# I Need Flowcharts!

The context:
I've had numerous times this year where flowcharts for data inputs and results would be helpful, including in my notes. I work in a data-heavy field, so diagrams and flowcharts are common. Earlier today, I was also told that a workflowchart1 would have gotten me higher marks on this semester's draft of my prospectus.

The tools:
1. I've used Draw.io, both online and desktop options, but I find it slow and tedious. This probably is why I keep forgetting to include them in my work. It then exports as an image, which I can't edit natively in my document.
2. The tool ditaa allows for ASCII art diagrams, reminiscent of typing tables in MultiMarkdown, but these only render with the little script installed locally. This solution might work with a ZK, too, but seems to have some issues.
3. Mermaid is usable with editors like Typora and also seems elegant, but doesn't seem to have LaTeX support.2
4. TikZ is the tool of choice for LaTeX, though I have not learned that syntax yet.

The Problem:
Is there one tool whereby I can have (or will have, with MMD support) flowcharts in my notes that can easily transfer to my TeX reports? Or do I need something like ditaa in my ZK or text editor, and then convert it to TeX later? What tools might I not be considering?

1. I wasn't sure if this should be "workflow chart" or "work flowchart." I hope it's one word in German. As you were... ↩︎

2. All search queries with mermaid and LaTeX yielded things I'd rather not post here. ↩︎

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• edited December 2020

For macOS there's this paid software (around 10 USD), there's a trial version and you can export to plain text as well as image formats

https://monodraw.helftone.com/

• edited December 2020

Oh boy Monodraw looks sweeeeeet! I always used https://textik.com/ so far, which is free and online but very limited.

Post edited by ctietze on

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• I ended up switching over to OmniGraffle as I've been drawing up many architecture diagrams, flow charts, etc etc, and wanted something native for work, but I've used https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/tour/visio_alternative before, which worked well for the odd simple diagram needed and then discarded. Its free for up to 3 diagrams I think.

• @Splattack , are you saying that Monodraw allows for export to text characters, such that I could put a diagram in my ZK? If so, this would help quite a bit.

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• @Sociopoetic said:
@Splattack , are you saying that Monodraw allows for export to text characters, such that I could put a diagram in my ZK? If so, this would help quite a bit.

This is what I plan to try..

I am a Zettler

• @sfast @Splattack , closer reading of their documentation revealed that yes, one can export to a text editor. So presumably The Archive's editor can work, too.

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• edited December 2020

@sfast, I got exactly the results I had hoped for when exporting from Monodraw to text. These are diagrams from an article that I frequently reference.

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• @Sociopoetic said:
@sfast, I got exactly the results I had hoped for when exporting from Monodraw to text. These are diagrams from an article that I frequently reference.

i want that but it's only for Apple

my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

• @Splattack: Thanks for that suggestion, looks really good!

• @Vinho said:
@Splattack: Thanks for that suggestion, looks really good!

I second that! Thanks for the information.

• Anytime boys. (Glad it was helpful because usually nobody comments on my suggestions and lately it was making me hesitant on commenting and having my very relevant comment ignored as in the thread "Zettelkasten for studying art?")

• @Splattack , I'm sorry to hear that. I've been playing with Monodraw all day now, and my hunch is that it will be for images and diagrams what my ZK is for words. (Maybe I should get meta and use Monodraw to outline my workflow, then save the diagram in my ZK...)

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• At first I thought I should tell you that you may want to indent the drawings by 4 spaces or use triple backticks \ (code fences) before and after them so that they are marked-up as verbatim code blocks and don't get broken when you export to HTML/PDF or whatever.

BUT when you do not mark this as code, you can use [[wikilinks]] to create a crude graphical navigation tree instead. Inside code blocks, the link may be ignored (they will with the editor update that fixes cases where this is not yet the case).

Please keep us posted if you try that path!

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• @ctietze , can you explain the navigation by wikilinks a little more? I'm not sure I follow.

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• edited December 2020

@Sociopoetic

This does look like a great way to add drawings to your Zettels.

Think of the advantages over adding images (say from a drawing package) which can now be displayed in the up and coming "The Archive" release. Are they:

• You can tweak the drawings themselves in "The Archive" once you have exported them from this program?
• The drawing is in the Zettel, rather than a reference from it?
• Smaller file size

I noticed that when you export into text and then display it in My Archive it does not look quite so pretty (although Marked2 gives a slight improvement but not as good as in the Monodraw app

Post edited by SteveH1UK on
• @Sociopoetic This would be your regular flowchart of stuff:

 ┌─────────────┐
│ NSTableView │────────────────────┐
└─────────────┘                    │
│                           │
│                           │
▼                           ▼
┌───────────────┐          ┌─────────────────┐
│ NSTextStorage │◀─────────│ NSLayoutManager │
└───────────────┘          └─────────────────┘


Some note-taking apps, including our own The Archive, allow you to link notes with [[wikilinks]], so you can put links inside the flowchart and have it clickable if you don't put it in a code block.

Example:

┌────────────────────┐
│  [[201708031447]]  │
│ Role of NSTextView │
└────────────────────┘
▲
│ controller
│ for
│
┌──────────────────┐
│ [[201708031442]] │
│     Role of      │
│ NSLayoutManager  │
└──────────────────┘
│
│ delegates
│ to
▼
┌───────────────────┐
│ [[201708031445]]  │
│ Typesetter drives │
│      layout       │
└───────────────────┘


Shortened a bit to conserve space, I get this in The Archive:

The regular editing font size is a bit too large for most complex drawings, but one could work with this.

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• @ctietze said:
@Sociopoetic This would be your regular flowchart of stuff:

 ┌─────────────┐
│ NSTableView │────────────────────┐
└─────────────┘                    │
│                           │
│                           │
▼                           ▼
┌───────────────┐          ┌─────────────────┐
│ NSTextStorage │◀─────────│ NSLayoutManager │
└───────────────┘          └─────────────────┘


Some note-taking apps, including our own The Archive, allow you to link notes with [[wikilinks]], so you can put links inside the flowchart and have it clickable if you don't put it in a code block.

Example:

┌────────────────────┐
│  [[201708031447]]  │
│ Role of NSTextView │
└────────────────────┘
▲
│ controller
│ for
│
┌──────────────────┐
│ [[201708031442]] │
│     Role of      │
│ NSLayoutManager  │
└──────────────────┘
│
│ delegates
│ to
▼
┌───────────────────┐
│ [[201708031445]]  │
│ Typesetter drives │
│      layout       │
└───────────────────┘


Shortened a bit to conserve space, I get this in The Archive:

The regular editing font size is a bit too large for most complex drawings, but one could work with this.

Haha. This is what I did manually in developing a model for regulation of the body fat tissue. Finally, I have monodraw.

I am a Zettler

• Have you considered mermaid diagrams, @Sociopoetic?

Here is an example; you can even edit it online.

It's defined in a textual language:

graph TD
K[GPS gps coordinates]
L[RS photos/images]
M[GIS databases]

K -->|Geo-referencing| L
L -->|Database Construction| M


Tools like Obsidian or Roam even let you include these definitions in your text and render the diagram right away. Or use an online editor like above and paste the image.

• @ralfw said:
It's defined in a textual language:

graph TD
K[GPS gps coordinates]
L[RS photos/images]
M[GIS databases]

K -->|Geo-referencing| L
L -->|Database Construction| M


Tools like Obsidian or Roam even let you include these definitions in your text and render the diagram right away. Or use an online editor like above and paste the image.

This looks interesting. Is 'graft TD' a Markdown extension? Is it something pandoc can transcode? Or is this exclusive to Obsidian and Roam?

Will Simpson
I'm a zettelnant.
Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
kestrelcreek.com

• @ralfw, I looked briefly into Mermaid, but found that (1) there wasn't much use of it in the LaTeX world (see footnote 2 in my original post), and (2) it wasn't something I could use as easily in my ZK (unlike Monodraw, suggested above, which can export to plain text). The syntax is nice though, and I haven't given up on it completely -- especially if it can be made into a LaTeX package as an alternative to TikZ.

I second @Will's pandoc question. There is no mention of pandoc in the documentation, found here: https://mermaid-js.github.io/mermaid/#/

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• I looked into using Mermaid.js and nvALT's note preview a while back: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/nvalt-graph-mermaid-js/ -- so you can make it work with HTML previews.

While for publications I'd probably transcribe my ASCII art to graphviz .dot files and have proper image output, I really enjoy that you can see the visuals of an ASCII art/Monodraw drawing immediately in a text editor.

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• @Will said:

This looks interesting. Is 'graft TD' a Markdown extension? Is it something pandoc can transcode? Or is this exclusive to Obsidian and Roam?

No, mermaid diagrams are not Markdown. They are, well, mermaid text ;-) It's a language of its own - you can embed in other texts written in other "languages" like Markdown.

But there seems to be a Pandoc filter: https://github.com/raghur/mermaid-filter Maybe you can try that.

• I'm a Windows user and I just discovered Diagon for making ASCII diagrams (especially sequence and tree diagrams for notes like:

• @Sociopoetic said:
I looked briefly into Mermaid, but found that (1) there wasn't much use of it in the LaTeX world (see footnote 2 in my original post), and (2) it wasn't something I could use as easily in my ZK (unlike Monodraw, suggested above, which can export to plain text).
I second @Will's pandoc question. There is no mention of pandoc in the documentation, found here: https://mermaid-js.github.io/mermaid/#/

the issue with Pandoc is that it generates a standalone document. Integrating in TeX would require a hell lot of modifications on the Pandoc side

my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

• @zk_1000 said:

It seems that the outputs aren't visible, but I will play with this for flowcharts. I like having options. For more complex diagrams like geometric figures I will likely have to use TikZ anyway (even if I use tools like Monodraw exporting to .png` in the interim).

@ctietze, why is it that when I copy a diagram from Monodraw to The Archive, the columns are no longer aligned? I keep finding that I have to delete whitespace in order for the diagrams I've made to look right in my notes.

Observations logged here: write.as/via-poetica

• @Sociopoetic That's not the case for me with the drawing I did so far. Could be a font issue. Please open a thread in the sub-forum for the app with a picture, your font, a copy-pastable drawing, and whatever else you find useful

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• @Sociopoetic, to add to @ctietze recommendations, I would also suggest to check your line width setting in TA, and set the page guide column width to the same in Monodraw to be sure your drawing is not running past the allowable width in TA