SpiderScribe.net Reviews

Not so bad for basic usage

Review by ElDani
about SpiderScribe.net and Mindomo Aug 2015

tl;dr If you only want a short list of pros/cons scroll to the bottom.

I like writing code and developing applications both at work and as a hobby. The use of such software allows for much better planning, which is why I have been using brainstorming/mind mapping tools for a number of years now and don't want to miss them anymore. What was once, a long time ago by now, simply a sheet of paper and a pen has become a lot more sophisticated over the years. Mind mapping software allows for subsequent changes without needing to re-do everything from scratch, some also offer the inclusion of additional content and/or information (images, diagrams, video, documents, etc). It has become an integral part of any planning stages and I've been happy to use the resulting maps whenever I needed to collaborate with someone else or explain an upcoming project for that matter.

That being said, I recently found myself in the unenviable position of not having access to my tablet or phone. Thus I was also without access to my Mindomo account details, so searching for a quick yet temporary method of creating a mind map made me look at a number of web-based alternatives.

I ended up using SpiderScribe since it is mainly a web-based service and mind maps can be shared with others. In the free ad-supported version (you have a sidebar with ads on the right edge of the screen) you are limited to three private maps (but you can have an unlimited number of public maps) for non-commercial use, while there is also a limit of 300MB of data for any additional files. These do not seem to be the only limitations, but more on that later. Because the web-based portion of the service requires the Flash plugin, you either need a desktop computer or a mobile Apple device to use the iOS App (SpiderScribe Jr).

The degree of customization in your mind map is limited in my opinion, at least compared to what I have become accustomed to. The basics exist: you can create text labels/notes and modify their visuals somewhat (text size, color & decoration, background color & border size), but text is limited to two fonts (serif & sans-serif) and its formatting only allows the default rectangular design, others are missing entirely. The connecting lines can only be customized by changing the direction of the arrowhead, but their design always remains the same no matter how the source label looks. Unfortunately there's also no way to set or move the connecting line manually, which leads to problems in more complex maps.

Labels/Notes can display other content too, which are: images or documents you can upload, excerpts from maps (mapquest) and dates with optional notes. Although the personal plan was advertised to have space for 300MB of your attachments, this does not seem to be the only limitation for free users. After I had integrated an image (~250kb) and uploaded a Photoshop file (~7MB), SpiderScribe did not allow me to add any more documents to the map. Unfortunately, there are no pre-existing icons/images to choose from - you have to create/obtain and upload everything yourself.

In terms of editing your mind map, it is possible to duplicate existing labels or delete them and nothing else. The interface also allows you to find results in text-based labels. The mind map can be exported, although that term does not do the function justice. What you can do is save your completed mind map as a JPG/PNG image. That's really disappointing, since my experience with other services is very different. Just for reference, at Mindomo you can create a slideshow of your map, while a Premium account offers a much wider exports feature, such as HTML documents, but also FreeMind and MindManager document formats.

My conclusion: Having become accustomed to the many functions of Mindomo, I've been missing a lot of them at SpiderScribe. The latter is okay for very basic needs, but you will soon reach its limits if you require just a little bit more. That's why I think SpiderScribe is okay to use for free non-commercially, but I would never be willing to pay a monthly fee. A single user account at SpiderScribe costs $5 per month. For almost the same money, namely $6 per month, I am a Mindomo happy customer, having access to so many more features and that includes even a platform independent desktop client based on Adobe Air.

Pros:
+ Free (although ad-supported)
+ Web-based (saw no issues in my use)
+ iOS App
+ Can attach files which can be downloaded
+ Can add other users allow them to read or edit the map
+ Can send mind map link to other users per e-mail

Cons:
- Limits of free Personal account are not accurately mentioned
- Requires Flash plugin to work
- No Android app
- No desktop client
- No password protection of maps
- Much too few customizing options
- No pre-existing images/icons to use in your maps
- Connecting lines may create issues in complex maps
- Export function is useless
- No comment function (can't write a quick note for other users)

[Edited by ElDani, August 23]

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