Mind Mapping For iPhone: iBlueSky

After my last GTD software review, the article about OmniFocus for iPhone, I received a lot of positive feed-back. But among all the messages, there was a specific email which intrigued me. It was an email from a United Kingdom based software company called Tenero, in which the main developer announced the availability of a mind mapping software for iPhone. Are you kidding? A mind mapping application for an iPhone? That would be really something.

Minutes after I received the message from the developer, I checked AppStore, search for an application called iBlueSky, and installed it. And started to play with it. And continued to play with it. And played with it even more. And, if I wouldn’t have to write this post, I assure that I would play with it even now 🙂 .

How to mind map with your iPhone

The first thing you notice when you use iBlueSky is the extreme simplicity of the interface. You only have 3 buttons on the lower bar and this is actually all you need.

Adding child items is as easy as hitting the “+” icon in the lower bar. Before that, you have to select the item which will contain the child branch. If you want to delete an item, or even an entire branch, you hit the recycle bin icon. Easy as pie. And if you want to edit the content of an item, double click it:

And yes, this is actually an iPhone in landscape mode, and we all know that this is the best mode for text input, since the keyboard will spread over much more space. I personally think that the lack of a landscape mode in the Mail of iPhone is a serious drawback, by the way…

Back to iBlueSky, you can also have something that iPhone does not implement by default: clipboard functionality. If you want to move an item to another branch, or even to move an entire branch, you just hit the first icon on the lower bar and voila:

Having this functionality in such an early version tells me a lot about the long term intentions of the developers. Which seems to be in the iPhone application field to stay, so to speak.

What else I should add? Maybe the fact that each branch is automatically colored together with all child branches, a neat visual effect for quickly identifying your mind map structure. Another cool thing is the fact that you can send the project by email, and you’ll receive 4 attachments: a freemind format mind map, a PNG for web integration, an OPML file, and a PDF for printing.

Now, how much does it costs? It’s 5,99 EUR and I guess it’s quite a fair price. I also think that keeping the price frozen while adding more mind map formats to the exporting feature will make this application difficult to compete with.

How I use iBlueSky so far

Of course, I use it to sketch blog posts, and I do it all the time when I’m not at the computer. Even if I’m in the car, I pull over and start mind mapping that idea. It’s quicker and far more accurate than using any linear noting approach, being it the mother of GTD techniques, OmniFocus, or better.

I also use it to sketch business meetings. I mind map whenever I have something business related to discuss, and I usually do this during lunch, since I don’t have an office anymore – man, I feel so good about this 🙂 . I find carrying a notepad or a laptop quite cumbersome, lately, I only use my iPhone for that. I already had a business meeting yesterday and iBlueSky come right in time for this.

Another way in which I use it is to capture ideas. I don’t have a special place in which ideas are flowing respectfully to me, they just seem to pop up in the strangest places. So I just put them into a mind map, adjust a little bit the branches, and then send the mind map to me by email.

Wish list

Although it is a surprisingly mature application, iBlueSky still leave some room for improvement. I would be extremely happy if some, or even all, of these wishes would be incorporated in the next releases:

  1. saving / opening projects. Instead of sending them by email it would be quite comfortable to be able to save them on the iPhone. The projects are automatically saved when you are creating them, I know, but I want a way in which I can open other guys files, files that I can receive by email, bonjour, file sharing, etc.
  2. somehow related to the first wish: templating. If there will be a way to save a file, having an option to save it as a template would be really nice. For me, that would be quite an enhancement in the blog post sketching area, for instance.
  3. more export formats, especially MindManager. After I discussed with the developer the other day he told me that adding export options can be done without modifying the core iPhone application, and MindManager format is on the list, which seems to be rather good news. We only need to wait a little bit for that.

All in all, iBlueSky is an impressive iPhone application. I just couldn’t think of a better way to spend those 5,99 EUR I did when I bought it. If you’re into mind mapping, or you are just trying to improve your personal productivity, this application is a must.

P.S. This is not directly related to iBlueSky, but have you noticed how the picture in the multimedia box of my blog theme was assigned to a mind map picture? Incidentally, this is the mind map I sketched on my iPhone using iBlueSky for this very post, but that’s not the point. The point is that the theme I use – for almost a month, now – and that would be thesis, allows me to do all sort of cool optimizations and enhancements. If you’re into blogging, stay tuned for a detailed post of how to use and customize thesis for spectacular results with your blog.

21 thoughts on “Mind Mapping For iPhone: iBlueSky”

  1. I really love bluesky! I want to be able to do more mindmapping on a larger scale now though. I think it said novamind is the program it works with. But I dont know what type of license to go with. probably the standard. is there something better or???

    • You can try FreeMind, it’s a free mind mapping program written in java. Although iBlueSky has support for NovaMind it does a very good job with FreeMind too. Hope this helps 🙂

  2. Pingback: iBlueSky goes to version 2.0
  3. Hi Dragos. You might also want to try my graph sketching application, Instaviz, which can do mind maps, concept maps etc. It has a friendly shape recognition interface and uses Graphviz for automatically laying out graphs.

  4. if MindGenius recognize the FreeMind format, you’re in luck. Otherwise, just install FreeMind, it’s Java and it’s free: take it from here. The exported mind maps for iBlueSky are in FreeMind format.

    Good luck!

  5. Thanks Dragos, that was a very good post. I’m always looking for apps that I can use with my iPhone and GTD. BTW, I actually like using the portrait over the landscape keyboard for my thumb typing. I guess it all depends on the size of your thumbs or fingers.

    If you’re interested, I’ve written numerous posts on GTD and iPhone apps at http://johnkendrickonline.com The current post is about Air Sharing, a great iPhone app for moving files on and off the phone. Again, great post, thanks. John


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