Moving back and forth between Scrivener and a mind mapping a

Hi! I am working on a project that contains a lot of different bits of information regarding management, with many sources. At first I tried to put the ideas in an outline. But I soon realized that it was a painstaking process and I got lost in the details. Then I thought about drawing it, but I ended up with tons of scribbles that I could not reorganize. So I turned to mind mapping applications. Now I was heading in the right direction. I have a strong visual orientation and so I was able to organize the ideas in a much more effective way.
But then again, there was a limit. Most of the programs I tried were, to say the least, not “sexy” in terms of display and interface. The fun and organic look was not there. In some cases, i was just creating drab hierarchical trees and I felt that I was doing more of a bookkeeper work that being involved in a creative endeavor. Then I found My Thoughts and I am one hundred percent happy with it (except that the program does not allow yet to look up words in the map itself, only in the notes, so I guess that makes me ninety five percent happy).
Very quickly, I was able to put the ideas on the map, reorganize them and see them turn in beautiful trees that really got me going. I now feel that working on creating visual beauty and balance in the ideas allows me to have a plan I trust and that gets me motivated. In a way, I turned into an idea gardner who gets a kick out of watching his “idea plant” grow. And I got great results.
Then I found that I could export it to an OPML application (I use My Mind) as an intermediary stage before importing it into Scrivener where, bam!, I got my plan and my ideas neatly outlined with notes and everything in the binder.
But this is not the end of the story, because as well as we need to make use of our right and left brain hemisphere to process information effectively, I needed now to validate my “plant” so that it became “edible”. So of course, seeing the flow of ideas and parts in Scrivener (I bless the day I googled “writer’s applications” and found Scrivener!) allowed me to look at my project from a different perspective. Linearity also has its advantages. Furthermore, books are more of a linear endeavor.
Looking at my documents, I could make some adjustments and added a lot of stuff.
However I am not yet at a stage where I can get into the writing phase, as there are more research elements that need to be incorporated in my work. In other words, I am not finished with the “gardner’s work” in My thoughts and I realize that within the next few weeks, I will have to do several round trips between My Thoughts and Scrivener.
Si here is the question. As I described above, I can move things very well from My thoughts to Scrivener. However, I still haven’t found a way to move things back from Scrivener to My thoughts. I saw there is a script for OPML export, but, frankly, I’d rather stick to my work.
Also, I am dreaming of a Scrivener version that would include a mind map interface the way it includes the cork board.
Thanks for your thoughts on the “round trips”!

Although Scrivener is unlikely ever to have a mind-map view - because, just as with a timeline, it would need to exist in isolation and could not be integrated well as far as I can see - bear in mind that it does have a freeform corkboard, so you can move index cards around freely on the board in freeform mode.

I’m afraid I haven’t got any tips on getting back to My Thoughts in particular, although OPML export is on the low priority list of future features.

All the best,

Thanks for your reply, I guess I got carried away by all the things that Scrivener can do, may be I’ll get back here to ask you how come Srivener does not make coffee.
Still :slight_smile:, a mind map plug in would be great, as the corkboard allows to see only one level at a time, and in the first stages of planning, idea management is definitely not a linear process.
I’ll get back to you on the coffee making request!
Thanks again

Keith writes, “Although Scrivener is unlikely ever to have a mind-map view - because, just as with a timeline, it would need to exist in isolation and could not be integrated well as far as I can see.” Why? It seems to me that Scrivener is ideally configured for adding a mind-map module. It has main nodes, nodes that they point to, etc., already, and surely it would not be very difficult to implement a hierarchy that is created in a mind-map under Draft. This would make Scrivener a true killer-app. It would supersede all the mind-map software out there – and, I think, would be fairly easy to implement. Why would it be difficult, and why would it be hard to integrate? Before you decide it’s impossible, take a look at Inspiration, which has perfect integration of outlining and a mind-map. The potential of Scrivener in this regard is enormous.


Please see:

All the best,

And have a look at Inspiration’s price, too. Substantially more than Scrivener’s, even without all the features Scrivener has for, you know, writing.

That tells me that the authors of Inspiration probably didn’t think their product was “fairly easy to implement” at all. Even though they didn’t have to integrate it with all the other things that Scrivener does.

Even aside from that, my own experience is that the whole point of using a mind map is to break free from the rigid hierarchy of a traditional outline. So I’m not at all convinced that integrating the mapping tool with the outlining tool would be as beneficial for as many people as you seem to think.


Well, my own experience using Inspiration is that mindmaps and outlines are made for each other. You write, “But mindmaps have no structure – they are free-form tools that allow you to get your ideas down in any order, grouping them spatially rather than linearly. There is no way that the freeform chaos of a mindmap can be mapped across to the linear grouped structure of Scrivener’s binder.” But the whole point of a mindmap is to create and maintain a structure. They’re just another way of looking at an outline, and they allow many nodes, subnodes, etc. etc. – they can get quite deep. Doesn’t Scrivener do the same thing with its folder structure? A Mindmap would simply be a way of visualizing a document’s structure more intuitively (for me at least) than the rigid folder structure Scrivener currently has.

As for Intuit, yes it’s rather expensive and it’s limited. It’s not Cocoa, and so won’t take any diacriticals. They seem to have converted the Mac version from the Windows one. And they don’t seem interested in selling it to anyone over 15. Strange, because in spite of all this, the program can allow productivity in ways no other one does. I asked the Omni people about this, and they said they may at some point combine their mindmap and outliner. I wish Scrivener would give this issue some more thought.

There are two different types of thing people mean when they say “mind-map” - one is really just freeform idea-making, the other is the true, structured mind-map that you are talking about. The former certainly wouldn’t fit in with Scrivener’s structural set-up; as for the latter, there’s a reason the best programs providing such mind-maps are dedicated apps and not built into other apps that are as deep as Scrivener: creating a proper structural mind-map is deserving of a program in itself, and would take one programmer all his time to maintain. There’s essentially a whole drawing package built under the hood of a decent mind-map app.

Even if I had a team of programmers (remember there is just me), I wouldn’t want this sort of thing in Scrivener anyway. I sincerely believe that good software does not try to be all things to all people; just because mind-maps exist and are used by writers and Scrivener exists and is used by writers, it does not follow that Scrivener should have a mind-map view.

Besides which, good mind-mapping apps have a lot more to them than just a simple representation of folder structure. Although some of them can move between an outline and a mind-map view, they don’t usually allow subfolder zooming in of separate nodes of the outline and map as Scrivener would have to; and they often can deal with unconnected branches by placing it anywhere in the outline because the outline is usually secondary to the map.

There will be no mind-mapping view in Scrivener. :slight_smile:

All the best,

What you’re describing is one way of using a mindmap. But it’s not the only way, or necessarily the best way. Just as Scrivener itself is a general purpose tool for all sorts of writers, your hypothetical view would need to accommodate all sorts of mindmaps. Including those that don’t correspond directly to a hierarchical outline.

Consider, for example, using a mindmap to work through a character development arc. One step along that arc might take several chapters, or one chapter might incorporate several steps. And then you could have intervening chapters in which the character doesn’t even appear. (But another character does, with his own arc.)


Hi Keith,
Whilst doing a search on OPML in the forums, I stumbled upon this thread.
For years I’ve used Mindmaps as my organiser for book writing. I’d then use Word for the actual word processing. I’d have one word doc for each node (usually a Chapter, or at least eventually) on my map, and would hyperlink from the chapter node to the word doc. Works relatively well.

Now that I have switched to Mac I am checking out the various writing tools. So far Scrivener looks like it might be the one that comes up trumps for me.

I am not a programmer, so please excuse me if my ignorance on the matter comes through in the following:
I read your blog post linked above. And this:

doesn’t quite make sense to me.
Many of the Mindmap apps I’ve used (and I’ve tried pretty much all of them that are available on Windows, Linux, and now Mac) have two ways of structuring/displaying the information. The first, and primary one (obviously) is the Mind Map. The other is an Outline view.

I suspect it is for this very reason that the person who started this thread was able to get his/her info from a mind mapping app easily into Scrivener. The mind mapping app exported the Outline structure into OPML, and Scrivener then interpreted this Outline structure into a hierarchy of documents in its tree.

I disagree that a mindmap is a “freeform chaos”. As I’ve just pointed out, many mind mapping apps actually provide an Outline view. As far as I know this it he fundamental way most mind map apps structure the underlying data of a map, which is why it’s so easy to display it as an outline; to import/export outlines; to collapse/expand levels; etc. The Mindmap is just a pictorial way of representing an underlying Outline of data.

Since Scrivener already as an Outline system built into it, I would have thought it would (relatively to what you’ve suggested) be a piece of cake to display that existing outline structure graphically, as a mind map.

As I said, I am not a programmer, and perhaps I am missing something entirely in my analysis of this. Please let me know.

As an avid user of mindmaps, and someone that is looking for a way to migrate over to something like Scrivener, having Mindmaps within Scrivener to me would be the ultimate writing tool.

UPDATE: IGNORE THE ABOVE (any reason why the tags are not activated on this forum?)

[b]I now see that someone else pointed out what I was pointing out, and that you responded, and have your reasons for not including Mindmapping into Scriv. Point taken.

Could I at least suggest that Scrivener support exporting an outline in OPML format? It nicely allows for the drag-drop importing of OPML. Wouldn’t adding export in OPML allow people who want to, to migrate their data back to an OPML compatible Mind mapping application? I think that might be the best solution to the issue that has been raised in this thread.

What do you think?[/b]

Back to the original question - I find myself in a similar situation.

I’ve organized my non-fiction material in a mindmap using XMind, which supports switching between mindmap and tree views (and a few others), where tree view is practically identical to an outline.

I’m also wondering if there’s a way to import/export between these two. One of the export options XMind has is to Freemind in .mm - which is an XML format. I could easily write a script to extract the structure of the outline from there. But how would I get that into Scrivener?

Check out Personal Brain

Can do many things including import and export of outlines.

Version 2.1+ does now support OPML export, from the File/Export/ sub-menu. You can optionally export the entire binder from this dialogue box, but normally it will export what you have selected (and descendants).

I have an old copy of XMind laying around, I seem to recall it couldn’t export to OPML, but maybe newer versions do.