Mind Mapping Software Blog http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com The best mind mapping tools and strategies for business success Mon, 18 May 2015 12:20:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Paper for iPad wows with intuitive new diagramming toolkit http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/paper-for-ipad-adds-diagramming-toolkit/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/paper-for-ipad-adds-diagramming-toolkit/#respond Mon, 18 May 2015 12:13:03 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8259 Paper with Think Kit may not be the world's first diagramming app for the iPad. But it's easily the most intuitive. It does away with all of the complex concepts and capabilities and delivers a simple, intuitive toolset that anyone can use to quickly produce a diagram for their next meeting or PowerPoint presentation, using an ingenious set of gestures and pen/finger interactions.

The post Paper for iPad wows with intuitive new diagramming toolkit appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
Paper with Think Kit iPad app

Paper with Think Kit may not be the world’s first diagramming app for the iPad. But it’s easily the most intuitive. It does away with all of the complex concepts and capabilities and delivers a simple, intuitive toolset that anyone can use to quickly produce a diagram for their next meeting or PowerPoint presentation, using an ingenious set of gestures and pen/finger interactions.

Earlier this year, when I took a look at Paper by FiftyThree for iPad, I thought it was just another drawing app. But its developers have just unveiled an update called Think Kit that adds diagramming to the popular iPad drawing app. It transforms Paper into a powerful, intuitive mobile whiteboarding tool that is a joy to work with and an excellent conduit for helping you make your creative ideas tangible.

This makes it ideal for casual users – who may need to create simple diagrams from time to time, and business people, who need to be able to communicate their ideas visually – but don’t have the time for a big learning curve.

Think Kit is a free update to Paper.

The power behind Think Kit

diagram shapes - paperThe Intention Engine is FiftyThree’s drawing recognition and rendering system. It recognizes and corrects dozens of shapes sketched in real­ time, while subtly preserving the uniqueness and feel of the user’s hand. It enables you to quickly and easily create diagrams with perfect-looking rectangles, triangles, circles, other shapes and connector lines. How?

To do so, you draw a rough shape using your fingertip or a stylus in a single motion – without lifting your writing instrument from the screen. Paper instantly transforms your rough, hand-drawn shape into a perfectly-proportioned digital one. It doesn’t completely “sanitize” your shapes and connectors so they look like they were produced using software; rather, they retain a bit of a hand-drawn feel. The app’s developers got this balance just right.

For past users of Paper, this excellent app remains a very powerful drawing tool, albeit with some powerful new capabilities. Think Kit simply adds a new type of “pen” to Paper’s tool tray at the bottom of the screen. As with previous versions of Paper, you can easily slide it out of the way to make more room on-screen for your diagrams.

To create diagrams even faster, Think Kit offers an intuitive way to duplicate shapes: Simply tap and hold a shape to select it, then tap with a second finger in a blank area of the work space and drag your other finger away from the object you have selected. Viola – an exact duplicate of your selected object. If it’s important that multiple shapes in your diagram have the exact same dimensions, then Paper’s duplicate shape function is an elegant, simple solution!

You add connector lines to your diagram in a similar, intuitive way: Hand-draw a line between two shapes, pause briefly, and then lift your stylus or fingertip from the screen. Paper displays blue arrowheads on either end of your line. Tap the one(s) you want to keep, and the app adds them to the line.

Enhancing your diagrams in Paper

Paper iPad app - smart fillsModifying and embellishing your diagrams in Paper is also easy and intuitive. Coloring a shape is a simple matter of tapping a color swatch in Paper’s tool tray and then tapping within a shape in your diagram. Doing so immediately fills it with that color.

Think Kit also supports something called “freeform fill.” It’s best illustrated with an example. Let’s say you want to create a simple area chart, with two intersecting lines and background colors. Simply drag your finger or stylus to create a line that approximates the shape of the line that represents the upper edge of the area fill. Then continue to drag your stylus or fingertip down to the X (horizontal) axis of your chart. Think Kit automatically fills in the region with the color you’ve selected.

To move an object, you simply tap and hold your fingertip or stylus inside the shape to highlight it, and then drag it to its new location. You can also draw a lasso around multiple objects to select and move them.

If you make a mistake, Paper’s innovative “rPaper - rewindewind” gesture lets you undo your design as many steps as you’d like. You invoke it using a two-fingered, counterclockwise circular motion on the screen. A circular, translucent clock appears on screen, and gives you graphical feedback as Paper undoes the previous steps in your drawing process, one my one.

This is a very elegant and easy way to “back up” your diagramming process to an earlier state. It’s a joy to use.

Export options

Paper enables you to export individual diagrams as PNG files for use in PowerPoint, KeyNote and other business applications. In addition, you can export entire notebooks to PDF, PowerPoint, Keynote or as a collection of images.

How can you use Paper?

As a series of videos on the FiftyThree website illustrates, it’s easy to use Paper to create:

  • Flowcharts
  • Venn diagrams
  • Quadrant diagrams
  • Pyramid diagrams
  • Area charts
  • Organizational charts

I strongly encourage you to watch these videos, because they will give you a tangible sense of just how intuitive and easy to use this app really is. My words, no matter how eloquent, can’t do it justice. But this brief video can:

Paper with Think Kit is an ideal tool for thinking alone or with others. Compared to laptops, tablets encourage information sharing. You can easily have a discussion with a colleague or client, diagram it in Paper, and then hand your iPad to him or her and ask, “Is this what you mean?” That’s powerful!

Paper plus – what else? Pencil

Pencil stylus

Paper is optimized to be used with FiftyThree’s highly-regarded stylus tool, which is called (naturally) Pencil. it’s designed to enable you to switch from sketching to erasing by simply turning the Pencil around, just as you would flip an old-school pencil in your hand to erase something you drew. It’s also pressure sensitive, which enhances its usefulness for creating art using Paper.

There’s one small catch, however: Pencil’s advanced features only work with the iPad 3. It will function as a conventional stylus with earlier versions of Apple’s ubiquitous tablet. Pencil is available in several different styles and finishes; its price starts at about US$50. Get details about Pencil here.

Conclusion

Clearly, the developers at FiftyThree  put a lot of thought into making Think Kit’s functionality as intuitive as possible, and into leveraging the iPad interface. It’s the closest thing to using pencil and paper to create a business diagram. In other words, it’s a tool that enables you to capture your ideas at nearly the same speed as you think of them.

I had a lot of fun creating diagrams with Paper, and I think you will, too! Paper is a free download from the Apple AppStore; the latest version comes with the Think Kit diagramming toolset.

The post Paper for iPad wows with intuitive new diagramming toolkit appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/paper-for-ipad-adds-diagramming-toolkit/feed/ 0
BigPicture: An innovative blend of mind mapping, data mapping and diagramming – within Excel http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/bigpicture-review/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/bigpicture-review/#respond Fri, 08 May 2015 18:28:07 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8243 Data mapping, diagramming and mind mapping, all in a single application - that's the promise of BigPicture, an innovative new add-in for Microsoft Excel recently introduced by Palisade, a developer of visual decision support software. Its elegant toolset is ideal for any executive who already uses Excel in his or her work, but aren't sure they can justify the investment in a dedicated diagramming or mind mapping program.

The post BigPicture: An innovative blend of mind mapping, data mapping and diagramming – within Excel appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
BigPicture

Mind mapping, data mapping and diagramming, all within a single Excel add-in – that’s the promise of BigPicture. This innovative program from Palisade, a developer of visual decision support software, recently entered beta testing. BigPicture’s elegant toolset is ideal for any executive who already uses Excel in his or her work, but aren’t sure they can justify the investment in a dedicated diagramming or mind mapping program.

Where did the unique concept for BigPicture come from?

Palisade offers a number of Excel add-ins that enable quantitative decision support and risk analysis. Its flagship product is @RISK, an Excel add-in that runs Monte Carlo simulations to help executives make better decisions. It also sells a decision tree tool called PrecisionTree that helps executives make complex, multi-stage decisions and statistical analysis tools. So it’s used to building applications that extend the functionality of Excel.

As the firm explored how to expand its product line to include qualitative tools, mind mapping and diagramming quickly emerged as attractive applications. “We recognized that business people need tools that help them to present their visual models to others. So we set out to create an Excel add-in that would enable that,” explains Michelle Jackson, Palisade’s product manager for BigPicture.

Installation: Less than intuitive

When you install BigPicture, it adds a new tab to the Excel ribbon toolbar. The process to do so actually requires you to go into Excel’s options, since the BigPicture toolbar is turned off by default. Using Palisade’s knowledgebase, I was able to figure it out, but in my opinion, the process of getting it up and running was harder than I expected. Hopefully, the developer will have this worked out – or at least provide users with more explicit instructions on how to turn on BigPicture, so they don’t have to hunt for it like I did.

How BigPicture works

Calling BigPicture an add-in hardly does it justice. It offers a comprehensive toolset that enables you to quickly get to work creating new mind maps, concept maps and flow chart diagrams, while leveraging Excel’s existing drawing and editing tools to adjust the formatting of individual elements.

Adding a new topic to an Excel spreadsheet is a simple matter of clicking the “new topic” button in the BigPicture toolbar. The program asks for the cell location where you want the shape placed. When you answer, BigPicture inserts a rectangular-shaped box in that location. I was hoping the app would enable me to drag and drop from the new topic toolbar button into the spreadsheet like many diagramming tools do, but the beta version doesn’t support this. On the plus side, it does give you precision placement of topics, so you don’t have to spend as much time manually aligning them.

To add new, connected topics, you simply hover the mouse cursor over the middle of any edge of your first shape. A red square appears. If you drag outward from it in the direction you want the next shape to appear, a red line appears. When you release the mouse button, a new connected topic is inserted in that location. Creating a flow chart in this way is easy and fast.

A connector button in the BigPicture toolbar gives you the option of straight, curved or elbow-shaped connectors. Whichever one you select, it becomes the default connector type for all new shapes you create. Connection types vary by shape type. If you decide you want to change a topic’s shape, simply select a different one from Excel’s shape library. Connector lines can also have labels. Combine that with the ability to connect topics in complex ways, and you have a very capable mind mapping and concept mapping tool.

Topics can also be images; this can be accomplished using Excel’s picture fill and image formatting commands. In addition to adding pictures to topics, you can also attach notes, markers and hyperlinks to them, just like a mind map.

If you want a higher-level view of the topic you’re diagramming, you can easily expand and collapse sections of your diagrams – once again. just like in a mind map.

Create diagram topics from cells

BigPictureBigPicture has a unique capability that leverages the inherent strengths of Excel, and helps you to build flow charts faster: You first create a series of topic names within a column of cells in your Excel spreadsheet, and then select the “new topics from cells” command. Once you specify which existing topic should be the “parent” of this new branch structure, BigPicture immediately creates a new set of topic shapes based upon it.

This is a fast way to build your diagram from scratch or to leverage existing data. Very cool! This is a capability that you won’t find in any dedicated mind mapping or diagramming program.

BigPicture keeps your diagrams looking neat

BigPicture’s auto-arrange tool, when toggled on, helps you quickly create well-organized diagrams and mind maps, without having to manually arrange topics. If you don’t want to use the application’s auto-arrange feature, you can easily align topics using Excel’s built-in controls for that purpose.

Data mapping – where the real power is

BigPicture data mapping

Data mapping is a powerful tool in BigPicture that enables you to visualize and explore your data in different ways. If your eyes glaze over when you look at a large number of columns and rows of data in Excel like I do, you’ll immediately appreciate this aspect of BigPicture.

BigPicture’s powerful data mapping tool makes it easy for you to convert columns and rows of data into visual form, helping you to gain new insights and see patterns in your data. It enables you to group and regroup your data in different ways, and then perform arithmetic operations on the results. For example, you could use this tool to visualize product sales by territory, and then by salespeople within each territory. BigPicture can automatically roll up sales by person and territory – sort of like a visual pivot table. Any changes you make to the underlying spreadsheet are automatically reflected in your data map.

When you select the data mapping tool in BigPicture’s toolbar, a dialog box appears that enables you to define the range of spreadsheet cells to import, select columns for grouped topics – where you tell the application what the hierarchy of topics should be – and what the end topics should be (the lowest level of the hierarchy).

BigPicture also gives you the option to display the lowest level as tables or as individual map topics. The former would be useful if the column you select for the end topics contains a large number of records. This would result in a very large, unwieldy visual map with potentially hundreds of low-level topics. Instead, you can display this data in a table, for a more compact, easy-to-understand diagram – nice! Columns in end tables can be sorted by clicking on the column header – just like in Excel itself – giving you another way to visualize and analyze your data. Each topic shape can contain multiple fields of data, something that isn’t possible with Excel’s native drawing and rudimentary data mapping tools.

You can also embellish data maps with pictures and markers. You can filter your Excel spreadsheet range so that the data map only displays certain topics that meet your keyword criteria; you can then display the resulting data map either in the existing Excel workbook or in a new one.

One amazing feature is BigPicture’s ability to automatically add images based on the data in your Excel spreadsheet. One sample spreadsheet does this with a fantasy football league, using National Football League (NFL) player salary data. Team logos can be imported from a single folder, as long as the image file names exactly match the spelling and format of the team names in the spreadsheet. Very cool!

BigPicture also does organization charts

BigPicture - org chart

BigPicture also has the ability to generate org charts from data tables. The data set should, at a minimum, include employee names and two columns that specify employee-supervisor relationships. In other words, each record needs to show both the employee’s title and that of their supervisor. The program’s org chart dialog box enables you to link the data in the employee title and supervisor title columns, so it knows how to represent their hierarchical relationship. It also enables you to add pictures for each employee, markers that depict additional information about them. You can also set up simple calculations within this dialog box – ideal for analyzing salaries and headcount.

Org charts can be exported to Excel or PDF. This promises to be a big time-saver for human resources managers!

Presenting your data – visually

BigPicture slide show builder

One of the design goals for BigPicture was to enable users of it to present their data in a compelling visual format. That’s why it contains a slide show tool that enables you to present your diagrams with a great deal of flexibility.

The Define Slide Show dialog box helps you to build your slide show, step-by-step. It enables you to select which elements of your diagram you want to display in each slide. An “all prior slides” button, when checked, displays all of the elements that appeared in the previous slide, plus any new ones you select for the current one. This enables you to do “builds” quickly and easily.

As you create slides, the dialog box displays a “treeview” of each one and the elements it contains. This gives you added degree of context, so you can quickly build presentations that have excellent continuity from one slide to the next. In addition, at any time, you can play your slides directly from the dialog box. Why is this important? It enables you to correct problems and tweak slides – without having to toggle in and out of the dialog box.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use diagramming and mind mapping tool and you already use Excel, then you owe it to yourself to check out BigPicture. I think you’ll be very impressed with its excellent toolset and ease of use. This is backed up by a help file and videos that actually do an excellent job of explaining how to perform common tasks. That’s all too rare today!

BigPicture is currently in beta testing, which means it’s free for now. Palisade is seeking feedback on it, so they can launch with a rock-solid product. Even at this stage, BigPicture’s toolbox is impressive in its breadth and ease of use. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design and functionality of this product. I love the way BigPicture seamlessly blends its own toolset with Excel’s shape, drawing and formatting tools. It’s the best of both worlds, and this unique approach significantly reduces the application’s learning curve.

As of the date of this review, pricing for BigPicture has not been finalized, but Palisade expects to offer it via an affordable monthly subscription and possibly also stand-alone pricing. You can download the BigPicture beta for free here.

The post BigPicture: An innovative blend of mind mapping, data mapping and diagramming – within Excel appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/bigpicture-review/feed/ 0
Get smart about mind mapping AND help earthquake survivors in Nepal http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/nepal-earthquake-donations/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/nepal-earthquake-donations/#respond Sat, 02 May 2015 04:55:30 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8236 Purchase my new Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software book and I will donate $10 from each purchase to help the earthquake survivors in Nepal.

The post Get smart about mind mapping AND help earthquake survivors in Nepal appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal, who last week suffered a terrible earthquake. The situation in this rugged mountain country is grim:

  • earthquake damage - nepalThe magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed at least 6,621 people and wounded 14,040 in Nepal
  • The capital city, Kathmandu, is in ruins; thousands of people are living in giant “tent cities”
  • Remote mountain villages are cut off from almost everything
  • People are afraid to go into their homes, for fear that aftershocks will cause them to collapse
  • Foreign food and medical supplies are their only hope, because the Nepalese government was ill-equipped to deal with a disaster of this magnitude

With your help, we can do our part to help the survivors of this awful calamity.

Here’s what I have in mind:

For a limited time, when you purchase the new 4th edition of my Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software book, I will donate $10 from each purchase to Oxfam International, one of the primary disaster aid agencies helping the people of Nepal.

By investing in this new book, you will not only learn how to be a more effective mind mapper. You will also be helping people who have lost nearly everything and who desperately need our help!

Click here to learn more about this definitive guide AND help the earthquake victims in Nepal.

The post Get smart about mind mapping AND help earthquake survivors in Nepal appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/nepal-earthquake-donations/feed/ 0
Dramatically improve your content with this “writing GPS” process http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/writing-gps-process-mind-map/ http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/writing-gps-process-mind-map/#respond Tue, 28 Apr 2015 00:10:14 +0000 http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/?p=8216 Want to be a better writer? Follow a process for structuring your raw materials - what Ann Handley calls a "writing GPS." This 12-step writing process helps her quickly produce coherent and compelling content - consistently.

The post Dramatically improve your content with this “writing GPS” process appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
Writing GPS mind map - Ann Handley

Want to be a better writer? Follow a process for structuring your raw materials – what Ann Handley calls a “writing GPS.” A global positioning (GPS) unit shows you where you are and plots the most direct and efficient route to your destination. Without it, you may waste many hours wandering around aimlessly, searching for your destination.

Everybody Writes - Ann HandleyHandley, who is the head of content at MarketingProfs.com and author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, explains that a writing GPS helps you steer your writing in a consistent, concise and compelling direction that makes sense to your reader and gets him or her to take the action you seek. It gives your writing power and clarity. If you don’t begin your writing with a concise, well-organized outline, chances are your writing will be unclear, disorganized, bloated – and not very persuasive.

“In writing, process is necessary because you need a road map to get you to where you need to be—essentially, a kind of writing GPS that gets you from discombobulated thoughts to a coherent, cogent piece of writing that others can understand and appreciate,” she explains

Handley uses her 12-step process to produce longer pieces —blog posts, e-books, whitepapers and site content. Here are the steps of the writing GPS method:

  • Have a clear goal for your writing
  • Reframe it to put the reader into it
  • Seek out data and examples
  • Organize
  • Write to one person
  • Produce the ugly first draft
  • Walk away
  • Rewrite
  • Give it a great headline or title
  • Have someone edit it
  • Take one last look for readability
  • Publish

The Writing GPS mind map

Writing GPSI converted Handley’s 12-step process into a mind map, which you can use as a template for your own writing. You can use it in two ways:

  • For inspiration: Use the questions it contains to inspire your thinking.
  • Capture your ideas: As you brainstorm answers to them, you can add them to your mind map. In so doing, you will be creating a solid outline to guide and streamline your writing.

Download the Writing GPS template in popular mind mapping software formats:

The post Dramatically improve your content with this “writing GPS” process appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/writing-gps-process-mind-map/feed/ 0
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!

The post Now available: The updated 4th edition of Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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.

The post Now available: The updated 4th edition of Power Tips & Strategies for Mind Mapping Software appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/tips-strategies-for-mind-mapping-software-fourth-edition/feed/ 0
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.

The post How to integrate data into your mind maps appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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!

The post How to integrate data into your mind maps appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/how-to-integrate-data-into-your-mind-maps/feed/ 0
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.

The post The Essential Guide to Mind Mapping Software – Download my new report appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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.

The post The Essential Guide to Mind Mapping Software – Download my new report appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/the-essential-guide-to-mind-mapping-software/feed/ 0
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.

The post Streamline your research with mind mapping software appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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.

The post Streamline your research with mind mapping software appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/research-with-mind-mapping-software/feed/ 0
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.

The post Randomize mind map topics to reveal creative combinations appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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!

The post Randomize mind map topics to reveal creative combinations appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/randomize-mind-map-topics-creativity/feed/ 0
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.

The post Mural.ly: A whiteboard on steroids for visual collaboration and brainstorming appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
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.

The post Mural.ly: A whiteboard on steroids for visual collaboration and brainstorming appeared first on Mind Mapping Software Blog.

]]>
http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/murally-review/feed/ 0