Connect topics using Associations
When you see a topic, you will find that clicking on it shows a green dot (see Glossary). This can be dragged to make new associations or new topics. This applies not only to the Topics in the Map or 'Scape, but to those in the 3D and 2D Hit and History Lists (except for grayed-out items representing deletions), tag pool and in the LA lists (in the Topic Center and tunnels). However, at present it does not apply to items in the parent child map or the Pending Tray (see Pending Tray - holding area for topics and occurrences).
To link topics together, click a topic to select it. The green dot (see Glossary) appears. Drag that to another topic and drop it there. A menu will appear from which you can select exactly how you want the two topics to be associated (or as mentioned earlier, merged).
If you select one of the parent/child associations, you will immediately see that the new structure is reflected by a change in the landscape.
Topicscape's hierarchy is not confined to the strict one-parent-per-folder limit that computer file systems use. A topic can have as many parents as you find relevant when organizing information. When saving a web page showing useful information about children's health in your family reference Topicscape, you may feel it belongs under the topics Children and Infectious Diseases, for example. You make a topic called
Chicken Pox, and make it a sub-topic of Infectious Diseases. Then you drag the green dot from the new topic Infectious Diseases to the topic called Children as well and make it a sub-topic. This topic may appear in the Map or 'Scape twice, but it will be two instances of the same topic. Any changes made to one will appear in both locations.
If you select one instance, in 3D a white "firework" will go up from the tip of the other to bring your attention to its presence in more than one place in the 'Scape (see image on the right). In 2D, all instances of the topic will be selected - the selection highlight showing on each topic.
If you opt to loosely associate (see Tunneling through to more ideas) one topic with the other you will not see changes in the rectangles or cones, but a tunnel will appear on both of the topics concerned. If either of these topics has other loose associations, they will have tunnels already and then no change will be visible.
If you are used to concept maps or topic maps you will have used association types before and Topicscape supports them. Click on an association line and hold briefly and a new kind of Details Panel will appear - an Association Details Panel.
On this, you can define how the topics at each end are associated with each other. In the example above, Computer Security is the parent and Policies the child. Here the association types are read as "Computer Security requires well-implemented Policies", and "Policies are an important part of Computer Security".
Association types are particularly useful when using concept maps to learn or record knowledge. For example, we may use association types to note that:
- "Mozart wrote 41 Symphonies" and
- "Symphonies" make up a significant but relatively small proportion of the works of Mozart".
This has been covered in some detail in Association types - capturing knowledge.
Sometimes you want to break links between topics -- perhaps because you have more information and want to refine the structure, or because a topic is no longer relevant on one of its locations. There are three ways to do this and which you choose is a matter of convenience at the time. Often the easiest is to select a topic (say "Reference documents") and drag its green dot to the topic to be disconnected from it (say "Business development"). If the two topics are indeed associated, the pop-up menu will include an item (to continue with the examples just given): "Reference documents to be disconnected from Business development". Select this to complete the action. If the two items are not associated, the same item will appear but will be grayed out and inaccessible: "Reference documents to be disconnected from Business development".
- The topic that would no longer have a place in the Map or 'Scape becomes semi-transparent, together with any children it may have. Pressing F5 will cause the Map or 'Scape to be redrawn without any semi-transparent topics. Changing the Current Topic will redraw the Map or 'Scape too. Until it is re-drawn, the semi-transparent topics can be treated as usual: They will accept files or folders dragged to them, they will show a green dot (see Glossary) which can be used to make new associations and their Topic Centers can be entered.
- If breaking an association makes one of the two topics concerned into an island (a group of topics disconnected from the main group) you will see a warning (see Topicscape Islands).
- Press F8 again, if you don't want to see association lines for now.
Tunneling through to more ideas
Loose associations -- represented in tunnels -- provide a way of connecting topics that don't fit into a parent / child relationship, but which you feel are connected even so. Swimming might be under Sport, and Children under Family, but you might want to loosely associate Swimming and Children for example.
To see the loose associates of a topic, right click on it and select 'View tunnel' (it must have a tunnel or the menu item will be inactive). You will see something like this:
Clicking a topic in the tunnel list shows that topic's attributes in the details panel; double clicking goes to that topic's Topic Center:
The tunnel on "Swimming" (left, 3D; right, 2D) is shown close up, but in a large Map or 'Scape, distant tunnels may not be so visible. They can be identified easily by pressing Ctrl+L. Then lights will flash in each tunnel's mouth for a few seconds.