Scapple for OS X review - clear thought from Mac-centric ideas app
Best known for the excellent long-form writing tool Scrivener, Literature and Latte create software that gives software developers a good name. Scrivener is now joined by Scapple, in many ways a companion tool, ideally for fleshing out thoughts before developing ideas further. Scapple, which The Chambers Dictionary defines as: "to work or shape... roughly, without smoothing to a finish," is rightly described as an endless piece of paper on which to make notes and, should you wish, connect those notes.
Loosely in the 'mind mapping' category of productivity apps, Scapple doesn't set any rules or have a built-in hierarchy for creating and linking notes, rather it's promoted as a freeform text editor. Users needn't make connections that aren't there, just for the sake of making pretty patterns and Scapple doesn't simply produce business focused eye candy that only a boss obsessed with 'blue-sky thinking' cliches could love. Indeed, its appeal appears much wider than the office, covering everything from organising events in your life to study and creative pursuits. Typically for Literature and Latte, Scapple includes a lengthy and extensive 104 page PDF manual, although the built in QuickStart Guide should be fine for most users.
Creating new notes requires a double click, drag and drop to connect them using straight lines or arrows, while users can stack notes in columns of related ideas. Feeling more adventurous, then you can colour code notes, choose fonts and borders and add photographs, all to help add impact and make clearer the links between notes. Those links you do decide to make between notes can easily be broken and individually deleted, without effecting your overall collection of notes.
The only real downside here is that Scapple pretty much succeeds or fails in the hands of the user. Thinking visually isn't an easy option for everyone, and while modestly priced, Scapple is another productivity tool that could be worthless should you abandon it for old ways of working and thinking. That said, the more you use Scapple, the more its feels part of your workflow and rather nicely those notes you do make can be dragged into Scrivener for further development or exported for printing and sharing. Depending on your OS X, Scapple offers support to back up work to iCloud along with a distraction free full screen mode. Scapple is available both from the Apple App Store and directly online via developers Literature and Latte.
If you are prepared to embrace thinking visually, and it's likely a significant step for some, Scapple is a useful tool that could turn small ideas into big ones without too many headaches. Equally, it's a handy way of collecting scraps of ideas that may not come to anything, but make more sense when seen together.