Exporting mind maps to text

Hi guys,

This is really a pre-sales enquiry, to suss out whether Scrivener is what I want. I’m hoping this is a fair place to ask my questions, in the hope that at least some of you writing dudes can help me with some ‘middle picture’ stuff about the writing craft.

I’m not realistically likely to write books at this stage, but I might well in the future. For now its regular blog articles, speaking notes (which I export to ePub when finished) and the occasional academic essay. What I’ve been using to date is a simple combination of MindNode Pro for planning, structuring, and drafting, and then Pages for finalising, formatting and publishing. (Plus EndNote for citations etc, in the case of essays.)

I’ve tried a few outlining apps, for the planning & drafting stages, but I always end up back at MindNode. I think that means the visual style of mind mapping simply works for me in a way outlining doesn’t. Too linear, maybe - even though I am actually quite a linear thinker. From looking at a few videos I suspect even Scrivener’s corkboard would be still too linear for me, especially in the early stages. I really work best with the mindmapping drafting style, I think.

But I’m increasingly frustrated with a workflow issue. I just can’t find a way to efficiently get from the mindmap to a text document with a ‘standard’ publishing layout, by which I mean everything left-justified, basic headings and one layer of sub-headings, no dot points or indentations (except for speaking notes). I can export from MindNode Pro in RTF or plain text, but I then have a laborious process to manually add lines between paragraphs, delete multi-tabbed first-line indentations, format headings, etc.

I guess my question is twofold. First, would Scrivener be worth considering for me? Second - with or without Scrivener - can anyone suggest a workflow approach that would take out all, or at least most, of the manual reformatting as just described? I surely can’t be the only writer who does better with mindmaps than outlines, but yet an answer to my workflow issue is proving remarkably elusive.

Thanks hopefully ….

Well, on Scrivener, why don’t you just try it … you get thirty days of trial before you have to buy or forget, and that 30 days means 30 days on which you actually open Scrivener to use it to see if it suits, not thirty calendar days so that you open it, then have to lay it aside because work/life gets in the way … and you come back to it a month later to find your trial period has run out. With Scrivener’s trial, you could open the app to try it on, say, the third Thursday in every month for the next 30 months if you thought that would suit your style. And remember, Scrivener for Mac does have a free-form corkboard and it’s coming on Windows if it’s not there already.

Then on the mind-map side, if MindNode Pro exports to OPML, you could go that route and import the OPML file directly into Scrivener. Alternatively, $15 or something gets you Scapple, also a brainchild of Keith, which integrates with Scrivener. I sounds your sort of app too … Mind-mapping without the central concept and hierarchy, just plonk your notes down on the infinite sheet, move them around, link them, unlink them, relink them to your heart’s content.

Don’t think about these things theoretically … give them a go.

Mr X

NB I am not in anyway related to Literature and Latte, Keith, Ioa, Jennifer, Katherine, “Cosmic Jive”, Lee, Tiho, David, Julia, Tammy, Scrivener, Scapple on anyone else connected with any of them — not even unto the n-th degree to the best of my knowlege.

I’ll second the give-it-a-try advice.

Given your workflow…

…Scrivener could work very well. However, I would only use MindNode Pro for the planning stage and leave the structuring and drafting for Scrivener before exporting to Pages for page layout. Personally, I would never draft actual text in a mind map app (and I have used many over the years) for many reasons, including the main one you note. They are great for viewing structure and relationships between key concepts, but not so good for writing complex, formatted, paragraphs to support those concepts (i.e. drafting). Drafting, however, is Scrivener’s main purpose and for that it is brilliant. You may even find that the binder, cork boards and outliner in Scrivener negate the need for MindNode in the planning stage.

Finally, as with Mr X, I have no relations with, in or to Literature & Latte. My maternal great-great-grandfather came from the Isle of Wight, but I am reasonably confident* that has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. :smiley:

[size=85]*Especially since, as far as I know, Literature & Latte have no relationship with the Isle of Wight.[/size]

Thanks to you both for the lucid thoughts and tips (and I’ll take your word for your lack of any conflict of interest). Quite helpful.

Yes, I guess I’ll give the app a whirl …

The first thing I would try in your case is this: Export a mindmap to RTF and open in MS Word. Switch Word to Outline Mode and see if the structure of your mindmap has been preserved as outline structure.

If it has, you have this working for you: When in Normal Mode in Word, the outline structure does not show. But each different outline level has been assigned by Word to a paragraph style depending on its outline level. All you need to do is change the formatting of these paragraph styles to suit you.

Look at Word > Format > Styles and trawl through the list of defined styles to find Heading 1, Heading 2, … Heading 9. These 9 styles control what outline level paragraphs look like when Word is in Normal mode. You can define these styles any way you want. You can make some of them have paragraph indentation and others not, or whatever.

This idea will be most useful, if you have a more or less constant form you would wish to see your map text in.


P.S. I use mindmaps for many things and am constantly repurposing the content and hence needing ways to get the info into other useful forms. I have a number of different ways to do this – depending on the task at hand. I rely on Word Macros and Applescript Scripts for many of these conversions.

Wow Greg! That sounds most interesting. You’re a mine of info on such things, by the sounds. I don’t use Word much but do have it installed as a fallback. I’ll see what tinkering produces for me. If I need more help, is it better to PM you or just post back on here? Thanks.

If you keep it on the thread, others may be able to help further as well – and others who arrive here later may benefit from the exchange. You never know when something useful might happen!


If you want to get your structure and text into Scrivener, then a process that works for me is:

  1. Export your mind map into OPML format.
  2. Start Scrivener.
  3. Select File > Import and pick your OPML file.
  4. Scrivener imports the data into the Binder, with nodes and sub-nodes becoming folders and subfolders and node notes (text) becoming text in documents and folders.

I get the OPML from iThoughtsHD on my iPad, via dropbox, so it should be quicker and easier if the mind map software is on your mac.

OK, well here’s the first hands-on support question …

I’ve tried importing an OPML exported from MindNode. I get the expected file hierarchy in the binder; but …

  • they’re all files (no folders)
  • the text is in the synopses, not the editor

How can I remedy this? Thanks.

  1. Select all the documents in the binder which have synopsis text you want to move to the body of the document. Then choose:

Documents > Send Synopses to Main Text

  1. Yes, the import yields nested documents, not folders. I suggest that you not worry that they are documents rather than folders. There are few differences between these two kinds of Binder object in Scrivener – it is mostly psychological. Both can have textual content, both can act as containers.

However, you can, if you want, use Convert to Folder. It is in the Documents menu. Or, just control-click on a doc or selected group of docs and in the pop-up menu pick Convert to Folder. So, command-click to select each of the docs (probably a disparate group) that you want to think of mostly as containers and control-click to perform this function on them, leaving aside the docs that you will mostly want to think of as documents. Make sense?


You can control how the import treats the notes in the OPML file in Scrivener’s preferences. On the Import/Export tab there’s a OPML section: use the Import notes into: dropdown to specify whether the notes are brought into the document synopsis, the document main text or the document notes.

Thanks, Greg. Yes that did make sense … but … I can’t do it because the “Send Synopses to Main Text” menu option is greyed out in the menu. Is that a bug? Or …?

MrGruff - I already have ‘Prefs > Import/Export > OPML > Import notes into Main text (with synopsis)’ selected. That hasn’t changed what happens on import.

Not a good start so far … :confused:


Re your earlier suggestion about using Word styles … I’ve just investigated that (and in Pages too) … And … um … how do I say this? … um … I’ve been using computers since 1992, and I’ve never actually investigated what the styles feature of word processing was :blush: I now begin to see how useful it is, so I guess I’ll be investigating it further

Meanwhile, may as well keep finding out what I can about Scrivener. So please keep those OPML import questions going …

My suspicion is that the Binder did no have the focus, not when you checked this. More than likely, the Editor pane had the focus instead.

Since the Scrivener window presents to you a whole project, any one of several different areas might be the one that has focus. For example, if the Editor pane has the focus, then there is an active insertion point in your text and hitting the Return key makes a newline. But if the Binder has the focus, then hitting the Return key creates a new blank document in the Binder.

So, make sure that the Binder has the focus, then check that menu item again. (Explicitly clicking on a doc in the Binder will make sure it has the focus.)


P.S. Notice that as you click in the Binder and then click into the Editor, etc., the apparently selected document in the Binder will change its selection color from the Selected & HasFocus color to the Selected & DoesntHaveFocus. Also, if the Editor pane’s Format Bar is showing it will grey out when the Binder has focus, and get active when the Editor has focus. So, those are a couple quick ways to see who has focus. (Of course there are many other things that can have focus in Scrivener, e.g. the Notes field in the Inspector, etc.)

Hi Greg,

Thanks. But I’m pretty confident the focus is on the Binder, especially since I’ve very purposely selected the relevant files by clicking on them in the Binder. Here’s a screen cap of what I have:

Judging by the icons those binders have, my next guess is that those documents do not have anything in their synopses.

In my Binder, when a document has only a title, it has a “blank sheet” icon like those. When it has a title plus some text in its synopsis (index card), the Binder icon for the doc changes to a little index card icon. If the document has body text, its icon looks like a sheet with text on it.

Perhaps pick one of those docs, then open the Inspector and look at the index card to verify there is actually something in the synopsis. If the synopsis is empty, of course, that would explain why the menu item is unavailable.

No, I’m afraid that isn’t the solution either. Whatever the icon appearance, these files certainly do have text in their synopses, and the Inspector confirms that.

Well, then I am stumped. Seems you need a better diagnostician in here or a member of the Scrivener team to help out.


P.s. Though just to leave no stone unturned: in the Inspector in the synopsis area on the index card, the text on the first row (above the red line) is title text. Only text below (below the red line) is synopsis text.

Strange, I have to concur that those documents do not appear to have synopsis text. There are a few glitches that could cause icons to come up like blank documents as shown in the screenshot, but they should reset once you click on the item in the Binder. This can happen if the search index gets out of whack with reality (usually indicative of synchronisation gone mad). Just to be clear, we are talking about the index card looking slot at the very top of the Inspector, not the larger notepad text field?