TreeSheets – fast, visual organisation for notes

Did you notice that my last post about new items in mentioned eight items but there were actually more in the database?  . . . . oh never mind.

That’s because I was playing with a new entry that fitted a need I had, and chatting back and forth with its very capable developer, Wouter van Oortmerssen, as he tweaked it and even kindly met a few of my requests.

This is an outliner . .  umm . . no, it’s a treemap . . . or maybe a spreadsheet.  Well, none of them and a little bit of all of them.  It’s TreeSheets, and I can only describe it as a new paradigm in capturing and organizing notes.  More visual and flexible than outlines, less diagrammatic than mind maps and much more interesting than spreadsheets.  And fast.  Did I mention fast?

Some background on why I like this little application.

I use MindManager for mind mapping, Topicscape for organizing very large globs of information and Notepad++ for capturing those thought, ideas and tasks that pop into the mind from time to time, ready to be dropped somewhere else later.

For those who haven’t used it, Notepad++ is a fast, free application that’s quick and simple, like Windows’ own Notepad, but more capable and useful.  I have a text file on the shared desktop of my main PC and a Quick Launch link to it on all the PCs in my office that I use.  So that tool beloved of practitioners of GTD – the single collection bucket – is quickly to hand wherever I am.  Well, almost single, there are the notes in my iPhone too.

But being a mind mapper, the last thing I really want from an ideas and notes dump is a long, linear list.  And that’s where TreeSheets comes in.  It has structure, it can express hierarchy and it has, to some extent, visual layout.  It can even store images.  Try that with Notepad++.

It is a kind of outliner in the sense that items are indented according to their level.  It’s a species of treemap in the sense that it displays a hierarchy as nested rectangles, making each level smaller to occupy a fixed space: It has notes inside notes down to… well I have no idea. I took it to 20 levels, it showed no sign of flagging but I got bored.  It has a touch of the spreadsheet because it starts as a plain, empty grid of cells, but then gets interesting.

TreeSheets overcomes the problem of deep nesting by continually reducing font size as the nested cells go deeper, all the way to 1 pixel (or less, for all I know).  Ridiculous, you think?  So did I, till I discovered that a simple swoosh of the mousewheel lets you zoom in and focus on a grid that, moments before, was all but invisible.

So now I have TreeSheets on all the PCs I use, and a link to my master sheet has replaced the link to the text file in the Quick Launch toolbars.

You’re probably wondering about the price.  Is Vic in on the affiliate selling schemes now then, with all this praise?  Is this going to link to one of those endless pages with yellow highlighting where you have to give your email address and pay $100 to get this exciting new product?

Well no actually, it’s free.  And Wouter doesn’t even ask for your email.

It’s still in development and there’s a new version every few days – just today I had an email from Wouter to say it can now print a sheet “with page setup, preview.. the works. Even does decent PDFs..”

I hope you like it as much as I do.

The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


Cohere, Headspace, iThoughts, Jambalaya, Lovely Charts, ThinkDigits, TPAssist, Webspiration

It’s been a month since the last update to, and the list of items to add has built up more sharply than usual so I decided it was time to clear the decks.  Apart from anything else, iPhone is keeping mindmappers busy with low-cost software to play with and there’s a new and imaginative application appearing every few days it seems.

Cohere is a browser based collaborative visual thinking tool that allows many users to develop discussions and arguments on line and has more than a hint of concept maps about it.

This iPhone application occupies the space partway between a 3D outliner and a mind mapper.

This is an impressive attempt to bring mind mapping to the screen of the iPhone.  

I have successfully imported large FreeMind maps to iThoughts.  With such a tiny screen, a large map is hard to make use of, but that can’t be blamed on iThoughts.

Jambalaya is a plug-in for Protégé that allows domain experts to building knowledge-based systems to visualize ontologies.

Lovely Charts
A free basic diagrammer that works in your browser and has subscription-based collaboration options.

This is a fascinating fusion of information mapping and calculation.  Numbers in a calculator are normally pure abstraction, and this gives them real world context.  True creativity.

TPassist is an add on for MindManager aimed at enhancing time, task and project management using mind maps.

This web based version of Inspiration is now in public Beta, and free for now.

To see all the latest additions, just follow this link to additions to since 14th February 2009.

Vic Gee
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software