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Relationships between topics. 'Sales', 'Marketing' and 'Public Relations' may be related to (and under) a topic called 'Business Development' which may in turn be under a topic called 'Business Plan'. See Associations.

Association lines

Colored lines indicating parent-child relationships. In 2D they are always visible. In 3D, you can see them if a topic is selected and this feature is switched on -- they show when F7 is pressed. This is controlled by four options under "Topic association lines" in the Quick Options swinging panel.

Depending on the options you select, they are red lines from the tip of the selected topic to the tips of all its parents, green to the children, and white to siblings. There is an option to see all association lines -- press Shift F7. This toggles showing all association lines on and off . It also shows the 3D association type panels for Association types that you have edited. It may take a second or so to display them all in a big 'Scape. You can customize their visibility, choosing one of three widths, using a control in Tools | Options | User Preferences under the Appearance heading.


Topicscape can display up to seven levels (generations) of topics at one time. You can drill down (or "drill up") at any point and there is little practical limit on how many levels a Topicscape can hold. The maximum that can be shown at any one time when a specific topic is the Current Topic constitutes the "Boundary".


In the example above, 'Sales', 'Marketing' and 'Public Relations' are children of 'Business Development' and grandchildren of 'Business Plan'. A topic is not limited to one parent as in a traditional subject hierarchy or computer directory design.

Circular topic groups / circular associations

A topic group may be circular -- this means that if you follow a topic's children, grandchildren and so on, it is permissible in Topicscape to define associations that reach the same topic again. The only restrictions are that a topic may not be its own parent or grandparent.


A subject, topic, rubric or other element in a way of organizing information, thinking about a field of study or organizing plans for a project, book, document or report.



The representation of a topic in the 3D view. Whatever we write about cones applies to pyramids and rectangles (in the 2D view) as well, unless the context shows that we're describing a difference.

Current Topic


Either the 'central' topic cone in any 'Scape with a glow around it (see right) or the main rectangle from which lines radiate out. The glow in 3D slowly cycles through a range of colors to focus attention on this central topic. This does require CPU cycles (our tests indicate an average of around 12% of the CPU) so you may wish to turn it off. You will then see a static yellow glow. See Tools | Options | User Preferences under the "Appearance" heading ("Enable cycling of current topic glow color").


Both occurrences and topics can have a few lines of description that you can enter in the Details Panel, to supplement the information about them.


In addition to text descriptions, occurrences and topics can have a Rich Text File (.rtf) that can contain many pages of description, images and tables to supplement the information about them. This is called a Description+ file and is handled entirely by Topicscape Pro. Press the blue '+' button on the Details panel and Topicscape will open. If the button is green, that means that there is already a Description+ file. Right-click the green button to see an option to delete the Description+.

Expert mode

See "Modes".


Microsoft's term for the small icon displayed in Internet Explorer (and other browser software) in the address box (i.e. in front of the URL).


The 3D environment's ground on which rectangles (2D), cones and pyramids (3D) sit.

Fileless occurrence

This is a form of occurrence used to make a quick note without including a file. The description, source, author and authority can be filled in. To make one, right-click on any empty part of a Topic Center and select "Create a new occurrence". Provide a name and then click on the Details button to start editing the description.

You can add a file to a fileless occurrence later if you wish -- just drag a file onto the occurrence's line, or click on the "Add file" button.

Floating topic


A red rectangle (2D) or cone (3D) representing a new topic. It is not yet part of the Topicscape, but is waiting to be dropped on another topic, which is to be its parent (or optionally child or loose associate). See Floating topics.


A directory in a computer file-system.

Green dot


This appears when you click on a topic to select it. It is dragged from the topic to do five things:

  • to form a new association between the selected topic and another ( a pop-up menu allows you to select the type of association);
  • to change the type of an existing association, for example from A being a parent of B to A being a child of B;
  • to break an existing association;
  • to place a topic in the Pending Tray;
  • to move a topic to the Topicscape Box (deleting it from the Topicscape.

Hint panel

An extension of the 'Create New Topics' box which helps you avoid accidentally having several topics dealing with the same basic topic. Hints only appear when you have typed in a new topic name and either clicked on the Hint button or pressed Enter. If you drag the green dot from a topic to the field, the topic from which you dragged will not be included in the hint list.


This applies to four types of hint:

- hints of existing topic names when preparing a new topic - see Hint panel above,

- hints on what the buttons in the toolbar do (seen when the cursor is hovered over the button) - like tooltips,

- hints as to further details of items that cannot fit in the available space, such as the file path of an occurrence, the full name of a topic rectangle or cone, the full name and parent of a topic in the Hit or History list and the full name and containing topic of an occurrence in the hit list, and

- the names of topics where the normal display name panel is too small to read -- these are shown as a small blue name panel when you hover your cursor over the topic. This also works for occurrences appearing in the Hit or History lists. The blue topic name hints that you see in the Hit or History lists also show the topic's parent topic after a '>' sign.


See Soft hyphen.

Home Position

A camera viewpoint in front of the Current Topic, showing a convenient working view of the Map or 'Scape. Press the Home key to go there.

Alternatives: Shift+Home - full view; Alt+Home Current Topic child view.

Home Topic

This is the first topic you make when you start a new Topicscape. It is permanent (it cannot be deleted) though its name and associations can be changed like those of any other topic. This topic defines the main part of your Topicscape and allows 'islands' to be identified (and then joined to Topicscape Islands).


See Topicscape Islands.


A meaningful word extracted from the name of a topic or occurrence, the description area, author, authority or source of an occurrence. A keyword will be a string of letters and perhaps numbers, and starts and ends when a punctuation or space character is found. 'Meaningful' applies to searching -- i.e. it is not a word such as 'the' or 'of' that is rarely helpful in finding an item in a Topicscape and is referred to as a Noiseword (see separate entry).

Limited mode

See "Modes".

Lists, the

There are two lists to the left of the Map or 'Scape. To see them quickly, press the End key. The right one of the pair is the History List showing topics and occurrences you have worked on recently, and the left one is the Hit list, showing the results of any recent search. In 2D these will appear as a swinging panel on the left of the Topicscape window. In 3D, they may optionally appear in the 3D area or as a swinging panel.

Lists control bar


This is a bar that runs across the foot of the Map or 'Scape window and provides options for you to select from that determine how the Hit and History lists appear and what they contain. It looks like this:

Loosely Associated topic

This is a topic which is neither a parent nor a child, but which you feel it would be helpful to have linked to another as it may provide an alternative route when you're searching.

Make Current

An operation that centers the Map or 'Scape on a new topic which then becomes the Current Topic. Done with a double-right-click or a context menu item.

An MHT (or MHTML) Archive is a complete web page saved in a single file as produced by MS Internet Explorer (in IE: Save As | Web Archive, single file (*.mht) | Save). Topicscape (and its small helper application Topicscape Box) goes further than Internet Explorer which refuses to save some pages -- it uses a stronger but slower method if it detects resistance from the web page.

Map, The

The Map is the 2D view of a Topicscape - see 'Scape


There are three modes: Limited, User's and Expert. Switch between these modes using the Mode button near the left end of the toolbar, or Tools | Options.

  • Limited mode hides some functions, allows flying with the keyboard only and simplifies menus.
  • Expert mode reveals all functions.
  • User's mode allows you to select which options and behaviors to show or suppress.


A word such as 'the' or 'of' that is rarely helpful in finding an item in a Topicscape. These are sometimes referred to as 'stop' words. What is defined as a noiseword is any word in the noisewords list. The noisewords list can be edited freely, exported and imported as a simple text file. A search can be made to include noisewords using a checkbox in the advanced search panel.


An item of information about a topic in a computer file. A file may contain information about many topics and you can either link various portions of it to several topics or make 'point-to' occurrences to the same file under each topic. See Occurrences.


Abbreviation for Object Linking and Embedding, (pronounced oh-lay). OLE is a compound document standard developed by Microsoft that enables you to create objects with one application and then link or embed them in a second application. Embedded objects retain their original format and links to the application that created them. Part of Microsoft's Active X technologies.


The source, author's name and authority, if any, of an occurrence.


See Topicscape Orphans.

Out tray

The Out tray is a quick and convenient way of choosing amongst the various options for moving things in Topicscape. It lets you delete topics and occurrences, move them to the Topicscape Box, send to them Topicscape Orphans.


Most of the time it looks like this:

But if you drag a green dot (from a topic) to the Out Tray, its appearance will change to this:


This helps you to choose whether just the one topic selected will be used or if that topic and all its descendants will be involved in the operation. See Move or delete topics and occurrences through the Out Tray for the details.


In the example above under Associations, 'Business Development' is a parent of 'Sales', 'Marketing' and 'Public Relations'. A topic is not limited to one parent as in a traditional subject hierarchy or computer directory design.

Pending Tray

An area in the Toolbar that can act as a temporary parking place for topics or occurrences when some re-organization is in progress. See [[]].


One occurrence in each topic may be 'promoted'. This occurrence's icon will appear on the topic in the Map or 'Scape, and when pressed will open that occurrence. See the image on the right. Fileless occurrences and occurrences with files having no Windows application, if promoted, will not start an application if the icon is clicked.



For clarity, the relationships between topics are often indicated by showing parents, grandparents etc., of certain topics as pyramids. This applies to topics behind the Current Topic (its parent, grandparents and great-grandparents, and parents of children of the Current Topic). See the image on the right.

Return topic

When you make Topicscape Islands or Topicscape Orphans into the Current Topic, the previous Current Topic replaces Topicscape Islands or the gray Orphans topic. This is your shortcut back to the main 'Scape. (Just click on it.) You can also press Ctrl+Home.



The 'Scape is the landscape you see when in the 3D view and not in the Topic Center.

The Map is its 2D equivalent.

Secondary parents


These are secondary parents of the topic they stand behind. There will be one parent that is a direct part of the hierarchy you are viewing, and sometimes there may be more.

In the image here, the cones with names ringed in red are examples. "Concerts" and "Rock" are both children of "Music" and "Entertainment". The 'Scape is centered around Music at present, and these secondary parent are there to remind you that "Concerts" and "Rock" appear under "Entertainment" as well. If you were looking for something under Music, but couldn't find it, the Entertainment cones would remind you that it might be worth making Entertainment into the Current Topic and searching there.

The equivalent for the 2D Map is shown here as well.

You will only see these if the option to suppress them is off. To check that, go to the Tools Menu, press Options (or just press Alt+O at any time), and click on the Appearance tab. In the 3D environment (or 2D Map) adjustments area, you'll see a checkbox "Suppress secondary parents". Ensure that this is unchecked.


A child of any parent of the Current Topic (other than the Current Topic itself). These appear on the left of the Current Topic, or on either side if there is more than one parent with children. In 3D, they are taller than the Current Topic's children.




The combination of settings that controls the appearance of the 3D scenes in Topicscape. Examples of a few are on the right. There are many skins preset (you will need to download and install the Skins Installer to see more than five). You can change many settings to customize the appearance. Settings include the following:

  • the texture of the Field and cones/pyramids,
  • any additional applied color on the Field and cones/pyramids,
  • the shapes of the cones/pyramids,
  • the transparency of the cones/pyramids, topic name panels and bed of the Lists,
  • the color (black or white) of the topic name lettering,
  • the topic color scheme chosen (free choice; or one color for most topics),
  • the color arrangement, if free choice of color selected (each topic has its own color; color according to the level of the topic; or color by topic group).

There are no 2D skins as such, but various aspects of the appearance in 2D can be changed: The topic name panel can be black on white or white on black, topic transparency can be controlled and different color schemes can be chosen. Also, the wall on which the map is placed can have different textures, and you may chose your own image for the wall. As with 3D skins, your choise of appearance can be associated with a specific Topicscape, or can be the default for all new Topicscapes.

Soft hyphen

A soft hyphen is a hyphen that you add to a word in a topic name to indicate where you would like the word to be hyphenated if there is insufficient space on the line in the name panel. Add a soft hyphen in the topic Detail Panel by editing the topic name, insert the text cursor at the desired point and press Ctrl+-. This will show in blue like this: ex-ample.

This will only be visible when you are editing and will not affect your ability to search on the whole word - a search on "example" in this case will find a match.


An area in which you can key some information about where you obtained a document, file or web page, or who sent an email.

Stray files

When you delete occurrences in Topicscape, anything from a single occurrence to a group of topics and all their occurrences, the files themselves are not deleted. This makes a full undo possible during that same Topicscape run, with a Ctrl+Z or Undo button. It also makes it possible to recover from a mistaken delete even after Topicscape has been closed down. There is a function for clearing up these files: Tools | Data checks | Check for stray files. This will present a list, and various ways of dealing with the files, including deleting them, moving or copying them and making a spreadsheet of them.

Swinging panels


When you look at the Map or 'Scape window, you will see one or two panels on either side. These may be stowed (as in the illustration here) or open, if you have pinned them open or hovered your cursor over one. You may only see one panel, the one on the right, because the left-hand one only shows when you opt for 2D Lists (2D / 3D lists can be toggled by pressing Ctrl+H).


The immediate child of another topic.


A tag is a meaningful (meaningful to you, that is) keyword or short phrase that you can attach to any topic or occurrences so that you can quickly find similarly classified items.

This means that you can tag things as, say, "urgent", "personal", "do with Jenny", "delete on Dec 31", "marketing", "blog", "reading" or "check". The tags are independent of the hierarchy or other structure.

So, let's say Jenny walks in the room. You apply the "do with Jenny" tag filter and all you see in your Topicscape are the items to work on together and you can get down to work with all the material you need but without distraction.


Its normal, everyday meaning. A subject, category or classification of information. In Topicscape, it may be a broad, sweeping classification with many topics below it (e.g. 'Law'), or a narrowly-focused name of a subject area (e.g. 'Salary payment on termination with cause'). See Topics.

Topic group

The topics under a specified topic: Its children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and all other descendants, down to the end of each family branch. Circular associations are allowed - except when the circle is so short as to be meaningless. The limit is that a topic may not have its grandparent as a child but it may have its great-grandparent or higher as a child.

Topicscape Islands


This is a special topic which, when present, is represented in 3D as a post to the left of the main 'Scape and in 2D as a rectangle. Topics or groups of topics that cannot easily be reached by flying or changing the current topic are referred to as 'islands'. Ideally all topics should be connected in some way in a continuous web but islands can result when you remove an association, or delete one or more topics that had previously linked two parts of the web. The only way you would be able to reach such topics would be by searching for them by keywords or phrase. So to overcome this, as soon as an island forms as a result of a deletion of any kind, Topicscape will automatically link it to the fixed topic called "Topicscape Islands". When there are no isolated topics or groups, the Topicscape Islands' post will not be shown.

Topicscape Orphans

Topicscape Orphans is a topic used to provide an out-of-the-way location for material that is no longer needed, but that you want to keep. It exists in every Topicscape, however it may not be visible, if switched off in the Options panel (which will be the case if you are working in Limited Mode).

It appears as a gray topic to the left of the main area of the Map or 'Scape. You can make it current (right-click the pop-up menu) and see all the orphan topics. Orphan topics can be associated to form structures like any others, but you can't link an orphan topic to one that is not an orphan. To do that, you need to use Restore in the context menu on that orphan topic first.

You can place topics, topic groups and occurrences in Topicscape Orphans through the Out Tray, or by right-clicking on the item to be moved there and choosing from the context menu that appears.

Topic Center

The place to go to see the full details of a topic's occurrences. It represents a space 'inside' a topic .



A way of getting quickly to another part of the Topicscape, to concepts that are loosely related to the topic on which the topic appears. Tunnels are circled in the images on the left. Pressing Ctrl+L causes lights to flash for a few seconds in any visible tunnels.

User's mode

See Modes.

Wildcard option

Wildcard options in Topicscape searches are limited, at present, to:

  • "*" This will result in the Hit List showing all of the selected type of item. You can choose to see all topics or all occurrences (or both). When occurrences are displayed, the topics in which they appear are usually displayed as well, though you can choose to see just the occurrences by selecting the appropriate "Occurrences only" from the "Hit list shows" menu in the List control bar.
  • a suffix like "xxx*", which means show all keywords starting with xxx. So if you are looking for result or results, search for result* (that will also show hits for "resulting" and "resulted". Searches like *xxx or xxx*xxx are not supported. And * in a phrase search (one enclosed in "" quotes) will be treated as an * not as a wildcard character.

Next: Appendix A: Customization - the Options panels

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