iThoughts – Mapping Your Thoughts without Bullet Points
Download iThoughts ($11.99)
Today’s app is iThoughts, a universal app available for both the iPhone and iPad designed for mapping the corners of your mind.
A mind-map is a powerful, visual tool for comprehending the relationships between ideas and topics.
It usually starts with a central topic and then has multiple sub-topics branching off.
It’s a fantastic way to do a brain-dump of all the thoughts, ideas, impressions, strategies, and assessments that are floating around in your head.
Some people work better with a static, linear outline of bullet points but Craig Scott, the developer of iThoughts, explains that “a mind map is a bulleted list for those people who have a more visual predisposition.”
Craig is the one-man development team for iThoughts based in the UK.
iThoughts is a delightful brainstorming machine. I can just spew out all the thoughts rolling around in my head until I start to see the big picture, then I can re-organize everything until it makes even MORE sense.
I find this lets me “connect the dots” in a different way than if I was constrained to a linear bullet list.
Some people use mind-maps for taking notes at lectures or conferences.
Some use it to keep track of their to-do list.
And some attorneys use a mind-map to outline their arguments or briefs.
I had heard about mind-mapping for a long time but honestly, just never “got it.”
It wasn’t for lack of trying. If I used a whiteboard, I was constantly erasing and re-drawing.
And on a computer using a mouse and keyboard just never clicked for me.
But the iPad was a total mind-changer. And I think it was the simple fact that I could tap and drag the topics around with my finger.
Plus I love being able to zoom in and out of the mind-map to focus on a select area, or see the BIG PICTURE when I need to.
So it was the iPad that finally allowed me to embrace this amazing approach to outlining … and I landed on the iThoughts app.
There are a few default styles available in iThoughts for the design of your mind-map but I usually stay with the basics and don’t get too fancy.
I prefer the horizontal layout most of the time vs. the vertical layout or “fishbone” layout
I start with a central thought or topic right in the middle and frankly, just start dumping out all my thoughts.
I find it’s best to use an external keyboard with iThoughts because I can type fairly fast, and the keyboard shortcuts let me get ideas down quicker.
You can hold down the Command button on your external keyboard to see a list of the keyboard shortcuts (note there are multiple pages that you can swipe).
Hitting Tab creates a new subtopic or “child”
And Return creates a new “sibling.” You actually hit Return the first time to end the “text edit” mode, and then the second time creates the sibling topic.
If you have an empty box or need to edit the text of a box, just double-tap the box to get a cursor.
And now here’s the brilliant part – if you need to re-organize anything in your mind-map, just simply tap and drag the boxes around.
You can also select multiple topics by using the “Shift” button in the top left corner of the screen.
iThoughts supports rich text so you can bold, and underline your text, although the caveat here is that it’s based on the “Markdown” language. Markdown is a special formatting language developed for quickly writing blog posts for the web, etc.
You’ll only need to understand a few of Markdown basics, but honestly you probably won’t be doing a lot of rich text in your mind-map.
You can also add freeform notes to any topic. I use this quite a bit to expound upon my topic. You tap the little arrow in the top center and start typing.
A tiny icon on the topic indicates if a note has been added.
iThoughts is constantly saving your work in the background so you don’t have to fret about losing any of your brainstorm.
But I also sync my maps to Dropbox. You set up your Dropbox account in the “Cloud” section and then pick a folder.
Even better, you can choose which formats you want synced. If you use iThoughts on your Mac or Windows computer, then definitely select the .itmz format. But I also sync a PDF version of my mind-maps so I can simply view them from any computer outside of the iThoughts file format.
The export options are phenomenal.
First, you can obviously export in the iThoughts file format so you can edit the mind-map on other platforms. Since I really only use iThoughts on the iPad, I don’t worry about this too much.
But if you’d like to switch to another mind-mapping app, iThoughts graciously allows you to export for Mindmanager or iMindmap.
The PDF version that I already mentioned is also great for sending to opposing counsel or your client.
But the most powerful option (in my opinion) is to Microsoft Word with a bullet list … which is like coming full-circle.
I first use iThoughts to VISUALLY brainstorm and ORGANIZE all my thoughts, and THEN I can export to a bullet list in a Microsoft Word document which I can edit that further.
There is so much MORE to this app and everything I’ve showed so far just barely scratches the surface. iThoughts is a tremendously powerful app but it suits my simple needs as well.
Download iThoughts ($11.99)