Recently, Scrivener released version 1.7 for Windows, and as a dutiful lover of my Scrivener, I updated. Without issue*.
I was reading the “About Scrivener” for 1.7, and I came across a line of credits for Mind Mapping software called FreeMind (available on SourceForge here). Out of curiosity I read a little about some of the industry leaders (based on sales, I suppose) in MM software, and eventually visited the FreeMind Wiki.
At a glance, it looked to me like another tool for brainstorming, which Scrivener already offers by virtue of its function. But this tool is different, and it didn’t take long to see why Scrivener had developed import integration for FreeMind’s “.mm” files.
I won’t bore with the technical gobbledygook. My purpose here is to jump up and down in a kind of child-like excitement over something deliciously simple that helps knock-out a dreadful task for me.
What’s that? Outlining a braindump/project/manuscript
The FreeMind team has provided an application that allows mind mapping, about which I know precious little. With it I can expand an idea, for example a story title, which abstractly encapsulates the entire notion of the story. From that first node, the branching begins. If I’m careful in my approach, I end up with a web of nodes that show their relationship back to the central node.
So far nothing overwhelming about that, right?
So what’s the deal? Integration.
Let’s imagine that I’ve arranged my web of nodes to my satisfaction (which has proven tricky so far, but I’m a novice and will forgive myself for at least one more day). I save my mind map and make a note of that file location on disk. Now we jump over to Scrivener.
I have a new project that, coincidentally, has the same name as the central node in my recent mind map (a convenience, it’s not required). I’ve already created some structure in this Scrivener project, including research notes and a thin rough draft, et cetera. That will make sense to anyone reading this who has used Scrivener – if you haven’t, go check it out: the trial is free, it works on Mac and Windows (including 8), and if you’re Linux-savvy and can manage an informally supported beta application, you can get this little gem version for free. Also, the paid-for license is reasonably priced and very flexible – you won’t be sorry.
Point being, I have a Scrivener project underway already. I can import my mind map into my project, without disruption to the existing project structure. That’s right, it just pops it into whatever part of the Binder was in focus when you started the import. The mind map is now an outline in Scrivener – all your webbed nodes are cascaded in familiar outline format descendant from the central idea node. You have some choices on how Scrivener treats the map elements, and that warrants paying attention, but the beauty of it is now I have a map’s worth of Scrivener note cards that I can move and organize how I want, and if I was mindful of how I imported, the node note text is now available in Scrivener and can be moved wherever needed.
Now I have an outline, I can copy it in its original form into another binder, spread copies around and re-arrange them, and my manuscript will eventually be mighty when I get around to writing it – all the tools we already love in Scrivener.
I also have something I’ve never had before: I have a spiderweb picture of my idea. I can export the image into any number of formats, and import that into Scrivener too! Or leave it open in FreeMind and run the apps side-by-side (which has been my modus operadi thus far). But I like the image import so when I pick up my laptop with my automatically-backed-up-and-synchronized projects and go sit in the middle of a lake in an atoll in the South Pacific I have my mind map image with me.
All that, and FreeMind is freeware under GNU GPL V2+ (there is a little buyer beware note about the program as a whole licensed as V3+ because it uses components of Apache).
Oh, and one more little aside that’s pretty cool: this whole process works backwards, too, your Scrivener project can export into a mind map. (!!!)
* I had an issue **.
** It was minor ***.
*** I had to download the app from the website; the embedded update engine didn’t like something about my installation path. This didn’t cause any issues I could detect; my license is still valid.