Mind Mapping Software Blog http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com The best mind mapping tools and strategies for business success Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:04:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Now available: The updated 4th edition of Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/tips-strategies-for-mind-mapping-software-fourth-edition/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/tips-strategies-for-mind-mapping-software-fourth-edition/#respond Thu, 23 Apr 2015 14:04:02 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8207 A significantly updated 4th edition of my popular book, Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software, is now available. This definitive guide to visual mapping contains a wealth of new tips, techniques and insights that will help you to produce high-impact mind maps that get results!

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Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software 4th Edition

I am pleased to report that a significantly updated 4th edition of my popular book, Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software, is now available. This definitive guide to visual mapping contains a wealth of new tips, techniques and insights that will help you to produce high-impact mind maps that get results!

The launch of this new edition also includes 3 bonus reports – but only for a limited time. Read on for more details!

What’s new in this edition

In writing this 4th edition, I looked at the existing content with a critical eye, updating those tips that needed it, eliminating topics that aren’t as relevant today and – most importantly – populated it with a wealth of new, practical and actionable information that is designed with today’s programs, applications and resources in mind.

Specifically, I have added two new chapters to the book:

  • Leadership and collaboration, and
  • Career development and personal success

Special book launch bonuses

evaluate your mind mapsIf you purchase Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software 4th Edition within the next two weeks, you’ll receive several book launch bonuses:

  • 30+ questions to evaluate the quality of your mind maps – a visual map you can use as a measurement tool to assess the quality, completeness and organization of your mind maps.
  • A “pre-flight checklist”, which walks you through a simple process that helps ensure that your mind maps are of the highest possible quality, and
  • A brand-new report on how to integrate data with your mind maps

To learn more, please visit the Power Tips website.

Free upgrades to owners of previous versions of this book

For those of you who have already invested in an earlier edition, you will receive a link to download version 4 in the next week or so – free of charge.

My goal is to provide you with an up-to-date collection of best practices for mind mapping software, not to extract more money from you. I prefer to be generous, because I’m firmly committed to helping expand the awareness and use of mind mapping software as today’s most valuable business tool.

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How to integrate data into your mind maps http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/how-to-integrate-data-into-your-mind-maps/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/how-to-integrate-data-into-your-mind-maps/#respond Mon, 13 Apr 2015 02:56:40 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8196 From database connections to Excel spreadsheet cell ranges and Outlook e-mail messages, today’s mind mapping software can accommodate data from a myriad of sources and display it in a rich, visual format. Here's what's possible, and which programs enable you to make these connections.

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data integration - mind mapping software

In recent years, a number of high-end mind mapping software programs have added the capability of importing data from a variety of sources and displaying it in mind maps. This significantly increases their value as business tools – especially for creating dashboards that can display live data on key business metrics.

From database connections to Excel spreadsheet cell ranges and Outlook e-mail messages, today’s mind mapping software can accommodate data from a myriad of sources and display it in a rich, visual format. This can help you conduct “What if?” analyses with your data and glean fresh insights from it. It can also transform your mind maps from collections of ideas, project actions and planning steps into rich data dashboards that can help you be significantly more productive and insightful.

This new Mind Mapping Insider report will show you what’s possible and which programs support this advanced functionality.

Members-only resource

The link to download this report is accessible to members of the Mind Mapping Insiders group.

Become a Mind Mapping Insider member today

Become a Mind Mapping Insider member to access this valuable template and instructions today. You will also get access to over 100 other tutorials, interviews, templates, mind map analyses and other valuable resources designed to improve your mind mapping skills. Become an expert mind mapper today – join the Mind Mapping Insider membership program!

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The Essential Guide to Mind Mapping Software – Download my new report http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/the-essential-guide-to-mind-mapping-software/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/the-essential-guide-to-mind-mapping-software/#respond Tue, 24 Mar 2015 05:18:09 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8156 If you're looking for a tool that can help you accelerate your productivity, creativity and effectiveness - to be indispensable - then it's time to take a closer look at mind mapping software. My new report can help you better understand how it can help you achieve these goals and select the right program for your needs.

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Essential Guide to Mind Mapping Software

Employers today want workers who can think three steps ahead – solving problems, anticipating needs, seeing patterns and making creative connections.

They want people who aren’t satisfied being automatons – doing just what they’re told and no more.

They want people who are indispensable.

If you’re looking for a tool that can help you accelerate your productivity, creativity and effectiveness – to be indispensable – then it’s time to take a closer look at mind mapping software.

Business benefits of mind mapping software

According to surveys I’ve done of readers of this blog, mind mapping software can:

  • Increase your productivity by an average of 20%
  • Give you the ability to manage complex, multifaceted projects with ease
  • See connections and trends that no one else is even aware of
  • Give you the confidence to tackle complex assignments

How can you benefit? Which program is right for you?

How can mind mapping software streamline and enhance your work?

How can you learn enough about it to make an intelligent decision on which program best fits your needs?

I’ve created a valuable new report that can help you with both of these challenges.

The Essential Guide to Mind Mapping Software is a free comprehensive resource that will help you understand what mind mapping software is, how it can benefit businesspeople like you and what to consider when selecting a program that will meet your needs.

This concise 30-page report contains everything you need to know to make an informed decision:

  • Selecting the best program for your needs
  • Benefits and advantages of mind mapping software
  • Powerful business applications
  • Must-have features to look for
  • A glossary of mind mapping terms
  • 11 leading programs compared on 80+ features
  • Software developer profiles

Download your copy today!

It’s free! Just type in your e-mail address, click the button and you’ll be able to download it immediately.

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Streamline your research with mind mapping software http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/research-with-mind-mapping-software/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/research-with-mind-mapping-software/#respond Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:02:50 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8141 Mind mapping software can be an excellent tool to gather, organize and synthesize your research. It enables you to discover a totally new topic and let the structure of your information evolve as needed.

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research with mind mapping software

Mind mapping software can be an excellent tool to gather, organize and synthesize your research. It enables you to discover a totally new topic and let the structure of your information evolve as needed.

Why is this? Because mind maps enable you to take notes in a non-linear manner – they can develop in all directions, depending on your discoveries. Mind mapping software enables you to discover a totally new topic without the need for a structure in the first place.

I recently had to do some research on iBeacon technology, and decided to use a mind map to capture and structure information on manufacturers, current deployments, usage models, technology aspects and more. My mind mapping software enabled me to add links to online articles, manufacturers’ websites and or technology blogs, and to capture longer bits of information as topic notes. In addition, my mind mapping software enabled me to organize and re-organize topics with complete freedom until I had a visual structure that made the most sense to me.

Where do I start with mind map-supported research?

research with mind mapping softwareEven if the research topic is new to you, you may have a couple ideas, some early facts and information you’re already aware of and a number of questions on that topic. Questions can be a powerful driver of research:

  • Who are the leading experts in this field?
  • What have they published on my topic?
  • What trade magazines and technical journals cover this topic?
  • What is the history of this topic (in the case of a technology, how has it evolved over time)?

Start by adding all of your questions and findings to the mind map, without being concerned too much about format or organization. Create first-level topics based on the type of information or some key aspects or elements of your topic. You can use those to do a rough, initial classification of the information you’re gathering. Remember: you can re-structure it later as many times as you want.

After some time, you will start to see patterns in the information you’ve gathered. You can then start to structure your map. One nice thing about using mind mapping software to do this is that it gives you a visual way to see what information is missing, as well as ideas that may need more research and verification before you can accept them.

Consider using icons or symbols to visually classify information and make it easier to skim your mind map. For example, questions could be denoted using a question mark icon. Information you’ve reviewed and dismissed, but which you still want to keep in your body of research, could have a thumbs-down icon attached to them.

Can a research mind map be shared?

In its early stages, a research mind map is usually a very personal working document. That is, it’s meaningful to you, but chances are that it’s too dense, too unbalanced and too complex to be shared with others in its rough form. After all, it is your working document that you are using to structure your research and accelerate your understanding of the topic. Some of my working mind maps are just a forest of topics, often with no color or images – definitely difficult to be shared as is.

If you decide that your research mind map is worth sharing, you probably will have to go through a “cleaning” step, which will include simplifying some of its branches and polishing its visual appeal. To ensure that it’s understandable to the people with whom you’re sharing, imagine yourself standing in their shoes, with their current level of knowledge about the topic and their pre-conceived notions and opinions about the topic. Imagine yourself reviewing your mind map from their perspective and mindset. Does it make sense through their eyes?

If you believe your audience wouldn’t understand the visual format of a large, complex mind map, then perhaps you should share your findings in linear forma, as a conventional document. In this case, you can use your working map as a guide to help you through the writing process. A well-organized mind map will help to ensure that your report is similarly well-organized.

research with mind mapping software

The above mind map is a very good example of a working map: it is one of my first maps on the iBeacon topic.

Research mind map templates

On Biggerplate, there are few, if any, research-related mindmaps. I found these 3 templates:

Conclusion

To conclude, mind mind mapping software can be a powerful tool to help you structure your research, enhance it with notes, links and other important information and share it with others.

Eric Bouchet has been playing with mind maps since 1999, both on paper and computer. He maintains a blog in French on mind maps and digital tools here.

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Randomize mind map topics to reveal creative combinations http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/randomize-mind-map-topics-creativity/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/randomize-mind-map-topics-creativity/#respond Thu, 12 Feb 2015 13:08:51 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8118 What do Scrabble, sticky note and index card brainstorming and mind mapping software have in common? All four benefit from randomizing elements, which can help us to see new patterns, opportunities and ideas.

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randomize mind map topics - creativity

What do Scrabble, sticky note and index card brainstorming and mind mapping software have in common? All four benefit from randomizing elements, which can help us to see new patterns, opportunities and ideas.

This article was inspired by a blog post by Megan Landes at Mural.ly, who recalled how she took a one-semester college class on strategies for playing the game Scrabble. One of the techniques she learned from her expert teacher at UC Berkeley was that of shuffling your letter tiles, which reveals patterns and combinations of letters that frequently result in higher word scores.

The biggest benefit of shuffling your letter tiles around in Scrabble, according to Landes, is to help you identify not one word, but many possibilities. In much the same way, randomizing your ideas helps to increase the number number and quality of your ideas, and helps to prevent you from locking on to “the first right idea.” Your first good idea may be the best solution to the challenge you face. But then again, it may not be. This process keeps you open to possibilities, Landes points out.

“In order for us to fully appreciate the full range of possible solutions that come from our ideas, we need to be able to move them around – to organize them in different ways so that we can make more connections and open up more possible solutions,” she explains.

Rearranging your ideas also helps to prevent premature categorization, which once again may prevent us from uncovering the best possible solution:

“Shuffling our ideas around is beneficial for understanding in the same way daydreaming is good for creativity,” she continues. “When we unbind our ideas from the way we have them categorized initially, they are able to mix and mingle and connect in ways we may not have connected them on our own. On the other hand, when we fixate on one possible solution, we limit ourselves from being able to see the rest of the possibilities.”

When brainstorming using sticky notes or index cards, it’s often valuable move ideas around, grouping and regrouping them into different combinations with complete freedom. This practice often leads to idea improvement and new ideas. The same principle applies to mind mapping.

When you move an idea to a different part of your mind map, you change its context, and therefore its meaning. Your ideas may look promising as you ponder them within the initial structure of your mind map. But they begin to take on much greater value when you begin to move them into random combinations and consider the new relationships between them and the patterns they form. As you look at them in their new configuration, they may suggest new ideas and opportunities that you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.

This process mirrors the way your subconscious mind works. It functions by digesting the information you feed your brain, breaking it down into smaller chunks, combining and recombining them and then surfacing promising combinations as ideas or hunches.

One of the biggest benefits of using mind mapping software to synthesize and improve you ideas is this: If you move a topic to a new location and it doesn’t reveal any new insights, you can always use the “undo” command to return it to its previous location. This encourages, even invites, experimentation and “What if?” thinking. You can also add new first-level topics to create additional categories or “buckets” for your ideas at any time, classifying and re-classifying them as you go.

All of this helps you create and identify the best possible solutions. The next time you’re generating ideas to tackle a business challenge or opportunity, make sure you take time for synthesis. You’ll be glad you did!

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Mural.ly: A whiteboard on steroids for visual collaboration and brainstorming http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/murally-review/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/murally-review/#respond Fri, 06 Feb 2015 22:30:37 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8101 For small teams that need a virtual workspace in which they can brainstorm, plan and collaborate, Mural.ly is a powerful, flexible, web-based solution. More than just another "sticky note" environment within a web browser, Mural.ly offers a comprehensive toolset that encourages creativity and collaboration.

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Mural.ly

For small teams that need a virtual workspace in which they can brainstorm, plan and collaborate, Mural.ly is a powerful, flexible, web-based solution. More than just another “sticky note” environment within a web browser, Mural.ly offers a comprehensive toolset that encourages creativity and collaboration.

In this review, we’ll take a closer look at the business-oriented features of this cool web-based visual thinking tool, and we’ll explore some of the ways in which you can use it in your operations.

The Mural.ly user interface

Mural.ly offers a fairly Spartan workspace compared to many desktop- and web-based mind mapping, diagramming and visual thinking tools, which tend to cram the margins of the workspace full of buttons and options. Mural.ly only displays 14 buttons, divided between a vertical panel on the left side of the workspace, the header area above it and the lower right corner of the workspace. It’s a marvel of simplicity. But don’t let that fool you – it can do a lot of very cool things!

Adding content to the Mural.ly workspace

Mural.ly sticky note stylesWhen I first looked at Mural.ly, you could add simple sticky notes or images to your “murals.” Now, the text button opens a large dialog box that enables you to add:

  • A title box
  • A text box
  • A comment
  • A 3×3 sticky note in 10 colors
  • A 3×5 sticky note in 10 colors
  • A circle sticky note in 10 colors
  • A miniature 1.5×2 sticky note in 10 colors

When you drag and drop a note into the workspace, Mural.ly automatically highlights some dummy text inside of it and displays a text editing toolbar above it. All you have to do is start typing. No more clicks are necessary to enter your idea into the note. Text editing tools include the ability to:

  • Change font size
  • Change font (including a nice selection of business-like and playful fonts)
  • Change text formatting (bold, underline, italic, strikethrough)
  • Adjust text alignment
  • Toggle the note border on and off
  • Change the note color
  • Change to a different note format

All of these options are presented in a simple, gray and white toolbar; combination buttons are used to provide access to numerous options, but stay hidden so they don’t overwhelm you. One or more people on the Mural.ly team are obviously well-trained in user interface design, because this simple, common-sense, efficient layout pervades the entire experience of using Mural.ly.

You can also double-click within a blank area of the workspace to add a new sticky note – ideal for fast-moving team brainstorming sessions where you need to be able to add many ideas quickly to your mural.

To give the feel of brainstorming ideas on physical sticky notes, Mural.ly also gives you the option to sketch your idea. That’s not very easy to do with a mouse, but if you have a pen and tablet input device, you should be able to create simple sketches quite easily. It also supports next-generation laptops and convertibles that have touch-sensitive screens.

Selecting an existing note within the Mural.ly workspace causes it to display a bounding box, which gives you access to four options, one on each corner of the box:

  • Move the note
  • Rotate it
  • Resize it
  • Access a menu of additional note manipulation options. You can add a comment, duplicate the note, lock its size and position (ideal for title shapes, which you don’t want to accidentally move while your building and tweaking your murals), bring to front, move to back, edit and delete the note.

If you select more than one note, an additional option appears in the menu – to group objects. This is important if you want to maintain the alignment of notes relative to each other.

As you move a note, alignment lines pop up on screen as your note passes within alignment of other notes. This enables you to create neat columns and rows of notes, if that’s important to you.

Mural.ly - clustersDragging one note over the border of another one creates “clusters,” tightly grouped collections of notes. If you’re brainstorming, you can use clusters to group related ideas. One shortcoming: the border of a cluster is invisible – there’s no way to add a background color to it. I had to add a rectangle shape to my mural, move it to the layer behind my the notes within the cluster and then give it a semi-transparent color in order to achieve this effect.

Adding images to murals

The images panel in Mural.ly enables you to search an extensive collection of images or to upload your own. Images behave just like any other object in Mural.ly: They can be moved, resized and rotated. They can also have a title, a caption, a border and can be hyperlinked to a web page URL. I searched on the term “bulb,” because I was looking for a light bulb to add to my mural to depict ideas. Mural.ly displayed almost 100 images from which I could choose – nice!

You can also drag and drop images from your computer’s drives into your mural. I tried it with a PNG image and it worked flawlessly.

Well-designed collaboration capabilities

Mural.ly - commentsOne of the key aspects of Mural.ly’s design is its support for small group collaboration. A core part of that is its commenting system. When you add a comment to a note, it appears with the head shot from your profile in a collapsible dialog box that appears to the lower left of it. Like a chat application, a blank box always appears below the last comment entered, to encourage additional conversation about an idea. Closing the comment box collapses it to a small conversation balloon that displays the number of comments that idea has received. This helps keep the Mural.ly workspace uncluttered, while providing useful feedback on how many comments each idea has generated.

Each time you login to Mural.ly, it displays a list of any changes that your collaborators have made since the last time you viewed it in a “mural activity” window – ideal for “catching up” and enabling you to continue the visual conversation in a meaningful way.

Live chat is also supported, which makes Mural.ly ideal for live brainstorming sessions with geographically-dispersed teams. As collaborators add ideas to the shared canvas, they can explain what they’re doing and answer any questions of their team mates in real time.

Connecting ideas

Mural.ly isn’t just a browser-based environment for creating loosely-related collections of ideas. You can connect them to create flowcharts, mindmaps and other types of diagrams.

Mural.ly - connecting ideasAdding shapes and connectors to your diagram is simple. Just drag one of the 4 connector types from the shapes menu to the workspace, and use the selectors at either end of it to place the beginning and end of the line over the notes you want to connect. Mural.ly doesn’t automatically “snap” connectors to the edge of each shape; this gives you the freedom to either connect at the edge of a note, or have a line extend into the shape. Another selector in the middle of the line enables you to easily adjust its curvature by dragging to either side of its current location, or dragging the selector along the line to change its “bending” location.

A faster way to connect elements in Mural.ly is to hover over the border of a note. A white circle appears. If you drag the cursor away from it, a line springs forth from it, which you can then connect to another note.

A context-sensitive pop-up menu provides you with additional options specific to that line type, including line type (solid, dotted, etc.), line thickness, color, arrow tip style, arrow direction and type of connector. It all behaves very intuitively.

The shapes menu also contains circle and rectangle shapes, which you can use to create colored borders around groups of ideas.

Dress up your ideas with stickers

Stickers are a fairly recent addition to Mural.ly. It contains collections of black-and-white and color icons that you can add to your diagrams to provide additional meaning and context, or to simply present your ideas in a more fun way. Stickers can be placed anywhere in the Mural.ly workspace – within a note or floating in free space. A similar 4-cornered selection box gives you access to the usual bevy of options to move the object, rotate it, resize it or access a drop-down menu for more options.

Layouts provide valuable templates

Mural.ly - layoutsFor many business uses of a tool like Mural.ly, you don’t just want a blank workspace. You want a template or background that enables you to tackle common visually-oriented business tasks, like creating a business model canvas, a four-quadrant chart, an empathy map, monthly calendars – over 40 templates in all! This is clear evidence that the developers of Mural.ly aim to create a powerful business tool that will replace whiteboards with a much more flexible, digital canvas for capturing notes, ideas and other business planning information.

Other forms of input

In addition to Mural.ly’s rich toolset, its developers have wisely included full support for dragging and dropping assets into your murals – including images, files and hypertext links. Each of them are treated as separate objects in Mural.ly, which can be moved, resized, captioned and titled. In the case of the hypertext link, Mural.ly automatically populates the object title and caption with information from the web page.

I tried all three options, and found that it was easy and fun to add outside content to my mural. This vastly increases the number and type of business tasks for which you can use Mural.ly.

In addition, the developers of Mural.ly recently launched a new app for iPad called Mural.ly Sketch. It enables you to sketch notes quickly and easily, and also to photograph physical sticky notes for input into your murals – nice!

Filtering your ideas

If your mural contains a lot of elements, filtering is a practical way to display only the content that meets certain criteria. Mural.ly supports some powerful ways of filtering your murals:

  • Keywords
  • Created by
  • Voted by
  • Number of votes
  • Sticky note color

The latter two are especially worthy of mention. If you’ve done dot voting on the ideas within your mural, your team has undoubtedly set a threshold – in other words, only the ideas that receive a certain number of votes or more will be considered for implementation. This filter enables you to quickly display only those ideas. Rather than setting an absolute number of votes, however, Mural.ly provides a slider tool, which enables you to be a bit more flexible in terms of which ideas make the cut and which don’t. It would still be nice to have a numeric filtering function.

The other filter I think is especially useful is the one that enables you to highlight sticky notes of a certain color. If you’re using color as a way to differentiate idea types, this could be especially useful.

When you filter your mural, the ideas that don’t meet your filter criteria don’t disappear from view; rather, they are grayed out. This makes it easy to see if a filter is applied to your workspace or not.

Voting – just like dot voting with real sticky notes

Mural.ly - voting on ideasThe voting feature of Mural.ly is designed to mimic the practice of dot voting on physical sticky note ideas. When you open Mural.ly’s voting tool, the application first prompts you to decide how many votes each of your collaborators should receive. Once you begin voting, Mural.ly displays an overlay that explains to each user how to add and subtract votes, and gives each person the option to vote privately. Once you have started to vote, a message at the top of the workspace gives you feedback on how many votes you have left.

As you vote by clicking on each idea or element you feel is worthy, Mural.ly displays how many votes they have received. At the end of your voting session, it displays an overlay that groups ideas based upon how many votes they received, displayed in horizontal rows – very helpful if you have a densely-packed canvas with numerous ideas!

I love the way the developers of Mural.ly have implemented voting. It’s very easy and intuitive, even for anyone who hasn’t previously used this application. Plus, it provides simple but useful instructions and feedback in all the important places.

Sharing your ideas

When you’re done developing, organizing and evaluating your ideas within Mural.ly you can share them in a number of ways:

  • Presentation view toggles a full-screen view of your ideas, ideal for presenting your ideas to others within your organization
  • Share your mural with others via a link or e-mail. Three tabs give you the option to share an editable version of it, a view-only version or embed it into a web page.
  • Download your mural as an image (delivered in PNG format via an e-mail link)
  • Download your mural as an HTML file

Conclusion

Mural.ly - a canvas for ideasMural.ly is an ideal canvas for capturing, improving and manipulating your ideas. It becomes even more compelling when you brainstorm with other people in its shared environment. You can easily build upon each other’s ideas, share comments and do much more.

Its simplicity means that you and your team members can get started with it almost immediately. It is so intuitive that it has almost no learning curve. In today’s busy, disjointed business environment, that’s a big plus.

A solo account costs $96 a year (equivalent to $8 a month, but a monthly payment option isn’t available – clearly, Mural.ly is pushing users toward team use). A starter package, which includes 3 users, will run you $29 a month; garage, which includes 7 users, is $99 a month; studio, with 15 users, is $299 a month; and the business package, which includes priority support and up to 50 users, is $1,099 a month.

Considering all that Mural.ly can do and the ease with which teams can leverage it, I think it’s an excellent investment.

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The unfortunate death of static PDF export in MindManager 15 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/static-pdf-export-in-mindmanager-15/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/static-pdf-export-in-mindmanager-15/#respond Fri, 16 Jan 2015 16:31:42 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8083 Recently, I was trying to export a mind map of a plan for my new employer to a static PDF in MindManager 15. Sounds simple, right? Not any more!

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Static PDF export in MindManager 15

Recently, I was trying to export a mind map of a plan for my new employer to a static PDF in MindManager 15. Sounds simple, right? Not in the latest version of this popular mind mapping program, which no longer supports this capability.

The latest iteration of MindManager only exports to two varieties of interactive PDF, which use capabilities of Flash that are embedded in new versions of Acrobat Reader to enable you to expand and contract map branches and to click links embedded in your mind map. To view these interactive maps, you need to have a fairly recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.

In previous versions of MindManager, static PDF export was always an option. Here’s what happened, and what I learned about Mindjet’s decision to do away with this export type. More importantly, I also share several work-arounds you can use to create static PDFs from MindManager 15.

How I discovered this change

Last week, I started a new job as director of online training for the Content Marketing Institute. One of my first tasks is to produce an implementation plan for for marketing and providing sales support for this new service, as well as a process for onboarding new corporate clients.

With such a multifaceted project, I turned to MindManager 15 to map out my thinking. But I was unpleasantly surprised when I went to export it and discovered that version 15 no longer supports static PDF exports. I wanted to use this legacy format just in case my coworkers were using older versions of Acrobat Reader.

But it was clear that I didn’t have a choice after all the work that I put into this plan. So I sent it to my new boss and another colleague. Both of them encountered problems opening this file; my boss had to upgrade Acrobat Reader twice before it would display properly.

Work-arounds for this export issue

So I reached out to Michael Deutch, vice president of products at Mindjet, to learn more about this change and the reasons behind it. He provided a reasonable explanation why this functionality disappeared in version 15, and shared several work-arounds you can use:

“The vendor we previously used for the PDF export significantly changed their licensing model. We found that there are a variety of free and low-cost PDF drivers that individuals can install that will restore this capability, not just for MindManager but for all of their applications.

“Another workaround is that the Image Export produces an identical static visual output as the PDF. You could export an image of the map and share it just as easily, in fact, you can arguably do more with it than a PDF (e.g. include it in documents, emails, presentations, annotate it using Paint or other applications, etc.).”

You can also export your mind map as an image (don’t use JPG or GIF formats because they don’t scale well – PNG works best) and then insert the image into a Microsoft Word document. Then output the document as a PDF.

Why am I sharing this information with you?

Because I realize that many large corporations often lag behind the current versions of software, which makes it likely that someone to whom you’re planning to send a mind map may not be able to view interactive PDFs. Keep this in mind as you create and share your mind maps in enterprise environments.

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iMindMap 8: An awesome new tool for creating and presenting your ideas http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/imindmap-8-review/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/imindmap-8-review/#respond Wed, 14 Jan 2015 18:40:45 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8068 ThinkBuzan has placed brainstorming front and center in iMindMap 8, the latest version of its popular mind mapping software program. It features an excellent new free-form ideation mode, improved Windows ribbon toolbar and branch target tool, as well as a redesigned presentation view that contains some great new capabilities.

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iMindMap 8 Ultimate for Windows

ThinkBuzan has placed brainstorming front and center in iMindMap 8, the latest version of its popular mind mapping software program. It features an excellent new free-form ideation mode, improved Windows ribbon toolbar and branch target tool, as well as a redesigned presentation view that contains some great new capabilities.

In this review of iMindMap 8 Ultimate, we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant business-focused functionality of this new version, and I’ll give you my opinion on the program’s pros and cons.

A significant improvement in usability

When I reviewed iMindMap 7 a little over a year ago, I praised its many new features, but expressed some reservations about its overly-complex toolbars and contextual tools, which I thought could overwhelm first-time users. For version 8, ThinkBuzan has succeeded in fixing these issues and helping users get oriented and get down to the task of creating mind maps.

One case in point: When you first open iMindMap 8 Ultimate, you’re given three choices: Create a new session in brainstorming view, create a “professional” mind map or a Buzan mind map (see the screen shot below). What’s interesting to me is the distinction between the latter two map types. The thumbnail image of the professional mind map shows skinny, angular connector lines and rounded rectangle topic shapes, while the Buzan mind map has colorful tapered branches with words upon them – what we’ve come to expect from iMindMap. Apparently, it’s developers have recognized that business people tend to be very pragmatic, and want map designs that look more professional and less “creative.”

iMindMap 8

Brief on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand, and should help new users understand the basic concepts of creating mind maps and brainstorming with iMindMap 8. Nicely done!

To give me a better sense of what changed from version 7 to 8, I opened up a map I created last year in iMindMap 7, and compared the two. The differences are striking! iMindMap 7 looks cluttered, with tabs and buttons everywhere – in the toolbar above the workspace (which has two sets of text menus above it) and in the properties panel on the left side of the workspace, which displays 6 tabs, with several more hidden from view.

By comparison, iMindMap 8’s user interface is simpler, more businesslike and efficiently designed. Its menus and options are all still available, but they are better presented in ways that don’t overwhelm the user. Kudos to ThinkBuzan on an excellent user interface!

Brainstorming view rocks

iMindMap 8 brainstorming viewiMindMap 8’s new brainstorming view (only available in the program’s Ultimate version) resembles a cork board; ideas and images can be placed on it and are styled to resemble Post-It notes. It’s a perfect representation of a brainstorming wall in your cubicle, office or in a meeting room.

Using the program’s contextual brainstorming toolbar, you can easily add ideas, small ideas (think of half-sized sticky notes) and images to its canvas, and move them around at will. A playful-looking font gives you the impression of hand-written notes, adding to the authenticity of this creative thinking environment. Images appear as if they have been affixed to a sticky note at the top edge with a piece of transparent tape – a nice touch, in my opinion.

One key to capturing ideas in a program like this is the ability to do so quickly. That means keyboard-only input. I experimented a bit and determined that the INSERT key doesn’t work, but the spacebar creates a new idea in your brainstorming workspace. You can also create a new, regular-sized idea by double-clicking in a blank area of the workspace.

Adding a group to your brainstorm causes iMindMap 8 to add a white box to the corkboard surface. Like images, groups appear as if they were taped to the surface. Adding items to a group is as simple as dragging and dropping them into it. The box automatically resizes as you add more ideas to it.

This is an ideal setup, because it enables you to engage in free-form brainstorming, without regard to the structure of your ideas. You can then switch from ideation to evaluation, grouping your ideas in ways that make sense to you. In doing so, you’re creating a hierarchy that will drive how they are arranged when you switch to mind map view.

Another way to visually classify your ideas is by color; iMindMap 8 enables you to select from 8 colors for ideas. The virtual Post-It notes can also be toggled between full and half-size, if you need to squeeze more ideas into the space of your screen. In addition, you can drag with your mouse on a blank area of the workspace to access additional screen real estate, giving you almost unlimited room to capture your inspirations.

I played around with brainstorming mode while evaluating iMindMap 8, and was delighted with its functionality. I’m an avid student of brainstorming tools, technologies and techniques, and I’m not easily impressed. ThinkBuzan definitely got brainstorming mode right in iMindMap 8!

Simplified branch target aids new users

In iMindMap parlance, the branch target is a set of buttons that pop up as you hover over the end of a map branch. They enable you to complete common tasks without needing to move your cursor back to the ribbon toolbar each time. In version 7, the branch target was like a Swiss Army Knife, with a myriad of commands clustered into a two-tiered set of icons. In iMindMap 8, it has been considerably simplified to do four things:

  • Adjust the branch’s shape
  • Add a new subtopic
  • Add a new box topic
  • Add a relationship line

ThinkBuzan has wisely limited its functionality to one essential über-task: Adding content to your mind map. This should make iMindMap 8 much more intuitive to use, especially for first-time and occasional users.

iMindMap 8 branch target

Another simplification: In previous versions, when you selected a branch, control points were visible, which enabled you to reshape the branch. These are now turned off by default, but can be toggled on via a command in the layout menu. I think this is a wise decision; the average user will probably never used this feature. Advanced users, who want precise control over branch shapes, will appreciate that it’s still there and can be turned on as needed.

Presentation view gets a facelift

The presentation view of iMindMap has been significantly improved in version 8, and contains some very cool touches. You can auto-create a presentation with a single mouse click, or “roll your own.” You can then make adjustments in the slide viewer panel on the left side of the program’s workspace by dragging and dropping them into the order that makes the most sense to you. You can even rotate the view, to add more visual interest (don’t overdo it, though!).

iMindMap 8 presentation view

You can also group slides in presentation view. How does this work? Let’s say you have a pair of topics at the lowest level of one of your map’s branches that the auto-create function has interpreted as two separate slides. Simply multi-select the two slides and group them. The result is a single slide with both topics displayed. Two slides have become one using a simple, intuitive process. If you change your mind, iMindMap 8’s presentation toolbar contains an ungroup button, which returns the topic to its previous state.

As you view a slide in the sorter, a blue box appears over the mind map that corresponds to the amount of it that will be shown in that slide. If you want to adjust that to zoom in, zoom out or reposition that slide’s view, you can do so by manipulating the blue box. Nice! The updated presentation view in version 8 now enables you to add notes to each slide. During a presentation, these notes appear to you but not to your audience.

When you give a presentation using iMindMap 8, your presenter view displays the current slide with a timer below it; to the right are smaller views of the next slide and any notes you have added to the current one. Your audience only sees the current slide.

You can also open a vertical sorter panel during a presentation, which enables you to immediately move to any slide in your presentation – ideal if a member of your audience wants you to go back to a specific slide for additional discussion about it. Best of all, this all happens “behind the scenes” – only on your screen. I love the intuitive way this works!

Best of all, iMindMap 8 “flys” you from one topic to another during presentations, rather than just displaying a series of map “snapshots” as some competing programs do. This latter approach is inferior, in my opinion, because it causes your audience to lose sense of where the currently-displayed topic resides within the overall structure of your mind map.

One of the keys when presenting information to an audience is to include your company or brand logo on each slide. iMindMap 8 makes this easy. All you do is click on the “branding” icon in the presentation toolbar, and the program lets you select an image from your hard drive. You then have the option of placing it in any one of the four corners of your slides. It may take some experimentation to get the logo to display at the size you want it – you can’t scale it up or down within iMindMap. Perhaps ThinkBuzan will add this capability in a future version.

Presentation view also includes an intelligent group of settings that give you more finite control over how it handles animations, transitions and how the program traverses from one slide to another. Kiosk mode enables you to set up your presentation to auto-run and loop continuously, unattended. This is ideal for trade show booths, lobby displays and other applications where you want your presentation to run continuously.

Contextual menus reduce visual clutter

In iMindMap 8, ThinkBuzan has adopted a user interface technique that Microsoft Office has used for years to help manage complexity: Contextual menus. These are additional tabs that only appear in the ribbon toolbar when you’re performing certain functions – such as branch tools, brainstorming and presentation mode. This helps to decrease toolbar clutter and once again, makes iMindMap 8 easier to use.

New icon library and properties panel

iMindMap 8 features a new icon library and properties panel, nestled in a set of buttons that expand into tabbed panels on the right side of the workspace. Seven buttons/tabs provide fast access to topic notes, the image library, icon library, attachments, flowcharts, snippets (segments of mind maps that can be added to your map at any time) and task data. The design of these tools is clean, uncluttered and intuitive.

Conclusion

It’s common for mind mapping programs to fall victim to “featuritis.” Under pressure from customers and salespeople to “just add this one more feature,” software often becomes bloated and harder to use as more features and functionality are added.

That’s why iMindMap 8 is a breath of fresh air. Its clean, intuitive design makes it a pleasure to work with. As I’ve said in previous reviews on this blog, there’s a real art to keeping what’s visible in a user interface simple enough so new users don’t get overwhelmed, while also keeping advanced functionality close at hand to meet the needs of power users. ThinkBuzan got this balance right in version 8.

I’m an especially big fan of the new brainstorming mode, which helps you get into a creative mode with its corkboard background and colorful sticky notes to capture your ideas. I’m glad to see it supports keyboard-only input, so when the ideas are coming hot and heavy, you can keep up, whether you’re facilitating a group brainstorming session or ideating solo.

The presentation mode also includes some thoughtful touches that elevate it above many competing programs. I especially love the group/ungroup slide and branding capabilities. In addition, the “flip screen” command is very useful – since most times you’re going to be preparing presentations at your desk or at a laptop, without the benefit of a second screen. Being able to toggle back and forth between your view and what your audience will see is a real plus. Compare that to what you would otherwise need to do – run your presentation, exit from it, tweak and repeat. This is much faster!

iMindMap 8 Ultimate is immediately available for Windows for US$235; ThinkBuzan plans to launch the Mac version around the end of January, 2015.

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5 essential mind maps to help you kick butt in the new year http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/year-planning-mind-maps/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/year-planning-mind-maps/#respond Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:43:40 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8051 The new year here. That means it's time to think about your goals and what you would like to change and improve about your life in 2015. Here are five essential mind maps that can help you with this personal planning process.

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5 mind maps for yearly planning

Here are five essential mind maps that can help you develop a compelling action plan for improving all aspects of your work and life in 2015.

Goals mind map

Create first-level topics for each of the major roles of your life, and then add your major goals as subtopics. At the next level, divide your goals into smaller steps or subgoals, and then convert topics to tasks to assign time frames and levels of importance to them.

goal setting mind map
Read more about goal mind maps here.

SWOT analysis mind map

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This four-quadrant planning model is a great way to assess where you’re doing well in your life, where you need to improve and where potential threats and opportunities lie. See my blog post on this topic.

SWOT mind map

Read more about SWOT mind maps here.

Skill development/continuing education plan mind map

In addition to laying out a plan of the things that you want to do in the coming year, you also need a plan for what you need to learn in order to accomplish those things. A mind map is a great way to plan out the skills that you need to develop and the specific steps you need to take in order to do so. Use your mind map to identify specific places where you can get this continuing education and your timetable for doing so.

continuing education mind map

Professional networking mind map

No person is an island. That sentiment was expressed by a famous philosopher many years ago, but it’s never been more true than today; no one can accomplish anything completely on their own. We all need friends, colleagues, subject matter experts. No matter what you call them, we need other people to accomplish our goals. Instead of leaving your networking the chance, why not identify people and organizations you want to get involved with in the coming year that can help you to achieve your goals? A mind map is a great place to plan out these new contacts and relationships. Think in terms of key influencers, mentors and peers.

professional networking mind map

Read more about creating a professional networking mind map here.

Year-end review mind map

What did you accomplish? Where did you grow? What cool projects did you handle? Use it as a benchmark for planning for the next year as well as a way to update your LinkedIn profile.

year-end review mind map

It’s time to kick butt on the new year. There’s much for you to learn, accomplish and grow. These 5 mind maps will help get you off to a running start!

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Dynamic project management: Managing projects with MindManager http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/project-management-with-mindmanager/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/project-management-with-mindmanager/#respond Tue, 30 Dec 2014 19:41:14 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8034 Mind mapping software can help you plan, execute and manage projects from start to finish. Its visual format is ideally suited to project design. But its task management tools make it equally adept at project management.

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project management with mind mapping software

Mind mapping software can help you plan, execute and manage projects from start to finish. Its visual format is ideally suited to project design. But its task management tools make it equally adept at project management. To help you understand how easy it is to do, I created this example using MindManager.

(Editor’s note: MindManager is used to show what is possible with project management within a mind map. It is not intended to be an endorsement of this program or its capabilities).

Managing tasks within a mind map

When managing projects with typical project management software, you organize your main tasks, sub-tasks, and milestones in a linear outline format. You then add durations and dependencies to those main tasks and sub-tasks.

With mind mapping software you start in a map, a more fluid and flexible format than a linear outline. Within the map, you can easily arrange and rearrange main tasks and sub-tasks until they make the most sense to you. Once you have completely fleshed out the scope and dimensions of your project, you can then add duration and resources to the sub-tasks. After this step, you add task dependencies to your mind map.

At this stage of project planning, your mind map now looks like this:

Project Management with MindManager

Once you have added dependencies to the sub-tasks, you can click on the central topic and check “Roll up Task Info to here” checkbox and MindManager will roll up the duration for all tasks in the map. It then provides the total project duration in the central topic, as shown below:

Project Management with MindManager
You can manage the progress of each task with visual “percentage complete” icons, which enable you to visually scan your project map to see “at a glance” which tasks are progressing according to plan and which ones may need more attention.

As you change the progress for sub-tasks, the map automatically changes the progress of the main tasks and the overall project progress in the central topic.

MindManager also provides you with visual alerts on tasks that are past due or at-risk. If tasks are past due they turn red and if they are at-risk they turn yellow:

Project Management with MindManager

These colors roll-up from sub-tasks through main tasks to the central project topic providing you with visual cues that will help you keep your project on track.

Seamless integration with Gantt chart

For many people, managing a project within a map provides visual clarity on the big picture and the specific sub-tasks to be completed. Other project managers may feel more comfortable working within a traditional Gantt chart. MindManager and other mind mapping software applications offer integrated Gantt charts to provide you with a more familiar view of your project’s progress.

gantt view - mind map - project management

Managing topics without task information

Another benefit of managing projects within a map is your ability to manage other project information such as project charter, meeting agendas, and other project folders – all in the same project map!

project documents - mind mapMindManager topics without a duration will not be included in the Gantt chart; this allows you to manage both task and non-task topics in a single mind map. You can use these topics to link to associated project documents. Using the File Explorer Map Parts option you can dynamically link all project documents to your map. In other words, when documents or folders are changed or added to the linked folder, they can be refreshed and updated dynamically in the map.

Exporting your project map to Microsoft Project

Although you can manage project tasks via the Gantt chart in MindManager, some may prefer Microsoft Project to manage a larger number of tasks in larger projects.

To export MindManager tasks to Microsoft Project, you select File > Export > Export Task Info to Microsoft Project. When exporting to Microsoft Project you have the option of exporting topics with only task information or exporting all topics regardless of whether or not they contain task information. Here is the project after exporting all the tasks (with task info) to Microsoft Project:

microsoft project

You also have the option of creating a project in Microsoft Project and sending it to MindManager. In this scenario, tasks from Project are converted into MindManager tasks. To convert a Microsoft Project file into a MindManager project map, you simply click the “Send to MindManager” button on the Microsoft Project ribbon toolbar.

Chance Brown is the founder and publisher of The Mindmap Blog.  He is also the Operations Manager, Talent & Organizational Development for SPX Corporation, a global multi-industry manufacturing company headquartered in Charlotte, NC. You can follow his insights on Twitter here: @mapthinker.

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