Thursday, June 27, 2013

Indexing Freemind documents for Windows Search: just add extension as free text

There are a lot of software domains that disappoint me. It's a 'get off my lawn' kind of thing. Enormous excitement about cosmetic changes to iOS 7, but nobody cares about applications for knowledge visualization. Sob.

Sure, there are some good apps for OS X [1] (though even they lack innovation [2]), but my work day is spent in the software desert of Windows 7, a forgotten platform served only by minor vendors slowly degrading once half-decent products.

On the Windows 'mind mapping' front MindManager is expensive, increasingly slow and burdened by feature cruft, and locks data up in a proprietary format. I liked XMIND for a while, but then a software update slowed it to a crawl. It also seems to have been abandoned.

So, lately, I've turned to FreeMind. Not because it's open source and free, not because there's ongoing development, and definitely not because it's a Java app or "cross-platform". I've turned to Freemind because, despite being homely [3], slow to launch, and having an eclectic UI, it has users, performs quickly when it's running, and, above all, it has the closest thing to a standard file format in the industry. A file format that's plaintext.

More and more, I love plain text.

I think I can live with FreeMind -- but only if I can retrieve documents using Windows Search. I live and die by free text search. I took a look at the FreeMind IFilter ($20) for Windows Search, but I was unimpressed with the klunky install and configuration requirements. It had a bad smell.

Fortunately, there's a simple workaround. FreeMind .mm files are plain text (did I mention I love that?). All I had to do was tell Windows Search to index .mm files as free text:

That worked.

[1] I'd love to see OMNI Group enter this market, possibly building on OmniOutliner. I use MindNode on OS X.
[2] Rereading my 10/2011 idea for implementing a graph app atop simplenote nodes I'm sad nobody has done this. If I lose my job maybe I will.
[3] Worse than homely, FreeMind currently has a major usability problem. There's nothing in the UI to tell you that a node has collapsed children. It's quite weird.

No comments: