Introducing some of the elements of Expanded view into Normal view would immediately satisfy many seemingly unrelated requests made by PB users.
What distinguishes Expanded view from Normal view is that (1) the active thought can be off-center, (2) additional thoughts can be dragged into the plex, (3) thoughts remain where they are dragged, (4) thoughts may be expanded and collapsed, (5) unanchored thoughts are automatically rearranged by EV's layout algorithm, and (6) the plex can be dragged in any direction.
In Normal view, I find it annoying that (1) thoughts spring back to their designated positions after being dragged away and (2) subthoughts of the active thought (child, parent, jump) cannot be rearranged in any sort of customized order. Both of these amount to the same thing. I see many have already asked for this.
Others have requested various degrees of expansion around the active thought, such as displaying a further generation of grandchild thoughts, etc. The trap for developers here is that piecemeal addition of any of these features cannot satisfy all users; someone is bound to ask for a different view or some extra configuration not included in the new feature.
So far, all this is nothing new. What I am suggesting is that incorporating a subset of Expanded view's features into Normal view would solve a lot of these issues in one hit. The developers don't seem to be doing much more with Expanded view at present, so its design is well worked out. I find Expanded view most useful for tasks such as correlating two sets of child thoughts; more than two and the plex can become confusing. There doesn't seem to be an Undo last Expand/Collapse, which makes life difficult.
IMO In Normal view there's no need for the active thought to move from its central location, nor should we be allowed to drag an extra thought into the plex, which might clutter it. On the other hand, there is a real need to be able to reorganize thought positions, to expand/collapse individual thoughts and above all to save the altered Normal view automatically without resorting to a list of saved views, a big disincentive to using Expanded view.
In an earlier thread I supported the ability to arrange thoughts by link types in Normal view. Simply being able to reorder thoughts manually would take care of this and any other unusual custom arrangements, such as sorting siblings by their individual parents, without spending a great deal of time and money on writing complex code to automate every conceivable display.
Although Normal View's fixed autoarrange function is speedy, its main purpose is to list all the linked thoughts as economically as possible within the parent-child-jump paradigm with no possibility of further creative subgrouping by the user (leaving this to Expanded view). This really detracts from Normal view's usefulness as a memory aid, and switching back and forth between Normal view and saved Expanded views is no fun either. Customized rearrangement of child/parent/jump lists and user insertion of separator gaps to divide the same lists into meaningful subgroups would make PB much more suitable as a study aid and in teaching, in addition to tonja's suggestion of an individual backgrounds for each active thought. Sometimes icons and colored thought types are just not enough.
Left and right jump gates would also aid separation of jump thoughts, which now are all crammed against the left side in Normal view. Now that we can turn off sibling display there is no reason not to take advantage of the extra space available. (In Expanded view, the jump gate can jump to the right side of the thought when necessary, so this is a step in the right direction.) An ounce of user control added can be worth a pound of automation.
There have also been requests for automatic alignment controls in Expanded view. Of course, Normal view is fixed in autoarrange mode. Somewhere in between lies a happy medium. Several flowcharting applications allow the user to align objects with other objects in one or two dimensions (the 2D form also known as snap-to-grid) as well as manually positioning them. This is certainly needed in Normal view. Realigning moved objects with other objects horizontally and/or vertically corrects for minor positioning errors which are inevitable when performed manually. I would look forward to being able to drag thoughts in normal view to different positions, then click a Realign tool that makes the new order tidy, but retains it. This includes saving "empty" grid spaces used as separators, as mentioned above.
Unlike Expanded view, where very little is anchored when you first open it. I would like Normal view to open as it does now, with every thought anchored in its "grid" position, but capable of being moved and the move remembered.
Normal view's Expand All / Collapse All feature should be retained in addition to the ability to expand/collapse individual thoughts. Maybe local expansion of a subthought should be limited to just one generation (grandchildren, grandparents, grandjumps).
To sum up, my request for improvements to Normal view consists of adding the following features, most of them already present in Expanded view:
(1) Ability to drag thoughts to new positions where they remain;
(2) Ability to expand/collapse individual subthoughts by one level;
(3) Ability to select one or more thoughts/separators and align them with others;
(4) Ability to drag the plex in any direction;
(5) Ability to automatically save/restore the new configuration without having to find a name for it.
Lest the objection be raised that all this would significantly slow down PB's database speed and refresh rate, I venture to suggest that now that PB is so well stocked with features that not everyone may wish to use, it may be appropriate to add more checkboxes to Preferences so that unused features can be disabled or even uninstalled.