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Tinderbox Users >> Off The Wall: Feature Ideas >> Freemind-like OutlineMap view

Message started by Will Duquette on Mar 24th, 2016, 10:44am

Title: Freemind-like OutlineMap view
Post by Will Duquette on Mar 24th, 2016, 10:44am

I used to use Freemind for knowledge management, brainstorming, and note-taking; now I mostly use Tinderbox, and I'm loving it.  But there's one thing that Freemind does that Tinderbox doesn't, that I think it could easily do.  (Or, at least, most of the necessary infrastructure seems to be already in place.)

At base, Freemind is a graphical outlining tool.  Unlike Tinderbox's Outline view, the notes are displayed in a two-dimensional tree; which practically means you can get a lot more of the outline on the screen at once.  I've found this to be extremely useful for capturing ideas, decisions, and active items in meetings: I put Freemind up on a screen, and start making an outline.  Everyone can see it, and because it's on a shared screen the information density you get from the two-dimensional view is a big win.

Tinderbox doesn't have anything quite like this.  The Outline view puts each note on its own line, so that outlines are tall and skinny and don't use the whole screen.  The Map view is graphical, but practically speaking only shows you the children of one note at a time.

So what about an OutlineMap, which displays a note and its descendants in a Freemind-like form?  The notes are automatically laid out with link lines indicating the hierarchy; and normal links can be shown as well.  Notes can be "opened" to show their descendants, or closed to hide them.

This seems like it would be a straightforward addition; the only data attribute you'd need to add would be whether a note was "opened" or "closed".  And then it's just another view.

Title: Re: Freemind-like OutlineMap view
Post by Mark Anderson on Mar 24th, 2016, 11:47am

This wouldn't be straightforward as Tinderbox Maps use siblings within a single container, whereas you're proposing flattening an outline into a map. Instead I think it needs a new map-like view but one that uses the selected outline branch (or the whole doc if no items is selected).

I presume that when working in this new view, the outline depth is derived by the number of links the new item is away from the root object of the view. As the links are the outline hierarchy they aren't TB links so can't be used as such so there might need to be new modes of moving items within the map (where that implies a hierarchical change). Aliases too, might throw up some edge cases. And so on...

I don't disagree with the idea, but just with the notion that it is as simple to implement as it seems in the minds eye.  :)

Also, have you tried chart view?

Title: Re: Freemind-like OutlineMap view
Post by Will Duquette on Mar 24th, 2016, 12:30pm

@ Mark Anderson, yes, exactly, "a new map-like view that displays the selected outline branch (or the whole doc if no items are selected)."  That's it in a nutshell.

For this purpose, it doesn't need to be nearly as flexible as the existing Map view; I want to move notes around in the outline (the parent/child links that already exist) and let Tinderbox decide where to position the notes spatially. Tinderbox would draw each note according to its prototype, but containers would be drawn as simple notes, because their children would be displayed also.

In short, it would be a view that's all about the parent/child relationships, not about freeform layout.

I've just gone and looked at the Chart view.  It's something like, but I see three differences between it and Freemind's default presentation.

First, it lays notes out in columns: the toplevel item is in the first column, the children are in the second column, the grandchildren are in the third column.  Each column is as wide as the widest item, which can leave a lot of empty space.  Freemind does the horizontal layout separately for each sub-branch, which makes it more compact.  If this subbranch has a lot of short items, you can get more outline levels in the same space horizontally.

Second, Chart view positions a note's first child on the same row as its parent; FreeMind centers the children vertically, so that the parent is vertically on the same row as the middle child or children.  That gives it the feeling that the outline is growing to the right, rather than simply down.

Third, it appears to pack more densely, which is a good thing.

To some extent this is an aesthetic thing, I suppose; and Chart view does scratch a good bit of the itch.  Thanks for pointing it out!

Title: Re: Freemind-like OutlineMap view
Post by Mark Bernstein on Mar 25th, 2016, 5:11am

And if you're interested in information density, you can't beat Treemap View.

We've experimented before with a radial outline view, and may return to the topic.  One motivation is that it's possible to  display links, at least in some cases, or to derive the outline from links rather than the document's primary hierarchy.  It's a major design project, with considerable engineering challenges.

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