Monday, July 21, 2008

Marshalling ones thoughts with Freemind

Not too long ago, I was sitting at work with a thousand and one things to do and no idea where to start. I ended up surfing the Internet. What else does one do when one is swamped with work?

I was thinking at the time that I knew of a way to get things straight in my head. Mind Mapping was always a useful tool that allowed:
  1. Structure concepts in a logical order
  2. Link things together in ways that don't seem apparent at first
  3. Brainstorm
  4. Prioritise
You have heard all this before. Mind maps were all the rage when I was in school and later in college. It was the miracle answer to study. Never worked for me though. At least in school. I guess, like so many things that other people suggest, application of ideas to one's own situation often requires a little experimentation, trial and error and a lot of perseverance. In short, there is no easy solution to anything.

So back to my "hell day." There I was surfing the internet, steadfastly ignoring the pile of work I had and thinking about mind maps. At the same time, I was wondering if a mind map would work for me in our fresh new PAPERLESS OFFICE! No mind maps without paper. How can one doodle the little skull and crossbones next to the items that pose the most risk for example?

In a flash of inspiration I typed, "Open Source Mindmaps" into Google.

ASIDE: ( AGAIN ): I never use the proper noun Google as a verb. It makes me feel cheap! ( another aside: ) Why doesn't "proper noun" have capital letters?

Up came Freemind. It had the two magic words combined into one. Fate or something deeper. I will never know.

All I can say is this, "Download your copy of Freemind for Windows or Linux or anything Java runs on today!" http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

I now use it as link to everything. Freemind provides a way to access information about the many different projects I have on the go. Each project has its own set of documentation, tasks, contacts and other bits and pieces. I can very quickly add new nodes, link nodes together with nice graphics, hyperlink to any kind of document including other mind maps and websites and add free text notes to nodes.
Parent nodes can be folded up with automatic re-arrangment of nodes to make things easier to read. Nodes can be heirachial in terms of font size, colour and special effects. Icons that represent the status of a node can be applied at will.

Its a gem of an application. The software runs equally well on Linux and windows so long as the appropriate Java runtime is installed.

I usually don't blog about other people's software, but this time I am making an exception. I have found this tool to be a fantastic way of storing information and marshalling my tasks and thoughts and TO DOs in one nice-to-look-at environment.