Thanks to Liam Hughes and the Biggerplate team who invited me to introduce my method : Study Better with Visual Thinking. It was in Biggerplate Unplugged in Utrecht, on Wednesday the 9th of October.
I already published an article about my five step method “How to study better with visual thinking“. But the wonderful Biggerplate team invited me to introduce it during the Biggerplate Unplugged event in Utrecht on Wednesday the 9th of October.
I made a prezi presentation about it, I hoped it was good enough to make a nice talk and I sent the package to Liam Hughes.
So on Wednedsday, I was right in front of a panel of mindmappers from all over Europe : from Spain to Scotland through Belgium, France and the Netherlands. And I showed them this :
Mindmaps are fantastic to show you the structure of a course, an organization or a group of concepts. Flashcards are great when you want to study details, definitions or formulas. With XMind2Anki, combine the power of mindmaps and of flashcards to study even more efficiently!
If you are a regular mindmap user, you already know how efficient they are to study : they are a fantastic way to find the links between concepts and to show the structure of any set of thoughts. You already found out how the association of keywords, pictures, branches and colours helps you to better understand and memorize.
If you use flashcards to prepare for your exams, you already know how helpful they can be to memorize very quickly a huge amount of new words in your own language or in a foreign idiom, definitions or maths and sciences formulas.
What if you could combine the powers of those two fabulous tools? If you could use the links, the structure, the global view of a mindmap as well as the powerful details memorization of flashcards?
Of course, it would take a lot of time to gather the elements of your mindmap to turn them into a deck of flashcards!
But, imagine that an application could automatically turn your mindmap into a deck of flashcards? You could take advantage of both techniques without wasting your time copying items from one medium into the other…
XMind2Anki : the power of mindmaps and flashcards
Such application exists : it is called XMind2Ankiand it has been developed by my friend Bruno Martin who is finishing his PhD thesis in Paris (you can follow him on Twitter : @itc4efficiency)
It is a small application that you can download and use entirely for free : no bad surprises!
Draw your mindmap as usual. In this article, we’ll see the simplest method : one question and a set of answers per branch (or topic, in XMind lingo). In another article, we’ll see how to use filters to export more complex mindmaps.
I made a mind map about the French Presidents of the Fifth Republic.
This is a very simple 2 level mindmap : the first level – Premier, Deuxième, Troisième, etc. – will be our question. Who is the fifth French President of the Fifth Republic?
The second level – for instance, Jacques Chirac, 29-11-1932, etc. – will be the answer.
Nothing very complicated!
Using XMind2Anki for the first time
Once you have downloaded your application, you get a .rar file. You have to decompress it in order to launch it. Then, click on the xmind2anki.exe file, if your OS is Windows ; click on the .jar file, if you work with Mac OS or Linux. Xmind2Anki can work with the three operating systems.
When you launch XMind2Anki, the following menu pops up on your screen :
Turn your mindmap into a deck of flashcards
First, click on the red button, in the superior left corner of the menu. This will indicate to XMind2Anki which XMindmindmap you want to export to Anki. In this case, I select my French Presidents mindmap.
Then, choose a name and a location for your Anki file.
When it’s done, simply click on the green button, on the right. XMind2Anki starts to export your mindmap as a new deck of Anki Flashcards!
Since I have only 8 topics, the exportation takes only a few seconds!
If I look closely at my XMind mindmap, I’ll find out that a tiny icon appeard in the central topic : it is the Anki icon and it is a hyperlink towards the desk of flashcards I just created.
If I click on that tiny icon, I’ll open my new desk of Anki flashcards!
Here is a sample of my new desk about the French President : this is the fourth topic of my XMind mindmap and the fourth flashcard of my Anki deck : François Mitterand, who was the fourth President of the Fifth French Republic.
The word “Quatrième” – fourth in French is my question. So, who was the French president ? The answer is François Mitterand and I can see his picture. All the subtopics the branch François Mitterand became parts of the answer, listed in a bullet list under the picture.
Now, I can study the presidents of the Fifth French Republic combining the structuring powers of the XMind mind map and the memorizing powers of the Anki flashcards.
And you : are you also using this kind of techniques ? Or do you study with other tools ? Which ones ? What kind of results do you get ?
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It has been announced for several weeks now : the 2013 beta version of XMind, the most popular mind mapping software, is available. This software includes 10 new features and 11 improvements which aficionados have eagerly waited.
Let us say it immediately, this is not a revolution…
When you look at your home screen, you hardly see any difference with the previous version. But, as with some cars, you have to look under the hood to really grasp the new technical features. And their invaluable potential.
And these technical features are numerous: no less than 10 new features and 11 improvements!
10 new features for XMind
These new functions are not all at the same level : if some go to the core of the software, some, such as new markers, seem rather peripheral.
Still no online real-time collaboration and yet, users, especially professionals, increasingly ask for it.
Nevertheless, XMind 2013 authorizes the automatic sharing of mindmaps via a local network: such a major breakthrough! And it automatically shares the latest and recently updated mindmap version. No need to exchange emails with your colleagues or even upload your mindmaps on the XMind platform anymore.
You can import text directly from Word in a topic note. Previously, you had to use the copy and paste – a function that saves significant time gathering documents, for example!
For me, one of the finest success of this new version of XMind 2013 is the new export to Excel! This is something that was sorely lacking in XMind, and it works very well.
Export to Excel, a real success!
I conducted a test with one of my previous mindmaps often posted on my French blog : that mindmap is called CQQCOQP. I’ll repost it here just to show you how the export to Excel works (you can also acquire free downloading on my Biggerplate page).
Once the information is exported to an Excel spreadsheet, nothing changes and everything is in order according to the position of subjects. The central issue became the title of my Excel sheet, the levels are the titles of my columns, and the issues have become cells A, while other subjects are placed back into the logical order.
I don’t have a Mac OS and hence don’t have the opportunity to test the new features using this operating system, including direct export to PowerPoint, Word and Excel.
Xmind 2013 also exports to SVG , the scalable vector drawing.
As for the workbooks, it is now possible to merge and print them in their entirety and not map by map. Again, a significant gain in time .
Now it is possible to reduce the file size of an XMind 2013 mindmap : no more stuck with files too heavy to be emailed!
I also tested the new style editor : very intuitive , very complete. It allows you to change the shape , color, size, font , etc. It works not only with the topics, but also with other objects like summaries, boundaries, etc. A great tool for those who love the aesthetic mindmaps.
I conclude this list of new features with the markers: a new series of the prettiest and most readable markers.
11 Significant improvements of the mindmapping software
The new XMind 2013 works better in exports : better PDF export with SVG vector graphics , Word, PowerPoint.
The gallery is renamed Clip Art : I personally would have preferred that certain old school or rudimentary images would have been replaced in a brand new style like the one of the new markers …
The files attachment and hyperlinks have also been improved – which is not directly visible. It also has to be tested.
Keyboard shortcuts have been added for Mac OS users, including the addition of new sheets.
You can also simultaneously focus on a topic and see the tasks related to it in the Gantt chart : a real advantage for project managers.
An improvement that XMind doesn’t report on his blog: the new zoom at the bottom of the screen to adjust the map display. It doesn’t sound that important, but this small device that can display the map at 50 , 100, 150 %, etc., adds up to the comfort. In practice, you will find it handy !
Finally, there are also several improvements in the markers field : their size is now proportional to the font of the topic in which they are included. This makes them much more visible in some cases.
Groups of markers in the menu become expandable sets, which avoids an endless scroll following markers on the screen when looking for a particular group…
And finally, for multiple makers in a topic, the order of markers is the same in the topic as in the “view” menu : there could have been a confusion with previous versions .
As I said in the introduction, this new version is not a revolution, but, if the changes in the look of the software are almost imperceptible, there are some significant breakthroughs!
Some of the new functions, such as export to Excel, the merge and print of entire workbooks will obviously make it easier for users to save their time and make XMind 2013 more compatible with standards softwares formats .
A version to use and to leverage… waiting for the collaborative online in real time (I know, I repeat myself over and over, but it is a growing market demand … I just hope the software producers will hear me and adapt their software to the users’ needs… ).
How to visualize the different stages of your project? How to draw a clear and efficient timeline? Answer: with XMind ! And by using a very peculiar structure : the fishbone, also known as “Ishikawa”, from the inventor’s name.
Brainstorming : to gather the content of the project
Asking questions about all the dimensions of the project : When, Why, Who, How, Where, What, How Much ?
Visualizing the project steps with a timeline
In this article, I will emphasize more on the 3rd step.
I already used a timeline to help startups creators to visualize their project on the long run. I also used a iMindMap mindmap to explain the principle of such a tool.
Last week, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop regarding “project management with visual thinking” in Belgium and I applied that three steps technique and, of course, a timeline during the session.
A timeline with XMind fishbone
XMind offers the fishbone or Ishikawa structure as their default timeline. Unfortunately, the default timeline provided by XMind start menu is on a yearly base which is divided into quarters. Regrettably, it is unsuitable and doesn’t synchronize with our needs.
Hence, we’ll create our own timeline by starting with the “blank map” and choosing the “Fishbone structure”.
To do so, open the Properties Menu in XMind. Click on the Structure command and select “Fishbone (Left Headed)” as shown below:
At this point, the mind mapping software gives us a Central Topic in the shape of a fishhead, directed to the left side of our screen.
What is the first move? Should we start with the dates? Or perhaps should we key in the main stages of the project and later add in the dates?
Planning your project stage by stage
Finally, we selected the second option. Why? Because if we illustrate a past project, we can surely key in any sort of date as the data given have already come to pass. But for a project which is still in progress or has not yet begun: many unexpected things can still happen along the way and could change its course from its original path!
Here is our final version of this Project Management Timeline, built upon the Fishbone structure. (Double-click on the picture to maximize it – you can also download that timeline for free on my Biggerplate page !)
Mark the length of an activity with a relationship
Note the use of the relationship to express the length of action. In fact, all the steps do not necessarily follow a strict chronology.
For example, the advertising stage began at the start of the project, but continues up to the candidate selection stage. We expressed this relationship using a red dotted line underlining the subject “Advertising” and linked it to “Selection” . The best convenient way to visualize the entire process.
To avoid any overlapping or interfering the subjects written on other branches, we chose the ” Zigzag” option to the relationship line. This technique follows the rise of the central branch to the topic “Selection” without compromising the readability of the timeline as a whole.
Clarify project milestones with markers
Note also the use of markers – these small images delivered with the software – and of a Legend (situated on the lower left side of the mindmap and which explains the meaning of each marker). We used the small blue and green characters to symbolize the candidates for training. We used the bomb to illustrate a risk: emphasizing the deficiency number of candidates to start training !
We finally used the exclamation point to show that this step was conditional : we will make a new mailing with the Unemployment Agency if we do not have enough candidates. If we fill in, this step will not take place .
The Legend explains the function of these self-explanatory symbols more clearly. To display markers in the Legend, apply the following procedure : first, click on the background of the mindmap to avoid selecting any subject. Click the “Properties” menu, check the little box next to ” Show legend ” . A Legend is displayed at the end of your mouse pointer . You can place the Legend wherever you want on your mindmap. In this case, mine is situated on the lower left side of the mindmap. The Legend is updated automatically as and when you add or remove markers.
To change the text next to the marker in the Legend , just double click it and the text field appears! Fill in your own text. That’s it!
Try it for yourself and plan your project using this technique and do not forget to send us your comments or mindmaps.
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Do you need to make comparison in your studies? Do you want to compare two organizations or two situations and you are doubtful on how to do it? The double-bubble maps are a powerful visual tool for this type of operation!
Whether during your studies or your career, you are requested to conduct comparisons. For example, the teacher asks you to identify the differences and commonalities between two corporate structures, as in the map below.
This was carried out with the mind mapping software called XMind. (Double-click on the image to enlarge. You can also download it from the website Biggerplate).
The “double-bubble” map obtained compares two types of business organization: the product or divisional structure and departmental or functional structure. It was conducted during a coaching session with a student in the preparation for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) examination, a professional accounting certification which is popular in the Anglo-Saxon world.
The bubbles from the centre represent the categories considered: suitable for (for any type of business structure that is appropriate) Organization (structure on which criteria is organized) Growth (what is the impact of this type of organization on growth and so on).
Mind map or concept map?
Originally, XMind is not configured to function with this type of structure, even if the software offers many different structures. To make this map, I used the method of creating a concept map:
First, create a floating topic by double-clicking at the bottom of the map, then you draw a relationship (CTRL L) from the floating topic and click at the bottom of the map. This again creates a new floating topic.
To create this map, I used the central topic as the title: the central subject cannot be moved and it can be a serious handicap if I need to make any changes to my map. Each bubble of this mind map is a floating topic while the “branches” are in fact relationships (arrows in XMind lingo).
The problem is that topics have a kind of “magnetism” : they are attracted to each other, if they are too close. Even while pressing the ALT key, it is not always easy to add a new topic in the middle.
While this map is related to mindmaps, it is somehow built and functions according to the principles used in developing the concept maps in XMind.
This gave me the idea to use other software to create this type of map: VUE also known as Visual Understanding Environment.
Double bubble in VUE
VUE is clearly a concept mapping software (or concept maps), created by Tufts University. This software is configured to position objects – subjects and relationships – with each other.
Here, there is no “magnetism” if the objects are close to each other. And they can be moved at will without disturbing others’ alignments. (Double-click on the image to enlarge to maximum).
The result is essentially the same, but the implementation is much easier!
I will demonstrate the uses of this concept mapping software and its features later on in other posts.
Why use XMind to create such type of maps, since it is more difficult than VIEW, for instance? Everyone is accustomed to VIEW software. Moreover, when working on a project with several topics altogether in the same workbook maps, it may be easier to add a sheet to this workbook. It also allows you to create direct links between maps in the workbook.
It is also possible to link a map with a extrernal VUE map using the connection through a hyperlink: simply place the path to the file in the “File” field from the dialog box as shown below:
This places an icon in the selected topic. When you click on this icon, the VUE file opens (if the program is on your computer).
Try both, the XMind and VUE softwares and keep the one that suits you most, or if you’re like me, keep them both and you’ll be able to work and adapt in both environments!
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How to summarize a web page quickly? How to find material relevant to my work on the web without losing too much time to read everything?
Context Discovery has found a very satisfactory answer to this question: XMind Summarizer.
We already knew Web Summarizer, the online device that summarizes web pages as mindmaps. But Context Discovery, the Canadian company specializing in automatic text summaries, has taken a step further by proposing an extension for XMind.
(Click on the picture to make it bigger. You can also download that XMind Mindmap and many others from my Profile on Biggerplate).
This is the Polish company Smart XMind Extensions which broadcasts on the web: it is also the designer of XMind extensions for Outlook or systems time management and project that I will have the opportunity to talk.
In the meantime, here’s a tutorial on XMind Summarizer:
An automatic summary of interesting web pages
What is the XMindSummarizerextension ? It runs a web page, marks the relevant keywords, copies the sentences in which these keywords appear and organizes all in a mindmap.
With the smart extension XMind Summarizer, all this happens automatically in XMind, as summarized in the video below.
To install the extension XMind Summarizer is very simple: go to the XMind Summarizer page and sign up for the 30-day trial license: it’s free, but mandatory. Then, if the product appeals to you, there are several possible starting at $ 2.99 per week subscriptions.
Finally, download the small program. Start your XMind, and you now have two more icons in your menu bar at the top of your screen: Summarize by topic, which takes the form of a red Win and white square and Summarize synthesized by a simple red W .
Summarize a Wikipedia page with Summarize by Topic
The first icon allows you to automatically summarize any Wikipedia page. You type the keyword you are looking for as a central topic of your XMind map.
Then click on the icon Summarize by Topic or right-click your mouse at the bottom of the menu, click Summarizer and then Summarize by Topic, as shown in this video:
Summarize any web page with Summarize
The good news is that XMind Summarizer works in several languages, including French: so you can summarize any web page in English, French, German and Spanish.
Let’s do the experiment with two web pages in French on content marketing. I open a new XMind map and I type “Content Marketing” as the central subject.
But this time, I do not click the “Summarize by Topic” icon, but on the other icon: Summarize.
XMind Summarizer shows me a dialog with a field. I stick the URL of the first page that interests me. And XMind Summarizer starts to search. After a few seconds, I have a first branch on my mindmap with a series of keywords that match my search.
I repeat the process with a second page and I get a second branch on my mental map XMind, with a different set of keywords for the page.
When and how to use XMind Summarizer?
Please do not use this XMind extension to study! I wrote several articles on the subject and I am convinced that what facilitates learning by mindmaps, is the act of building the map itself. Because it uses different cognitive skills.
If you use XMind Summarizer to do this job for you, you have no chance to understand and / or remember anything!
By cons, this extension seems very interesting if you are a researcher, librarian or student. And you need to research on the web.
Because, as I showed in the videos of this article, you can quickly access content from Wikipedia and other pages. And more, XMind Summarizer synthesizes the page content as keywords for you!
It therefore seems very promising for those who must synthesize large amounts of information, which should conduct research on keywords, or should organize knowledge bases.
This application does not summarize either a text or a course in your place. To do this, you should also summarize yourself with a mindmap. But this extension will provide a working basis on which to build your resume. And that’s a lot!
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XMind 3.2.1. had already improved a lot compared to previous versions.
XMind 2012, the latest version, comes with more good surprises ! A more business oriented Mindmapping program ever.
Check out here !
XMind is cheap, powerful and user friendly : that’s why we love it so much !
Today, it comes with the new 2012 version : not a great revolution, but some powerful and very interesting features. And above all : business oriented features ! But features equally interesting for students, projects leaders, and so on.
Themes and templates opening with the new page
So the days of the sad blank page with the bluish central topic are over ! Now, when you open a new page, you automatically get a set of themes and templates. Which saves you a lot of time !
So now, you can define the background colour, the type and thickness of your branches, the shape of your topics before you start drawing your mindmap ! You can also choose to start with a mindmap, an Org Chart, a SWOT analysis, a Time Line, etc.
The button on the left inferior corner of this window allows you to add your own themes and template : this will save you a lot of time on page layout !
You can also open a existing document from this dialog window : this is much more ergonomic than before : all commands are gathered in a single, manageable area.
A new Gantt Diagram
This is an amazing feature for business owners and project managers : before, the Gantt diagram was a little bit too basic. The new version is much more complete : it is now a real project management tool !
Here, I made a simulation of an email campaign project with task distribution for a team of 4 colleagues. I combined the mindmap view with the Gantt view so you can see the relationship between both. I drilled down the mindmap so we can focus on the topic “emailcampaign” and its subtopics. (Click on the map to enlarge it).
For instance, Juliet – the long red line on top of the diagram – has to encode the names of the subscribers in a list. She started on the 12th July. Her deadline was the 31st of August. She achieved 76 % of her task. Marc – second line on the diagram – had to write the text of the letter before the 27th of July and didn’t finished before the deadline either.
New Tasks relationships
Both tasks are displayed with a danger triangle board.
Another very interesting new function is the possibility to link two tasks : the second one cannot start as long as the previous one is not completed. For example, in the picture below, Marc had to put links in the newsletter after having written his text. But the text has not been finished and the tasks ‘links” cannot begin ! If I click on the yellow icon, a text in a bubble warns me that this task must be postphoned, since the previous one has not been achieved. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).
The panel on the right tells me that there is a “Finish-to-start” relationship between the predecessor ‘Writing” and the present task “Links”. “Writing” must be finished so that “Links” can start. Now, the tasks function allows you to program not only the date of a deadline, but also the number of days and even hours that you estimate which are necessary to achieve this task. That makes this new version of XMind, a real project management tool !
And the XMind teams promises to go further and to improve the Gantt chart in the future. XMind is thus more and more business and project management oriented ! It is a new position on the market of business mindmapping programs.
In future articles, we’ll speak about the pricing and some other interesting features for all the XMind users ! Stay tuned 😉