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I'm looking for something that allows me to work out an algorithm on a computer similar to how I would do it on a whiteboard. At work, I have a huge whiteboard that I can use for this, but at home, I don't (and can't). This makes it difficult to design algorithms when I'm working on hobby projects. I think better when I use drawings as opposed to text, so pseudocode is no good. I guess what I'm looking for is something like a flowchart program, but that allows a less rigid approach to designing algorithms.

I'd like the program to be cross-platform (Mac, Linux), but I'll be happy even if it just runs on Macs. Free is preferred, but reasonably priced programs are good too. I would prefer programs that people have used and had experiences with, rather than whatever turned up on Google, as I know of some flowchart and mind-mapping software, but haven't really been satisfied with either. I realise that a computer isn't the best platform for doing this kind of stuff, but assume for a moment that it's the only medium I possess.

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closed as not constructive by MichaelT, gnat, Kilian Foth, Robert Harvey, Dynamic Jun 5 '13 at 0:31

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Sorry, but this might be off-topic. I don't see how brainstorming algorithms would result in different software than the mind-mapping and note-taking software that's already out there... – Tom Wijsman Sep 29 '10 at 23:32
Sorry, I can't possibly see how this is off-topic. It relates directly to programming, is subjective and matches at least criteria 1, 3, 4 and 6 of Jeff's guidelines. – Chinmay Kanchi Sep 29 '10 at 23:47
@TomWij - think about its "topicness" from the other direction: only someone who codes for a living could answer this question with the level of authority Chinmay is seeking. As such, "for programmer" doesn't seem tacked on to me. "What is good brainstorming software for office workers" will likely yield different results. – MIA Sep 30 '10 at 2:51
See it from another way: An answer as stupid as "Take a drawing tablet and Photoshop and draw out the algorithm on your screen" is a valid answer to your question, while there will never be an answer specific to algorithms. A better way would be to ask if someone had experience with brainstorming algorithms on the computer, as that would result in unique on-topic answers... – Tom Wijsman Sep 30 '10 at 10:29
I don't believe it - we've got topic police on the programmers site? Clearly the OP uses this in context of programming. This is not SO - I think you are over doing it a bit with the "off topic" nonsense. If you don;t want to read about it, click on another question. – Tim Oct 16 '10 at 13:54

If I have to brainstorm some design stuff that takes more complexity than Notepad can cope with, I usually just use a pencil/pen and paper.

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And in what way does this answer the question? – alternative Sep 30 '10 at 1:02
I expected a pencil and paper answer, which is why I said "I realise that a computer isn't the best platform for doing this kind of stuff, but assume for a moment that it's the only medium I possess." I don't want to do it on paper, because you either spend too much effort erasing useless bits or waste a whole lot of paper, neither of which I'm too fond of doing. – Chinmay Kanchi Sep 30 '10 at 2:45
I bet if you write small and turn off your computer, the paper use in design will be a net gain for the planet's ecosystem. You could also try using the brain before writing. – Christopher Mahan Aug 24 '11 at 20:21

There is a sketch tool called Pencil Project that I saw by this days. This is a open source project that runs at FireFox or stand-alone, but no Mac version yet.

Here you can get other alternatives too. (provide by AlternativeTo service)

Maybe you find one that fits with your need.

Anyway, I prefer whiteboard to do this.

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Glad to see there's finally a standalone version. How new is that? (Also, who does all their prototyping in Firefox? ...) – Note to self - think of a name Oct 13 '10 at 20:17
I don´t know too. :) Standalone version is provided by XULRunner, not a real standalone. I tried and got some bugs, but the project is cool. – Pagotti Oct 14 '10 at 20:56

Windows Workflow Foundation allows you to brainstorm and develop algorithms in a flowchart way.

WWF Chart

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From the description on the linked page, it seems to be pretty .NET centric -- ties with Visual Studio etc. – tcrosley Sep 30 '10 at 14:15
This should only be used for the purpose of brainstorming and testing, when it's fine you could copy the right algorithm into your own language... Having Visual Studio indeed is a down-side for some. – Tom Wijsman Sep 30 '10 at 14:21
flowcharts are the last thing i would use for brainstorming – Steven A. Lowe Dec 14 '10 at 18:03

Livescribe might be a solution for you, aside from picking up a Bamboo or Intuous. Even though it is pen and paper, it can create PDFs of your writings/diagrams on the computer.

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