Mural Alternative: Scrintal | Organization of Ideas

Introduction

Mural is a platform designed to improve engagement for teams working on brainstorming, problem-solving, and projects. It’s a collaborative whiteboard where users can add and edit notes, images, or text. As the name suggests, the result is a diverse mural of ideas like a whiteboard.

If Mural is almost the perfect tool for you but just not quite right, an alternative is Scrintal. Rather than focusing on complete flexibility, like being able to draw or change the size and shape of notes, Scrintal is more structured with the same principles. Connections between ideas are key, and the cards can be dismissed or displayed at will with the connections intact. 

I’ll use this article to compare Mural and Scrintal, showing the subtle differences between each and allowing you to choose which tool will work best for your needs.

Free Mural Alternative: Scrintal’s Best Features

Personal Knowledge Management

Personal knowledge management involves collecting and organizing information for future use. It is useful because having an evolving knowledge base aids in the development of projects and ideas without losing information over time or repeating work in order to find it again and again. In Scrintal, you can add information as it is learned and create connections between topics. Subject areas for knowledge can be split up into different boards, and even boards can be linked together for easy reference. Like with Mural, the visual display of this information is customizable; but in Scrintal, the simple card structure makes this information easy to navigate and change.

Scrintal’s spatial canvas is a critically important feature for mind-mapping, but it is far more than flashcards on a corkboard: there is no word limit for any card, and you can also embed images, videos, tweets, and PDFs to expand the potential for connections and remain within the Scrintal ecosystem. Backlinks to other cards and boards make related information easily accessible. Mural also has a linking system to objects within the same board, but because linking is not an integral feature, the process is more cumbersome and less intuitive than it is within Scrintal. This means that linking may interrupt the flow of ideation within Mural, but not in Scrintal.

Connected Note Taking

Not only can you link notes within Scrintal, but you can edit multiple cards simultaneously, even if they exist on different parts of the same board. In Mural, cards do not open in a tab for editing, so you can only edit cards at the same time if they are on the same part of the board that you are zoomed in to. Furthermore, since Mural is a primarily visual tool with less room for long-form text, if you type a lot of information, the text will be very small and hard to read unless you make the card bigger on the board. In Scrintal, on the other hand, the opening of a card tab to edit the card means you can write more information and not worry about it affecting the size of the text when viewing the card on your board. You can also fold cards on your Scrintal board for a more holistic view of your map.

Being able to recognize the connections between different ideas inspires further creativity, which makes these features critical. Scrintal and Mural both use visual representations to display the connectedness between notes; but in Mural, connections don’t show up visually, take time to create, and are not meant to be used all the time. Scrintal displays the entirety of a particular map of notes using connections that are linked (showing up as arrows on the board), allowing the user to open them while reading for easy reference.

Multimedia Detailed Notes

Mural emphasizes media files as part of your board, so just like in Scrintal, you can upload or embed images, videos, and document files like PDFs. In Scrintal, you can open these media files in a new “floating” tab (separate from the card they are on) and drag them around your board, allowing you to read, watch, or listen to them while note-taking. Mural is primarily a visual tool, so images and PDFs appear in their full form on the board and you can draw or write on them. Videos show up like attachments, and must be downloaded to view. 

This is also true for backlinks, which in Scrintal take you to a new floating note alongside the previous one. These notes can also be dragged around the page as required, and can be worked on simultaneously.

Intuitive User Experience

Both Mural and Scrintal contain different features for different use cases. Mural is a better whiteboarding tool, with easy and accessible tools for writing and taking quick notes (even on top of documents and images). It can also function as a gallery, with different documents that are meant to be read one at a time available on one screen. Scrintal is a good alternative for those who find the structure limiting or need more room and flexibility to write in longer form; the platform is easily navigable with common shortcuts to avoid interrupting one’s train of thought and a small learning curve. Both platforms use board and cards, but Scrintal cards tend to be linked in a tree to indicate the network of connections between ideas. Mual cards are more visually organized, moveable between sections of a single board and resizable as needed. 

Side-by-side comparison and editing of notes in Scrintal means that the flow of ideas does not have to stop in order for the user to scroll and navigate to the proper area of the board. Especially with more complex boards, Scrintal may be easier to navigate because looking around to find the right note on the board is more cumbersome than simply opening two cards (on very different parts of a board) side by side with the floating tabs.

Mural Alternative: The Pros and Cons Comparison

Mural Pros

The Mural interface is an attractive combination of a note taking tool and a picture editing tool, which makes sense given its focus on the visual. It has many options to customize your board, especially drawing tools and the ability to organize a combination of images, pictures, documents, and more like a mood board. Mural templates provide a good starting base, but the real power of the tool comes when users utilize the available features to fully customize their boards; these features are all relevant to the user base without being cluttered with features just for the sake of having them.

Cards and media files are easy to move between areas of the board by dragging, and the ability to draw enhances the board and allows users full creative control of their content. Mural is meant for visual ideation rather than text-heavy content (except content that exists in a document file); when working with images and quick ideas, the need to move around the board in order to change it is more intuitive. It also allows for real-time collaboration between multiple users on a single board, and like with a Google Document, you can see who else is editing the board you are working on.

Mural has both desktop and mobile apps, and can be used offline, making it a good tool for storyboarding on the go and adding ideas as they come up right into the platform.

Scrintal Pros

The structure and flow of Scrintal lends itself to an intuitive process from beginning to end: plan, brainstorm, execute, and share. This method of work makes the journey from ideation to presentation smooth and prevents interruptions to the creative thought process due to formatting, organization, or tab switching. 

Empowering your first brain

Scrintal’s virtual canvas ensures the steady flow of creativity without interruptions. Connections rise to the surface more easily in a visual format and are not at risk of being forgotten or overlooked. The Scrintal ecosystem can host videos and PDFs on the same screen as an editable note, avoiding the need to scroll up and down or switch back and forth between tabs or windows. Your research and writing can take place in the same environment.

As needed, notes can appear as cards, full-screen text editors (for focusing), or titles only (for a holistic view of the network). This is a tool for the mind to more effectively engage with information and produce new ideas, as well as determine whether any information is missing or lacking. 

Networked note taking

Cards can be linked together or tagged, and these are two of Scrintal’s most important features. Our minds work similarly, forming connections between ideas and using these connections to create a knowledge base that not only consists of information, but also a network that inspires innovation and enables problem-solving. Creating a visual representation of this network, whether hierarchical or more flexible, is more efficient than holding it in your mind, where only one connection can be considered at a time and new ideas may be lost or forgotten.

In Mural, the backlinking feature and connections are limited to the cards that exist on a single board (meaning you must have a card on the board to show a connection, even if it is not immediately relevant) and requires moving to the section of the board that the linked card is placed on. So if you link two cards that exist on opposite sides of a complex board, you will have to go back and forth to edit them.

In Scrintal, you can use boards to keep placements of cards consistent and ensure mind maps are organized in whichever way makes sense to you. If you move a card, the arrow (and link) moves with it; if you dismiss a card from your board, the link still exists in the vault. So you establish a more permanent connection rather than a temporary one.

Mural Cons

In Mural, connections are not a key feature the way they are in Scrintal; when used sparingly, they perform their intended purpose, but because they take you to the part of the board where the linked note or file is located, it can be difficult to work on two ideas simultaneously. Since Mural is focused on images and short-form content, this is not an issue; but for anything longer than a sentence or two, it can be challenging to use Mural. Because of this, it’s not the right tool for a complex knowledge base. Rather, it works better for visual projects or early-stage ideation.

YouTube videos linked on your board open in a new YouTube tab, and video files must be downloaded to view; this makes it difficult to work without interrupting the flow of creative thought or take long-form notes without switching between different tabs. Some have also reported that Mural can be difficult to use intuitively due to frequent zooming in and out and moving around the board to view different notes and media. 

Scrintal Cons

Scrintal is an early stage product and its team implements community feedback in product updates. It is younger and less tested than Mural, meaning it has more areas for improvement. 

For example, the ability to annotate PDFs is a hugely important feature for research and note-taking purposes, and this functionality is not yet available in Scrintal; in Mural, the ability to draw makes it simpler to annotate, especially for short documents. You can publish Scrintal boards, but Mural has more advanced collaboration features that allow other platform users to comment on and edit boards in real time. Integrations with a wide range of other apps like calendars, meeting platforms, and others that are used by knowledge workers on a daily basis are still being developed for Scrintal. Offline support and a mobile app are in the works in order to provide a competitive and uninterrupted experience.

For now, some users may find they are best served using either Mural or Scrintal depending whether the project is visual- or text-heavy in nature.

Mural Alternative Use Cases

Consultant

Consulting projects are almost always unique, composed of a specific set of deliverables to meet the needs of each client. It involves collecting loads of information, most of which will end up being irrelevant. For a client to execute recommendations requires careful planning and thorough explaining on the part of the consultant.

Scrintal has exactly the kind of features to enable and improve this process. Parsing through information to find the significant data points is made easier with a hierarchical structure. A visual network of connections that was created during the long research phase is valuable in explaining the reasons for recommendations, and the linking and tagging system makes it simple for a client to navigate between different facets of a recommendation. The ability to share a board is the perfect medium: a simpler and more easily navigated version of a Prezi presentation that explains one’s thought process and inspires creativity to ensure no points are missed. In most cases, consulting is not heavier on visuals than most other professional fields, so Mural might not be the best choice because text-heavy notes, especially with a weaker and more cumbersome link feature, will make a board harder to navigate for an informal presentation.

Knowledge Worker

Scrintal is very useful for organizing knowledge work like writing journalistic articles, scholastic papers in the arts and sciences, and reports for corporate use. Ideating and planning is made easy with the hierarchical and flexible structuring that the platform offers, and the abilities to fold, unfold, display, and dismiss cards as needed enables holistic awareness and focused work. Again, this type of work is not heavy on visuals, making Scrintal a more intuitive choice than Mural.

For example, a journalist can use Scrintal to record the different facets of a story, including interview notes and critical images, documents, and videos, see how they connect, and have a bird’s-eye view of how an article can come together. With Mural, this bird’s-eye view would be heavily reliant on short notes and images, and it would be difficult to organize text-heavy content like interview notes and fact-finding investigations. However, Mural may be a good tool for early stage ideation, especially for visual thinkers. 

Also, scientists can plan their papers within Scrintal, utilizing the whole ecosystem to keep their sources, notes, data, and original ideas together in a single place; Mural may be another option for this if there are lots of graphs, but Scrintal has very similar functionalities with the added bonus of being able to handle lots of text. 

In a corporate setting, the platform can be used to construct business reports from the ground up by consolidating information; connections may reveal new areas of exploration and new data to collect.

There are, however, ways to utilize both Scrintal and Mural in creating a report (even if it has nothing to do with marketing). For example, many reports do have a large visual component that can be added after the content is completed; in this case, Mural can act as an organization tool for images with the only necessary text being subheadings or image captions. 

Student/Researcher

Visual representations of a network of knowledge are particularly important to students and researchers because in order to study material effectively or write a convincing essay or thesis, information must be organized, holistic, relevant, and cited. Within Scrintal, one could store notes on lectures or research papers, a list of sources as a bibliography, ideas for an essay topic, or a table of contents outlining a scholarly article.

The hierarchical structure of a network on the platform can help cultivate a thesis; this feature is not present in Mural, because it organizes information at the behest of the user and notes and media can be cumbersome to quickly navigate. An important future feature for Scrintal would be the ability to annotate documents like scholarly papers; in Scrintal you can only read PDFs while note-taking, while in Mural they can be annotated (though note-taking beyond a few words is difficult).

Mural Alternative: The Final Verdict

Scrintal is the best Mural alternative

Different tools suit different tastes and serve different purposes. As a visual learner and thinker who moves quickly through different ideas and needs to hold on to them before I forget, Scrintal is the best tool for me. However, I also appreciate the interface, flexibility in content, and organizational capacity of Mural; and I can see how some visual thinkers, e.g. designers, who also work heavily with visuals would find it a more useful tool for their needs. I have previously used it in a class that relied heavily on collaboration: we uploaded short assignment documents (with images) onto a Mural board and commented on our classmates’ work directly on the board.

If you’d prefer not to scroll or click back and forth between links to the same few notes, Scrintal may be a good alternative to Mural with many of the same important features as well as an editable visual layout and the ability to pop out videos and PDFs into new tabs within the same ecosystem. Scrintal does not have a drawing tool, however.

If you prefer a more flexible and customizable visual-focused interface with lots of options for media (except videos, which are not easy to utilize) and a proven track record of collaboration ability, Mural is a great choice. On the other hand, Scrintal can also be a great companion to Mural. Both have the capability to facilitate visual ideation and strategization, with Scrintal focusing more on content and building of a knowledge base and Mural on visuals and initial ideation in a less constricted environment. Together, the two can take a user through the brainstorming, writing, and “beautifying” process.

Scrintal’s flexible mind map means you can structure your thoughts exactly in the way you think them in your head, saving brainpower and facilitating understanding and creativity. It has many of the same features as Mural and even more in the pipeline.

If you are a visual thinker who prefers text capability over image capability, give Scrintal a try!

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