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


8 Replies to “TreeSheets – fast, visual organisation for notes”

  1. Hi. Have you tired Evernote for capturing ideas / text. It’s much better than notepad ++.

  2. Hi Bivvy,

    Thanks, yes, I did try Evernote, and I don’t find that its long thin strip presentation matched the way I think. And it’s overkill just for quick notes.

    As I wrote in my post, I use Topicscape for organizing very large globs of information and only used Notepad++ for capturing quick thoughts as they pop into the mind. Speed of opening is of the essence of such a tool, and Notepad takes about half a second to open.

    But for instant-on, quick notes, I now use TreeSheets, not Notepad++.


  3. Hi Vic.

    I am loving treesheets. It’s very addictive. My work is coming on well thanks to using it. Amazing how much info you can get on a screen with this. So thanks for recommending it, it was your approval on it that made me give it a good go.

    I’ve been using XMIND for an overview of my projects which is great. I would love to try Topicscape seems too slow on my machine, it may not be using the graphics card, but it’s a pretty old machine. Still, googleearth does well on it.

    I find evernote useful for getting down ideas. When an idea comes I need to capture it in words before it goes. I can then quickly tag it / rank it, and return to what I was doing. It is quick to respond as long as it is up and running. Does not seem to take up much memory I believe. And searching is very rapid / easy. I can also record web clippings, and images, it’s really quick and easy at that too. For me it would take too long to try and work out where to put the idea in XMIND. I leave that until later.

    Thanks again for recommending treesheets. Love the blog.


  4. Hi Bivvy,

    Everyone I’ve seen write about TreeSheets likes it! Glad you did as well.

    On Xmind, I’d have used it myself if I was starting now, but I paid for other mind mapping software years ago before there were so many free ones 🙁

    Get in touch with the Topicscape people, they’re usually very helpful in finding the right graphics support software. I believe it uses games drivers (opengl) for 3D. Googleearth is most likely using directx on your PC though it can use opengl instead.

    Thanks for following the blog.


  5. @swaroopch Haven’t seen that before, no. Looks interesting, but as Treesheets is free, Canvas for OneNote is going to have a hard time competing – OneNote isn’t free, even before you consider whatever they decide to charge for Canvas.

    For me, speed of startup is a key advantage of Treesheets about half a second – how fast is it to load OneNote / Canvas?


  6. Treesheets looks quite interesting. Wish that there was an App for it in the Android market and/or a way to link parts of it Evernote or another info. repository. Have used essentialPIM for years but they are lagging in new developments and no App for it. .

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