Appendix A: Customization - the Options panels

From Topicscape
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Previous: Glossary

(Go to:Topicscape Pro User Guide - contents list)



Flight Control

Flight Control - Customize

The first tab has separate 2D and 3D versions. It covers flying, with sub-tabs that let you choose how some of the flight controls work and the speed or responsiveness of flying.

These settings let you make choices between different ways that the flying controls work for you.

Some users like to feel that they are flying in Topicscape (whether in 2D, or 3D); others like to feel they're dragging the map or the landscape with the mouse. There's no reconciling these points of view, so we provide options for both, in 2D and 3D.

Customize 2D Flight

2DFlight-s.jpg

The 2D view allows you to swing the Map for a perspective view, and slide along it. If you'd like to drag the Map with the mouse, leave this setting on the default Cooliris mode. If you prefer to feel that the mouse controls how your viewpoint moves (the direction of 'flight'), choose the alternative.

If you have a mouse-wheel, see which way feels more intuitive for the zoom function.

When using the alternative mode, the "More >>" button will become active. You can then press that to choose which mouse button is used to enter a topic.

Customize 3D Flight

3DFlight.jpg

The 3D view allows you to allows you to fly through the landscape. If you'd like to drag the landscape with the mouse, leave this setting on the default mode which is similar to the movement controls for Google Earth. If you prefer to use the mouse as in a flight simulator, choose the classic Topicscape mode.

Again, if you have a mouse-wheel, choose your preference for the zoom function.

When using classic Topicscape Mode mode, the "More >>" button will become active. You can then press that to select which mouse button is used to enter a topic and vary how left and right flight is done.

Flight Control - Speed

3DSpeed.jpg

The Speed tab allows you to apply a factor to each control that lets you tailor flight-control responsiveness to your PC's speed and your preferences.

The many different ways of flying in 3D mean that you have many options (left).

2DSpeed.jpg

2D flying is simpler and just needs control over sensitivity of mouse and keyboard (right).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

User Preferences

UserPreferences.jpg

Start-up Options

Start-upOptions.jpg

Hide 'Recent Topicscapes' dialog on start-up: This checkbox lets you start Topicscape with the last Topicscape you were working on. This can be useful if you nearly always use the same Topicscape. It can waste time to hide this dialog if you often want to work on different Topicscapes.

Enhance start-up 'Recent Topicscapes' dialog: Shows up to nine previously-opened Topicscapes (instead of 4); shows other options, like making a new Topicscape in this dialog, instead of just a "More >>" button. This will be grayed out if the above option is checked.

Skip Quick guide to 3D flight and Skip Quick guide to functions: These two checkboxes allow you to suppress the demonstrations once you feel they have nothing new to show you. You can run them individually from the Help menu at any time.

Enhanced Menus

EnhancedMenus.jpg

The first four menu enhancements can be left unchecked during early experience with Topicscape, as you can use the software's major tasks with the basic menus. The enhanced items will be useful later, and can be turned on individually in User's mode or all turned on together by switching to Expert mode.

The Halo menu (and its help) is the reverse: Use it at first (it's on by default), and turn it off once you're finding your way round Topicscape happily.

Preview Panel

PreviewPanel.jpg

For a description of how the preview panel functions, please see Preview Panel.

Previewing slows down selection actions a little, so users with slower computers or those who don't think the small images are useful should minimize the preview panel in the Topic Center - then there will be no processing overhead.

Alternatively you can choose to have it visible and always in the same position each time you start Topicscape, or you can ask Topicscape to remember where you last left it from run to run.

This control will not prevent the preview panel from showing when occurrences are hovered over in the 2D Map or the 'Scape.

If you enable HTML preview in Topicscape, it will be enabled in Windows Explorer as well. Disabling it is also effective in both. This is because Topicscape uses a Windows XP function for HTML previews.

Windows Vista, 7 and 8 do not provide previews of web pages (Internet Shortcuts, MHT and HTML files).

Deletion options

Deletion.jpg

Whatever settings you choose in this section, you will always be able to undo deletions up to the time when you close Topicscape.

Show deletion and island reports: Some users like full information about the potential impact of a delete, others feel that Topicscape should just do the deletion immediately. Choose your preference by asking for deletion and island reports, or not, using this checkbox.

A group delete (see below) can cause many topics to be deleted, and some of them may not be visible. A deletion report shows in advance the topics and occurrences that will be deleted, and which topics will no longer connected to the main body of Topicscape. You can see the disconnected topics after the deletion by making the Topicscape Islands post (on the left of the 'Scape if there are any island topics, otherwise invisible) into the Current Topic. A number hovers over this post all the time, to show you how many disconnected topic groups there are.

Use Topicscape Orphans: If you hate to throw things away in case you need them one day, then you will probably use Topicscape Orphans. If you don't want to be bothered with old items, uncheck this box and some menus will be simplified.

Allow Single topic delete/export: Single topic operations - delete, move, export - can be more complicated than topic-group operations. A topic group is a topic and all its descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on). Loose Associates and other parents of descendants of the highest topic will not be deleted -- they are not part of the group.

A group delete is very similar to deleting a folder in Windows - all the files and folders in it are also deleted. A single delete, however, would be more or less like deleting a folder and all the files in it, but preserving any folders inside the deleted folder.

Do not link isolated topics to Topicscape Islands: Not recommended because isolated topics can be hard to find, but checking this option may improve performance on a slow PC.

Miscellaneous Operations

MiscellaneousOperations.jpg

History items to be stored: History items record actions taken. This is initially set to 70, but you can change it.

Warn about limitations of simple HTML saves: You will probably want to uncheck this once you have seen the warning a few times. It warns that saving as plain HTML is not suitable for pages with frames, images etc. Execute any Javascript when saving MHT files: It will be more secure (but make MHT files occasionally less functional) to uncheck this box. This is always off by default as it can extend the time taken to save the files, so if you want to capture the maximum functionality of some web pages, you should turn it on just before saving.

Bring Topicscape's window into focus when file, etc. is dragged over it: Allows you to search in Windows for a file, then immediately drag it to any visible part of the Topicscape window and the window will snap to the front so that you can drop the file in the appropriate place.

Minimize Topicscape's window when it loses the focus: Some users like to have Topicscape minimized to one corner of the screen so that it's ready whenever they want it. To drag a file into Topicscape in those circumstances, drag the file over the Topicscape icon and wait. The Topicscape window will appear.

Enhanced Features

EnhancedFeatures.jpg

Show full Tools Panel: With this left unchecked, some of the less-often used buttons are removed to simplify the user's first view of Topicscape. Once you are familiar with Topicscape you'll want to use this enhancement.

Show full Create New Topic panel (allows Hints): With large Topicscapes it is useful to see hints about similar topic names when making a new topic, to avoid duplicates. When first using Topicscape, you will not be working with large Topicscapes, so not using this enhancement is probably better, to keep the interface simpler.

Allow making Loose Associations (Tunnels): Tunnels are invaluable for making connections between distant parts of a large Topicscape, but until you have a large Topicscape you are unlikely to need them.

Check for updates automatically: This asks our website what the latest version for download is and offers to download the new installer if there is a new version. The check is done when you open Topicscape, but only once in a 24-hour period. This does not install a background process in Windows -- if you don't run Topicscape, no check will be made.

Searching

Searching.jpg

Enhance Hit List options (sorting and presentation): This provides more ways of sorting the Hit List (search results). Probably best left off for the first few weeks of Topicscape usage.

Show full Advanced Search Panel: This adds to the options that can be selected in a search. Probably best left off for the first few weeks of Topicscape usage.

Omit "Finished with" items from content searches: Generally, to save time, once you have flagged an item as "Finished with" you won't want to include it in content searches.

Searches: If there's a single result in the hit list, go straight to the hit itself, not the list: If you have a direct hit, there is no benefit in going to the Hit List and then double-clicking on the item there.

File content searching default: Use Topicscape: Topicscape's internal content search is limited to whatever plain text it finds in the files you're searching.

Use Google Desktop: If you use this free application you should take advantage of its ability to save time in file content searches.

Use Windows Desktop search: If you have installed this free application on XP you should take advantage of its ability to save time in file content searches. In Windows Vista, 7 and 8 it is built in.

Mode settings

ModeSettings.jpg

The radio buttons in this box allow you to select one of the three operating modes: Limited Mode, User's Mode and Expert Mode.

Limited Mode

… provides a good introduction, with many controls hidden but you cannot change many settings.

Expert Mode

… is the mode to move on to when you want to learn more of the possibilities again, you cannot change many settings but you will see all controls.

User's Mode

… is what you will probably want to use once you start to depend on Topicscape for your project-, ideas- and information-management. It allows you to change all the customization controls in the Options panel.

There is also a button that let you reset the user settings. This sets all the User Mode settings to those used in Expert Mode and you can work from there to find what suits your style.

Appearance

If you want Topicscape to look different from the style when it is first installed, there are many ways of adjusting it to your taste.

2DAppearance2.jpg

2D Wall adjustments

Association line width: These can be made thick, medium or thin. Association lines are the lines you see between topics.

Suppress secondary parents: See Secondary parents.

Show promoted occurrences: If enabled, this will show the icon of any promoted occurrence on the top left corner of the topic.

Show at most 4 children of sibling topics: Sibling topics, if any, will appear on the left and right of the Current Topic and its children. They share a parent with the Current Topic (See Glossary). If siblings have many children the lines of siblings and children may be very long. Checking this checkbox will limit the size of a Map.

Show any imported Brain elements: If enabled, and if you have imported a PersonalBrain containing Labels using the extended import, these will show under your cursor when it is over a topic with an imported Label.

Maximum number of ranks of children of Current Topic: Try 4, 5 or 6 to see your preference.

Footprints

You may hide the large gray Current Topic footprint, and if you wish, also the Current Topic child footprints. These two checkboxes allow this.

Association-type usage

In the 2D view, the choice is limited to showing or not showing the 2D text panels.

Do not show association types if they are the standard ones ("is parent of"; "is child of"): All associations that have not been defined explicitly by you have assumed values. They are "is parent of" and "is child of" for hierarchical associations, and "is loose associate of" for all others.

Occurrence lettering color

Adjust to your taste and screen's capabilities. You can change each of the five colors across a range for that color. The sample shows the appearance of the lettering in the occurrences list, including how it looks when selected.

3DAppearance.jpg

3D environment adjustments

Association line width: These can be made thick, medium or thin. Association lines are the lines you see between topics (2D) or in 3D stretching from a selected topic's tip to the tips of its parents' cones. (If you cannot see them, make sure a topic is selected, and press F8).

Enable changing colored glow behind Current Topic: (3D only) If fixed at one color the demand on the CPU in your computer will be reduced.

Suppress secondary parents: See Secondary parents.

Show promoted occurrences: If enabled, this will show the icon of any promoted occurrence on the topic.

Show at most 10 children of sibling topics: Sibling topics, if any, will appear on the left and right of the Current Topic and its children. They share a parent with the Current Topic (See Glossary). If siblings have many children the lines of siblings and children may be very long. Checking this checkbox will limit the size of a Map or 'Scape.

Float the topic cones and pyramids: The cones and pyramids can be made to sit on the ground or float above it.

Maximum number of ranks of children of Current Topic: Try 4, 5 or 6 and decide which is your preference.

Association-type usage

There are two ways of showing association types in 3D: as strong blue panels floating between the topics that they connect, or as pale blue hint panels. See Association types - capturing knowledge. What you will see in the 'Scape is controlled by the following three radio buttons and a checkbox: Do not show association-type 3D panels / Do not show association-type hint boxes / Do not show either: Selecting one of these determined the type of panel you see (or whether you see them at all).

Do not show association types if they are the standard ones ("is parent of"; "is child of"): All associations that have not been defined explicitly by you have assumed values. They are "is parent of" and "is child of" for hierarchical associations, and "is loose associate of" for all others. Most people will not want to display these association types, because they add no information, but the option is there for those who do.

Font for small topic cones

The text on the smallest topics (great-grandchildren of the Current Topic) is, naturally, less easy to see, and the behavior of different screens (and varying personal tastes) mean that it is worth experimenting with the five fonts provided. The installed default is Arial bold italic.

Occurrence lettering color

Adjust to your taste and screen's capabilities. You can change each of the five colors across a range for that color. The sample shows the appearance of the lettering in the occurrences list, including how it looks when selected.

Skin

Preset 3D skins have named themes and you can modify many of their characteristics. The skins for the 2D view are simpler. In both cases, there is a starting set of skin characteristics that you can change. You can also change these for individual Topicscapes, to make them instantly recognizable.

2D Skins

2Dskin.jpg

First you will decide whether to change the standard (default) skin - the one that will be used for all new Topicscapes, or the specific skin for the currently-open Topicscape. Choose from the "Apply changes to:" box at the top of this panel.

The characteristics of a 2D skin that you can change are as follows:

Field or wall: choose a built-in texture, or choose one of your own images (.jpg). To add your own image, under "Field" select "User's wall image" and then click the Add button for a new image or select from the list if you've already used images in other Topicscapes. The image will remain static and the Map will swing in front of it, when you fly. For technical reasons, we do not provide in image facility for the field in the 3D landscape.

Topic name panel: Choose black on white or white on black. Increasing the transparency makes even black-on-black readable.

Hit and History Lists: Transparency can be adjusted.

Topic color scheme: Experiment to see which arrangement of colors suits you.

Flags: In the 2D Map, these show as a glow round flagged topics. Set the color you want for this glow here. On lists they appear in color and you can choose whether to have the text colored or the background of the list item.
 
 
 
 

3D Skins

3Dskin.jpg

Skin Theme: When you first install Topicscape it has six skins: Crystal; Festival; Hyperglow; Pearl; Smoked Glass; and Smoky plastic.

After downloading the free skins installer from: [1] and installing it you will have the following additional skins: Bronze Age; Chico; Classic; Glow; Gold; Graph paper; Gunmetal; Hot Cobalt; Jewel; Lite; Lunar New Year; Plastic; Sharp steel; Tiger's Eye; and Titanium.

You can customize all of these extensively (more about that later) and you can return them to their pre-set appearance.

There is also a skin called User's. This is initially set to "Titanium" but you can copy any skin to it, whether it's a pre-set one or a variation of your own that you want to keep.

Topic shapes are all based on cones, pyramids and variations of these. You can choose straight-sided cones and pyramids, skinny cones and pyramids (with slightly concave outlines), and fat cones and pyramids (with slightly convex outlines). And you can choose combinations of these for the three groups: Current Topic and its children; the siblings; and the parents.

You can pick the texture to be applied to cones and pyramids. There are also fourteen ground textures to choose from. You can mix ground textures from one skin theme with other themes and you can control color filters on the ground and (separately) on cones.

Topic name panel: Choose black on white or white on black. Increasing the transparency makes even black-on-black readable.

Transparency controls:

Each topic cone or pyramid has two layers - an inner and an outer layer and their transparency can be controlled used to produce various effects.

Topic name panels on cones can be set from nearly opaque to nearly transparent.

The transparency of Hit and History Lists (2D and 3D) can be changed to improve visibility (depending on the color and texture of the ground). This will affect the Quick Options swinging panel as well.

Topic color scheme: This has three options.

  • Each topic is to have its own color and keep it, unless you decide to change it. This will be wildly colorful: You can choose each topic's color yourself or let Topicscape allocate the next in sequence;
  • Set topic colors according to their levels. Colors indicate levels: You can still choose the colors, but any change to a topic's color will affect all other topics at the same level;
  • Set topic colors according to topic-groups. Colors indicate topic groups: You can still choose the colors, but do this by changing the color of the top topic in the group and that will affect all other topics in the same group; The groups referred to here are each child of the current topic and all its children and grandchildren (and similar groupings).

So how do you actually change a topic's color? Press F4 at any time when the Map or 'Scape is visible and you will see the Topic color setting panel. Click on a topic and click the color you want. The change will be shown in the Map or 'Scape.

Flags

You can tailor how color is used in the Hit, History and other lists to indicate a flagged topic, and you can define the color to be overlaid on the textures of all topics other than flagged ones.

Flag on Details Panel.jpg

Flag and color usage: You flag a topic by clicking on the small flag on its Details Panel:

Topics that are flagged can be recognized in both the 2D and 3D views.

Flag on cone.jpg

In 3D, in the 'Scape you can choose amongst three ways of recognizing them: With a small triangular flag (pennant) on the crest (see right); with a change in color for those flagged topics; or with a colored tip on the cone or pyramid. You can choose the color to be used, but all flagged topics will be that color.

The first choice you make when deciding on a color scheme is multi-colored (free choice of colors) or single color. If you choose free choice of color, you can then decide on how the colors are used, as described under Topic color scheme above.

The above covers topics as shown in the Map or 'Scape. You may also want to change how flagged topics appear in the Lists from the first drop down list.

The options are:

  • Coloring the background of the list item
  • Coloring the text of the list item
  • No effect

Then pick the way you want to show your 'flagged' topics in the 'Scape from the second drop-down list:

  • Adding color to the tip of mountain
  • Changing the mountain color
  • Showing a pennant on the mountain

Pick a standard color to be overlaid on the flagged topics' texture, or pick "Custom" and press the Define button to specify the color.

Bear in mind that what you specify here, applies to every flagged topic.

Skins: Why not other shapes?

Our loyal users and beta testers often suggest ideas for the Topicscape landscape, especially the shapes used to represent topics. One thing we always try to keep in mind is that Topicscape is a tool, not a game, though we like to think that organizing your information in Topicscape can be fun. Another consideration is that performance is important.

A little of the history of Topicscape

In the early design stages of Topicscape we set aside every Wednesday for several months as a free time for everyone to put aside their directed design and development work and experiment with off-the wall ideas, lateral thinking and innovation. The three, and later four, of us (as the Topicscape team was then) searched for 2D images on the web and in books, made 3D models in the computer, and on a couple of occasions made physical 3D models in clay. The more artistic amongst us (not the author) even worked in watercolors.

Why cones and pyramids?

Cones and pyramids are not a choice made by chance or a limited imagination. As we tried other shapes, we found that nothing worked so well. Cubes hid the topics behind, spheres did the same, though less, but they had performance problems once we had large numbers of topics in view, as well as needing many more surfaces to make it look smooth. We did try many other ideas, like objects floating in space and connected by rods, but quickly abandoned this, because without a ground with texture, the difference between a small object and a distant object was often hard to distinguish.

We tried posts and sticks to 'support' the name panels, but these showed too much of what was behind, so the scene was a confusing jumble. Using no object, just the topic name panels floating in the air was, even worse - it gave no sense of the structure at all. You can see this yourself by setting the inner and out cones to 100% transparent.

We have added "skinny" pyramids and cones, and "fat" pyramids and cones to provide some variation without too much of a performance penalty. Users with slower 3D graphics adapters and processors may find that straight cones and pyramids provide a small performance boost.

We often get suggestions for using other shapes but none yet have been better at solving the problem of visibility vs. showing structure than the present models. And 3D rendering and flight performance will be a problem for complex shapes.



Next: Appendix B: Summary of easy steps and shortcuts

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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