Monday, February 24, 2014

Inspiration Maps

First off, I need to disclose my own bias towards the software. I've been using Inspiration 7 since 2003, and have found it to be a great tool. With the new products that they have out, I'm able to brain storm, input research data, and organize my arguments for essays a lot easier and faster than in a linear, non-visual way. And I'm now able to take the program with me, either through the web-based program, or through the app on my iPad!

The app is $9.99 and unfortunately, only available for iPad.
I found that it worked well, very smooth and easy to use. It may not have all the features that the full software has, but it is very functional on its own. It also is able to save a customized default appearance for the thought-bubbles, a feature I've kinda missed from Inspiration 7*.

Projects, or maps, are saved on the iPad itself, and can be sent to print, emailed or exported to other devices and services. One down side is that it'll only save files in three formats, PDF, rich text, and it's own special file format that can be read only by it and Inspiration 9.1. This means that either one exports the file in PDF or rich text to either Dropbox or email it to oneself, and the open it up in a word processor, or one buys Inspiration 9 to import the map and work on it on the computer. It depends on the project and how one works.

For example, for most of my projects, I've actually found that working on my iPad to be sometimes easier. There are less distractions, or at least it's easier to pull away from said distractions, on the iPad, and I can take my work with me to different locations very easily. On the other hand, some of my projects need more visuals that the app does not offer. It's not often, it does happen.

And I've found that over time I'm getting better at organizing my thoughts in a non-visual fashion with it as well. Being able to take chunks of texts, entire points with notes, and move them around, without the fuss of printing out, cutting and stapling together (my old method), has been very useful and helps me be quicker to put together assignments.  

This feature for instant outlines is what put Inspiration above other mind mapping apps for me.  A lot of the other apps I tried, DropMind, Simple Mind, Total Recall, Mind Meister, Mind Maple, while very functional mind mapping apps, do not have outline features.  Most of them have export options and can connect to itself on other devices.  Mind Meister has some nice arrow features as well.  So if you're looking for just a mind mapping app, then these are mainly a matter of opinion on the interface, usually for free or very cheap.  

But I do recommend Inspiration Maps not only for mind mapping, but also for the outline features it brings. It's worth it for brainstorming and argument organization.  

*Currently, Inspiration 9 is out, and I haven't been able to pick it up. I had a subscription to the web-based service, WebspirationPro, which allows me to access my projects on any capable computer. However, now that I have an iPad, I've switched to the app for further portability and lack of distraction.  I'll be interested in continuing my subscription should the file formats between the app and the online version be compatible.