The second Freeplane/Docear Developer Conference: User Friendliness, Collaboration and Scripting

Last year in July we met the core developers of the mind mapping software Freeplane in Munich (Docear’s mind mapping component is based on Freeplane). At that meeting we decided that Freeplane and Docear would closely cooperate. Now, more than a year later it was time to meet again and discuss the next big steps in the development of Freeplane and Docear. So we met this weekend in Magdeburg, Docear’s “headquarter”. And while last year six people attended the meeting, this year we were nine participants (three from Docear, three from Freeplane and three students from HTW Berlin) plus one Freeplane developer attending via video. In the following I would like to provide a brief overview of the discussed topics and results.

The Freeplane and Docear team in Docear's office

The Freeplane and Docear team in Docear’s office in Magdeburg (Germany)

Volker (Freeplane) gave a very interesting introduction to Freeplane’s Formulas, Scripting and Add-Ons (which are all working for Docear, too). Formulas allow doing calculations similar to Excel. As a very simple example, you could write in a node =1+2 and the node will display 3 (but there are much more complex operations possible). Scripting is a really powerful tool to manipulate the content of mind maps in whatever way you want. For instance, you could easily write your own export filter, create scripts for editing nodes having a certain attribute and so on. Finally, the add-ons are little tools, easy to install, and providing some functionality not included in the original Freeplane (or Docear). For instance, there is an add-on to add-inline images, creating mind maps according to the GTD (Getting things done) method, and some more.

As a Docear user you are probably aware that Docear is not the most user friendly software (and neither is Freeplane). We know this and we are planning to change this. This weekend we discussed for quite a while and decided to change the menu structure to make it more intuitive. It’s also likely that we will switch from the classic menu/item-bar style to the ribbon-style which allows you a faster overview of the available functions. Another important topic was a collaboration feature. I mentioned recently that we consider to introduce an add-on allowing several researchers working simultaneously on the same data. The Freeplane team really liked the idea and together with five students from HTW Berlin we will start implementing this function. Actually, this is a major project requiring lots of planning and even more time for the implementation. So, keep your fingers crossed that we will manage to accomplish this project :-).

Oh, and just as a side note: The next Beta of Docear will be released very soon and you can expect a major improvement: Docear will be able to extract metadata from PDF files to create references/bibliographies. Stay tuned for more information …:-)

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