Mind-mapping in Fusebox

Fusebox, Mind-mapping 1 Comment »

In our fast-moving world visual designing tools become more and more popular, allowing to generate code snippets or whole projects from a graphical scretch. This article describes what a Fusebox developer can get from it.Circuits and fuses of a Fusebox project form a strict hierarchy, so we can draw the project schema as a tree. Is there any software to draw trees? Of course! There is an astonishing variety of tools to create mind-maps which we can adopt to our needs.

If you are not familiar with mind maps, let’s take a closer look on them:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing [wikipedia].

Mind maps are a result of mind-mapping: a technique allowing to keep track of ideas generated while a brain-storm session (yes, it’s when people jot down as many ideas as they can and after that they “separate grains and tares” – choose the most brilliant ones). So, valuable thoughts are hierarchically organized as a tree. As any tree, mind map has nodes and leafs, i.e. nodes with no children.

mind map

Structural similarity between a mind map and a Fusebox project provides a basis for a conclusion that the former can be used to generate the latter (and vice versa). A glue between the two layers can be the XML format as most mind-mapping utilities can import from and export to it. A drawback of using XML is that almost every application has its own kind of the XML format our converter will have to deal with.

As long as mind-mapping utilities are concerned – there are a plenty of on-line tools and desktop applications (usually written in Java). We will decide in favour of Bubbl.us as the web site and FreeMind as example of a free desktop tool.

Bubbl.us is a web2.0 on-line application written in Flash, and it’s quite fun to work with it – for example, a deleting node can explode, so be aware! There is a feature of export to several graphical formats, so you can have a big glyph of your project on the wall. You can register if you want to save your masterpieces (so called ‘lazy registration’). Minus is that if you have too many items it could work a bit slower.

Preparing project structure at bubble.us. Export to XML feature is available in the right bottom

FreeMind is a Java tool so you can use it on many operating systems. It is not as fun as the previous one but it provides extensive export capabilities (XHTML format as well which allows a user to create a mapped image with links to a folding outline) and has some extra features – you can provide nodes with icons, lock nodes (protect with password) and search within a single branch.

Preparing a project structure in FreeMind. XML is available as .mm-file

Since Fusebox supports ColdFusion and PHP platforms, instruments for both platforms are available.

ColdFusion implementations can be found in the Tools part of the fusebox.org site. Among them are:

  • Fuseminder2 – Converts Mind Maps to Fusebox 3
  • Fuseminder – Generates a Fusebox 2.0 framework based on a mind mapping file
  • FuseminderPlus – Fuseminder for Fusebox 3
  • FuseminderFB4 – Fuseminder for Fusebox 4
  • MindFuser – Reads a Fusebox 2.0 application and generates an outline file

You can easily download them and give them a try.

There is not so many tools written in PHP. One of a kind is the Fusebox Manager supporting several XML formats. This package implements a code generator that takes project definition and generates PHP code to implement the Fusebox methodology. The generated code uses a run-time PHP framework also provided within the package to deploy projects using this methodology all in PHP. For now it works in only one direction – it generates a Fusebox application from a mind map, but it’s planned to add backward function, so that you could use it for existing Fusebox projects to manage them visually and then save back as a bunch of PHP files.

Fusebox Manager at work

All in all, the day when you would be able to create a whole project by several movements of your mouse is not as far as you may think.

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