The Alpha version of Docear is ready to be released and we are really proud of what we achieved the last six months. From the old “SciPlore MindMapping” is nothing left, except the basic idea. Have a look at the major changes and try the Alpha now (if you are a SciPlore MindMapping user – otherwise you have to wait a couple of weeks).
Freeplane instead of FreeMind
The old SciPlore MindMapping was based on FreeMind, a good and popular but not very well maintained mind mapping software. The new Docear is based on Freeplane, a really exceptional piece of software. Freeplane has much more features than FreeMind (e.g. Free floating nodes, displaying images), is much faster, more stable and above all: Freeplane has a great plugin system that allows us offering Docear as a plugin for Freeplane. That means, if a new version of Freeplane is released you can just install it and Docear will work with the new version. You do not need to wait until we have adjusted Docear to the new Freeplane version. Also, the Freeplane development team is highly responsive to user feedback. If you have ideas for new features regarding the mind mapping functionality, the Freeplane team will be happy to hear them.
Integrated Reference Manager
Docear has it’s own BibTeX compatible reference manager. Or better said: we fully integrated one of the best available reference managers, namely JabRef. That means you can directly create references in Docear, add them to nodes (even if they don’t have a link to a PDF), edit references in the mind map and they will automatically be changed in the BibTeX file, and you have all the wonderful standard features that JabRef offers. Of course, you can still install JabRef in parallel and work as you are used with SciPlore MindMapping.
Compatibility with other reference Managers
You don’t have to use our integrated reference manager. You can still use any other BibTeX compatible reference manager as well and also our support for Mendeley now is improved. It is no problem to use Mendeley for managing your PDFs (and extract metadata) and use Mendeley’s BibTeX file in Docear.
Docear has a “workspace”. We believe this workspace makes Docear much easier to understand for new users. In the workspace you have several mind maps. For instance, one that lists only your new PDF files. Another one is for managing all your annotations, another one for your own publications. Of course you can still create new mind maps for each of your assignments, papers or books you are currently writing. There is also another advantage of having a workspace. All links in mind maps are set relative to the workspace. That means you can move your mind maps within the workspace and all links to PDF files will still work. It also allows you to use your data on several computers with different operating systems.
MS Word plugin
The probably biggest advantage other reference managers such as Zotero and Mendeley have over Docear is their good integration with Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. For SciPlore MindMapping we recommended using BibTeX4Word but BibTeX4Word is not very user friendly (neither the installation, nor the use in MS Word, nor installing new citation styles). We are working on a Docear4Word Add-On and hope to have it ready in a few weeks.
Import of all PDF annotations (bookmarks, comments, highlighted text)
For SciPlore MindMapping we recommended Foxit Reader as PDF reader. However, for Docear (Windows) we recommend PDF-XChange Viewer (PDFXV). Docear can import highlighted text, bookmarks and comments created with PDFXV and PDFXV is free. Unfortunately PDFXV is only available for Windows. Linux and Mac users still need to make some compromises when it comes to importing PDF annotations.
We have a brand new website just for Docear with much more content than before (www.docear.org). Right now the website is still under construction but soon it should be completed and even now it’s already better than the old one, I think:-).
Not yet implemented
There is one feature that is not yet available in Docear but which was in SciPlore MindMapping: Backup. This feature will be available in the first private Beta or definitely in the final 1.0 release.
The Alpha is not available for public download but only for registered SciPlore MindMapping users here. If you are not a registered user, please be patient. In a few weeks (around January 2012) the first public Beta will be available.
Have fun trying the all-new Docear and let us know what you think about it! But keep in mind: it’s an Alpha. So don’t be too harsh with us if you discover some bugs.
A note about using old SciPlore MindMapping mind maps
We have integrated a converter that automatically converts your old mind maps to the new Docear format. However, it is not completely done yet – paths are not yet converted to the new “relative to workspace” concept. Also, it is very likely that there are more bugs. Therefore, make a backup of all your mind maps in your workspace before you open them in Docear. And, let us know all bugs you discover.