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How to Order Thoughts From Chaos to Masterpiece

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When an idea hits you, it’s never in an organized way. This idea, then another, then something unrelated! The mind just does not always follow a logical order. That’s where Scapple comes in handy. Scapple will help you take this chaos to be your next masterpiece.

Introducing Scapple

You can think of Scapple as an electronic bulletin board that you can paste random ideas and notes just about anywhere. After throwing everything down, step back and see how to organize it all. 

Move that note here, this one there, add a note here, stick in a picture or two, ...and by the time you've finished, a masterpiece is before you. I have found that once my thoughts start to get organized, I start to have more inspiration on what to write or create to make the whole a finished product.

You can use Scapple for:

  • Writing literature (books, articles, plays, etc)
  • Writing programs
  • Research Notes
  • A visual way to organize pictures.
  • Or, just about anything else that has notes, pictures, ideas in it.

Example Case 1: This Tutorial

By way of example, Scapple can help organize thoughts about a tutorial. Begin with the title or subject matter to be discussed.

Title of the Tutorial

To add a note double-click anywhere on the background and start typing. In my example, above, I started with Scapple

Main Ideas

Think about the main ideas that you want to present and create notes for each of them. You may wish to organize as you write but it's not necessary. Aim to get all of your thoughts into Scapple first and consider organization later.

Adding Ideas

Look over the main ideas that you have recorded and think about how to flesh them out with more information. As you think add more notes as appropriate.

Adding Examples

Adding examples to the notes is also useful. Tutorials often work well with examples. In my case, I am using this tutorial and a proposed workflow for Alfred as examples.

Final Notes

Personally, I never work straight through, but here and there I add my thoughts and ideas until I have expanded on all of the original thoughts.  The beauty of Scapple is that you can adjust it to your way of working.

Organizing and Structuring

Once all thoughts, notes and ideas have been recorded they need to be organized. Move things around as required. If you select a group of notes you can secondary-click on them to select the sub-menu. This creates a nicely organized stack of notes.

To provide some structure, you can drag a note on top of another note to make a connection line. Using these lines can help define the progression of ideas. The lines can be styled in many ways with or without arrows. With lines added, you can easily see that Scapple, in my example, is the main idea connecting to the sub-ideas. Then sub-ideas to others.

Adding Pictures

Once the notes have been organized, start thinking about pictures to accompany the notes. As you create pictures add them to the canvas. You can move them around until you have the ordering that you want. It is possible to connect the pictures to the notes, but they can be left separate as is your preference.

Once ideas and thoughts are organized, you can start writing. I use Scapple as an outline more than the actual work so I'll start writing with the notes to one side. I can see the graphical structure on one side of the screen, and the text editor on the other. 

You can just as easily export your notes to a text editor, if you prefer. Scapple attempts to keep related notes together when exported to a plain text file, but it tends to jumble them when exported to this format unless each note block is more than a brief note. 

If you export to Scrivener, each text note becomes it’s own document. With that approach, you can think of each note as it’s own chapter. That’s the more common approach to using Scapple.

Once writing, you do not have to keep strictly to the outline. It is still your writing and you can change whatever you need to. 

Example Case 2: Budget Workflow for Alfred

Scapple’s not just for writing literature, but is great for program design. The canvas area makes a great place to consider the elements of a program.

Budget Workflow for Alfred

In this example I am creating a workflow for Alfred to work with my budget. I created background shapes to set apart each function in the workflow. Each function shows what type of block in Alfred to use to make that function. I also place notes about keywords, functionality, and files used.

Added New Background Shape for Notification Block

To create a background shape, secondary-click on the background and select New Background Shape from the menu. When you move the background image, any note placed on top of the background image gets moved with it.

Fill in Notification Information

By dragging the background shape on top of another, you can create lines to connect them. This is exactly like notes. As you move background shapes, the notes on them will stay with them. In this way, flow diagrams showing execution order are easily created and re-arranged.

Creating the Workflow from the Scapple Document

Once you've defined the functionality, you can start writing the workflow. Since Alfred has a graphical workflow creation system, it looks just like the diagram in Scapple.

Conclusion

It is better to plan your work before you start working. Scapple is a useful tool to gather your thoughts and play with ideas for both writing articles and writing computer programs. Your way of working may differ from mine, but Scapple remains an efficient way to capture, order and reorder one's thoughts and ideas.

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