default folder.
    So it’s recommended to install the free Dropbox client app to manage the files.
  • Multiple saving of the same map always creates new numbered file names
    So on one hand a version history of a useful map is created on the other hand it cannot be managed by the app (e.g. deletion of old versions). If you already shared a link it’s broken when saving an updated version.
  • Opening a map always changes the file date even if the map is not edited

Improvements …

This is an E-Mail I sent to the developer’s support in May 2013 and got this statement:

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The updated version of Inspiration still doesn’t fix the problems with Dropbox but solved the other problems mentioned in my mail.

Summary …

What I see is an app which is slightly improved but still has many cons.
It’s useful for easy tasks but a bit light weight for business purposes.

Notes …

Nick Duffill, Harport Consulting, Scotland

Mind Maps + Concept Maps

Nick is an expert in mapping technology as well writing sophisticated articles about mind mapping and concept mapping.

Inspiration Software Inc., USA

Inspiration for the iPad

developer of the reviewed app Inspiration and intensively taking care of my questions.

Related links …

Basics …

Mind Maps and Concept Maps

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Perfect mind mapping tools …

iThoughts for the iPad

Mindly for the iPhone

Other mind mapping tools …

Popples made by Popplet

BigMind

Three In One

Platform for shared maps …

The group ‘Apple’ on Biggerplate
created by myself in January 2013 on the world’s largest platform for shared mind maps with lots of mind maps regarding Apple and Apple products

Thanks for visiting http://iNotes4You.com.





Two running systems

16 02 2014

There are some similarities between an iOS device and a human being. Here is a simplified explanation of a computer-like device by using some well-known facts about human beings. Which of them is more complicated cannot be assessed. But it’s obvious that humans learn during their whole life whereas the basic skills of a device are fixed when the production process ends. Adding further skills means installing apps but even features of apps are already clearly defined by the developers.

There is a one way connection between the owner and his device because the owner has access to uncountable information saved on internet servers, can improve his skills and personality, and can be creative when using his brain and e.g. a mind mapping tool or an iWork app.

The comparison …

Basics of the two systems are summarized in this mind map.

20131120-144435.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The differences …

Comparing the two systems might be useful for those who are not deeply involved in computer technology. So first of all let’s see where the differences are to avoid misconceptions (Source, modified). Keep in mind that these differences are not valid for supercomputers with hundreds of processors or implemented artificial intelligence. We are just talking about an iOS device with a single processor.

  • 01 Brains are analogue; computers are digital
  • 02 Brains uses content-addressable memory
  • 03 Brains are massively parallel machines; computers are modular and serial
  • 04 Processing speed is not fixed in the brain; there is no system clock
  • 05 Short-term memory is not like RAM
  • 06 Brains cannot be divided in hardware/software
  • 07 Synapses are far more complex than electrical logic gates
  • 08 Processing and memory are performed by the same components in the brain
  • 09 The brain is a self-organizing system
  • 10 Processors only can handle commands predefined by the operating system
  • 11 Brains can learn
    As far as I know there are two areas where even iOS devices improve their capabilities over time. When writing words iOS saves frequently written words in an individual dictionary. Power management adapts to usage over time.
  • Bonus Difference
    The brain is much, much bigger than any [current] computer.
    Accurate biological models of the brain would have to include some 225,000,000,000,000,000 (225 million billion) interactions between cell types, neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, axonal branches and dendritic spines, and that doesn’t include the influences of dendritic geometry, or the approximately 1 trillion glial cells which may or may not be important for neural information processing. Because the brain is nonlinear, and because it is so much larger than all current computers, it seems likely that it functions in a completely different fashion. The brain-computer metaphor obscures this important, though perhaps obvious, difference in raw computational power.

Source

Processor and apps …

The mind map shows that the kernel of an iOS device has to be divided into processor, operating system, and memory.

The Memory

During installation of a new app, the installer code creates a home directory for the app, places the app in that directory ( /AppName .app) and creates several other key directories. These directories constitute the app’s primary view of the file system located in the memory of your device and represents the universe for that app. It contains everything the app can access directly.

20131120-150432.jpg

If you create a document (e.g. with Apple’s Keynote) or receive one via E-Mail you possibly want to further work with it in another app. In Apple’s filesystem this is not possible by default.Interactions of an iOS app are limited mostly to the folders associated with it. This limitation is labeled Sandbox-Mode and was designed to increase the security of the filesystem. Unfortunately it also decreases the usability in many cases.

Note …
One exception to this rule occurs when an app uses public system interfaces to access things such as the user’s contacts or music. In those cases, the system frameworks handle any file-related operations needed to read from or modify the appropriate data stores.

The Operating System

If you tap on a control within an app (or you generally touch the screen), the app (the touchscreen) sends a specific command to the processor which communicates with the operating system to retrieve the necessary further tasks. The processor only can handle commands which have been defined by Apple (implemented in the operating system), the developer of the operating system. Programmers (companies where you het your app from) use these commands to let you interact with their app.

The Processor

A central processing unit (CPU), also referred to as a central processor unit, is the hardware within a computer that carries out the commands of an app by performing the basic

  • arithmetical
    counting the number of mails
  • logical
    setting WiFi on or off
  • input/output
    playing music, or asking Siri via microphone

operations of the system.

The fundamental task of a CPU is to execute a sequence of stored instructions (a program). The instructions are kept in the memory. Usually CPUs work in 4 steps:

  • FETCH
    Fetch involves retrieving an instruction (a sequence of numbers) from the program memory. The location in program memory is determined by a program counter (PC), which stores a number that identifies the current position in the program.
    The instruction that the CPU fetches from memory is used to determine what the CPU has to do.
  • DECODE
    In the decode step, the instruction is broken up into parts that have significance to other portions of the CPU. The way in which the numerical instruction value is interpreted is defined by the CPU’s instruction set architecture (ISA). Often, one group of numbers in the instruction, called the opcode, indicates which operation to perform. The remaining parts of the number usually provide information required for that instruction, such as operands for an addition operation. Such operands may be given as a constant value (called an immediate value), or as a place to locate a value: a register or a memory address, as determined by some addressing mode.
  • EXECUTE
    During execution, various portions of the CPU are connected so they can perform the desired operation. If, for instance, an addition operation was requested, the arithmetic logic unit will be connected to a set of inputs and a set of outputs. The inputs provide the numbers to be added, and the outputs will contain the final sum.
  • WRITEBACK
    The final step, writeback, simply “writes back” the results of the execution to the memory. Some types of instructions manipulate the program counter rather than directly produce result data. These are generally called “jumps” and facilitate behavior like loops, conditional program execution (through the use of a conditional jump), and functions in programs. Many instructions will also change the state of digits in a “flags” register. These flags can be used to influence how a program behaves, since they often indicate the outcome of various operations. For example, one type of “compare” instruction considers two values and sets a number in the flags register according to which one is greater. This flag could then be used by a later jump instruction to determine program flow.

After the execution of the instruction and writeback of the resulting data, the entire process repeats, with the next instruction.
Scientists found out that a brain can also be divided into areas with special functionalities. But don’t ask me how this all works together within a human being and whether parallel execution of tasks is possible or not. Fact is that the processor cannot work on two different tasks as long as their is no companion processor which is designed to offload work from the main processor. The introduction of the M7 Motion processor in Apple’s iPhone 5S in October 2013 allows to aggregate all the data from different sensors of the device and deliver necessary data to the CPU if needed. So the device gets faster because work is partially done by two ‘brains’.

20131120-143425.jpg

The Sensors

In the skin, there are at least five different types of nerve endings:

  • heat sensitive
  • cold sensitive
  • pain sensitive
  • itch sensitive
  • pressure sensitive

All these senses submit reactions controlled by the brain, the many experiences stored there, and patterns which initiate reactions.

Your iOS device also needs the help of many sensors to work properly. For example, if you turn your device from portrait to landscape mode the operating system will also turn the screen of an app (if the developer implemented this feature). In contrast to human sensors, the device’s sensors always initiate the same actions if the input data are the same whereas a human being is able to react in different ways up to the actual needs, e.g. hearing a voice (the sound waves) but not processing the content.

Summary …

There are similarities but only in a figurative meaning. Human beings learn many additional skills and can change their reactions even if causes remain the same. An iOS device gets its skill when manufacturing is finished and can only expand them with the installation of an update of the operating system. Advantage human being. So keep control over yourself and do not delegate essential task to your device. Just use it for what it is intended for, show you the way with the app Maps, connect you to the giant sources of knowledge, and help you being creative by using a mind mapping tool.

Related links …

Science Blog

Every App is an i(s)Land

Sensitiveness

Thanks for stopping by.





instaGrok

25 01 2014

instaGrok by instaGrok Inc., USA, is an educational web-based research engine that lets students or anyone else research any topic in an engaging, visual way. instaGrok finds information on the topic and presents it as an interactive mind map (“grok”), showing key facts, concepts and relationships, videos, images and more. Users can pin their favorite materials to their grok and take notes in the built-in journals.

Prior to the launch of the iPad app instaGrok was accessible via any browser. The iPad app is a free version released on Jan 09, 2014 (version 1.0.1).

The concept …

The company tries to retrieve comprehensive information about a topic in a visualized layout with the main topic as the center of a mind map.

20140124-054155.jpg

The developer about his concept:

  • Visual interface
    instaGrok presents each topic as an interactive visual interface, allowing the user to quickly grasp important concepts, key facts and relationships.

20140124-062814.jpg

  • Features
    • Key Facts show important facts about the topic (with links to the original content page)
    • Difficulty Slider adjusts the difficulty of the material
    • Quizzes offer fun challenges that reinforce learning and encourage exploration
    • Glossary defines important terms
  • Journals, Pinning, History
    • Integrated journals allow easy note-taking or writing of research reports
    • Pin buttons allow pinning of favorite facts, websites or images to your grok
    • Search history is automatically saved, allowing you to come back to your research activity
  • Classroom version
    In the school setting, an integrated teacher dashboard allows teachers to monitor the progess of each student, view their research activity, and view/comment on students’ journals.

How it works …

Enter a search term in ‘What would you like to know about?’ and tap on GROK.
A visualized summary of retrieved topics appears.
Tap on a topic to see

  • Key Facts
  • Websites
    instaGrok provides an integrated browser. So following a source doesn’t require to move over to Safari.
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Concepts
  • Add Note
    Notes can be added to each topic.

instGrok provides a text editor with lots of formatting features to summarize information about the topic.

20140124-055929.jpg

Here is a video about the usage on a desktop computer

Sad to see that many of the essential features don’t work when using the iPad app.

The cons …

The following features are not available:

  • Items in the ‘History’ cannot be deleted.
  • There is no way to add a pin to the journal.

The UI looks perfect but …

  • The iPad’s status bar is overlapped by the app’s screen.
  • The tab ‘Grok’ disappears in some cases.
  • Changing the view often logs the user out.
  • The UI is quite jumpy when rearranging topics although my cable internet connection is a 40 MBit/sec connection.
  • Apple’s autocorrect feature doesn’t work when writing the journal. It’s quite frustrating to manually correct all those minor typos.
  • Many of the formatting options using drop-down menus are not really useful because the controls are too small for targeted usage on a touch screen.

Summary …

A perfect idea unfortunately with a jumpy UI (iPad 3, iOS 7) and not working features.
It seems to me that the iPad version just retrieves the website where many features are also not available, neither with Safari nor with Google Chrome.

Again an app is hastily stitched together and released without a critical internal control.
Three years after the release of the first iPad and the availability of lots of powerful apps fully adapted to the iPad’s touch screen the developer should do it bit more to satisfy customers.

In total I don’t see teal benefits compared to a powerful mind mapping tool like iThoughts for the iPad with which you can also do it all and do it better because of a perfect adaption to touch screens.

Related links …

How to use instaGrok (YouTube, 6:21)

Reviews of mind mapping tools …

iThoughts for the iPad

Pearltrees

Inspiration

Three In One (about MagicalPad)

BigMind

About mind mapping …

Mind Maps vs Concept Maps

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Final Argument

30 10 2013

Reviewing apps can be a funny or a really troublesome work. This depends on how conscientious you do your work. Downloading the app from the App Store, playing with it for 20 minutes using provided templates is not enough for a serious rating. But this procedure is often done when we read ratings like ‘Awesome app’, ‘Best app of the year’, or ‘Swiss army knife’. The egg-laying wool-milk-sow is still not born, sorry, not developed.

Enthusiasm is still forced by these small and powerful devices we call smartphones and tablets. The first tablet was launched by Apple in 2010 and technical improvements are done with nearly the speed of light. In the twinkling of an eye we can do things which in former times required

  • Going to the work desk
  • Launching the operating system
  • Staring at the flickering screen, lost in daydreams, and disregarding the everlasting war of drivers
  • Waiting until all the update messages are gone and let you get a sneak peek at the desktop icons
  • Starting the application

With tablets this painful procedure is reduced to ‘Starting the application’.

So people, including me, are still impressed if it comes to controlling a device just with some fingers and using it anywhere and anytime. It’s the hidden child in nearly all of us that takes away the dispassion and forces enthusiasm.

With this in mind let’s take a look on the app Final Argument by Morris Cooke, UK.

General information …

Final Argument is in the line of applications allowing non-linear presentations. In contrast to Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft’s Powerpoint presentation tools slides can be arranged in a non-linear (in contrast to top-to-bottom) layout. .

With this kind of presentation, it is possible to jump to any out-of-order slides. Non linear presentations are excellent where audience participation is expected and encouraged. For instance a manager summarizing the latest progress of a project with his team, team members may interject to explain something, as a result the manager jumps to a different slide.

The features …

What’s the idea of Final Argument?

The app allows to present existing PDF/Keynote/PPT slides, use an interactive whiteboard, and record a presentation as a video.

The main idea is, in contrast to Keynote and Powerpoint, the ability to present in a non-linear way. During a presentation the way going through slides is based on a mind map.

Features …

  • External screen support
    The audience only sees the content the presenter wishes to display. If you receive an unexpected question from the audience, it’s easy to immediately create a new slide or add something to an existing one.
  • Non-linear presentation layout
    Slides can be arranged in a mind-map like style.
  • Close integration with Explain Everything
    You can import your .XPL projects and show them in a non-linear way. Presentation recordings are saved as XPL files, that can be later edited in Explain Everything.
  • Drawing
    Draw in any color, add shapes, use Bates stamps, text boxes, and use a laser pointer.
  • Editing objects
    Rotate, move, scale, copy, paste, duplicate, and lock any object added to the canvas.
  • Powerful clipboard
    Move objects to and from a clipboard invisible to the audience.
  • Import
    Import photos and videos from the Photo Library.
    Import PDF, PPT, DOC, XLS, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, and RTF files from a number of cloud sources, such as Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, or WebDAV repositories.
  • Share
    Share presentations using Evernote, Dropbox, GDrive, WebDAV, Email, iTunes, and any app that allows you to open PDF or MP4 files using “Open In…”.
  • Record
    Record your presentation to use it later as the meeting minutes.
  • Export
    Export the recorded session as an MP4 movie, PDF document or XPL project (Explain Everything) directly from your iPad.
  • Upload
    Upload your session directly to YouTube.

To go through the main features I created a small presentation about the app Google+ for iOS devices with which you can seamlessly engage in this network.

The screen …

To create a presentation for this blog post I first tried to use the integrated features of Final Argument, stopped doing so after about 10 minutes, and moved over to my preferred app for mobiles, Apple’s Keynote presentation tool.
Why? Well, Final Argument is not intended for creating slides. Admittedly it’s useful when creating a slide during a presentation just for keeping ideas from the audience on file.

Morris Cooke’s blog
„Our aim was not to compete with Keynote or PowerPoint – they do their job well for staged presentations, but show their limits when presenting at workshops when the presenter doesn’t have a script to follow. With Final Argument, you can better react to ad-hoc question.”

See these screenshots to get an impression of the UI (user interface).

The screen partitioning …

20130828-090216.jpg

20130828-090529.jpg

Selection of single pages of a Keynote presentation …

20130828-090619.jpg

Working with an external display …

Final Argument is designed to give you full control over what is seen by the au- dience on an external monitor.After turning the external screen on (by connect- ing a VGA cable to your iPad or switching on Airplay using your Apple TV), four additional buttons will be displayed on the presentation screen. These buttons let you control what will be displayed on the external screen. There are four different modes …

  • HOLD
    The audience will see the ‘Intermission’ screen. You can use it during breaks, before the presentation or whenever you need to hide the presentation contents.
  • MIRROR
    The audience will see exactly what you see on your iPad. This mode is rarely used during presentations, as it displays the whole presenter’s screen, together with tools you’re using and the slide map.
  • SHOW
    The audience will see only the currently selected slide. The map, clipboard and sources will never be revealed when you access their contents on your iPad.
  • MAP
    The audience will see the the map on the full screen. Use this mode to display the slide structure to the audience – as a visual agenda of your presentation.

Play a session recording using an external display …

If you’re on the project screen (the front screen of the app, where all the projects are shown), the external display will always be in the “Hold” mode. The external monitor will reactivate when an existing recording is being played.

See my article

Presenting with iPad (1)

for an appropriate hardware configuration to present the iPad’s screen to an audience.

The pros and cons …

That’s what I found out within 2 hours.

The pros …

  • 01 Final Argument lets you decide which information is shown to the audience
  • 02 Suitable UI and easy to use functionalities
  • 03 Access to different pre-defined well-known cloud storages
  • 04 Availability of WebDAV access for accessing not predefined storages
  • 05 Powerful editing features of imported slides within a Final Argument slide
    (Copy, Duplicate, Bring to Front, Bring Forward, Send Backward, Send to Back, Set as Background, Rotate, Move to any position)
  • 06 Selection of single slides of a presentation for further use in Final Argument
  • 07 A powerful clipboard to transfer slides or parts of a slide to other slides by just marking a snippet (function is named as callout tool) within a slide and drag it into the clipboard area.
  • 08 Comprehensive help system accessible from within the app.
  • 09 Only a few controls neede for working on a presentation
  • 10 Sessions can be recorded and exported as a video and uploaded to YouTube
  • 11 Perfect videos about the usage of Final Argument accessible from within the app

    Morris Cooke, Final Argument

The cons …

  • 01 An integrated browser is not available.
  • 02 Features for creating slides are poor, tricky to use and far away from guidelines for intuitive usage.
    There should be a thin border around objects if they are selected.
    Vertical and horizontal lines for adjusting objects are not available.
    Rotation of objects is not supported by showing the angle like in Apple’s Keynote.
    For more complex slides you have to move over to a dedicated app like Keynote. Admittedly the offered features are suitable for creating ad-hoc slides during a presentation e.g. for note taking.
  • 03 Hyperlinks used in slides don’t work.
  • 04 Projects cannot be organized in folders.
  • 05 There is no Redo button and in some cases the Undo button doesn’t work, e.g. After setting a border around a text box.
  • 06 If the on-screen keyboard is visible while working in a text box the options menu for text boxes is not fully visible because it’s displayed behind the keyboard. There is no automatic positioning of an object so that it’s in yhe visible part of the screen.
  • 20130828-090818.jpg

  • 07 The indispensable ‘Open in’ doesn’t work when using a helper app.
  • 20130828-091208.jpg

  • 08 Projects are not automatically backed up. If you made a mistake you cannot go back to a former version.

See this mind map which visualizes the features of the app.

20130828-091912.jpg

Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

A simple alternative …

See my article

Non-Linear Presentation

in which I describe a simple solution using iThoughts HD mind mapping tool for presenting to the audience.

Summary …

Final Argument is a high-rated app for the iPad getting much positive response in publications. But there are still no ratings in the (German) AppStore.

Anyway it’s a suitable tool for composing (not creating) non-linear presentations, if not the best. To make it clear, contents must be be created with other apps and Final Argument can then be used for overtaking these slides and put it into a mind map-like order.

The developer should implement a browser which is indispensable for ad-hoc researches within an interacting audience and useful during the process of creating a presentation.

Related links …

Morris Cooke

Non-Linear Presentation

Presenting with iPad (1)

Comments are appreciated.
I’m pleased to see you here on iNotes4You.








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