New (potential) user

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Oct 4, 2010, 6:23:15 AM10/4/10
to Topicscape
Hello Argey and all,

I am looking with great interest at Topicscape as a way to manage the
growing information overload of my life (work & personal). I believe i
am your ideal audience and customer :) as i have struggled for many
many years with mind-mapping, concept-mapping etc etc etc. What really
caught my attention was reading your account of how you personally
have struggled with different methods and tools over the years, and
how Topicscape came to be. Your story is so similar to mine that I
feel as though I could have written it myself :)

Anyway, I just downloaded and started to get familiar with Topicscape
Pro, and I will write more as I become more familiar with the
software. I recently started to use PersonalBrain, but my file (or
"brain", as they call it) hasn't grown too much yet, so I hope it
won't be difficult to switch to Topicscape. My problem with
PersonalBrain is exactly what you mentioned: it seems absolutely
stunning at first, and it gives you the feeling of "This is it! It's
perfect! Problem solved!". No-limitations freedom to link everything
to everything, easy to find and jump to anything, seductively
beautiful (even sexy) interface.

At first, it's a marriage made in heaven, and it's a joy to use. Of
course, as you so correctly described, the problem starts to creep up
on you later as you start to add more and more into it. Your "no sense
of place" description fits my sentiments exactly. And imagine that
I've been using it for only a little over a month. I can't imagine
what that thing is gonna look like 2-3 years later.

PersonalBrain, I found, either presents you with too small of a view,
in which case you have absolutely no sense of where you are (no sense
of the big picture) and what belongs (or is related) to what, or it
shows you too much in which case the over-crossing interconnecting
links become too much of a hurdle for the brain (the human one, that
is) to take in without some serious cognitive effort. I am surprised
that they haven't solved especially the problem with the over-crossing
links--it's a no no in GUI design in my book. A well-designed concept-
map (a hand-drawn at least) usually employs curved or angled links
which are drawn around other links in order to avoid over-crossing--it
is much easier cognitively to see what's going on. Once the links (and
many of them at that!) start to over-cross, all hell breaks loose
cognition-wise (for me at least.)

I will give just one (simple) example why and how "place" is
important. Let's think of the windows taskbar with all the open
applications. If you have been working for a while, and you have many
applications open, slowly you start to develop a sense of where each
application "is", based on its location on the taskbar relative to
your other running programs. I didn't realize how important that was
until I tried to use a virtual desktop program that allows you to
create multiple desktops and switch among them. It worked as
advertised, BUT when I switched to a different virtual desktop and
then I switched back to your original one, the taskbar was becoming
randomly rearranged. Every time. And this left me completely
disoriented and confused. I no longer knew where each of my open
programs "were". My eyes (and my brain) had to hunt down for them. The
same thing with our items on our desks, in our homes etc. We sometimes
recognize, locate, or even define, an item based on it's location
relative to something else (be that a wall, a piece of furniture or
another item). And that's exactly my problem with PersonalBrain right
now--using it feels like as if someone is constantly rearranging my
office and my home -- ALL the time. It's maddening :)

From what I've seen so far, Topicscape nails this problem completely.

The first question I have Argey is regarding the portability of
Topicscape, which is very important to me. Can it run in a portable
fashion? By which I mean, can I install it on my external HD and run
it in whatever PC I happen to plug it in without leaving behind traces
of it? What are its dependencies (registry, system files etc.)

And last, but not least, if the answer to the above is "yes, it can
run portably" how does it handle the links to files in the file
system? Is there any way to force the program to use relative paths,
at least for files on the same drive where the program is running
from? Very, very important for me (and for many people, it seems,
judging from the popularity of portable software nowdays).

That's it for first time. I hope it wasn't too long-winded :) And
thanks in advance.

Thessaloniki, Greece


Oct 4, 2010, 2:06:24 PM10/4/10
to Topicscape
Hello Ilias,

Thank you for the complimentary remarks and for your sympathy with our
way of thinking.

To your two questions - you can run Topicscape on multiple machines
and have your Topicscapes on a removable hard disk. Provided you make
sure the logical drive is the same on each machine, you should
experience no problem. Even if the logical drives are different, the
inconvenience is minor (see below). So for practical purposes it is
portable. But it does make use of the Windows registry for several
purposes relating to performance and user convenience, so we do not
claim that it is a portable application in the sense you mean.

Many users do have their Topicscapes on a USB drive of some type and
transport them between home and work. We have more information about
this here:
and it applies to portable USB hard drives as well as flash drives.
For this purpose, we allow two installations with one license provided
only one is in use at a time.

Topicscapes have a default parent folder, named My Topicscapes unless
you change it on the first run. But they do not have to be in that
folder. You can start a Topicscape from wherever it is, provided it
is in its own folder - which is needed for various files describing
user customizations and descriptive data (if these are missing it will
not break, but will warn you and then make them with default

You can also permanently move the My Topicscapes folder as described

On relative paths, that is entirely in your hands. You have three
options each time you introduce files or folders - and Topicscape asks
you which you want. If you choose Move or Copy, the paths will indeed
be relative, as you want. Moving that Topicscape's folder will not
break the Topicscape. If you choose Link, the path is absolute.
Then, of course if you move the prortable disk to another machine, it
won't be able to find the file. Sometimes users do not want to commit
a file to Topicscape, but they do want to reach it from within
Topicscape, and Link provides that option. New users often start out
with Link, before they are ready to have their files controlled by
Topicscape. They get all the visibility that Topicscape brings
without having to make a commitment to Topicscape controlling their

But we always recommend the Move option, precisely because Links, like
Windows shortcuts, can easily be broken. The Move and Copy options
are more robust and Move avoids the risk of having copies that drift
out of alignment.

So yes, you can move Topicscapes around, but you do need to install
Topicscape on both PCs where it will be used.

I hope that covers everything, but let me know if not.

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