Underlying Ideology

Keep It Simple

Incubator originated as a tool for taking structured notes during lecture.  Under this circumstance, there is no time to draw separate lines, boxes and text and then try position and connect everything together.  So, the goal was to provide as much automatic formatting as possible. 

As Incubator evolved it became evident that it was a useful tool for assembling review materials in preparation for exams.  Incubator is an efficient thinking tool because it releases its owner from the mechanics of presentation. 

These days Incubator is used by writers, inventors, artists and strategic thinkers all over the world.  We are constantly fine-tuning its capabilities and always welcome suggestions for improvement.  The great thing about developing for the Mac is the terrific group of creative people who embrace it. 

Why Three Object Types

Incubator uses proximity zones to infer that two objects should be linked.  Objects are linked, unlinked and reordered by simply dragging them either toward or away from each other.  Although these gestures seem quite natural, it took a great deal of experimentation to fine tune this capability. 

Initially, we experimented with a single object type.  But the need for multi-line annotation and in particular the need to position it near other objects proved problematic.  Any objects dragged nearby tried to attach.  Further, annotation tended to contain multiple lines, whereas outline objects more often consisted of single-line summaries.  It seemed natural to delineate two object types to address these differences. 

Topics were added partly to accommodate traditional mind-mappers, and partly because they provide a better anchor for automatic formatting calculations.  In early versions, Incubator placed various tree fragments on the worksheet in a somewhat circular fashion.  It just seemed natural to provide an actual center in the form of a topic.  As a bonus, multiple topics allow multiple centers on a single worksheet.

Infinite Worksheet

The concept of a worksheet that readily grows in all four directions evolved from earlier attempts to use a fixed-sized sheet.  It quickly became obvious that a fixed-sized sheet was not going to work out, so we tried allowing it to grow to the right and downward - like a spreadsheet.  That solution seemed arbitrary.  This was particularly true because in order to add something above or to the left required selecting everything and manually moving it over.  This seemed contrary to the idea that Incubator should handle the mechanics of presentation. 

So in the end we chose to permit growing the worksheet in all four directions.  Near the current borders of a worksheet the cursor changes shape to indicate that pressing the mouse button will grow the worksheet in the indicated direction.  In the case where all objects have been removed from a previously added section of the worksheet, a button on the toolbar can be used to remove the empty section.


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