Visual Notetaking Tools Alternative | Which One Should I Choose?

Visual note-taking tools are a great alternative to platforms that resemble a traditional notebook. The ability to incorporate images, videos, PDFs, and a customizable and changeable structure can enhance our ideation process and more efficiently preserve the connections between different ideas. Without it, creative thinking is hindered and some ideas lose their potential without context. 

Scrintal is a visual note-taking tool that focuses on mind-mapping: the user creates cards that can contain multimedia files, tags to increase accessibility, and links to other cards that display as arrows between them. A map of cards exists on a board, and any card can exist on more than one board as needed. We’ve already compared Scrintal to a myriad of other popular note-taking tools, and today we’ll contrast Scrintal’s features with those of other visual tools.

This guide should help you decide which tool (or combination of tools) will serve your note-taking needs. The good news is, there is a large set of options to choose from!

Features of Visual Note-taking Tools

Some of the popular visual tools you may have heard of (or even tested) are:

Miro

“Work together, wherever you work: The online collaborative whiteboard platform to bring teams together, anytime, anywhere.”

Miro

Mural

“Work together, wherever you work: The online collaborative whiteboard platform to bring teams together, anytime, anywhere.”

Mural

Heptabase (paid subscription only)

“A note-taking tool for visual learning. Make sense of complex topics.”

Heptabase

Milanote

“Get organized. Stay creative. Milanote is an easy-to-use tool to organize your ideas and projects into visual boards.”

Milanote

Muse (only available for Apple products)

“Dive into big ideas: Muse is your tool for deep work on iPad and Mac.”

Muse

Mindmeister

“Collaborative Mind Mapping: It All Starts with an Idea.”

Mindmeister

Whimsical

“Work Better, Faster, Together: Whimsical combines whiteboards and docs in an all-in-one collaboration hub.”

Whimsical

Infinite Spatial Canvas

When we are focused on writing and organizing our ideas at the same time, some fleeting thoughts or ideas that don’t fit neatly into a category can be lost along the way. Not all ideation is linear: and when it comes to taking complex notes that circuitously relate to each other, a visual note taking tool is more effective to capture this chaotic process and allow the user to engage in their stream-of-consciousness before distilling the information.

Different tools present this canvas in different ways. In Milanote, ideas are captured in columns or stacks that resemble the productivity tool Trello. Mural and Miro focus on users having the capability to diagram in different and creative ways, primarily utilizing sticky-notes; this approach is most similar to what someone can do on a physical whiteboard or flashcards on a corkboard. Muse is similar to Mural in its diagrammatic approach, but allows nested boards so the user can explore components of broad ideas in more detail. Mindmeister is closer to Scrintal with its arrow-connected mind-mapping, but focused less on notes and images and more on short-form text, making it more effective for planning and organizing than ideation; it also has a Trello-like to-do list function. Heptabase is very similar to Scrintal, with long-form notecards, multi-media embeds, and even arrows connecting cards; though you have to arrows manually in Heptabase, which has its advantages (like allowing further efficiency in connecting ideas) and disadvantages (like requiring double-work in some cases); it also has a dark-mode, which Scrintal users have been asking for and which is currently in development. Whimsical is a complex and loaded combination of all of the prior tools, with diagrammatic capabilities, flowcharts, wireframes, mind-maps, Trello-like to-do lists, and even a document function. 

Multimedia Capabilities

All of the listed tools have the capability to support at least one form of multimedia content, with images and videos being the most popular and PDFs being less common. Whether by uploading, pasting, or adding links, one of the key features of a useful note-taking app (and especially a visual one) is the ability to add content of all kinds into one place to avoid switching back and forth between tabs, and embedding media allows for this. With media embeds, you can enhance your ideation and project work. 

Scrintal’s stand-out feature for media files is the ability to open any of them (image, video, PDF, or tweet) into a new “floating tab” that can be moved around the user’s desk or board at will, making it simple to navigate to another part of the board and still having the media file visible and accessible. However, all of these visual tools are capable of hosting files to allow for an interactive experience in a single ecosystem. 

Collaboration

Every tool on our list except for Heptabase allows for user collaboration [verify]. One of the key functions of personal knowledge management (which we will discuss soon) is the ability to share your knowledge with others, and even to allow others to add. This is even more true for ideation and projects, which are often group endeavors. Each tool has a slightly different way of enabling collaboration, but often it involves inviting other users to your workspace and creating content in real time, which enhances the process of working. 

Think of how ubiquitous Google Drive products like Docs, Sheets, and Slides have become: the motivations behind the collaboration capability of note-taking tools are the same. The other side to this feature is the ability to disconnect from others (and from the internet) to work in an independent, focused manner: offline functionality. While this is not a universal capability of visual note-taking tools, Scrintal is testing it to ensure that all sorts of options are available to users.

Scrintal’s Advantages

Personal Knowledge Management

With a personal knowledge management system, users can collect and create information to organize for more effective future use. A knowledge flow starts from ideation, then structuring the knowledge and finally sharing this knowledge; Scrintal covers this whole process. PKM sounds daunting because of the breadth and depth of potentially relevant information, but with Scrintal you can organize information as it appears and make connections between topics. You can also customize the visual display of this information: make clusters, trees, or intricate maps as needed, or dismiss and display notes as needed without losing the connections. 

The ability to edit multiple notes at one time, even if they exist on different parts of one board, is a huge advantage Scrintal has over the other tools; this fully enables each user’s creative process without hindering it with navigation lags.

Connected Note Taking 

All cards can be linked to each other with backlinks, which work exactly like the links between Wikipedia pages. It indicates a meaningful connection that exists across your entire knowledge base. Removing the visual indication of this by dismissing a card from your board does not dissolve the connection; it will show up again if you bring that card back to the board. 

In Scrintal, you can also link to a card that is not already present on the board, or you can link to an entire board, enabling ease of access during creative ideation. Unlike in Heptabase, which is the most similar tool to Scrintal, creating a backlink automatically creates the visual marker (an arrow) to indicate the connection between two cards. Many of the aforementioned tools utilize a similar mind-mapping function, but Scrintal supports text-heavy content, allows users to minimize, maximize, or dismiss cards, allows cards to exist on more than one board at once without having to recreate it, and has a floating tab system for multimedia files that increases the tool’s accessibility and convenience. 

Intuitive User Experience 

It’s important to note that intuitiveness can be a characteristic that varies from user to user, and that only by testing each tool can we find out which will work best for us. As someone who has tested each of these tools, I’ll explain why Scrintal is the most intuitive for me: if you find yourself agreeing with or relating to my points, give Scrintal a try!

Scrintal is not bloated with features or cumbersome to navigate. The platform is intuitive, navigable with a few clicks or a quick parsing of the shortcut menu, the latter of which is composed of commands that are commonly used in the same way on other platforms. This means that casual users don’t have to deal with a steep learning curve and dedicated users can easily find resources to use Scrintal to its fullest capacity. While many other tools are less structured and allow the user to exercise more control and creativity, this also means more time spent learning functions and organizing a workspace; Scrintal does not have this issue. Even the language used to describe its features are intuitive and realistic: the desk is your everyday workspace, a board is a place to preserve a particular board with specific connections in a visually permanent way, and a card (like a flashcard) is where notes are taken. The search function is useful for retrieving pieces of your knowledge base, and features like tags, color-coded notes, and Trello-esque tables help organize information without getting too complicated.

Visual Note-Taking Tools Alternative: The Final Verdict

Scrintal is the most complete visual note taking option

After reading this guide, you can choose the software that suits best your needs and tastes. As a visual thinker myself, Scrintal is a great alternative to mindmapping, whiteboards and other visual tools. 

If you’re a visual learner as I am, then give Scrintal a try and see how you like it!

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