iThoughts and the Dreaded Outline

An Outline! For Real! Done with iThoughts by Toketaware

An Outline! For Real! Done with iThoughts by Toketaware

Well, there it is in all its multicolored glory. (The image is only two levels deep; the outline goes four levels deep but you’d never see any detail if I took a screenshot that way.)

It took me long enough.

iThoughts is a mindmapping app that runs on Mac and on iOS devices. The really nice thing about iThoughts is that, like Evernote, it’s everywhere. It uses Dropbox, or a WebDAV enabled server or cloud (according to Toketaware, Box and Google GDrive via PocketDAV will work). iCloud is not on the menu, but that’s okay for me. (I stopped using Apple’s service when it stopped being iDrive, and started being opaque.) I can configure as many linked folders as I want (one for each project suits me), and once I’ve set it up, it Just Works ™.

I can designate as many sync formats as I like, on a per-linked-folder basis. My iThoughts documentation folder only uses the iThoughts native format (.itmz), but my outline folder . . .

I have iThoughts iOS automatically sync .itmz, .opml (many outline processors), .xmind (the open source XMind mindmapping program that runs on Mac, Windows and Linux), .docx, .markdown, and .png. This is less than a third of all the formats that iThoughts can sync. Several Windows formats besides XMind are on that long list. If I change any of the outline or mindmap formats on another device, my iOS iThoughts will update its native outline accordingly, then update all those other formats sitting out on Dropbox. Net result: my research, outline, and background information is always available. I can link to Evernote notes. I can clip internet research at least as well as I can in Scrivener.

One thing to note is that iOS iThoughts came first, and the iOS (rather than the desktop Mac) version drives all this synchronization. I can recommend iThoughts for anyone running Windows or Linux on their desktop or laptop computer – choose your weapon (mindmapping or outlining app) and iThoughts will work with it. But if you run Android phones and/or tablets, you’re out of luck.

It works better for me than Scapple, from the people who make Scrivener. I can do just as much free-form brainstorming in iThoughts, and use my synced .opml for import into Scrivener. So, my first-cut chapter headings and synopses (the result of all that outlining) went from iThoughts into Scrivener just as easily as with Literature and Latte’s proprietary index-card brainstorming software. In addition, I can easily have separate titles and synopses for each card, rather than the first sentence of the card being echoed as a title. And I have a beautiful, automatically color-coded two-dimensional map of everything that supports my document. Sorry, Keith.

IMG_2666Finally, iThoughts works as a project management tool. I’ve set up a branch of my structure to track the hours worked on outline (well, once I started using it) and on my new draft, as well as percentage complete. I could get this with other mind-mapping tools, but at a breathtaking cost (more than $200). iThoughts for all my devices, Mac and iPad and iPhone, cost less than $70. I could have gotten by with XMind for Mac (free version, total cash outlay less than $10) but it lacks the time-tracking feature and is harder to use.

So now that I’ve started my draft, I can set up my iPhone on a stand with iThoughts open, and type away in either Index Card or Editorial on my iPad. I can check any of my research and background material on the phone. When I finish a scene, I can update the project management info on my phone and have everything summed up for me. If I use Index Card, I can update my scene’s title, document notes and synopsis. I can update stuff like character or setting information on the iPhone as I go along. I can work anywhere, and have it all show up in Scrivener when I’m back at my Mac.

Yeah, it’s cool.

For the record, I am NOT an affiliate of any software or hardware vendor. I make no money from any of my reviews.