Mind mapping and concept mapping in 3D

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Why 3D mind mapping for organizing information and ideas?

Mind mapping is a great way of taking in the broad picture and finding your way around. But serious planning and research quickly go beyond the limits of a sheet of paper or flat image on a computer screen. A 3D approach breaks through these limits.

Once you've used mind maps, you are likely to use the techniques more and more, and many people go on to use them to organize reference information. This allows them to organize things under the headings they want and ignore the files' actual location. But soon, most mind mapping software starts to fall short:

  • Any reasonably-sized project or knowledge-base soon becomes much too large to go on a computer screen and, as it grows, easily goes on to reach the limits of the 'virtual page' of mind mapping software.
  • Even when it fits in the limits of the 2D page, large mind maps often become confusing and densely packed -- the detail obscures the structure.
  • One node on a mind map can hold only one computer file or web shortcut.
  • Mind mapping software forces you to adopt a strict hierarchy with just the option of curved lines for associations that are outside the hierarchy. Yet how often have you wanted to have a piece of information under two, three or more topics? I don't know if I'm typical, but when I'm trying to decide where to place a reference, it's often a battle between at least two headings and I know many others who agree. Even if mind mapping software could do this, the 2D sheet would result in a spiders' web of criss-crossing lines.

What we need then, is a 3D environment that allows many files and informal notes at a topic (a node).

It has to use clear outline format, or tree-structure, like mind maps, but should also allow multiple parents for any topic (node). A topic can then appear in the 3D landscape in several places. These need to be multiple instances of the same thing, so that changes to files in one place where a topic appears will be reflected in all the other appearances of the same topic.

3D Topicscape will feel comfortable for anyone who is familiar with mind mapping, concept mapping or even working with outliners like those in Microsoft Word. Just in case it doesn't, we have a page explaining the structure.

The personal edition is good for organizing materials of any type, irrespective of where they happen to be on your hard disk. It works with drag and drop, and can import whole directory structures and build that structure in 3D, so your filed reference information will not lose its present structure. Then you can start to really organize the information, quickly breaking topics into sub-topics, linking related areas together without making copies (or fragile shortcuts), and spotting new relationships in the panoramic view that it gives you.

You can choose to leave the actual files and folders where they are, or import them so that they are under Topicscape's control. You can add comments, source, author and authority notes to each file entry. You can import mind maps via text and MS Word files. You can export the 3D structures to folders: Some users find Topicscape invaluable in organizing a load of material visually in 3D and once finished, re-exporting it.

The 3D environment provides a number of ways of finding things later: It has keyword search (of course), content search, and searching in your own comments, source and author of each file. But most importantly, it allows you to search by concept - drilling down from major topics to minor, and because the multiple parent capability allows you to file something under multiple headings, the drilling down can often lead you to the right place through several paths so you find those 'lost items' much more quickly.

A key feature is its ability to show you a broad landscape of your reference material. This often allows you to recognize the environment and go straight to the item sought. Or you can fly through the landscape, pick a topic that, from the context, you know will be closer to your target and ask Topicscape to center the landscape around that topic, when it will immediately be re-drawn.

For an exciting free guide to all things visual, visit the
Visual Thinking Center