My typical use scenario is that I am researching a topic and want to save one or two images per article together with a text summary of that article. I wish to arrange these spatially by pasting images and text into a canvas so that I can get an overview of the topic and recall information by viewing the images.

Back when I ran Windows, I used OneNote for this purpose since it lets you type text and insert images anywhere, not only linearly. What I did not like was that it organized my notes for me in notebooks. I would like to use my folder hierarchy to sort notes together with other files relevant to each project. I take most short notes in markdown, but for larger notes (e.g. literature review), I like organizing images and text snippets visually on a canvas (preferably endless).

The most suitable software I have found so far are mind mapping programs like xmind (runs a little sluggish) and freeplane (got that classic alien java look, but seems quite capable). I would like the software to run locally, rather than being cloud based. Bonus points if it saves files as plain text.

Is there anything more suitable that I have overlooked? Should I keep exploring mindmapping software or is there another category altogether that I am not aware of?

4 Answers 4


I would suggest taking a look at RedNotebook.

  • Linux - Yes and Windows/OS-X
  • Free - Gratis & FOSS
  • Plain Text Yes data is stored as plain text, archived to zip and exportable to PDF, HTML, Latex
  • Data stored locally Yes if you need to have remote access simply store the data in your Dropbox or Google Drive folder
  • Multiple Notebooks Yes
  • Also has the ability to use and create templates for specific tasks/entry types.

The only thing that it lacks compared to mind mapping is that is does tend to organise things linearly.

  • 1
    Thanks, RedNotebook seems like a great alternative for many OneNote users. However, since it lacks the ability to arrange text and images freely on a canvas, it is not really an alternative in my case. When I tested it out, it also seemed to me that it keeps all notes within a notebook which is uses for organization, rather than using the file system as the organizational system and then opening single notes from folders. I clarified my question. Nov 16, 2015 at 15:28

Should I keep exploring mindmapping software or is there another category altogether that I am not aware of?

Would by any chance Inkscape work for you?


  • Mature, professional,

  • GTK native (no aliens! ;))

  • F/OSS,

  • uses SVG as native format - that could partially fulfill the 'plain text' requirements,

  • any graphics (yeah it's graphics software),

  • Linux, Windows,

  • awesome documentation with tutorials (albeit you may not need all the stuff in your case),

  • addons in any language,

  • CLI (man inkscape!)


  • I'm not sure how easy is to just arbitrarily add text that you don't plan to style anyhow.

  • Data stored as files, that is, you are the boss of the hierarchy, but it may be inconvenient if you need to frequently switch between notes or want to re-ogranize the hierarchy often

    This is however something that can be addressed by proper choice and use of window and file managers.

  • Thanks for the tip. I was trying out Inkscape initially, but found the mindmap oriented software easier in terms of adding and formatting text. For other purposes, Inkscape is indeed a solid choices for many of the reasons you mentioned, but it is not ideal for my purpose. Earlier, I have also taken a look at some diagramming software, as you suggest in your other answer, but have yet to find one that is better than freeplane or xmind. Dec 20, 2015 at 5:10

Should I keep exploring mindmapping software or is there another category altogether that I am not aware of?

Related category worth checking out is software specifically written for drawing diagrams.

(Unfortunately my favorite one--Dia, does not seem to support adding bitmap graphics, or at least not in such arbitrary manner...)


For Linux there is something similar to OneNote. This is a Joplin app. It has pretty decent functionality, similar to OneNote. There are both mobile and desktop versions, as well as synchronization.

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