iPhone App Review: iBluesky

iPhone App Review: iBluesky

February 2nd, 2010 by

Mind maps are useful visual tools for note-taking, brainstorming, visualizing, and organizing information in a way that encourages connecting concepts without being tied to a particular hierarchical framework.

In other words, mind maps are basically a graphical way to take notes.

Mind maps are typically associated with someone standing at the front of a room writing on  a whiteboard while everyone else shouts out ideas, but they can be very useful on a personal level for visualizing a problem that you don’t fully understand. By tossing ideas out of your head and onto the mind map you can quickly capture ideas and concepts, creating intuitive connections as you write, then go back afterwards to more fully organize and categorize your information.

iBluesky brings the full power of mind mapping to the iPhone in an intuitive, attractive, and stable package. But is mind mapping by nature too large a method of brainstorming to be captured on the tiny screen?

iBluesky features a simple and intuitive interface that basically only requires three buttons on the toolbar at any given time. There is always a “plus” icon for adding a branch to the current node, a trash can for deleting, and a menu list for copying branches and emailing the entire project. You can also add notes to nodes and change the node’s color, though the app always creates branches and sub-branches in a unique color from any other branch.

You can also use the standard pinch-zoom to adjust your view of the map, and you can move nodes around the screen simply by dragging on them.

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Pros

  • Tons of output formats. When you email the project the recipient gets it in PDF, PNG, OPML, Novamind, and several other formats. Since the conversion is handled on the server-side (yes, the email passes through the developer’s server) new formats can be added at any time without needing an application update. It’s an elegant solution though not a good one if you are concerned about privacy.
  • Intuitive interface. Mind mapping is almost as rapid as the old-fashioned way of writing on the whiteboard, and I would say it’s faster than mind mapping applications I’ve used online or on the desktop.
  • It’s stable, I’ve never experienced a crash.

Cons

  • No true sync. You can email the project or upload the file to your box.net account, and import mind maps from other applications through the developers’ website, but there is no true syncing feature. You can basically trade mind maps back and forth but not sync the same mind map without creating new ones.
  • The small screen is perhaps the app’s greatest weakness. In my opinion, an essential feature of a mind map is the ability to see and visualize the entire map at once. iBlueSky is useful as a mind map capturing tool, but not for using that map to visualize the information. At some point you need to email it out and work on it on a larger screen.

Bottom Line

To be fair regarding my above point about lack of sync, importing and exporting on iBluesky works flawlessly. The mind map in the screenshot was created in Freemind then imported to iBluesky, and with a little basic aesthetic tweaking was ready to go. I should also point out the dragging and re-arranging nodes is smooth and fluid on both the Edge and 3GS iPhones on which I tested it.

iBluesky is a well-done and polished app that allows good mind mapping on the go, but with such a small screen on the iPhone it’s hard to get experience the full power that mind mapping can bring. Once the iPad is available however this could easily become a your full mind mapping solution.

  • http://www.drewlanning.com dancemonkey

    Thank you. There are many mindmapping apps out there, so maybe I'll round them all up one day and do a side-by-side rundown.

    I personally can't stand what Apple has done with iPad, but I'm curious and excited to see how some of my favorite apps translate. iBluesky I think will work extremely well (or any mindmapping app for that matter) on the larger screen.

  • Rogue55

    I really appreciate your reviews – thanks for doing such a thorough job!

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