Monday, June 11, 2012

MindNode Software Review

I've been battling with my chapter for sometime. To begin with I had a big panic about where the chapter could be situated within the rest of the project - when I first sat down to think about it, this chapter seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the project. After some major procrastination and a big conversation with my supervisor I finally found a way to get it to work. More procrastination ensued, followed by my Canada trip, and never ending marking. 

When I finally sat down to start writing last week I found myself writing random lists, thoughts, post-it notes, and then leaving these ideas in a messy heap of paper. The system wasn't working; well mainly there wasn't a system. One of the courses I've been teaching this academic year is a second year undergraduate course which prepares the students for planning and writing a final year research project. At some point in the term one of the lecturers told the students about a brainstorming website called so I thought I'd give it a try. It was useful, but the downside is that it requires you to be on the internet to use it. The internet is great, but it is a great source of distraction, and I really do not need any form of distraction, so the internet gets turned off when I am writing because otherwise I just end up faffing about looking stuff up.

MindNode Logo
Looking on the App Store I came across a few mind-mapping/brainstorming type apps and thought I'd give one of the free ones a try. I downloaded MindeNode Lite because it looked fairly simple and unfussy - which it is. To create a new mindmap you just open a new MindNode document and get clicking and typing.

My only major criticism though was that when making the mindmap the new nodes (lines) were created underneath the existing ones (you can see this on the yellow lines) which meant there was all this space at the top which was going to waste. After some fiddling I discovered that you can move the nodes up or down by clicking and dragging, but it would be great if new nodes appeared at the top as well and underneath existing nodes without having to be dragged up there.

The maps tend to naturally develop horizontally, so the whole map becomes a bit too linear for my liking, but a bit of dragging and this can be changed. The Pro version of this app may do these sorts of things automatically, and you can also do things like add links and photos, but I'm not sure I need something like that at the moment - maybe once I've proved the usefulness of the software to myself and when I've got an income again in 2013 I'll upgrade to the Pro version.

I've only been using MindNote Lite for a few days, but it has been useful so far and I hope as I get to know the software better I'll use it more and it will work in the way that I want it to. It has already helped me to get a complicated narrative sequence in one Poliakoff drama sorted out in my brain.

I'll probably recommend this to my students - it is compatible on iphone, ipad and Mac - as using an internet based program can be dangerously time consuming and distracting when you are planning and writing a big project with an immovable deadline.

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