#4 in the Effective Mind Maps blog post series
Many types of work today involve a significant amount of research. As you gather large quantities of information, it can quickly become a jumble of confusing facts, figures and notes. A mind map enables you to create time-saving “pointers” to all of these bits of information and help you to keep them better organized – just a click or two away.
Today’s mind mapping software supports a remarkable number of link types, which can vastly increase the power of your visual diagrams. Here’s what’s possible, along with some tips on when and how to utilize them:
Links to files: Using this feature, you can easily keep track of many types of information that is related to the project you’re working on, including, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and any other type of file. These links function much like a desktop shortcut: When you click on the link icon, the file will open. Use this feature to save time when you must keep track of key documents or files.
Links to other mind maps: Of course, you can also embed links to other mind maps in the map you’re working on. This can come in useful if you need to divide a large, complex map into several smaller, linked ones, or if you’re using a master map (an index of all of the maps you have created).
Links to folders: This works like linking to files, except your map displays the contents of a folder on your PC, and each file is a live link. This could be very useful as part of a personal dashboard, especially if you tend to store all of your critical files in a single folder.
Links to web pages: Often, the information or knowledge you need to gather is located on external web sites. Using the URL linking feature of your mind mapping program, you can easily create bookmarks to these key resources and organize them along with the rest of your research.
Links to e-mails: An increasing amount of the knowledge and information we must work with is embedded in e-mail messages. Accordingly, several mind mapping programs enable you to import the content of individual e-mail messages from Microsoft Outlook into your map, or point to external representations of them.
Links to applications: If you want to take linking to its logical extreme, you can even create links within your map to frequently-used programs. You simply create a file link to the executable file (.exe) of the program that you want to open from within your mind map. This could be especially useful if you start your day by opening a master map.
Other types of connections
Mind mapping software also enables you to pull information into your maps. While technically not links (which tend to point away from your map to other assets and resources), these tools can connect your maps to even more valuable data (click on the map above right for a complete picture of examples of all of the link types):
Ranges of cells from spreadsheets: Several programs now enable you to connect your maps to an Excel spreadsheet, and display a range of cells from it within your map. This can be especially valuable if you’re trying to create a business dashboard to help you stay up-to-date on key business metrics.
RSS feeds: Several leading mind mapping programs enable you to set up RSS feeds, which enable you to connect a wealth of news, blog updates and other structured information into your maps.
Database connections: At least one leading mind mapping program gives your the ability to connect to a database, create a simple query against its contents, and insert the results into your map.
In short, today’s mind mapping software enables you to connect to an amazing variety of data and resources, which can help you to add more value to your mind maps.