Visualisation Toolkit

This might be of some use to those needing to see research or writing projects in a single overview.

A preface to this is that if you use this or Concept Draw or NovaMind or MindJet or Inspiration or whatever to do a mind map of your project you can save it as a PDF, jpg or PICT and drop it onto your System Preferences > Desktop Pictures folder and use it as a permanent desktop view of your current project. Then your project is always in front of you. How easy is that?

from the prefuse site:

Prefuse supports a rich set of features for data modeling, visualization, and interaction. It provides optimized data structures for tables, graphs, and trees, a host of layout and visual encoding techniques, and support for animation, dynamic queries, integrated search, and database connectivity. Prefuse is written in Java, using the Java 2D graphics library, and is easily integrated into Java Swing applications or web applets. Prefuse is licensed under the terms of a BSD license, and can be freely used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.

The visualization gallery and demonstration video provide numerous examples of the types of applications that can be built with the prefuse toolkit.

Thank you for posting this. I was thinking about posting a question on this subject.

I’m new to the Mac and to this kind of software. I’ve had some bad experiences losing my way in my writing before and I want to avoid that this time around. So, I have a couple of questions.

First, does this sort of software actually help you organize your writing? At this point, I’m researching. Scrivener has been more help to me than anything else I’ve ever used. But I still think it might be a help for me to visually map the links between my research and my outline. Does anyone have any advice about this?

Second, I’ve been looking at Nova Mind and Omnigraffle. It would help me a lot if some of the people on this forum would share their writing experiences with these. If there’s some other software you like better, please let me know about that, also.



Hi Rebecca,

There are lots of ways of using mindmapping.

First do a search using the term ’ mindmap’ on the Scrivener Search hotlink at the top of this page. Check out those links - some really helpful stuff here.

Next, in turn, Google the names above, ConceptDraw, ConceptDraw MindMap Pro or NovaMind or MindJet MindManager or Inspiration and of course, ‘Mindmap Mac’. Look at the samples on the various sites.

Inspiration is a good example of a mindmap to outline application.

Also have a look at the relatively slow but useful NoteMind.

I would send you a desktop image of what I mean, but it has my next novel all set out in chapter by chapter form as a mindmap - I don’t want it to leave home at the moment. The ability to have the entire project as a Desktop picture, always there is a fantastic trigger to think about the project or procrastinate with purpose. It is always seeping into the unconscious even while doing other things. I found I can go into that half dreaming state between sleep and wakefulness and conjure the mindmap I have on my desktop into my brain and keep it clearly suspended while I think through all sorts of stuff related to the project. The mindmap holds it there all connected. I think that is the real strength of a mindmap. It is an ideas hold-all that links idea to idea. If that is what you are seeking then the NovaMind site has some very good sample mindmaps in screenwriting, education, research etc.

You can also just use a text processor and save it as a pdf to mount it as a desktop picture (Library > Desktop Pictures). Open system Preferences and choose the desktop picture of choice for each project. Maybe you could just OUTLINE your project in Word so that the proper indents are there and save that as a single page outline (horizontal format) as a pdf to see if you like the idea before lashing out the dollars to buy NovaMind or whatever.

PS: Have you looked at the templates in the Zen of Scrivener thread? … php?t=1915





Then there are the two heavywieght organizers:



both can do mindmaps.

Hope that helps a bit. Try the idea first with a text file mock-up to see if you like it. PS I use a black screen on which to see my project mindmaps - nothing else to get in the way of a clear visual image of the project.


Lord Lightning–

I can’t tell you what fun it is to address someone as Lord Lightning.

Thank you for your answer to my question. I’ve spent my spare time the past couple of days downloading trial copies of software and poking around in several of them. I think I like Mind Manager best for mind mapping. Even I can turn out good-looking maps with it.

I’m also intrigued by Tinderbox. I read through the book that’s on the web site, and that helped me see at least part of what the rest of you have been talking about. I never could understand what people meant when they talked about agents. From the instructions, it sounds like agents are just search parameters that you attach to your document; kind of like a queries in a database, except they’re already attached to the data instead of the other way around.

However, at the end of the day, I realized that I’ve just bought a new computer on a whole different platform, and I’ve been buying software to outfit it ever since. I am sick of trying/buying/learning about new software.

I think I may just print everything out, put the research notes in one three ring binder and the outline in another, and do it by hand. I can link things in Scrivener as I go. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours, and at this point it sounds like a lot more fun than hassling with another new software.

Thank you very much for you kind reply Lord Lightning. I did take your advice about making a mindmap and using it for my desktop. I didn’t outline the book. I just worked out the process–what people on this forum call the workflow–for taking the next steps in getting to a draft. It was a big help, and you’re right; looking at it does clarify.


I forgot to mention that I did find one software that I really like. It’s called Personal Brain. It’s good at straight searching. (Why are all the search engines in mac software so weak??? Is it some sort of Mac Culture thing?) It also creates links and allows all sorts of tweakiing, ways to use and access your data, etc.

The fun part of the software is the interface. I won’t even try to describe it. Just try it if you’re interested. It also imports rtf files in a snap. When I was testing it, I imported one of my Scrivener folders with about 20 files of varying lengths in it. Personal Brain snapped it up. It brings the whole file, with the name and all the date, and lets you look at it in anyway you want.

One version of it is free, and there are two others which cost.

I’m going to keep personal brain. I can see lots of uses for it, both in my regular work and my writing. PB is useful; it generates creative thinking about your data; and it’s fun.

I never heard of it two days ago. I guess there is something good to be said about software hunts–when the hunter isn’t already sick of them, that is.


Hi Rebecca,

Personal Brain
Thanks for the lead on Personal Brain. Really appreciate that.

I found it at:

and a good review of it here: … s.asp?a=12

Have you tried the FREE mind-mapping app. It is called freemind:

It is quite good for an application that is a couple of years old. Works a treat.

There is a good review of it here: … .asp?a=243


FWIW, I’m trying Tinderbox instead of MindManager for a current project. There are several reasons. First, and the reason I started looking for an alternative to MindManager, is the need to keep track of note sources. In MindManager, tagging each individual leaf of the map with source information is tedious, but if I only tag the root node of a branch then the leaves can lose source information as I move them around.

With Tinderbox, I can capture notes (RTF or text) in DevonThink, then simply drag them to Tinderbox. The explode note function breaks them into sub-notes, which I can drag around to my heart’s content. To track source information, I can make the root node a prototype for all the others, or simply use the search engine to find the root node for a given snippet of text. (Tinderbox preserves the original when it explodes a note.)

The second, unexpected, advantage is that Tinderbox allows much more flexible relationships between notes than MindManager. Though both are fundamentally outliners, the Tinderbox map view allows freeform placement. (In fairness, MindManager supports floating notes, but they’ve always seemed clumsy to me.) That gives you the fuzzy relationship of “nearness,” in addition to the standard outlining relationships like “parent-child” or “linked.” Thus it’s very easy to build what The Tinderbox Way calls “emergent structure,” from the bottom up, rather than the top-down approach of most outliners.

Mind you, I’m only figuring this out after fumbling around in Tinderbox for several months, and only because I was frustrated enough with MindManager to go looking for something else. And I only had Tinderbox to play with in the first place because I took a leap of faith – the program only becomes useful once you have more notes than the trial version allows.

On the positive side, MindManager will export OPML files, which Tinderbox can then import. On the negative side, the reverse is not true. Once the data is in Tinderbox, the only easy ways to get it out are HTML and text. (The raw file is XML, so theoretically you could write your own exporter. Theoretically.)

Hope this helps,


I use FreeMind as well, sometimes. But the program I use the most for brainstorming/visualizing is Curio. With the latest version, it handles rudimentary mind-mapping. One advantage Curio has to other programs is flexibility. Sometimes I can’t stand mind-mapping, despite the lateral imaginative connections it allows me to make… Curio lets me doodle or list or write things up in any shape or form.

My process has become: Curio -> typewriter -> Scrivener.

Hi kewms

Don’t know if you have done a SEARCH on ‘tinderbox’ at the top of this web page. Amber has written some really helpful stuff on the app. Really is worth tracking it down.

PS Search on ‘tinderbox’ reveals 51 hits, so lots of good stuff.


Thanks for the suggestion. I’d seen many of those posts, but not all.