Scrivener for the eyes: Flying Logic

I gave the demo a go–as an academic and sometime teacher of logic, the name alone fetched me in. I only spent any time with the goal-oriented structure (I forget what it was called, sorry.).

Real World: As far as real world applications go, I admit I could not quite see how to make any use of it solo. It seemed to me that the steps I needed to take to make a results diagram required that I already grasped the problem structure and the various connected options. In which case, making the decision map seemed superfluous. So, it looked to me like this sort of thing might at best be useful with some sort of committee/group work – either in developing solutions (by committee) or in explaining them–and, for that matter, you would need to have to be explaining to people who don’t track very well in order to need to map it out for them–scary, then, to think this was wanted by the military…:open_mouth:

Fiction: The barrier to usefulness I was seeing above seems moot for possible applications to story development where you are trying to fabricate complications and barriers and those goal-cut-offs that will have to be prevented by your protagonist, etc. I did not really try to sketch something out, but I did not find it hard to imagine using it to develop a set of interlocking barriers/actions that would work like a combination lock–one can hear hear the tumblers falling into place as the clock ticks–leading our hero to the inevitable. You know, that sort of story. The proof is in the pudding, of course.

As for price (for what it is worth): I have paid $99 (academic price) for MindManager (mind map software) and I think that was my limit for that product–I probably would not have paid more–in fact, I guess I would not have paid even that, if it was not really for my wife’s use–so, in my mental tabulation, part of the purchase price could be written off as a love thing. At the same time, I see MindManager as a much more generally useful app than Flying Logic–which I think would be a /special function/ (aka occasional use) app even for full-time writers. And, as I said, I could not think of any use for it as an academic. [And this is not because I am one of those people who don’t like to reason things out in a logical manner–you can take my word on that.]

Fringe note: Because the main business is a map (and the toolbar, left side and bottom of the doc windows are sectioned off for other use), this is an app that wants plenty of screen real estate. Don’t even think about running it on your 12" Powerbook (like I did)!

Wishing the best of success for the developer. It is an intriguing product which I have on my watch list.

Best,
Greg

Thanks for giving it a try! I wonder whether you found the various features for managing screen real-estate useful: the zoom slider, the “Zoom to Fit” command, and the slide gesture come to mind. The sidebar can also be adjusted in size or even hidden entirely, and the bottom text area can also be adjusted.

Hi, Robert,

Thanks for your reply.

Partly, it is just the nature of maps to want lots of visual space, but I found several impediments in the app to working in a confined space like on a small laptop screen.

  1. Unfortunately, text scales badly with the zoom slider, so setting it at anything less than full makes blurry text. Since it is also smaller, this facility was not much help (Yet! I am sure this will get fixed in some future iteration of the program.)

Of course, a good crisp zoom can only help so much, because one wants to work at a certain “comfort” size with text, so it is also important to be able to maximize screen real estate…

  1. The title entry field & notes field area can be adjusted, yes, but the minimum size of this segment of the document window still takes up lots of room, relatively speaking. Seems to me this area should be hideable at least.

The comments field, which takes up the bulk of this space is going to be empty unless one enters notes – and that is surely a secondary function. I am betting most users will not enter notes as a matter of course, and will not have notes on most entities, so expending screen real estate permanently on the notes field is not a good investment. So, this part of the area should be hideable for sure. [Also, people always have more lateral space than vertical–so, put the notes either in a hideable right sidebar, or better yet, make the left sidebar tabbed and stuff the notes under a tab there. Just a quick thought!]

As for the title entry field–I am hard pressed to see why it exists at all, since title entry editing is represented with an entry field right in position on the map. So, the title entry field down below is just redundant and hence wasteful if screen area is precious.

  1. While I do not, of course, have facility with the program, it looked to me like the sidebar contained things I needed to have access to while creating a diagram. (No pop-up menu on the toolbar or contextual menu items provide the same map-relative entity-types.) So, hiding it away seemed not a practical option in the work flow. But, again, my inexperience may be missing something here.

Best,
Greg

It’s interesting, but the track record of the developer gives me pause. Scrial Consistency is also their product, and a wonderfully unique and useful “to do” application, but it has yet to appear in Universal Binary form and support emails go completely unanswered. It’s just just me, a little Googling will show that other customers experience the same thing.

Boy, I am getting raked over the coals here, aren’t I? :slight_smile:

Sciral Consistency is a useful little app that I originally wrote for myself. I published it in the hope that others would also find it useful, and some have. Unfortunately, its sales have never amounted to a significant portion of my income (or that of the Windows version programmer), so I cannot devote a lot of time to adding features. (Universal Binary is not even really a feature that most users notice, as the software runs cleanly under Rosetta.)

Nonetheless, I have answered every support e-mail I have ever received, and made bugfix releases to both the Mac and Windows versions as necessary. In fact, there is a bugfix release for Windows almost ready. All forum postings are read and noted, and responses posted when warranted. I recently gave the sciral.com web site an upgrade to bring it into the more modern design used by the flyinglogic.com site.

Perhaps I could drop the price of Sciral Consistency or spend a lot of time adding every feature people have requested in a brand new 2.0 release. Frankly, I doubt these actions would increase sales significantly: it is just a very niche-y product. And sadly, sometimes the market for a product never warrants creating a 2.0, or even a 1.1. (Edit: And I will note that Consistency did go to 1.1.)

A major part of how I have been making my living for the last three years has been creating Flying Logic for my client. Now I have licensed and published it, hoping some will find it useful. I have spent a huge amount of personal time, effort, and yes— even money bringing it to market. I will always support my customers, but if only a handful of people buy it, what then?

Maybe I have a knack for designing clever software that only a few people want to use. If that is the case, then I get what I deserve: a tiny market, and I will have to make my living by focusing primarily on other things. This has been the case with Sciral Consistency. I hope this is not also the case with Flying Logic but time, and the market, will tell.

Thanks for listening!

I always have to roll my eyes a little when I hear complaints about support emails not being answered… At my work I answer customer support emails, and while I answer every single one, I still get people complaining that their emails were never answered. Usually it’s one of two things: either their email never reached me because it was filtered out (sometimes, even, because they had profanity or pornographic words in their email addresses - brilliant), or the reply I sent to them is filtered by their spam filter. Email is a fickle thing.

Yes, this is why I have recently implemented contact forms at sciral.com and flyinglogic.com instead of simply providing an e-mail address. That way I know that anyone who uses the form will get through to me… sadly I can’t guarantee that my reply will get back to them if they have an overzealous spam filter.

I’ve spent the last week developing a novel plot (well, the second half of my current work in progress, to be precise) using Flying Logic. If anyone is interested in my experiences, just have a look at the Flying Logic-forum:

http://forum.flyinglogic.com/index.php?topic=16.0

Potentially helpful stuff, Andreas. Thank you. :slight_smile:

I had another look at the software after reading your posts and I noticed it can export to MS Project in XML or MPX format. I wonder whether one could put a Flying Logic export file through a project management programme such as Omniplan or Merlin which reads MPX files (and has a free trial licence :slight_smile: ), then re-export via, say OmniOutliner - and end up with a serviceable set of outlines in Scrivener?

A somewhat long-winded round-trip - and I agree with you that re-typing can be a virtue. But maybe worth considering if the software itself proves useful?

Interesting stuff --though with my limited experience with the software a bit hard to visualize in the details.

Any chance of seeing a few screenshots of your results? (At risk of spoilers for the story you are working on!)

The route from Flying Logic to Omniplan via MPX works definitively; I have tried that.

Omniplan exports to OmniOutliner: works, too.

Rests the route from OmniOutline to Scrivener, which is discussed in another thread in the moment.

But keep in mind that the lowest level of what I create in Flying Logic is not a scene, but an event. You would end up with a lot of documents concerning something that is less than a scene. In the moment, I find it more wortwhile to proceed like I describe: I put the collection of events that will go together in a scene before my eyes and create a short description of what I intend to write. This way, I just export the notes and have my outline.

It would be indeed valuable to have a way to import something into scrivener in a way that subtitles become document titles and the content becomes document notes! So that the document remains empty and you have your description of what you’ll write besides in the inspector. (In the moment, I have my outline simply printed out besides me and write from that. Works. But it’s not as smooth as it could be… :slight_smile: )

I must confess that I do not know how I could post a screenshot here in the forum.

The picture is rather unimpressive, I have to say. A chain of squares, surrounded by a zillion lines and about a kilometer long. (The plot I’ve developed - about the last third of the whole book - is 3 meters long, printed out. And I’m still adding things… Fortunately I have a long wall in my workroom.) It’s the actual working on it that is impressive - you have an idea, add something, and everything moves smoothly and magically on the screen…

Andreas, I take your points about FL entities representing events rather than scenes, the importance of the notes function, and the way this would affect file exports/imports.

Still making my acquaintance of the software, I have to report that a colossal amount of thought and work must have gone into it, and the philosophy behind it. All credit to Mr McNally - I hope his market proves worthy of his efforts. In my days in management consultancy, company turnaround, and political and economic forecasting, I would have found it invaluable. It deserves to succeed - and maybe even to be priced at the current levels! :slight_smile: :wink:

Now the task is to discover whether as a potential outliner for writing it is complementary with Scrivener’s outliner function, and superior to good old pen and paper, or the likes of Tinderbox and Curio.

Yes, the functionality is really impressive.

Tinderbox is quite different - powerful as well, and more powerful in other dimensions, but the point remains that you need to arrange things yourself and in Flying Logic, you don’t. I feel a great freedom in knowing that I can always add something without getting into conflict, overcrowding areas etc. - if you have to shuffle dozens of virtual cards around, it tends to block your creativity. Or at least mine, which complies easily with my laziness… :blush:

Andreas,

Thank you for this writing lesson. Greatly appreciated.
I’ve been structuring my stories with OmniGraffle, then Cmap Tools, for some years now. But you gave me an idea on a more sophisticated approach to colors, that I’ll be experimenting soon.

Paolo

Hi all,

I just found out that the new Flying Logic update supports OPML export – I tried it and it works like a charm. If you have OmniOutliner Pro, which allows you to transform OPML into Multimarkdown, you can get your Flying Logic charts (almost) directly into Scrivener. How sweet is that?

The new version also includes the ability to assign symbols (e.g. speech bubbles, a question mark etc.) to each node or card, which I also find very useful for the visually inclined.

With these additions – and the continued active development they promise – I think Flying Logic is becoming a very strong companion for Scrivener. I have been using it to develop and evaluate argument structures for my (non-fiction) book project, and the chapter that resulted from this experimentation is I think the strongest in the book.

But it should also be valuable for developing fiction. AndreasE has posted his take on how he uses it for fiction on the Flying Logic Forum. If you are looking for something that helps you with structure and organization, Flying Logic is definitely worth a try, IMHO.

Their pricing scheme is still a bit confusing (to me), but I think the Personal (79 $) / Student (39 $) version should be sufficient for most writing-related uses. You cannot create custom “domains,” i.e. sets of predefined “card” types (I’m using the Scrivener metaphor here), but there is now a domain exchange on the forum where you will probably find what you need as more people develop and tweak the application for their uses.

Best,
J

I endorse jottce’s observations.