I am looking for an alternative to Scapple.


More precisely, I would love a cross-platform version of Scapple able to run on both Linux and Windows, but a Linux tool would be great.

  • OS: Linux (possibly Windows)
  • Free: not necessarily
  • Price range: no idea, depends on the quality of the tool

Please beware!

Scapple is not a mind map tool.

Mind maps are usually hierarchical: the root has children, which have children, which...

With Scapple, you can define nodes and link them to one/many/no other node. See screencap.

What Scapple is great at

Basically, organize your thoughts in a pinch. Double click somewhere, start typing, then in another place, then elsewhere.

When you want to link several ideas, just drag one and drop it onto the other.

It's that simple. If you need to format, of course you'll have to rummage through some menus, but I've rarely seen easier when it comes to basically organize your ideas.

What Internet suggests

The famous search engine proposes some alternatives.

I have no personal experience with any of the tools below but am interested in a review and how they compare with Scapple if anybody has.

  • BigHairyGoal (Mac OSX; seems user-friendly enough but outside my scope)
  • Freeplane (Windows only?)
  • VUE (Linux, Windows, Mac OSX)
  • Could something like Draw.io meet your requirements? It's running in the browser tool and as such is cross platform, and you can rather easily draw whatever you want and connect it back and forth according to your own wishes.
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 11:56
  • @holroy Draw.io is a Visio-like. Though it allows to link (or not) in almost any possible way, I am not sure it is the easiest tool for drafting ideas (with possibly some text or notes). This would work in-so-far as Visio, Lucid Charts or any diagram-drawer solution would work, but it is not their prime purpose. The online aspect is great of course. If you have experience of Draw.io being used for note-taking, please go ahead and write a review. Otherwise, I'm not sure it will be efficient for this as it was designed for something else. Thanks for the idea in any case!
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 12:08
  • When viewing the given diagram from Scapple, it sure looks like something I could easily do in draw.io. Could you please expand a little, if possible, on why scapple is a good tool, and what you like about it that makes you want a copy of it (instead of something like draw.io). What aspects of Scapple is that you really like (for those of us not having used Scapple)
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 12:11
  • @holroy I will include something more elaborate later in my question to make it clear. To make things short: Scapple is focused on note-taking, diagram-tools are focused on presentation and layout. Furthermore, diagram-tools are often designed with the idea that each box will contain little text. So yes, you are absolutely right and I could totally use them for this purpose. But will it be as efficient as a note-taking app or will I end up spending more time with layout issues than typing text? I would definitely not use Visio though I know it quite well. It's worth a try, when I have time.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 12:24
  • 1
    @Chop I think "TheBrain" does (or can do) what Scapple does, and there is a "free" version available. I haven't used it, so not posting this as an answer, but thought it worth at least registering as a comment.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 22:00

2 Answers 2


I suggest trying out draw.io which isn't a dedicated tool for note taking, but does have a lot of the options available from the image provided by OP. For even more information see the official draw.io documentation and the keyboard shortcuts image.

Some howtos related to OPs question

  • Simple text without links – Double-click anywhere, and start writing. Text can be moved, edited, and simple formatting is possible. Including bullet points, indentation and similar
  • Add shaped elements – Drag and drop symbols/shapes/items from the left menu unto the canvas, and start typing the text directly
  • Replace the shape of an element – If you change your mind, you can just select an element, hold down Alt and hit the new shape and it is replaced
  • Connecting elements – When an element is selected, there is an arrow icon which you can click and drag to another element to connect them. Options does exist to change from arrows to lines, direct, cornered, curved connections, and so on
  • Connect to multiple elements – Just drag another connection...
  • Adding linkable text element – Dragging a text symbol gives you an text element ready for editing. Alternatively hitting Ctrl-K inserts a rectangle which you can enter text into (unfortunately, you might want to untick the line around the rectangle). But now both these are linkable to other elements Setting preferences for different elements - Using the format panel to the right you can change settings for each elements, and also store new default preferences. I.e. change the default line to a straight line, width 5px.
  • Edit, copy and paste styles – When working with different elements it is also possibly to change the style of the elements, either through textual editing, or hitting buttons or keyboard shortcuts
  • Zooming and moving about – See the keyboard shortcut sheet, but it is fairly intuitive using Alt-MouseWheel for zooming, or Right mouse dragging for panning the canvas
  • Import and Export – Yes, multiple option exists :-)
  • Alignment, grouping and arranging – If you want to, you can easily do all of these. Just select the elements you want to work with, and either access the option through context menu or the main menu

Some extra neat options

  • Insert multiple elements at once – Using the + menu (the rightmost element in the toolbar), you are able to open a dialog window to insert multiple elements at once. I.e. if you want to make a quick mindmap you could choose Horizontal tree, and then click the arrows to add new items, and doubleclick to change texts. Try this one, lots of neat options exists
  • Add tooltips – A somewhat hidden feature is that most elements can have tooltips added using Edit > Edit tooltip from the menues. And now when you hover an element, the tooltip shows
  • Storage multitude – You can store your drawings in multiple locations, i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox, the browser, locally, and so on. This is also allows for sharing and contribution defined by the storage location
  • Draw.io available as Chrome app – For some the availability of draw.io as an Chrome app is also appreciated, which kind of makes it into a standalone app (and not dependent on the net
  • Auto-expansion and outline – The canvas autoexpands when needed, and an outline view is available if you need that for navigation
  • Navigational aid – Options also exists to create groups, enter/focus on groups, collapse/expand groups
  • Addition: Styles and tables in text edit – When editing texts (in elements or as standalone texts) you have access to set different styles, and even insert tables if you want that. In other words, almost a full html text editor (and you can switch to html view :) )

In short, I do believe that you should tryout draw.io, albeit it seems like more of a drawing tool, it could be used for note taking similar to Scapple.

Added: New plugin for inserting text elements

See Add keyboard shortcuts to draw.io to insert a given element? for alternatives on how to insert a text element faster. Using my plugin, insertElementWithMenu.js, you can insert a linkable text element at the cursor using Ctrl+Shift+T.

  • Thanks @holroy for the much detailed answer. I missed a simple feature which can make it worth the while: the "double click and start writing". :) Along with the Chrome app, this may indeed be a worthy alternative. Thank you again.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:14
  • 1
    @Chop, Double-click anywhere and type, or hit <kbd>Ctrl-K</kbd> and it inserts a rectangle ready for typing. The last one easily connected to other boxes/elements (but you most likely want to untick the line to get rid of the box around it.
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 14:18
  • After a quick try, on a positive note: portable (web), guides to nicely layout "notes", all standard diagram-creation tool utilities. Less positive: it takes longer to create notes (the notes created via double click cannot be linked and the rectangles implies restyling most notes after creation), creating links is less direct too (in Scapple: move a note onto another). Still, this is probably one of the most convincing alternatives I have heard of yet.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:09
  • I agree that the non-linkable text is somewhat annoing. However, one workaround which I have used is: 1) Drag a text element unto the canvas, and write whatever you need, and then when deciding to start a new text element, I hit Ctrl-D (to duplicate node), drag it to new location, and start typing the new text. Or 2) Finish editing the note, and then Ctrl-drag to duplicate it, and start typing the new text
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:41
  • Linking element is merely a matter of habits I think: Select a note/node, and then drag the arrow onto the other node/notete.
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:44

When researching another question, I found another tool which might be interesting as a replacement for Scapple, and that is Sketchboard.io: Solve problems and create ideas on endless whiteboard with your teammates by sketching.

Just found it, so I haven't tried it out, but of the box it seems to have the following:

  • You are working on a everexpanding(?) whiteboard, and can drop objects all over the place
  • You can, but don't need to, create mindmaps which seems to be flexible
  • Cross connect to other nodes (and change links)
  • Add text nodes which supports markdown to format text
  • An extensive symbol library (to the right) which is easily switchable if you later on change your mind
  • See help page and gallery for more information and examples
  • A chrome app also exists...

One minus, from my point of view, is that you do only have 1 private (but unlimited public plans) for free. Then you have paid plans, starting at 7$/month for 1 user, unlimited private/public plans. Other than that, it looks like it is worth checking out.

Free tip for keyboard lovers: Press spacebar to get the context menu where your mouse is, or related to the selected node or connections. After that use arrow keys to select your option, or write in the name of the symbol you want.

  • The tool looks great, it seems to offer many possibilities (maybe too much, leading to a loss of focus?). I am unconvinced for my use case and do not wish to sign up for a trial, but I am sure it would be a match for brainstorming people.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:12
  • 1
    @Chop, to test it out you don't need to sign up, you just have to remember that the board you are using is public. :-) Just go to sketchboard.io and hit the Start sketching button, and off you go.
    – holroy
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:48

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