Thinking Space: Mind Mapping on the Move

Have you ever been sitting somewhere and fallen into one of those abstract productive trains of thought? Did you want a way to get these thoughts down quickly in a structured form rather than just fly back to reality and lose it all? There is an Android application that lets you do that.

Thinking Space is an innovative application which allows you to mind-map on the move and get your thoughts down quickly whilst still keeping them in a structured and organised layout. With extensive customization, and the ability to export your mindmaps, Thinking Space is hardly short of features.

The Interface

Each new mindmap canvas starts out completely blank, apart from the mindmap title in a central bubble.  Thinking Space cleverly hides all menus and configurations whenever it can, so you can have maximum screen space. Tapping the cogs in the bottom left corner pulls up two toolbars, one on the left and one on the bottom. These two toolbars work together to give you pretty much all of Thinking Space’s visual development and customization. Scrolling across the bottom toolbar alters the choices along the vertical toolbar, as part of a clever categorization system.

design

Design toolbars

The regular pinch-to-zoom function allows you to selectively view individual segments of your mindmap and pan across it. This is very handy on phones with small screens. However if you develop a large mindmap, then you would probably want to export it from your phone to be viewed elsewhere. I discuss exporting your mindmaps later in this review.

If you don’t like where topics are automatically placed, an intuitive drag and drop system allows you to rearrange them. Don’t worry about things beginning to look messy, since Thinking Space intelligently moves and formats the other segments to accommodate your changes.

The one-to-many or ‘branches’ aspect of mindmapping is also handled automatically with good layout rules. Expanding or removing content requires no effort or thought since everything else adjusts to reflect changes. Should you wish to hide part of the mindmap, just tap the section’s root to hide the branches from view.

All of the automatic formatting is a good piece of design since it allows you to spend more time concentrating on what you want to put into the mindmap, rather than on worrying about how it looks.

branches

Mindmap branches

If you have read any of my previous articles on Android.Appstorm, you may have observed or ascertained that I am a speed-freak when it comes to technology. Anything that stutters, jerks, breaks, or is just slow to operate doesn’t stand a chance of staying on my phone. Thinking Space pleases me by being both fast and smooth. By smooth I mean the pan-scrolling and zooming of the mindmaps and pretty much all of the operations and transitions Thinking Space conducts. This is all based on the Wildfire, so if it runs smooth on that, it will run like a dream on anything else!

Customization

The level of customization in Thinking Space is deep to say the least. Just about everything you would want to tinker about with is available. There are two divisions of customization within Thinking Space: decoration and functionality. By decoration I refer to the customization of your mindmap’s appearance; this is all handled in the Mindmap design window. I could go into extreme detail, but I will limit myself to saying that you can alter font, text size, colour, box styles and link colours.

Functionality settings are found under Menu > Settings, and manage how Thinking Space operates as an application on the whole. These settings range from Wordwrap, Multiline Text Entry, to Cloud Functionality and MindMeister support. I doubt many users will want to do something that Thinking Space can’t account for.

From Phone to Meeting Room

Of course, using mindmaps solely on your phone would be absurd, so Thinking Space gives you an Export feature that lets you view your work elsewhere. All you need to do is press Menu > Export whilst working on a mindmap. This presents you with choices:

Export Options

The ‘File’ option lets you choose a transfer medium and creates or sends a .mm type file which other Thinking Space users can read. Handy if you know a colleague who also has Thinking Space and you want to show or give them a copy of your mindmap. If you go into Thinking Space’s settings, you can change the ‘default file format’ from ‘Freemind‘ (the .mm file type) to ‘Mindjet‘ or ‘XMind‘. This means that the most popular desktop mindmapping software can all read and modify anything you do with Thinking Space.

The ‘Image’ option takes a ‘picture’ of the entire mindmap, and you can then use any of your other applications to broadcast it. For example I used GMail to send myself the one below. Don’t worry about zooming out to have the whole mindmap on your screen before exporting, Thinking Space handles all that for you. This is probably the most practical choice for exportation, since you can put the image up on the projector in the boardroom, or print it off to revise from as a student.

Landscape Mindmap

An image export as it appeared on my laptop

Choosing ‘Text’ was a tad disappointing (at the time of writing this review in any case). It got me interested by offering numbering and indentation, and asked me to choose an application to use. However I personally got shot down with an error message reading ‘Sorry, handling text uploads has not been implemented yet’. Oddly, the Thinking Space developers have created a picture and file export feature, but haven’t done text yet. I expect it will be implemented very soon though.

The final option, ‘Cloud’, allows you to store your mindmaps on the Thinking Space cloud server using the optional Cloud Module add-on. This lets you access them from anywhere online.

The Flaw

The biggest flaw of this application is that due to intentions on saving screen real-estate, the developers chose not to label all the functions and icons that Thinking Space offers, and there are plenty! Though most of the icons are pretty much self-explanatory, many of them are not, meaning experimentation and practice are needed. If you decide to get this application, have a go on a test mind-map first just to get used to how everything works and what each icon represents.

Price

The standard Thinking Space application is Free, however the extended ‘Pro’ version is £2.95 ($4.80). The major difference between the free and paid versions of Thinking Space is that the free version has adverts. These adverts take up screen space, so do hinder the overall experience. Nevertheless, you should give the free version a go; I am sure you will like it. There are download links below.

Conclusion

Thinking Space allows you to translate your flurry of thoughts into clearly understandable visual representations. Whether these thoughts are for yourself or others they can be easily distributed. The customization level is fantastic and leaves the user wanting for nothing.

However due to the lack of icon labels and clear instructions for new users, I have to retract a small part of my enthusiasm. The abilities of Thinking Space could be overlooked by new users, or never used at all because they can’t understand what is what and give up. Thereby my total score out of 10 for this application is 9. A little support for new users is all that is really required.


Summary

An application which allows you to record thoughts and ideas in a mindmap structure

9
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