Painless alignment

This subject has cropped up in various forms in various threads, but I felt it might be useful to make the case afresh.

Scapple is a (wonderful) app that by default involves connecting rectangular bordered boxes with straight lines. It does this very easily and neatly, and for my money the styling options are perfect. But, straight lines and boxes imply orthogonal layouts (think flow diagrams) and these look lousy if the boxes are just out of alignment.

I know that Scapple has a good set of alignment commands and I know that these can be invoked via shortcuts, but that is still a two-step process: form your rough diagram then go round straightening the furniture. How much more “Scapple” if the furniture defaulted to straight from the start?

Three simple improvements to the interface (all of which I believe have been suggested before) would transform this alignment thing from a perpetual irritant to a frictionless delight.

  1. Basic: when moving or copying an object, press Shift to constrain to vertical/horizontal.

  2. Support use of arrow keys to nudge selected objects vertically/horizontally.

  3. More advanced: some sort of auto-alignment when creating/moving objects. Depending on what is simplest to code, this could be an underlying grid or an awareness of existing objects such that new objects (optionally) snap into alignment with them. Many drawing apps have this in various forms.

I believe that these features would transform Scapple for a lot of users.

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Scapple’s exhortations to stay sloppy just don’t always get heard, eh? :wink: Really, it is a program meant to be messy with, but I do get you, and I do use alignment a fair bit myself, so I’m no one to talk. In fact I mapped alignment functions to my Touch Bar using BetterTouchTool:

That one we’ve had covered from the start. :slight_smile: Hit the M key to toggle movement mode on. Arrows will nudge notes in the cardinal directions; Shift+Arrows to move faster.

To a degree, and in vertical alignment only, you do have this with the stacking feature. Hit ⌘↩ to make new notes and they will automatically be all lined up flush left. Horizontally you have the Notes ▸ New Connected Note ▸ submenu with its shortcuts. Granted those are connected, but selecting the whole row and hitting the Notes ▸ Disconnect shortcut takes care of that if you don’t want it.

Thanks for the quick response Amber and thank you for putting me right about movement mode. I had forgotten about this, and it does address my 2nd request completely. (It seems a little odd that it is an optional extra: the targeting of notes in selection mode is a little haphazard, but doubtless some users depend on it.)

Yes we have New Connected Notes which align, but as you point out, we may not want them connected, or we may want them differently connected, and we may want to space them differently. I could live with the current compromises on this (and the align commands) if only we could have the commonly understood Shift-to-constrain which so many people have asked for, which would make so much difference to rearranging layouts, and about which you remain silent.

Sloppy versus formal is another conversation, and an interesting one. I understand the encouragement to forget about the form and concentrate on the content, but in practice, by making alignment far more difficult and command-based than it ought to be, Scapple is pushing people in the opposite direction. If it was all blobs and curvy lines misalignment would be less of a problem, but square boxes and straight lines invite neatness, especially if the results have to be presented elsewhere.

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Snap to grid would be a nice way to both align and clean things up a bit. I don’t buy in to the idea that a scapple map should be messy. Some of us have a hard time letting that go. For me it is a physical sensation - like an itch I can’t scratch - when things are not lined up nicely.

I was the OP on this thread about two years ago. Constrained dragging is one feature that has been asked for repeatedly. You have on occasion said you’d consider it. It would improve the Scapple experience a ridiculous amount for me (and I infer quite a few others). Should I be hoping that it might still come?

I agree with you completely Nick.

Unfortunately it seems that L&L have set an ideology for the app, and will stick to it regardless of actual, real-world user feedback.

It would not negatively affect the app in anyway to add the features you’ve suggested, especially if activating them was optional.

But they just won’t do it.

Yes, of course they do.
Changing the app because a few users ask for something else leads to a more complex app, more difficult to use. It would also need the app to be upgraded, possibly forcing users to buy a new version with more features, even if they don’t need them. It could also scare away some potential new buyers/users because the app seems too complicated.
Developing an app may start as a hobby, and as such, doesn’t need much input. But once it develops into a business, it needs to generate a steady income to finance its maintenance (like fixing bugs). Developing the app, adding new features or functionality costs time and hence money. Time that would require the app to generate a better income, but which could also be used for something else which might generate a better income.

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I agree with the auto-alignment request. It would be nice to have a “snap-to-grid” feature that you could turn on so that when you move notes, they align to a grid. “Keep it sloppy” makes for a sloppy-looking map, and I don’t like sloppy. And don’t like having to do multiple actions to select notes and do an Align.


It’s not a hobby. It’s a paid app.

It’s not a few user requests. It’s many.

If you’re suggesting that developers should not take on board user feedback to improve their apps, then that makes no sense.

These are not additional feature requests i.e. “bloat”. They’re workflow requests that would streamline and improve the use of the app itself.


User’s exhortations to actually have a choice in the matter just don’t always get heard, eh? :wink:

I’ve used both Scrivenar and Scapple from day one.

I’ve already left Scrivenar.

Surely actually listening to user feedback should be part of L&L’s business MO?

Hi, Amber,

Along these lines, I was wondering if it would be possible to add rulers for alignment? I print out all my mind maps and have to eyeball then print and adjust to get things lined up.

Yes, messy can be creative, but could I have a title not centered?

I just don’t have that kind of strength of will. :relieved:

Thank you for a wonderful program - I love it!


Sure, but development resources are finite. Not all user feedback will be incorporated into the product. Nor should it. That’s how you end up with the clumsy, bloated mind mapping applications that inspired Scapple’s creation in the first place.

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That’s exactly what I mean about adopting a blanket ideology without being discerning about when or how to apply it - adding modifier keys is effectively ‘invisible’. I don’t see how it makes the app bloaty.

I’m not sure I understand how any feature is ever “invisible.” Certainly every feature requires additions to the source code, and a feature that is completely invisible to users is not really a feature at all.

If activating a feature is optional, then it requires code to allow users to turn it on and off, and support resources to help users who find themselves stuck in the “wrong” state for whatever reason.

I meant that it isn’t an additional main menu or contextual menu option, not that it doesn’t require code to implement. Obviously.

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I’m also a vote for some kind of snap to grid, but I’m a “messy” person myself, so I can’t argue against that.

Hi Everyone,

Is there functionality for adding guidelines on the page to use for visually aligning content? The closest thing I’m seeing is the page guides feature. I’d love to be able to add arbitrary lines to the page.

Here’s an example of what you can do, thanks to Bernard Davis.


When dragging Scapple text boxes around, is there any way to get objects to ‘snap’ to being 90° (or 45°) to each other?

I am trying to get the connector arrows to SNAP into being straight (without having to use the Align tool).

In other applications you can get this snapping effect by holding down the Shift or Control keys whilst moving objects around…



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