Short about mind maps

Human nature

I think mind maps are still something which is not used to the extent it could be. The idea is very powerful: to use our brain more efficiently. Humans in general memorize visual things, maybe also meaningful sentences, sometimes melodies or body movement sequence (dance) but definitely not numbers nor random strings. There is funny situation in my opinion when passwords are concerned: most of the systems require so called strong password. It is a contemporary myth though: the stronger password they require the higher the probability user will not memorize it. In such case, user will write it down or will try to use the same one for many systems. Does it increase the security? No, it works the opposite way…

Anyway, I like the idea of mind maps as they are truly designed for humans which is rare in today’s systems.


Mind map applications

Mind maps are visual representation of information. They appear as colourful nodes connected with colourful lines.

People in general use it for things like:
– brain storming,
– making fast notes,
– learning things (I tried this way and for me it really works)

I do not want to write about these points – they are more obvious and there is information in internet covering these topics. I would like to show you how to use it in other ways which are less obvious.

There are few applications available (I know Freeplane and Freemind) which implement mind map. I personally prefer Freeplane and all the examples here are done by that application.

Knowledge base

When joining the project very often there is a situation of disspered project know-how. Actually, I have never met a situation of solid knowledge base not to mention expert system on top of it. Information1 is in email, Information2 is on that web page and Information3 is known to that guy over there only. This is the reality in which we often have to start to work.
It is handy to start using mind map as a personal knowledge base, like this one for example:

knowledge base example

knowledge base example

Every node in Freeplane can be marked with colours and shapes and most importantly can have a link to any resource located both locally and remotely.

OS extra layer

We can go further and use it as an extra layer pu on the top of OS. The specialized layer which concerns our project domain only, perfectly customized… let’s call it Project Map.
Let’s move our knowledge base aside – it will be one of the child nodes in our Project Map.
It will contain things like:
– knowledge base which we continuously expand,
– links to things like scripts, reports, files,
– links to external data

There is no point in losing time on clicking through Window menus, recalling locations of various things. This is distracting and it slows down the work. Everything is now 1 click away.

Take a look at the screenshot:


OS overlay example

Again, every node can be clicked and will trigger an action which can be anything from navigating to other mind map to launching an application.

Nice feature Freeplane has is to export to Java applet. Please take a look at this link:

— project mind map —

Thus you can also share the mind map with the team or the world just as I did.


There are many examples in the web. I am sure you can get inspired if this was not the case after reading this post.


Groovy – universal scripting tool

I recently had a need of create some script in Windows environment. I knew about Groovy for some time so I decided to try it. In my opinion this is very strong alternative for Python and for Perl. Because of the fact it uses Java virtual machine, it can be easily launched on every platform where Java is supported. It may also be merged with Java classes so any code you have there somewhere can be used in Groovy script. But this is not all. The very interesting features I would like to show in this post are: ability to create nice domain specific language, handling of XML files (and other form of storing the data) and handling GUI interfaces via Swing library.

Domain specific language

I have already spoke few words about DSL HERE. Groovy has a nice ability to easily create your own language.

This application does… well I do not have to describe what it does – it is self explanatory:

The output of this application is:

It is not only the domain language we can construct but also short code inside. There are 4 files there and let me just show you filtering functionality for files:

You can see the full code HERE.


XML handling

This is the best and easiest way to process XML I have seen so far. I extend the functionality of the previous application so that it opens config.model.xml file (which is part of Notepad++ distribution) and then displays GUIconfig element’s attributes. Take a look, we have DSL part:

The output:

And the internals:


And that’s it. Finally there is an easy way of processing XML files. This is very frequent task to deal with such a format data is stored…

In line 8 file is parsed into variable which has the name as the root node of the XML document. Then, in line 10, one uses child element’s names to build a path. After iterating with “each” keyword we assert @name attribute and if it matches we iterate over attributes. Short, simple and clear.

It is important to mention,
there is the same way of working with JSON

(and that was a short poetry, did you notice?)

The full code is HERE.

And XML file I was using looks like this:



This is also easy to create simple GUI interface to have more rich tool by your hand. In this example I create a small application which will show the values for given elements and all its attributes. This also have auto completion/suggestion feature for more friendly user interface. The default behaviour is to open config.model.xml file and find all attributes of GUIConfigs.GUIConfig element with specific “name” attribute. File path, element path and attribute name are customizable.

The whole application is only in 1 file, so if you copy paste you could run it immediately:

The first part is the logic:

  • buildNodePath builds a node path out of user input; this shows how to navigate through xml document when user is to provide node names during runtime
  • quickList displays the attributes which match string entered by user (“App” will show //GUIConfigs/GUIConfig[@name=”AppPosition”] is available and when confirmed it will display the value and all the attributes of //GUIConfigs/GUIConfig element)
  • autoComplete populates dropdown
  • getAttributeSummaryOfElement displays all attributes and the value of the given element

The second part is the layout done by Swing in Groovy. There is very clear way of positioning items on the screen by using html like trs and tds.

You can view the code HERE.

The screenshot of the application (wordpad on the right side):


The movie which shows the runtime:

Nice tool

This is nice tool worth reading about it more. There are small drawbacks from my point of view especially when mixing things with Java code. I often find myself writing some Javish Groovy or Groovish Java… still this is clearly an advantage as you can append existing Java code to your script. I think I like XML/JSON processing most, this is extremly useful. I also am impressed by details like this one:

It gives “c” in the output. Isn’t the simplicity impressing in Groovy ?