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Context Organizer for MindManager-Screencast

I recently did a post about Context Organizer for MindManager and thought that you would be interested in seeing how it actually works within MindManager with this screencast. Please note just how easy it is to use within MindManager and how it is able to extract and summarize the key words to give you the context. In the screencast you will see how it works to give you the context within a PDF and Microsoft Word file as well as within a blog. Enjoy. Look for another post about how Context Organizer can be used for Microsoft Office and the Web to summarize information.

If you or your company are interested in learning how you can integrate Context Organizer into your workflow, please feel free to email me. This is an ideal tool for executives, research analysts, or for anyone who has to plow through reams of reports or do research on the web. Context Organizer can also be integrated into existnig software applications- so please contact me if you need additional information.

Happy New Year!

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year! It has been a busy year at the AssistiveTek Blog and want to thank you my readers for making it a wonderful year. I have learned a lot from my interactions with you and have developed some great working relationships with some of the leading software developers in the field. Being the eternal optimist I am looking forward to the upcoming year and have some things in the work that you will be interested in reading about. So stay tuned and looking forward to hearing from you in the year ahead! All the best - Brian

Context Organizer for MindManager

I have been meaning to write about Context Organizer from Context Discovery for some time now and was recently reminded just how important this tool will become as we become increasingly inundated with information that we will be required to juggle in the work that we do. In my last post about, Wordle I received an interesting comment that made me think about Context Organizer and its value in the work that we do as information workers. Wordle is an online application that can pull out the keywords that are in the text and create a way to help us visualize the key content that is body of the text. One of my readers has been using Wordle to do just that- by copying and pasting text into Wordle it can quickly give you the context of the material entered. It was this comment that sparked me to delve more into the Context Organizer which can be used to summarize web pages and documents of different types to help you pinpoint relevant information.

I was first attracted to Context Organizer because of the fact that it is an add-in to MindManager 7 & 8. Using Context Organizer you are able to quickly get the context of attached documents as well as web sites right within MindManager 8, that are visually displayed as topics and subtopics. In the screen shot to the left you can see that I have a PDF document attached to the topic, Inclusion Times Issue.
With Context Organizer running it automatically created the rest of the topics and subtopics to the left of the topic Inclusion Times Issue, by looking at the content of the PDF file that was attached. You can see that it pulled out the 3 top keywords as well as the Summary which gives me a great idea of what I would find if I were to open the PDF file and readthe entire document. Context Organizer will also will give you more extensive summaries of the PDF that are included within the the MindManager 8 map as you can see from the screenshot to the right. Context Organizer is very easy to use and when you Right click on a topic the Context Organizer menu options are displayed along with any Options that you would like to set. Context Organizer can also be used for determining keywords from websites that are connected to your visual maps from within MindManager 7 & 8. If you are a MindManager 7 or 8 user and are looking for a tool to help you wade through piles and piles of documents and or websites than you should definitely take a look at Context Organizer for MindManager. Context Organizer works with MindManager 7 as well as 8 and is a very handy tool to help you find the context of the documents as well as websites right within MindManager. There is a free trial available at the Context Discovery website. So give it a try and post your comments here.

Wordle- "Word Clouds"

For some time now I have been playing around with Wordle, a web based application that can take your text or feed from your blog and create "word clouds" which you can display or post to the web. It is an interesting visualization tool and one that gives you some context, at least for me, about what I have been writing about. I recently entered my blog URL into Wordle and came up with this word cloud. What do you think of Wordle?

MindMeister 3.1 Released

One of the first mindmapping Web 2.0 applications that I tried awhile back was MindMeister and it continues to be one of the leading online mindmapping applications available. Just today MindMesiter released version 3.1 with lots of added features. One of the features which I feel will be a welcome addition is the ability to add relationships to your map. MindMesiter calls these graphic cross connections which are easily added by clicking on the Connect button on the Tool bar. You can see in the map below how I added the green connection arrow from one node to another one in the map. In Version 3.1 it is now possible to alphabetize the nodes and so that they are sorted alphabetically. If an individual who has been invited to collaborate on the map but has not yet entered the map a coffee cup icon will appear and by clicking on the coffee cup icon you can "nudge" them to participate. It has also just gotten a lot easier to take your maps offline. No longer do you have to wait for endlessly for all your maps to synch when you go to offline mode - a new dialog allows you to choose which maps you want to take offline. Very useful if you have a lot of them!So check out MindMeister and sign up for a free account. You will also find it easy to embed yourMindMeister maps on your website or blog to communicate your ideas. Below is an actual map that was created with MindMesiter that you can interact with. Let me know what you think.

XMind -- An Open Source Brainstorming and Mind Mapping Software!



XMind, a leader in mind mapping, visual thinking and collaboration software, helps you to think and create, and to collect and organize information with great flexibility.

Even more, you can also easily share your mind maps online with any people. As an Open Source software application , XMind also brings Web 2.0 concepts and community online sharing.

XMind will enable you to:

* Easily capture your ideas from brainstorming sessions

* Easily organize information for meetings and presentations with a wide range of formats

* Share your ideas and broadcast your knowledge to the world

Happy Holidays


I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a happy and healthy holiday season! We have a lot to be thankful for. Enjoy your time off and look for some new posts later this week.

MindManager 8 Web Services Video Up

Each month for the past year I have produced a video tutorial or tip for Mindjet Connections Newsletter and I am happy to report this month's video is up on the topic of Web Services, a new feature found in MindManager 8. MindManager 8 Web Services offers users some very powerful search features that can be accessed right within the MindManager8 without having to leave the application. In the video I demonstrate how you can use both the Amazon and Google Web Services right within MindManager 8. I hope you enjoy the video tutorial.

Animoto




I came across Animoto today and wanted to share it with you. It is a web site that lets you upload your pictures, select your music form their library and then puts the whole thing together for you. You can see the sample video in this post. It is very cool and with a click of the mouse let me embed it in my blog. Try it out and let me know what you think!

bCisive 2.0 is Here!

I want to thank Katherine from Austhink for spending some time over Skype this evening going over bCisive 2.0, which was just released. As soon as you open bCisive 2.0 you will immediately notice a new and improved user interface with a Start Screen that lets you select from several templates to get your business decision making process off the ground. If you are new to the software, Austhink now includes an introductory video which helps you get started- a nice touch. bCisive 2.0 now supports a Spell checker which was one of the most asked for features for users of the previous version. Austhink has added some new Tools to bCisive 2.0 which are a welcome addition- it is now possible to add various colored Notes to your business map. To highlight certain ideas in your business decision map you can now color them using the Color tools. bCisive 2.0 also adds Task as well as Source Tools for making your business decision map more meaningful by allowing you to communicate your ideas with appropriate icons. bCisive 2.0 now allows you to create powerful presentations from your business decision map with their all new in-product Presentation and export to PowerPoint feature. But best of all users of bCisive 1.0 can get a complimentary upgrade to bCisive 2.0 for free by simply clicking on the ‘Check for latest version’ button on the Help ribbon within your bCisive 1.0 software. bCisive 2.0 is a welcome addition to the field of business decision mapping and I for one am going to dive deeper into this rich application to find what other jewels await me. For more information about bCisive 2.0 go to Austhink website. Enjoy bCisive 2.0!

Dimdim 4.5 Released

I know I have written about Dimdim in the past but just wanted to let you know that their product offering has been upgraded and I had a chance to use it today with a colleague to share with him just how easy it is to start a web conferencing session. Dimdim is an very easy to use web conferencing application that runs through the browser and lets you upload your PowerPoint presentation for seamless webinars complete with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and access to your webcam. Dimdim provides for a shared whiteboard and as the host you can pass control to your participants with the easy to use interface. Considering that this is a free webconferencing tool it packed with features- in fact even if it were not free it would be worth the price of admission. The free account will let you host sessions with up to 20 participants and the Premium account for just $99 a year will allow you to host up to 100 participants. Your participants can use the VOIP to hear the presentation and can use the built-in IM feature to ask questions. With Dimdim you can also record and playback your meetings which makes it easy to post and archive for future use. If you would like you can also use Dimdim to share your desktop or any applications on the hosts computer. If you haven't tried out Dimdim give it a try you will be happy you did.

RobiNZ MindManager 8 for Kiva Auction

In the spirit of the holiday season Robin Capper who is well known to the MindManager Community is auctioning off a copy of MindManager 8 on eBay with100% of the proceeds going to benefit the community loan charity, Kiva.org. Here is more information on the Kiva Organization (http://www.kiva.org/), and on Robin's original blog post: http://tinyurl.com/62mo8h. Happy Holidays to all!

Podcast up at the VizThink Website

Earlier this month I was interviewed by Tom Crawford of VizThink and we had a great dialog about how visualization is used to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The session was recorded and is now live on the VizThink website. During the interview I had the opportunity to share with Tom some software tools that are used to help students who may present with reading and writing disabilities and just how important the visual supports are in the learning process.

As excited as I am to listen and view the podcast, I am more excited that I have been asked to present at the VizThink 2009 Conference on this very topic, that will be held in San Jose, CA on February 22-25. It is important to understand that when I usually do assistive technology presentations and workshops that I am primarily talking to regular and special education teachers who have students who could benefit from these technologies. This is one of the first times, that I will have the opportunity to talk with individuals with a wide range of backgrounds that are deeply interested in how visual thinking can help solve real world problems. In my session I will demonstrate and talk about how different programs utilize visual supports to aide students in reading, writing, thinking and organizing ideas. I look forward to the feedback and input from my participants who may come up with new ways to think about how we can use visual supports. To register for the VizThink North America 2009 Conference just click on the link.

MindManager 8 Webinar- What's New

Have you thought about upgrading to MindManager 8 but are not sure if the features match your needs? MindManager 8 is a substantial upgrade with many exciting and useful features that can make you a more efficient visual mapper. During this hour long webinar we will explore the many new features and give you a firsthand opportunity to see these features in action so that you can make a more informed decision as to whether you want to upgrade. Before the webinar you will have the opportunity to email the presenter with any specific question that you may have. So join me as we explore all of the exciting new features in MindManager 8. To register and pay for this webinar on December 22 at 1:00 pm EST click on the PayPal button on the top right of the blog. There is a nominal $35 dollar charge to participate in the webinar which can paid via PayPal. Once you are registered, you will be emailed information about logging on to the webinar and the teleconferencing phone number and access codes. Space is limited so sign up now!

Experience Task Automation Capabilities within MindManager 8 for Windows

If you haven't taken a look at some of the new features in MindManager 8 then you should take a look at this video tutorial that I put together for the November Mindjet Connections Newsletter on the new Task Automation Capabilities.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the day spending time with your friends and family. We have a lot to be thankful for! Brian

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen adds Handwriting Recognition

I have been using digital pen technology for a long time now but nothing has excited me more for the potential for this technology than the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. I have been writing about my experiences using the Pulse Smartpen on my blog since its release and it continues to amaze me what is possible. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen would add handwriting recognition and I am happy to report that Livescribe announced yesterday the release of MyScript for Livescribe 1.0 from VisionObjects- which adds this significant feature. For those of you who would like to try MyScript for Livescribe 1.0 you will have to upgrade your Livescribe Desktop to Version 1.4 from the Livescribe website. Once you have made the upgrade you can download the trial version of MyScript for Livescribe 1.0, which will automatically install the MyScript icon into the tool bar of your Livescribe Desktop software. MyScript for Livescribe 1.0 is an independent application that once engaged from the Livescribe Desktop software will launch. I should note that the MyScript for Livescribe software application is $29.95 and can be purchased from the VisionObjects website.

So how does it work you say? I updated my Livescribe Desktop to version 1.4 and installed the4 trial version of MyScript for Livescribe 1.0 without a hitch. Once installed there now appeared a new icon on my Livescribe Desktop toolbar. I opened a page of some notes I had just recently taken at a conference and clicked on the MyScript icon which automatically launched the MyScript for Livescribe 1.0 application. Once launched you see a two page view of your handwritten notes on the left hand side of the page and by simply clicking on the conversion icon you text is recognized and appears on the right hand side of the page. You can go into the MyScript Preferences and select from three different handwriting modes, Hand Print, Capital Letters, and Natural Handwriting to help the recognition engine along. One more click on the Word icon, and your text transfers to a Word document-pretty neat! Once in Word the text is fully editable and ready to be reformatted. I should note that handwriting recognition has come a long way but it is not perfect. From my perusal of the Word document I would have to say that I was really impressed with the conversion process- with a little spell checking and some formatting my notes are now editable in Word. Having handwriting recognition is a significant feature and one that will allow students and teachers to use this technology to move their notes into Word with the ability to modify and make whatever accommodations that are needed. This is wonderful assistive technology tool and one that keeps getting better and better. This is a great gift for the holiday season.

PollDaddy and MindManager 8

You probably know by now, that I like tinkering with new Web 2.0 services and decided to give PollDaddy a try. PollDaddy lets you create a free account and create polls and surveys free of charge. There are some limitations with the free account- but I decided to give it a try and see what happens. So if you can indulge me and fill out I the poll I created I would appreciate it.

On the heals of the release of MindManager 8 I thought it might be interesting to see what new features are most valuable to you and how you are using MindManager to accomplish your work and personal goals. I have also included some questions about your interest in training and what add-ins you are currently using with MindManager. So if you can take the time to complete it I will summarize the data and report back here with the results. Click here to go to the poll. Thanks- Brian

TwitterBerry for BlackBerry Curve

I have become a real fan of Twitter and am using it more and more to follow my colleagues and thought leaders in various fields. I have found it to be indispensable for following and tracking the latest trends in technology. Just recently I was able to follow the tweets for the DevLearn2008 Conference that I was unable to attend to keep up with the latest news from the conference. I'm sure you are finding interesting ways to use Twitter. Today I installed TwitterBerry on my BlackBerry Curve and now have full Twitter functionality from my smartphone. I tried it this evening with great success-now I have Twitter in the palm of my hands. You can Follow me on Twitter @assistivetek Hope to hear from you- so send me a tweet!

Export as Mindjet Player Tip- Linking Documents

I for one am having a great deal of fun experimenting with the new Export as Mindjet Player feature that can be found in MindManager 8. I have begun to export all of my MindManager maps to this format so that I can share them with my students on their Blackboard accounts. I have all of my lectures mapped out with links to web sites which I use for every class. Back in the days of MindManager 7, I would export my MindManager maps to PDF and post them to Blackboard, but the links were no longer live which always presented a problem. Now with the new Export as Mindjet Player I can put the maps on Blackboard and ask my students to open it and they can quickly jump from web site to web site as we talk about different topics. This has been a tremendous time saver for me. If you have taught using the internet- it is cumbersome when you have to stop and write the URL on the board and invariably some of your students are going to misspell the link and have trouble getting to where you want them to be.

One of the limitation of the first release of Export as Mindjet Player is that you can not embed your attachments. After thinking about this for a little while, I realized that while you can't attach documents that are stored on your computer, however, what about your documents that are stored on Google Docs or Acrobat.com? Instead of attaching documents to my MindManager maps I could simply hyperlink them to my documents. Yes- this does limit the number of attachments but it gets the job done. It was certainly worth trying and in fact my solution does work. Here is how to do it. In Google Docs open up your document that you want to be able to share and click the Share tab and select Publish as Web page. This will automatically create a unique URL that you can share with other to access your Google Docs. Now just create a link in Mindjet MindManager with that unique URL and you are ready to go. Remember you can also upload your Microsoft Word documents and bring them into Google Docs and be able to accomplish the same thing.

I have been using Acrobat.com for a lot of the consulting work that I am doing and it is just as easy to link your documents (Word, Excel, PDF's, etc) in your Acrobat.com account to your MindManager 8 maps and then Export as Mindjet Player and retain the attachments. In fact you will find the process a lot easier. Once you go to the MyFiles directory- simply select the file you want to link and make sure that you have selected Open Access which will let you share your files with others. Now simply click on the Copy URL button. Once you are back in MindManager 8 select the topic you want to link it to and bring up the Add Hyperlink and paste the link in. Now when you Export as Mindjet Player you will be able to access your documents from anywhere when you are connected to the internet.

While I hope that at some point in time we will be able to attach documents that can be embedded into the Mindjet Player for now this is a workaround that should serve us well for maps that we would like to share with others. Let me know what you think of this strategy. You can preview the file that I created by clicking here.

The November Mindjet Connections Newsletter is Out

Just wanted to let you know that the November Mindjet Connections newsletter is out and it is chock full of some great articles on how to maximize your investment in MindManager. Find out new ways to save time and expand the ways you can utilize MindManager in the work that you do.

Camtasia Studio 6- Impressive!

As a long time user of Camtasia Studio, I was excited to learn that TechSmith had just recently released Version 6. For those of you who have been using Camtasia Studio 5, you will feel right at home with the latest version- which is a good thing. I am always concerned when software companies make drastic changes to the interface when they release new versions of the software. Having stated this up front, TechSmith has spent considerable time and taken user input in designing this latest version. I for one feel that the workflow is much smoother and some of the subtle changes in the interface make the whole experience of using Camtasia Studio 6 much more enjoyable. From the first time you record a session you will notice a whole new recording interface which is much more intuitive and allows you to set up your recording features without the need to jump through a whole lot of screens.
Everything is right there in front of you as you see in the screenshot. You can now easily adjust your audio, select your screen size, as well as your webcam from the Record pane.

When you are ready to record just click in the big Record button and you are ready to record high quality video and audio form your computer. You will be happy to learn that you can now use Camtasia Studio to record in High Definition (HD- H.264) should you need to. After recording your video you can quickly preview your video in the newly designed Preview screen. The interface is very clean and neat and it is very clear how to save, edit, delete or produce your video. By clicking on the edit button you are taken to the very familiar Camtasia Studio screen to edit and produce your work. While not much has changed with regard to the interface there is lots of changes under the hood which will benefit all of us who work with this wonderful tool. This is the first version of Camtasia Studio that lets you decouple the video and audio which will make it easier to make edits and re-record the audio for retakes. TechSmith has now added a number of Hotkeys which will allow us to quickly add captions, callouts, zoom, and markers to the timeline. Just today I created a video and wanted to add a zoom in- and by simply pressing the letter z, I was able to bring up the Pan and Zoom dialog box and insert the zoom. This is certainly going to reduce the amount of time it takes to create and produce my videos. Like I said before, a lot of work has gone on under the hood which we will greatly benefit from. When it comes time to produce our videos TechSmith has really listened to our call and with the Production Wizard we can now output our videos to some of the most popular formats without the need to worry about the settings. We can now produce videos in High Definition (HD), SWF, as well as produce it for YouTube, Screencast and for the iPhone by going through the Production Wizard. In every case you will get perfect video and audio for that platform which is extremely important from my perspective- no need to guess. If you have a Screencast account you will appreciate just how easy it is to store and post your videos to your blog or web. The integration is seamless and within minutes you can have your video on your web or blog.


TechSmith has done a great job of listening to its users and making it even easier to produce high quality screencasts. It is the subtle changes and the work under the hood that will change your workflow and make you more productive using Camtasia Studio 6. The videos that I have recently recorded with Camtasia Studio 6 are very sharp with excellent audio fidelity. If you are on the fence about the upgrade to Camtasia Studio 6 take the plunge and see all of the benefits that you will derive with this very substantial upgrade. You can also download a 30 day trial of Camtasia Studio 6 form the TechSmith web site.

Adding Mindjet Player PDF's to a Acrobat Portfolio

This has been a very exciting week as I explore some of the new features in Mindjet MindManager 8. As I have shared with you, one of the most exciting features from my perspective is the Export to Mindjet Player, which allows you to create shareable maps with anyone who has Adobe Acrobat Reader 9, on their computer. This feature allows you to open and close topics and subtopics and maintains live links to the web. Being one who likes to experiment with software, I wondered what would happen if I placed a Mindjet Player PDF into one of my Adobe Acrobat Portfolio's that I have created. At the present time the Mindjet Player does not support attachments so one of the ways around this if you own a copy of Adobe Acrobat 9 is to create a Portfolio and add the files you would like to the portfolio. Inserting the Mindjet Player file into my portfolio was very easy and worked right out of the box. Double clicking on the Mindjet Player opened the map and from there I was ready to go. Now I can have my MindManager 8 maps displayed and add whatever additional files I need right within the portfolio. You will find as I have, that creating Acrobat portfolios is a great way to package files for training and consulting.

You may have noticed that I have placed a new widget on my blog recently to have you sign for free premium assets and information. This will allow me to target my readership and provide you with timely information which may include video's, newsletter, and or articles. For those of you that sign up now I will email you a link to Portfolio so that you can see just how easy it is to package your maps and attachments. So if you have a moment, please subscribe for the free services at the top of the blog by entering your name and email address- thanks Brian

Mindjet Player Screencast

I am really jazzed up about the Export to Mindjet Player feature found in MindManager 8 because it opens up all kinds of possibilities for teaching and training. In the this screencast I demonstrate just how easy it is to share your maps using MindManager 8. You can click on the screenshot below to launch the screencast. Just a note once the Title screen appears you will need to click on the Play button to continue to view the screencast. Enjoy!

Embedding MindManager 8 SWF Files

One of the most important features from my perspective that is new to MindManager 8 is the ability to Export to Mindjet Player in a PDF or Flash File (SWF) format. Now I'm able to share my MindManager maps with just about anyone who has access to Flash or Adobe Acrobat Reader- which are found on nearly 98% of all computers. In this post I am going to embed a MindManager 8 maps which has been exported as a SWF file. You will see below the results of me embedding the map. You have complete control over opening and closing the topics and you can click on the links to take you out to the web sites. This is going to be a tremendous feature for me when teaching my graduate course. I will now be able to post my visual maps as a Mindjet Player PDF file and post it to BlackBoard for all my students to access. What is really great is that the links and Notes are preserved. This alone is worth the price of an upgrade.








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MindManager 8 Released Today

It has been hard to contain myself over the last month, since I had a chance to beta test the latest version of MindManager 8 which will be released today. Built on the strong foundation of MindManager 7, version 8 breaks new ground with some really exciting features. MindManager 8 breaks new ground with the introduction of the Mindjet Player which now allows you to share and publish your maps with just about anyone. It is now easy with MindManager 8 to transforms your maps into fully interactive Adobe PDFs or Flash .SWF files. They can be shared with anyone, published to blogs and embedded in web pages. When you see this feature you too will be amazed how you can interact with your maps with nothing else but the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. This is really going to change the way we publish and share our maps without the worry if the person on the other end has a copy of MindManager 8 installed on their computer. I can go on for days talking about this feature and look for a screencast about this in the coming days. In the same vein, Mindjet will be releasing a new version of MindManager Web which will allow you to access and collaborate on the web with your mind maps in a secure web workspace. Similar to Google Docs, you will now be able within any browser to open and co-edit your maps with other as you collaborate with clients on your projects. Using the same conventions to insert topics and format your maps you will be up and running using MindManager Web in no time and if you would like you can also access your maps with the desktop version of MindManager 8. Having both Mindjet Player and MindManager Web ensure that you and your clients can have access to your maps wherever you are.

One of the key design decisions that was made at Mindjet is clear once you start using MindManager 8; that is that you can work within MindManager 8 without having to leave the environment to view URL’s or for that matter viewing or editing Microsoft Office documents. That’s right now when you click on a URL it opens a Browser window right within MindManager 8- pretty cool. I’m sure you will agree-but it gets even better in that now when you click on a Microsoft Office document (Word, Excel, Project, PowerPoint) it opens in a window within MindManager 8 and can be viewed and edited. No need to have Word or Excel open- just edit and view within MindManager 8. For those of you have been using MindManager for awhile- I had always enjoyed using the Google search API which allowed me to do live searches within MindManager. Somehow along the way of new versions the API no longer worked- but now you can do live Google and Yahoo! searches can be directly inside a map, with mapped and editable search results that can be refreshed with one click, or automatically updated each time you open your map. MindManager 8 can also search Amazon, Facebook, MySpace, Microsoft Live Search, eBay, and StrikeIron. I’m confident that with this new ability that other 3rd party developers will build new search parts that we can use with MindManager 8. MindManager has become an extremely important tool for project planning and in the latest version Mindjet has answered our call and really beefed up its task management capabilities. MindManager 8 now includes automated task management that provides instant summations of task start date, end dates, level of completion, and exception management. It is now easier than ever to set dependencies and watch how MindManager 8 is able to instantly calculate the dates when tasks are due- if a task falls behind schedule MindManager 8 will color code the task to visually show you where you need to focus. And last but not least, MindManager 8 can now incorporate real time information from spreadsheets and databases with the new Database Linker feature. MindManager 8 can now access data from MS Excel, Oracle, IBM DB2, MS SQL Server, MS Access, and MySQL. I’m sure you will agree that this is a very substantial upgrade and one that I’m really very excited about. To find out more information about MindManager 8 please click on the link.

MindMeister 3 Rolls Out

I just received an email that MindMeister 3 has been released with a a large number of new features and tweaks to the user interface. Here is a list of the new features and changes in MindMeister 3:

  • Task Management

    Many more features for easier task management in MindMeister, including start date and duration, email notifications, iCalendar feeds, WunderTasks and a task overview from all maps.

  • Search and filter, better tags

    The new map search - you'll find it in your map list view - makes managing many maps a lot easier. You can search for titles and contents, and even use Find in maps (CTRL-F). Also, managing tags was enhanced with a new overflow dropdown.

  • Resize ideas and wrap

    Overlong idea labels always created problems. In the new release you can now resize them via drag and drop, and your maps will also keep the wrappings when exported e.g. to PDF or as image.

  • History View

    We completely revamped the version history to make viewing and replaying the collaborative changes of a mind map a useful and fun experience. Clicking on the coloured bullets starts "replay" mode. See also our tutorial video.

  • WikiMaps

    You can now turn any public map into a WikiMap. This will make it editable for everybody (well, everybody who has a MindMeister account, to avoid spamming). Quite useful to gather input from many people at once!

  • Import text files

    In addition to Freemind and MindManagerTM formats, you can now also import plain text files into MindMeister.

  • Emailing attachments

    Geisesblitz Email now supports attachments which will be inserted as attachments to your ideas into MindMeister.

  • Many more key shortcuts

    Our users say they love them, so we've added quite a few more for common operations. See a complete list.

  • Other enhancements

    New user interface, revamped "My Account" section, Offline mode for Safari, recommendations in map view, new export dialog and options, better printing (via PDF), clone public maps, larger note previews and much more.

The Joy of Teaching

There is no better feeling when you are teaching to see your students in perfect sync with you as the lesson or demonstration unfolds. In many ways it almost feels like a symphony of sorts- there I am teaching and I can watch the expression and the heads moving in unison as they grasp the ideas that I am espousing. Pretty powerful stuff to say the least. Today was one of those days where everything just flowed. I have been introducing my students to the power of videoconferencing and challenging them to think of some ways to use it in the classroom. In this vein, I introduced them to two of my favorite videoconferencing applications Skype and Oovoo.

For the first part of the class, I connected with my friend Laura at Inspiration, Inc. and my class had a chance to meet her via videoconferencing. We had a very good connection and the class marveled in just how easy it was to accomplish the connection. After Laura introduced herself, we connected via Glance so that we could share her screen. Laura and I have done this before with some other classes but it was the first time we were using Glance to share her screen. Using the latest version of Glance and my account I was able to Start a session and view Laura's screen. As I have noted one of the things that I like most about Glance is just how easy it is to use. Today was a perfect example- within seconds of starting the session, Laura's screen was up and my class was viewing her computer. Laura did a great job of demonstrating InspireData which continues to impress me. Just this past week I modeled for a fifth grade teacher how to set up a mock election by using the eSurvey feature within InspireData. Glance was really fast and the screen redraws were nearly instantaneous. It was a great session and Glance worked flawlessly. My students were very excited to participate in the webinar and began to see just how these tools could be used together to deliver professional development and instruction.

After the short webinar- I had a chance to show them OoVoo and connected with Philip Robertson from OoVoo. We had a great conversation and the students remarked on the clarity of the image and the quality of the audio. We also had a chance to record the session which is another benefit of OoVoo and I had a chance to replay it for them. The session was a big hit and once again Philip came through and provided some great information and his great sense of humor. In in all it was a great day of teaching!

Ginger Spell -New Writing Software

While doing some searches for new writing software a couple of months ago, I came across a rather interesting web site from Ginger Software. The company was tauting a new software application called Ginger Spell that works within Microsoft Word to provide students with writing disabilities support in the area of spelling and grammar. At the present time Ginger Spell beta does not include grammar support but will be added when the applications ships. Ginger Spell is unique in that it assist students in producing error free text right within Microsoft Word using very sophisticated algorithms. Ginger Spell installs within Microsoft Word 2003 and Word 2007 and provides a window that allows students to view the suggested corrections. As much as I am a big fan of word prediction there are a number of students with writing disabilities that do not do well with the tool- here is where Ginger Spell comes in. Students can write within Microsoft Word as they always do and once they are done can utilize the power of Ginger Spell to process their writing. Ginger Spell has the uncanny ability to make the right correction and produce an error free finished product- which is ideal for students with writing disabilities. I have had a chance to beta test Ginger Spell and am very impressed with the underlying technology. To use Ginger Spell you will need to be running Windows and have access to Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007 along with a connection to the internet.

I like the post processing features and I believe that many students will find this a more natural way for them to check their work. At the present time, Ginger Spell does not support text to speech but this something that the developer will be adding when it is officially released. I found the user interface very intuitive and rather straightforward. Making changes to the text was very easy and Ginger Spell in 90% of the cases made the right suggestion without me having to make any changes. Give it a try by downloading the beta now of Ginger Spell.

Brian's Update

It has been a busy couple of weeks along with being under the weather which has made it difficult for me to blog. I trust that I will be back on schedule next week with some posts, so look for them. It really is a juggling act getting all that needs to get done-but I'm pushing through.

Just today I mailed out an issue of Inclusion Times that was past due and worked on the Fall issue. For the past 4 years I have written and published Inclusion Times, which is geared towards educators who are working with students with disabilities. Over the past two year, I have expanded the coverage to include new and innovative technologies that are important for educators to know about. Because it is a traditional newsletter that goes out to individual educators and libraries I have printed, collated, and mailed out this newsletters via the post office. This process is more time consuming than you can imagine and because it is a niche newsletter I decided this year that I would produce Inclusion Times in an electronic version (PDF file) that my subscribers could download. This will not only save me time, energy but a will allow me to get the newsletter out that much quicker. To get a free sample of Inclusion Times click here or you can view the embedded PDF right within the blog post. If you like what you see let me know and I can get you set up with a subscription. I will let you know how this process works- in any case this is the way of the future!

Timebox Manager for Agile Development

I had the opportunity to speak with Nigel Goult of Olympic Limited, a MindManager developer last week about his very exciting project management application called Timebox Manager which is integrated with a MindManager add-in. TimeBox Manager incorporates the timeboxing methodology for agile development and is used primarily in the software industry. What follows is my interview with Nigel, which I trust you will find as interesting as I did. Brian

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BSF: Can you share with us a little bit about your background and how you got started developing the MindManager add-in?

NG: I first became involved with Mindjet and MindManager working for M-Urge Limited in 2001. M-Urge was, at that time, the UK MindManager Info Centre. After 3 years with M-Urge and seeing 3 incarnations of MindManager, MindManager Version 4, MindManager 2002 and MindManager X5, I left and started Visual Technology Solutions Limited, (VTS), with a business colleague. VTS was also a MindManager based business and during my time as co-owner/director I became more interested in how MindManager could be manipulated through its open API and programming. I became intrigued by the way, in which other companies where using MindManager to create other applications and solutions. The result of this was Visual Project Maps, (VPM), a very simple Project Management “add-in” for MindManager X5 Pro. Over time, VPM matured and became a PRINCE2 focussed solution delivered with MindManager Pro 6/7. In July 2008, I left VTS to pursue other opportunities through my own company, Olympic Limited. One of these was TimeBox Manager developed by Agile Force Limited, which was at that stage a beta application. With our help, Agile Force was able to complete beta and enable us to bring TimeBox Manager to the market.

BSF: Before you talk about your application Timebox Manager, can you share with us how this project management technique differs from more traditional PM and which industries is it most suited?

NG: Time boxing is a Project Management technique common in software development projects. Its purpose is to manage a project, for example, the creation of a new IT system, by splitting the project up in a number of separate segments, “time boxes”, (normally two to six weeks long). Each time box has its own deadline/delivery date and budget. By incrementally finishing one time box at a time, the project delivers within the desired timeframe.

The important thing about time boxing is that the dates are not flexible, but the deliverables are. Without time boxing, when the deliverables cannot be realised, the deadline generally slips. With time boxing, the deadline is fixed, and the deliverables adjusted. This goes hand-in-hand with the MoSCoW prioritization of deliverables, (must, could, should & won’t).

Time boxing is ideally suited to software development, publishing, broadcasting and any time imperative project/task where delivery dates are not flexible. It is also finding its way into more generic time/task management on a personal level i.e. your weekly tasks.


BSF: When did you see first see the fit between Timebox and using MindManager?

NG: When I first saw TimeBox Manager, I recognised immediately similarities it had with MindManager; the properties such as Task Priorities, Start and end dates and Resources mixed with the graphical representation of status. It just seemed to be an ideal fit in the MindManager world. This led to us helping Agile Force to develop an “add-in” that provided a way to move data between the two applications.

BSF: Can you share with us how your Timebox solution integrates with MindManager? In addition, how does it work?

NG: TimeBox Manager and MindManager integrate through the installation of a free add-in for MindManager. The add-in provides the ability to either:

  • Import a TimeBox Manager Data file into MindManager

and/or

  • Export a TimeBox Manager marked up map into TimeBox Manager

The add-in works by referencing a set of customised MindManager map markers. These map markers identify topics according to their status, which includes MoSCoW Prioritisation, Timebox Type, Percentage Complete and Resources. At present, this integration is a user initiated function i.e. selected from a MindManager ribbon menu. Planned development will take this into a seamless integration where connected MindManager maps and TimeBox Manager Data synchronises in real-time as data updates in either application.


BSF: What are the benefits of using MindManager and Timebox together?

NG: Using MindManager and TimeBox Manager together provides an alternative way to manage/manipulate project information; they also provide an alternative way of viewing the project status. When presenting information in a different way, it can very often alert the viewer to things that familiarity obscures.

BSF: Who is presently using Timebox and MindManager? What are your users saying about the tie in with MindManager

NG: Currently TimeBox Manager is in use by mainstream businesses and several corporate entities. There is a strong interest in the higher end of the Education market i.e. Management Colleges, Business Schools and Universities. Because of this, we are currently running an Educational directive, which offers a free TimeBox Manager licence to College/University lecturers and department heads for them to try TimeBox Manager and demonstrate the application to their students. Anyone interested in this offer should register on the TimeBox Manager website, www.timebox.olympic-limited.co.uk/education-offer. It is available for all approved lecturers and educational department heads from any country. You can go directly to the MindManager add-in by clicking here.

Screensharing and More with Glance

Over the years I have used Glance to do webinars and for screen sharing sessions. One of the things that I like most about Glance is the ease of use and the lack of complexity. This is crucial especially when you are supporting others who may not be technically inclined. With Glance you simply select, Start a session and you are provided with your Glance.net URL and a session key that you provide to your client. It is just that simple- your client goes to the URL address provided, enters the session key you provided them and within seconds they see your screen. Like I said before, if you are working with clients that are new to this type of support it is crucial that the process is streamlined and easy. In the case of Glance, I have to say it is as easy as it gets.

Just yesterday, I received an email from Glance that they released a beta of the Glance application so that now you will be able to view your clients screen and take remote control to help provide support. To provide remote support using Glance it is as simple as selecting Start session - view guest's screen. You will be prompted if you want to just initially view or if you would like to view and take remote control of your clients computer when they log in. Again you simply provide your client with your Glance URL address and the session key. Once this accomplished they will be prompted to download a small viewing application. Having tested it out this past week the download and installation went very quickly. Once installed you will now be able to view your clients screen and remotely control their computer. This is a great tool for providing webinars and now for doing remote support without having to leave the office.

Glance starts at $49.95 a month or $499 dollars for a full year for a Glance Personal account. The program is cross platform and I have used it with my PC and my Mac with excellent results. For the Glance Personal account you can host an unlimited number of sessions and can have up to 100 users online with you- which is great for webinars. There are Glance Corporate accounts as well which you can find out more information about on their website. Some of the new features like sharing your clients screen and remote access are only available at this time on Windows. Hopefully this will change. Glance has been really good about adding support for Macintosh, so I will assume that it is just a matter of time.

In these tough economic times, tools like Glance are going to make a real difference in allowing consultants and trainers to provide high quality services without the need to travel. If you are looking for online training in Captivate 3, MindManager 7, JCVGantt Pro, Adobe Presenter or Adobe Acrobat 9 Extended give me a holler. Imagine how much time can be saved by doing training in the privacy of your home or office using tools like Glance. Glance is very easy and powerful tool that simply delivers! So if you have the opportunity download the application and give it a try, you will be glad you did.

Using MindManager 7 as a Presentation Tool

Today is a big professional in-service day for educators in New Jersey and I was lucky enough to be able to present to teachers in the beautiful Warren County. I always enjoy doing presentations and workshops in Warren County-you can count on beautiful vistas and lots of farms along the way, and there is never much traffic. Today I had the opportunity to do two different workshops-one focused on free Web 2.0 technologies and the other one was a demonstration of more traditional assistive technology.

I really enjoyed working with the teachers as I shared with them a number of free resources that can be used with their students to make the curriculum more accessible. In this economic downturn the teachers were very glad that I was able to focus on free web services and software that runs through the browser. For many of the teachers, many of the applications and resources that I shared with then were new. It was exciting to see them use NaturalReader with Microsoft Word and have it read the web. Many of the teachers saw many application for this application with the students that they work with. Because the workshop was only 90 minutes I need to have a way for them to jump from web site to web site without having them have to type in the URL. This is where MindManager 7 came to the rescue. After creating my visual map I exported it to the web and was able to publish it to my website. Using the Overview map my participants could quickly move to the links by simply clicking. This worked like a charm and it is a strategy that I will use in future presentation when I want my participants to be able to move quickly from one website to another. Here is an example of the Overview map that I used for my workshop today. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.