Approximately every decade a new software tool seemingly changes the way I work. Enable earned the crown, on an old IBM 8088, in the 80s. WordPerfect was indispensable on my 486 in the 90s. Microsoft Office proved a necessity on my PowerBook in the 00s. And now Scapple, a program you've likely never heard of, owns that honor on my MacBook Pro.
Literature and Latte
Developed and distributed by a small software company with the unusual name Literature and Latte, Scapple is an inexpensive and creative application designed to empower Mac users to simply and easily produce intuitive mind maps. For professionals unfamiliar with the mind-mapping concept, the goal is essentially to capture or record ideas, including the relationship many of those ideas (or processes, steps or elements) have to one another.
The problem, similar to that which occurs with the Hawthorne Effect, is that the process of mapping, documenting, or otherwise recording those ideas, concepts, steps, processes and the relationships of those different elements, interferes with the actual process of brainstorming, developing or mapping those components. In other words, trying to record ideas interferes with the process of developing the ideas. Anyone who's ever tried leveraging Microsoft's Visio program, an outstanding network diagramming tool, to map freeform ideas, for example, likely better understands the limitations; users may soon become distracted by various menus, symbols, layout options, fonts, pointer settings, and other application facets.
Scapple simplifies mind mapping
Scapple, the new sub fifteen-dollar Mac program released in April 2013, minimizes distractions. While offering professionals a variety of note, arrow, border, font and background options, the application makes it really easy to simply begin brainstorming a topic, process, problem, challenge, or concept. There's no requirement that users even connect the elements they record, although the program does make it simple to simply drag elements to new locations and interconnect them later, should the need arise.
No tutorial required
I've tested the software program since it entered development late in 2012. I've never read a how-to or read me file. No tutorial was needed (although a eight-minute video is available). I just started using the program. Long had I sought an application enabling the quick recording of notes and concepts, but with the advantage of later being able to move those elements around, apply a variety of simple shapes and borders and, importantly, add directional arrows between elements.
With Scapple, complex and difficult processes suddenly became easier to capture. Interconnected relationships became easier to document, and then correct, when subtle nuances discovered later require accommodating changes and updates. Previously, efforts to capture notes and information using a word processing program, flow-charting software, or even presentation application came up short when having to later make edits or adjustments to intricate diagrams.
Scapple makes it easy and intuitive. Simply drag elements to a new location or right-click and change border, shape, or font values.
Give it a try
Mind mapping is one of those creative concepts one must experience first hand to fully appreciate. Fortunately, Literature and Latte provides Mac users with a free 30-day trial opportunity.
Whether you must document processes or map procedures, whether you could benefit from developing ideas using a more free-form approach, or whether you're struggling to better understand how interrelated elements connect, I suspect many professionals will find they benefit handsomely from investing just ten minutes testing Scapple. The new tool may quickly become the favorite go-to utility when needing to make notes, build diagrams, map processes, or better understand element relationships. Certainly, the program changed the way I work, collect notes and study particularly complex challenges.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.