FREE-FORM CORKBOARD vs Scapple (godzilla vs mothra)


was waiting patiently for the windows release of scapple and “limping” along using xmind with scrivener. settled on xmind since it has a great user interface and free-node capability.

now that scapple is out and i have experience it i find that… i’m sticking with xmind - mostly because i can dump (via .mm file) the entire heirarchy of my scrivener outline and drill down as needed to lower levels and to text. cant do that when i dump to scapple. [scapple is just great for simplicity!]

but one huge xmind limitation: what i cant do is move the rehashed scrivener outline from xmind back to scrivener.

i am starting to realize that what i really need is a FULLY FUNCTIONAL FREE-FORM CORKBOARD. i am assuming i will then be able to reduce the “index card” to just display the titles and move them around at will, expand as needed, refer to text… AND all this done under the scrivener umbrella.

so now i am waiting patiently for the fully functional free-form corkboard. soon?

thanks for the great work!



Here’s a way I found to bring Xmind mindmaps into Scrivener. It’s a bit convoluted but it does work.

I’m using the free Xmind version 3.3.0 and I have a very complicated mindmap from when I was brainstorming a new project idea. The mind map has lots of nodes and subnodes and sub-subnodes; lots of notes and appended text including full emails and Word docs. The finished Scrivener import amounts to 182 separate pieces, some with just a title, some with just a short note to myself, and some with full text; many of them subnodes and sub-subnodes of main sections, just as I set them up in Xmind.

To do this I used, as I said, Xmind v 3.3.0, and also Freemind version 1.00 beta 7. You’ll need to install Freemind, it’s an essential part of the process. You can download it here:

– First of all you need to export your Xmind map from Xmind to Freemind (file–>export): no options, just a default export.

– As soon as you finish the export, the file will want to open in Freemind (at least it does for me). When this happens I immediately get a popup telling me that the file format is from an older version of Freemind and asking me if I want to convert the file to the newer format. Choose “yes”.

– The file will open in Freemind and you should see all your imported Xmind nodes, notes, etc.

(This is important) Now you want to save the file in Freemind, but not just save it: do a “save as” and give the file a new name (rather than overwriting it, just in case).

– Now open up Scrivener and start a new project.

– Import file you just saved by going to File–>Import–>OPML or Mindmap file.

–You’ll get a popup asking for the file name/location: point it to the file you “saved as” in Freemind.
– Choose one of the import options: I find that “import notes into main text” works best for me.
– Choose OK and see what you get.

You should get all the nodes and subnodes, etc, along with any text you added to your original mind map. You can vary the output by choosing another of the import settings.

Hope this helps…

I have briefly used Xmind, Freemind and Freeplane and quit them all for now as it seemed a bit counter productive when I have scrivener.

I do have some files remaining that could be useful though.

I assume you started with a lot of effort tied up in Xmind. Would your system work the same if the files were original Freemind files and did the move to scrivener?

Scrivener seems to be happy importing the newer Freemind file format so I would think native Freemind files would import OK.

As for Xmind, I find that I can work very quickly in it, blocking out ideas, basically brainstorming. Freemind, on the other hand, is something I found very slow and clunky. When I’m just doing ideas I can’t work with any program that asks me to pay more attention to it than to what I want to think about, and I found Freemind was one of those. Xmind, on the other hand, never gets in the way and I can work in it just about as fast as I can type. Plus I can append emails, docs, pdfs, etc, and add notes. Plus I link to images and sound files (I use a voice activated recorder to make quick notes to myself or to talk through ideas that might get lost if I tried to linearized them-- write them out-- before they’re ready. Then I append the sound files to Xmind nodes for future reference)

Another program that I like a lot is OneNote, because I can put ideas into piles, so to speak. But sometimes the piles get to be too much and I lose track of things, so I switch over to Xmind to sort things out.

So I’ve found Xmind (and Onenote) to be extremely useful before I ever to Scrivener, and I’m hoping that Scapple will perhaps combine the best of Xmind and Onenote.

thank you for the goldmine of suggestions and perspectives. good stuff!

i also tested the field of mindmappng software and settled on xmind and freeplane as most suitable. both allow scapple like free-nodes and both share .mm/freemind format with scrivener.

xmind emerged superior for ease of use.

as such…

my writing material and style dictate a cyclical process. i add material to scrivener resulting in long multilevel outlines that i often need to put through a major re-org. this re-org is best done in a visual environment like xmind.

in xmind i can free nodes, move them to other topics, drill down in the levels, look at text attached to the nodes. very convenient for visual reorganizing.


i end up using my new xmind map to re-org the scrivener outline entries BY HAND. why? because there is so much more info attached to the outline entries like labels, keywords, document references, etc that would be stripped out if i exported to Xmind and then imported back to scrivener.


i need to do my major re-orgs within scrivener to keep the details.

and the answer would be … Free Form Corkboard, i think! … or am i just in lala land attributing FFcorkboard with powers it will never possess?!?

would still use the scapple or xmind environments for brainstormng and “seeing” the writing.

thanks again for the discussion.

When I first saw Scrivener it was Mac only, and I came very close to buying a Mac just so I could use Scrivener for writing. I’d tried lots of writing-specific programs, tried various combinations of programs, but was never really happy. The writing-specific programs all seemed to have some kind of set idea about how I and everyone else using the programs should be writing, and most of those approaches were quite linear and definitely not the way I thought about things. Scrivener, on the other hand, gave me the tools to use in the ways that worked best for me, but never tried to tell me how I’m supposed to go about thinking or how I’m supposed to organize things.

I was more than happy when Scrivener finally got ported over to Windows. But the one thing I really wanted, and what so far hasn’t made it to Windows Scrivener, is a free-form corkboard so that I could pile my ideas together in relevant groups, move them around from group to group, make subgroups, etc. And all the while still being able to see what was in each pile, in each group. So for that purpose I started using OneNote, which allows me to make my own idea piles in my own way. But I found that sometimes I wanted a bit more finely detailed, and bit more structured look at what I had, and for that purpose Xmind has been excellent.

In Xmind I can make organized piles of ideas, so to speak-- I can make idea trees with subnodes, etc that allow me to begin to linearize my ideas, but I can also group those idea trees or whatever in cloud bubbles (or whatever Xmind calls them) and make notes about an idea group. And I can also make relationship lines/arrows between groups or within groups and make notes to myself about those relationship lines, and a whole lot more that help me to structure my ideas long before I begin actually expanding them into a written piece. I guess in the end what I like about Xmind is that it allows me to see how things fit together and to annotate that fit. Which I find allows me to see all kinds of new and different, or at least possible relationships-- which greatly enhances my creativity.

So right now I’m hoping that Windows Scrivener v2 will have a free-form corkboard that will allow me to do what I now do in OneNote, and that Scapple will (eventually) allow me to do what I now do in Xmind, and the I’ll wind up with an integrated package where all the parts will happily talk to one another and I can move writing and information around without having to do the kludges that I now do.

Yep. that sounds similar to what would make my work a LOT easier.

just want a infinite corkboard where i can disassemble my outlines, do a lot of shuffling, reassemble them into another order, and not lose the associated scrivener detail that goes with each outline title and entry.

sigh… yep, that sure would be nice.

xmind has the infinite workspace but the scrivener/xmind connection is not seamless enough to carry all the detail.

i have sneaked over to the scrivener MAC side and been reading their manual, of particular interest is the free form corkboard section.

i am not quite sure that the scrivener MAC free form corkboard does some of the functions that would make my life easier…

  1. has an unbounded corkboard size so that i can spread out and have a lot of material on deck, offscreen
  2. can shrink the index card so that just the title is showing… like a mindmap node
  3. it does seem that there is a function where the index cards can be clicked-upon and they would show their “children” but i am not sure this option is available in the Free Form corkboard.

looks like i want basic xmind capability fully integrated into scrivener… which would really make a lot of sense for future scrivener releases, right? i mean - writing and mindmapping/generating ideas… hmmm, they seem to go together.

i very much appreciate what i’ve got so far though. great stuff and getting better. thanks.

You’ll never get that integrated, sorry. Many times users, including myself, have asked for a mindmap to be added to Scrivener, and the response is always that that’s not something the developer uses, so he won’t ever put it in.

If what you are looking for is fairly simple, then yes I do believe the freeform corkboard will accomplish a good deal of what most people end up in visualisation software for:

Yup, no problem there. Freeform corkboards can be “infinitely” huge, like Scapple boards can.

You can actually already do this. Use the index card appearance tool (lower-right of the corkboard), and fiddle with the aspect ratio and card size sliders until you get a look you prefer.

Not on the Corkboard if that is what you mean. There really is no good way of visualising such a thing. It is perfectly simple to load a selected container on the corkboard however, with [b]Ctrl-Alt-Return[/b] (remember you can easily get back like a web browser; or you can use [b]Alt-Shift-LeftArrow[/b] to ascend in the hierarchy from the current editor focus), or in a split with [b]Ctrl-Shift-Return[/b]. Given how easy it is to navigate between “layers” like this, I really don’t see a compelling reason to strive toward a multi-layer corkboard view, given how problematic that is to do without making a confusing mess of things.

But yes, as to making a “mind-map” view would be kind of redundant given that the Outliner view basically does what a hierarchically strict mind-map program will provide to Scrivener. The developer has already said much on this, so if you need a more thorough explanation you can check out our blog or search the forum.


now that i have quite a few hours under my belt using the scrivener and scapple environment, i have a much better perspective on scrivener and concept mapping. for mapping, scapple is hands down great in everything… except any realtionship between the notes translates into scrivener as a flat binder outline.

for me, its comes down to integration of map and scrivener. so i am looking ahead…

reading the MAC scrivener manual two things catch my eye:

  1. overriding philosophy behind Scrivener based on The Agony and the Ego, points 1 to 4 (chapter 1. philosophy, p4)
  2. “If you decide to commit the new order into the binder outline, you
    can do so with the press of a button.” (New in 2.0, Freeform Corkboards, p15)

wow. cant wait to get some of this on the windows side.

keep running into the wall of needing to visually reorganize a huge number of binder entries AND have that visual organization translate “with the press of a button” back into my scrivener binder outline.

i think that the freeform corkboard is what is needed, since at the moment …

  • i move my binder entries (150±) into scapple,
  • reorganize them in scapple (and go back and forth scapple to scrivener if there are additions/changes),
  • and then By Hand move the binder entries around in scrivener accordng to the scapple map.

press of a button. sounds good.

since i am planning on using scrivener and scapple for my work indefinitely, i wonder what to expect and what to plan. two concerns:

  1. does the freeform corkboard in scrivener’s (windows) future allow the creation of hierarchical realtionships that will translate to the binder “at the push of a button” as a multi-level outline?
    since i’m just reading the MAC manual and dont have access to MAC scrivener, its unclear if “Commit Order” of a freeform corkboard moves the corkboard cards into a flat binder outline, or keeps any multi-level relationships.

  2. might there be (way future) a scapple to scrivener connection where it is possible to create relationships between scapple notes and those relationships translates into scrivener’s binder outline as multi-level?
    would dragging scapple documents into a freeform corkboard accomplish this? (MAC scrivener manual, p125)

thanks for the good work and the feedback.