How to Use Scapple to Develop your Ideas

I am all about the brainstorming when it comes to writing so when I heard about Scapple, I had to give it a try.

There are lots of different software out there that can help to get your notes and ideas down and organised. 

However, I liked the freeform feel of Scapple so thought I’d share what it is, how to use it and what I have created with it.

Banner - How to use Scapple to develop your ideas. Text over the Scapple board logo.

Disclaimer: This article has affiliate links.  This means I will receive a small fee if you purchase a copy of Scapple through these links.  Affiliate links help to keep this site running!


What is Scapple

Scapple is a brainstorming program, created by the same person who gave us Scrivener.  Now, unlike Scrivener, Scapple is a simple tool that is pretty easy to work on.

Want to learn the basics of Scrivener, check out my article on How to Use Scrivener.

Scapple is software that gives you the chance to get your rough notes, ideas and mind-maps out of your head and onto the computer.

Some people prefer to use pad and pen, but others like to keep everyone on screen and Scapple is great for that.


How does Scapple Work?

When you first open Scapple you are greeted with this screen.  The directions in the middle advising you how to proceed.

Scapple Brainstorming software - main screen

Creating Notes

If you double click on the page, a “new note” will appear as below.  You can then type to change it to whatever note you want.  Moving them is just click, drag and drop.Scapple brainstorming software, creating a new note. Screen with "new note"

Connecting Notes

As per the below image, you can connect your notes with dotted lines.  Simply create your separate notes and then grab one (the selected note is highlighted) and drag it on top of the other note.

When you let go, the two notes will be connected.  You can then move them apart as far or as close as you want and the line remains.

To remove a connection, repeat the process – drag the note on top of the second one again and the line vanishes.

Scapple brainstorming software.  Connecting notes.  Two notes on the screen, joined by a dotted line.

Format Menu

You will most likely use the Format menu on the toolbar the most.  This is where you can make changes to things such as alignment, colour and borders.

Scapple brainstorming software.  Format menu from the toolbar.


You have the choice of 4 different border styles, rounded, square, jagged and cloud – all featured below.

The outline weight is 3 px.  You can make it darker by going up to 5 px, or finer by going to 1 px.  The default style for your notes is rounded border but no outline.

You can change the style of several notes at once so they are all the same, by holding down ctrl and selecting the notes you want to change.

Scapple brainstorming app.  Changing borders.  Several notes all with different borders such as jagged, cloud, square, rounded


As well as weight and shape of borders, you can also add colour.  The format menu lets you change the text, border and fill colours.

Scapple brainstorming app - change the colour.  The menu option to show what can be changed.

When you want to change a colour, simply click on the note (or select multiple notes) and choose the colour option you want to change such as fill.

A palette chart will pen and you have the choice of selecting the array of basic colours or using the detailed palette and picking your own hue.

Scapple Brainstorm software - colour palette

Different connectors

The dotted lines are the default connectors, but you can use arrow connectors.

To create them, hold down Alt (option key for Mac) when dragging one note onto another then it will create an arrow with the head pointing to the second note.

If you hold Alt + Ctrl (option+command for Mac) you will create an arrow pointing in the reverse direction.

Scapple software - creating arrow connectors


You have the option of opening up Inspector which will remain on top and give you access to the formatting options quickly.

Scapple inspector window

Pictures and Text

You can add pictures to your Scapple screen by simply dragging and dropping them in.  The same goes for text documents.

When you drag and drop a text document, you will be asked if you want to keep it as 1 note or split it.

So if you have a list of points in a text file you can have them separated out into individual notes.


What to use Scapple for

Here are a few things I’ve created using Scapple to formulate my thoughts and to reduce the amount of paper I have floating about.

Family Trees

I have several families in some of my WIPs and it can be helpful to create family tree clusters, especially for series’s where I may create spin-offs or prequels and need full detail of who connected to whom.

Scapple - creating a family tree

Brainstorm Notes

I found it useful to dump down lots of details about my WIP including who the main characters actually were, locations I needed to develop and flesh out etc.

I can continue to expand each of these with more notes until I have a large spider diagram.

Scapple Brainstorm Notes

Character profiles

For those who like something more visual, you can use it to plot out profiles and character details.

Add in a character image, even photos of specific things such as outfit ideas, hair-styles, cars, weapons etc.

Here’s a rough draft of my profile notes on Kessindra from The Blessed.

Scapple Character profile / details

Mind Map

It doesn’t have to just be used for the WIPs themselves but for other projects or even marketing ideas like what I created below.  I wanted to solidify different marketing options and how they can be used.

Scapple - creating mind maps

These are just some of the things I’ve created but there are other things you can use Scapple for, whether it’s research notes, timelines, plotting your outline etc.



The pricing options are listed below:

Free Trial

Firstly, before you buy you can check out Scapple as they offer a FREE 30-day trial.

Full Version

You can get Scapple for Mac or Windows, prices are the same.  The full standard licence is £17 and it’s a downloadable product, no disc sent.

If you are a student or academic, you can get it cheaper but requires institutional affiliation.

How much does Scapple cost. The price of Scapple software


Additional points

The licenses are “household” licenses so can be used on multiple computers in the home – though NOT if bought from an Apple store.

Minor updates are offered for free and you are notified that an update is required.  Major updates would require payment.


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Happy writing

Signature & logo of Ari Meghlen


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13 thoughts on “How to Use Scapple to Develop your Ideas

    1. Thanks Lorraine. I have to admit I do love getting out my marker pens and large A3 sheets and scribbling out my spider graphs by hand, but I love I can make them neater in Scapple. And the more I use Scapple, the more I’m loving it.

  1. I tried Scapple right after it came out and it didn’t do a lot of what it does now. For several years I used a program called “Inspiration” that does a fantastic job of all these things plus had all the changing colors and such that they have now brought into Scapple. I might need to give Scapple another try.

    Thanks for the informative article, Ari! ❤️😃

    1. Oooh I’ve never heard of a program called Inspiration. Yes, it sounds like Scapple figured out they needed to do more in order to be useful.

      I think if it didn’t do as much as it did, I wouldn’t bother with it.

      Let me know how you get on if you do try Scapple again.

  2. Sounds like it would be very helpful to know and buy Ari. I have had to do organizational charts in the past and this would seem like an easier way to do it than the drawing which is sometimes painstaking.

    1. OMG this would be great for organizational charts, I remember having to do them when I worked in an office, I wish I’d have had Scapple back at.

      1. Yes, they would – I can remember wrestling with dragging the text box around and needing to get up and walk away from it sometimes. I use table-box charts for documents, memos, even letters (without the gridlines), just to avoid that pesky auto-numbering/auto-lettering.

  3. Sounds like an amazing software. It has so many formatting tools and that’s what I love the most about writing software.

    Ari, I was wondering if you forgot to embed a link in the fifth paragraph.

    1. I have to admit, took a few days of messing around with Scapple before I really fell in love with it but I think it’s so much fun now.

      I’m already planning to use it for some new brainstorming for different non-writing projects.

      Thanks Obinna, yes I did miss that embedded link. I’ve fixed it now. 😀

  4. The creator must be obsessed with “Sc”. Two different software, same beginning.
    Is it possible that you forgot to include a hyperlink to your post on the topic of the other piece of software?

    1. lol he must be. Then again, I know what a “Scrivener” is, but I’ve never heard of a Scapple before. I wonder if he just made that word up.

      Oops! Yes I did miss that link, nice catch. Thanks for letting me know. I’ve fixed it 😀

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