Review of InfoRapid Knowledge Base Builder

This is an unusual program, it has its own style of map and it has many very useful features.  The only drawback with Knowledge Base Builder is the fact that the program is so slow and unresponsive.  It is about as lively as a sloth on Valium, bear in mind that this test was done on a Desktop quad core 64 bit gaming machine with 6 Gb of RAM and a good graphics card.  It should not be this slow.  Other programs like MyInfo or VUE respond like lightning on the same machine even (in the case of MyInfo) when they are looking after thousands of notes.

However the program has many good features.  The main focus of the program is as a tool for the world wide web, it can be used to create a map of a website with each page appearing as a node and the links between pages appearing as links between nodes.  As a demonstration of the program Ingo Straub Software have an interactive map of Wikipedia taken from the Wikipedia website.  This map is much more responsive than the desktop program (??) and is a very useful in its own right.  The entries are in plain text but if you click on the W icon then the page from Wikipedia is rendered as it appears on the website.  The demo starts off at the a random Wikipedia entry, always the same entry but different for different computers.  This is not a problem, just type the item you are looking for into the search box and away you go.  This site is incredibly useful as it provides an entirely new way of looking at Wikipedia and seeing the relationships between entries.  It is worth bookmarking the site even if you have no interest in the software.

The program stores its maps in a file and so you have to explicitly save the map before exiting the program.  Any files or thumbnails of files or web pages are stored along with the map so the file can become very large very quickly.  But this does mean that the file can be moved to another computer and all the thumbnails will still be there.

This is not open source software, it is free for personal use but if you use it in a commercial setting you have to buy it at 99 Euros (how would they know?), there are some other programs available on the website with the same licensing arrangements.  I have not checked these out yet.


Overall score = 19 out of 50


1. Organisation  =  5

This program is not limited to a strict hierarchy, any node may be connected to any other node so it is suitable for concept maps as well as mind mapping.  The layout of the map is entirely controlled by the program itself, there is no manual positioning of nodes but the program usually makes good choices about the layout.  The good thing is that when you select a node it becomes the centre of the map and the rest of the map gets re-arranged around it.  This means that you can have an enormous map and it does not become unusable or confusing because you only see the part you are interested in at the time.  There are very few mapping programs which have this feature.

Links can have types but you cannot split or join links.

It is possible although awkward to have more than one map in the same file.  You would just need two groups of nodes which have no connections between them, because the program controls the display itself and shows related nodes one map is displayed and the other disappears, if you manage to switch to the other map then the first map disappears.  Floating nodes (not attached to any other node) will also disappear.

There is a zoom control on the right hand side of the map but be warned the screen re-draw rate is painfully slow, even with a very small map.


2. Attachments  =  3

The things which can be attached to nodes are not terribly useful.  The main aim of this program is to make a representation of parts of the web and it does this very well, what it does not do so well is linking to local files.

Each node has a description field which can hold very large texts, but this is less useful than it sounds because the text pops up in a small box when you mouse over the node.  When moving your mouse off the node towards the box it often disappears before mouse is over the box.  If it has not disappeared then you can scroll through the text.  The box also contains any picture attached to the node and a link button.  The link button can point to a file from the programs repository or a URL.  This program does not support universal links.

The link box cannot point to a file on your local file system.  Any files you need to link to must first be copied into a repository by the program.  If you try to link to a file then you will be presented with a list of the files in the repository.  Many of the files are not the original files but a ‘thumbnail’ or screen shot of what the file would look like if it were to be opened.  I have not found a way to open the original file from the link field.

If the link field points to a URL then there is a picture of the webpage next to the link field.  This gives you a thumbnail or preview of the contents of the web page.  Nodes connected to a web page have a small white arrow in the top left hand corner, clicking on this arrow opens the web page but it is not opened in your browser but in the program itself, the main window becomes the browser.


3. Appearance  =  5

The appearance of this program is quite attractive with a semi 3D look.  Nodes cannot be positioned manually but the program itself usually lays things out fairly well.

The unusual thing about this program is that when you select a node the map is re-drawn with the selected node as the centre of the map.  There are very few mapping programs which do this.  MindRaider and Cayra are the only free ones which I can recall at the moment.  Cayra was abandoned by its developer and a later update to Microsoft’s .NET library broke the program.  It is still available here (at the time of writing) but be warned it doesn’t work.  MindRaider is still current at the time of writing.

There are four panels at the side of the screen which contain an outline view of the map, a list of files in the repository, details of the relationships between nodes and various details about the selected node.  These panels can be folded away to get a better view of the map if desired.


4. Ease of use  =  1

The speed of response of this program is painfully slow.

The way the program is designed is cumbersome, you are constantly swapping between the mouse and keyboard.  This is not the program you need if you want to jot down notes quickly.  Using this program is hard work.

It is not possible to move around the map using just the keyboard, you have to use the mouse.  The idiosyncratic way it links to files, the constant swapping between keyboard and mouse and the clumsy way the data is entered makes this program tedious and awkward to use.


5. Import – Export  =  5

This program is focused on the web and so these is an option to map a web page, this will scan a website and build a map with each web page represented as a node and each link on that page mapped to a link to another node which represents another page.  What you end up with is a graphical map of the website which is quite useful.  Text extracted from the web pages is put in the description field and the title of the page is the title of the node, also the links all have descriptions copied from the text displayed on the web page for that link.  Before you map a website you can specify the maximum number of web pages to scan, the maximum depth of link levels, maximum number of links per page, timeout and several other parameters.  This is useful because otherwise you might end up with a map of the whole world wide web.  This program does a very good job of mapping a website.

This program can build a map from an XML dump produced from a MediaWiki site.  It can also import .CSV, .RDF, .OWL, .XMI, .XSD and .GED files, presumably they have to be in the correct format to produce a sensible map.  I have not tried these import options except for the MediaWiki XML dump which works well.

The map may be exported as a .CSV file, an image file (literally just a picture of the map) or as a web database.