For many, one of the most stressful things about work is just that—all the work. In such an up-and-down economy, businesses don’t always have the size of staff they need, so employees are forced to take on extra roles and juggle extra responsibilities. Even if your work is simple and straightforward, life can get complicated because of the many other responsibilities that go along with it—driving the kids to school, cooking dinner, mowing the lawn, buying your sister her birthday present, and somewhere in there you have to find time for a shower. Fortunately, there are “mind mapping tools” available to help everyday people to plan efficiently, brainstorm ideas and do mind dumps. Mind mapping has been around for a while, but is just now beginning to grab the attention of the disorganized and overwhelmed. It is a way to organize information in the form of a map. The map is usually created around one core idea or project, and then all of the other information builds off of that center through arrows and lines. Mind mapping can be done on paper or by using a software program. While creating a mind map on paper is quick and easy, extremely complex tasks can be difficult to keep track of if you’re creating the map yourself (and in fact would take quite a bit of time). The software will not only help you stay afloat, but will actually help you understand what you’re doing on a deeper level. This article will review one such mind mapping software—MindMaple. Below is an example of a mind map generated from MindMaple (click to expand):
MindMaple was launched in September 2011 and has hit the ground running. The software is pretty easy to use and a great starting place for those new to the mind mapping world. It allows you to export your map to programs such as Word or Excel, use keyboard short cuts, and is set up very similarly to Microsoft programs for easy use.
1. You have 42 choices of layouts and styles for your map.
One of the reasons people love mind maps so much is the idea that they can be customized. You want to make sure that you have a look that makes sense to you from the branch styles down to the colors. The visual components are important, so the fact that MindMaple offers 42 styles and the ability to customize is awesome.
2. You can add hyperlinks, attachments, and notes to your map.
No one creates a mind map because they have simple, basic information to remember. Most people have tons of links and projects associated with each task, and MindMaple allows you to place these within your map for added organization.
3. The feature known as “snap to grid” helps keep things in line.
The most annoying thing to deal with when creating a mind map is alignment. You want to spend your time adding in important content and forming connections; not making sure the bubbles are aligned with one another. The MindMaple snap to grid option is a bunch of little gray dots that can actually be placed on a layout before you even “snap” your bubbles onto the grid. This saved me a lot of time and was very simple to use.
4. The toolbar changes with every action to help keep things simple.
I was surprised to find that I opened the program and the toolbar looked pretty simple and approachable. There are tons of choices when it comes to creating a mind map, so a lot of software looks overwhelming at first glance. MindMaple, however, only shows you the options you can use. In other words, the software does not display all of the options at once. For example, the tab allowing me to change the color of a box will not even appear until I have clicked that box. This keeps things simple and was a great reminder of the options that were available. Had they been visible all along, I may never have noticed when they should be used.
5. You have 12 options when it comes to placing images.
Once again, the visual aspect is extremely important, and what better way to illustrate something visually than through pictures. If you want to show yourself an example or use a picture to remember to do something, you can place the image anywhere you want around the topic (and align it perfectly). You can even choose how far away you want the image from the content. Although other mind-mapping software offers some of the same features as MindMaple, we like this one for its simplicity. It is offers the same outcome, but without all the confusion other software bring with them. After all, the whole point of mind mapping is to make your life easier. Usability is one of the most important things to consider in mind mapping software, and MindMaple has this down very nicely.
The Downsides to MindMaple
A good review would be useless without the negatives. Although I couldn’t find anything that made MindMaple too difficult, there are still a few things that could be improved including:
- Movement – You must wait for a little arrow to appear when you put your cursor over a topic and then drag that around if you want to move that topic. I have found that when creating a successful mind map you are always moving boxes around, but it’s instinctive to want to simply move your cursor over a topic and start dragging. This creates a new “sibling,” or smaller, topic box. Overall, this was a bit annoying.
- Collaboration – I agree with Hun Boonwhen he talks about collaborative mind mapping. A lot of office departments want to create a mind map together or send it somewhere to be added to and revised. However, MindMaple does not offer this option whereas other more established software do.Currently, users can share their MindMaple maps with other MindMaple users through email; any MindMaple map saved with the extension .emm can be opened, edited, resaved, and then sent through email for collaboration.
The Last Piece to the Puzzle: The Purchase
You can download a free trial of MindMaple at their company website. The software is also currently offering a 50% discount when purchasing the software as part of their launching sale. Photo Credit: jeremymitleff.com
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