iThoughts for the iPad

22 10 2013

Please note

A new version of iThoughts was launched on May 2, 2014. See the follow-up review here

iThoughts for iOS 7

The article below is about the old version which is no longer available in Apple’s App Store.

About iThoughts …

Craig Scott started developing his mind mapping tool already before the iPad was launched 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 important facts and ideas. In so far there is indeed a virtual connection between Steve and Craig. Priorities for both were/are:

Focus (not diversity)

Say NO (to needless features)

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.

For example there is one and only one taskbar which is divided into two parts. 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.

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 and is the ultimate way to success.

The app …

In many articles about mind mapping I always talked about iThoughts as the most powerful tool for the iPad. So it’s time to again review this app after all the useful updates it got over time.

This mind map, created with iThoughts, shows all features of the app.
I reworked this map in August 2013 after using this stability wonder for about 10 months.

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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 mind map is worth a thousand words so I just want to describe some special and powerful features which let users create impressive maps and support sharing them in lots of different formats up to nearly all needs.

Using links …

Today nearly all kinds of information is accessible via 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 browsers taskbar.

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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 topics …

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 necessary to comment topics.

iThoughts allows three ways of commenting.

Do you recognize the sophisticated coding and design of this app?
It often reminds me of basic values of Apple’s hard- and software, intuitive usage, limitation to useful features, and a UI without gimmicks.

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 spacebar on the keyboard. To create a sequence of topics use the word ‘comma’ which is interpreted as ‘create new topic’.

Using Siri in iThoughts

Adding attachments …

Craig allows to connect an Apple iWork document to mind map topics to breathe life into your mind map by assigning additional detailed information to that topic which cannot be provided by simple comments.

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Note
Attached documents are stored in the mind map file in their native format.
So you can delete the source file located in the documents folder of Keynote.
You can also share the mind map including the iWork document. The recipient can then work on the mind map as well as on the attached iWork documents and send them back both, the map and the attached documents.

The marked topic contains the Keynote document icon as well as the note icon of iThoughts (right lower corner of the topic) which shows that additional information is available. Using ‘Tap and Hold’ the Keynote document can be opened to display the contents or to move over to Apple’s Keynote app to further work on it.

Further information is available under

iWork and iThoughts

Using doodles …

With all our technical equipment some people unlearn using their fingers for painting and writing even if they use touchscreens every day, except me. See this my van Gogh-like doodle created with iThoughts and connected to the topic ‘Home Configuration’.

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  • Doodles are Vector Based which means that individual elements of the diagram can be selected, copied, pasted, moved and generally tweaked after the event.
  • Doodles can be exported in SVG format – meaning that they can be opened and edited by apps such as Visio, Inkscape and Illustrator.
  • Doodles can be copied to the clipboard as PNG images and pasted into other apps or emails. By selecting the relevant strokes of a doodle even parts of it can be copied to the clipboard as PNG.

See the video on Craig’s website for detailed information.

Creating Doodles

Creating from text …

If you mark part of text within the integrated browser or any other app you may insert the text as a note, a topic, or several topics (if the the text is outlined). All formatting attributes are automatically stripped off. Topics with sub-topics are created if sub-items are separated with commas.

Creating websites …

iThoughts can generate a static PNG (image) export for each map. The PNG can be emailed as an attachment or uploaded to one of the ‘cloud storage’ services (Box, Dropbox, or any other cloud accessible via WebDAV like iDriveSync).

iThoughts can also generate (and email/upload) an associated HTML page.
The HTML page 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 PNG+HTML export format.
  • Choose a folder to upload the PNG and HTML file into.
  • 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 you 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.

To recover a previous version, you must create a new map and select the ‘Based Upon’ option and choose the map and version which you want to recover.

Using settings …

Mind maps can drastically improved by using adequate connectors, colors, shapes, images, numbering, and size of topics. Be aware that using an appropriate usage of all the offered attributes attracts an audience, forces further discussions about topics, and last but not least remain in the peoples photographic memory for a longer time compared to a more simple layout.

20130807-132017.jpg

See this gallery containing the main features of iThoughts for improving layouts

summarized

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and in details

Save, Export, Share …

File formats of mind mapping tools are unfortunately not standardized. Every 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. These are:

Application File format
Mindjet Manager MMAP
XMind XMIND
iMindMap IMX
Mind Genius MGMF
ConceptDraw CDMZ

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

Note
By the way, a direct access to Biggerplate is a built-in feature of iThoughts. Just tap on the action’s control, use Copy from Cloud, and select Biggerplate.

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

iThoughts FAQ, Compatibility

and some more detailed information under

iThoughts FAQ, Compatibility Details

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 text in shaped topics.

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An ad-hoc application …

This is what makes mind mapping and the usage of mobile devices so fascinating.

In the morning of August 10 I read Liam Hughes article about the Biggerplate Unplugged Conference in Utrecht (Netherlands on October 9, 2013) on my iPhone in a coffee shop.

Note
Biggerplate is the leading free mind map library founded by Liam Hughes, UK. Liam regularly organizes meetings with the leading heads of the scene.

I took screenshots of some essential parts of Liam’s article

Utrecht Speakers

with my iPhone.

Coming home all the screenshots already arrived on my iPad (thanks to Apple offering photo stream syncing via iCloud). I cropped the screenshots (built-in function of iOS), opened my mind mapping tool iThoughts HD, and attached these photos to a new mind map, set some colors, and moved the topics to an appropriate position by using the gesture ‘Tap and Hold’.

Additionally I used the app Prizmo (it’s not the mobile version of Prism!) with which text can be extracted from images by text recognition algorithms (see photo). I added the extracted text of Liam’s announcement to the comment field (top of the screen) of iThoughts to show an alternate way of attaching textual information to a topic which just contains a photo. A nice feature of iThoughts is that if a topic contains an image it can be displayed in full-screen mode by just tap and hold on a topic (see photo of Hans Buskes).

See

Text Recognition

for detailed information about text recognition.

Summary …

Now you may understand my introduction where I compared Steve Jobs with Craig Scott.
Reviewing all the sophisticated features of iThoughts described here (and there are many more) support the perception of a powerful app in the line of many basic principles also followed by Steve.

Related links …

iThoughts FAQ

iThoughtsX for Mac
available since 2013-08-20

iWork and iThoughts

Remarks to Mind Mapping

Happy mapping
and a big Thank You for visiting iNotes4You.


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4 responses

22 10 2013
Hatter le Madd

Have you tried to use iThoughts with any of the bluetooth keyboards? Just yesterday I paired my Logitech keyboard with my mini to try to work on a mindmap using iThoughts, but found that neither the tab nor enter keys worked to create a new note. I am used to the paradigm of having Tab create a sub-/child-note and enter creating a note at the same level.

I really disliked having to go from keyboard to screen for each note.

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22 10 2013
iNotes4You

I just tried it out with an Apple BT keyboard on an iPad 3 without any problems neither in notes nor in topics or options like ‘Link’. So I’m a bit confused about your problem.

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23 10 2013
Hatter le Madd

Okay, perhaps that keyboard works better than mine. Basically, I’ve not found a way to open a new note field (either a child or sibling) without having to tap on the screen.

In most PC-based mindmap apps I am used to either hitting Enter to get a new blank sibling note field, or Insert to get a new child note field. In iThoughts I constantly find myself typing, then having to tap on the screen to open a new note.

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23 10 2013
iNotes4You

You can directly contact Craig Scott
support@ithoughts.co.uk
He is very kind and will take care.

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