Archive for the 'Freeware and Open source' Category

Jan 04 2009

Xmind – First impressions about this new OS Mind Mapping initiative

I recently discovered XMind,  a mind mapping software, formerly commercial and now branched into two versions: Open Source (published on sourceforge) and Professional (commercial).
I tried both the two versions of this software, however I'm interested in understanding if the Open Source version can actually replace Freemind, the mind mapping software I'm using in my everyday life.

In this post I write about my really first impressions about XMind. I don't touch deeply every functionality and every aspect involved in this project (see the website for a complete description of the software and a comparison matrix for the two versions), in this post I'm only highlighting the features I consider necessary in the choice of a good mind mapping solution.

At the first use of XMind I was immediately impressed about the GUI. The GUI is really modern and nice, nodes are animated, colors are well chosen, elements in the GUI react really fast at the user input and the node dragging is really smooth so the user experience is really intense and pleasant.
I liked a lot the hi-res markers (icons) useful to remember and highlight nodes meaning, and the map styles (structure) one can apply to the map: fishbone, map, org char, spreadsheet, this can make the map apparence different from the classical  "tree view" form.
I also appreciate the sheets, making the application a good box in which effectively opening more than one map and clearly see which map is the current and which are in background.

Unfortunately I didn't find a way to propagate markers hierarchically from a node up to the root. I use this feature in freemind and I consider this functionality really useful in order to immediately identify important area of the map.

Of course, XMind provide also all the main features needed in a mind mapping tool, like:

  • Cut/Paste for nodes
  • Creation of outlines
  • attachment of notes and files to nodes
  • creation of link (relation) between nodes
  • creation of clouds or boundaries around nodes

This functionalities are deeply integrate with the advanced GUI, so the resulting sight is really impressive.

In the PRO version there some other interesting features, enabling a more professional use of this tool, like:

  • project management and "Todo" primitives with a simple gantt chart
  • presentation tools
  • various export filters

Around XMind there is also a nice and good looking website that is the base for an active community sharing mind maps.  I don't evaluate aspects related to sharing maps because at the moment I'm not interested and sensible to this topics. In any case I was impressed by the clear and good looking website and the excellent integration between XMind pc client and the web community.

In a mind mapping tools I best appreciate features related to "project management" and "getting things done" (see my previous posts in the "mind mapping" section), unfortunately these features are only provided by the professional (non free) version. This is the main reason because don't plan to switch to XMind now, even if XMind has outstanding functionality in terms of usability, look and feel.

I'm interesting about the road of the OS version compared to the PRO version,  in the past I appreciated similar approaches, I'm thinking, for example, to the Interbase/Firebird initiative started by Borland.

IMHO the OS version is an excellent starting point, it isn't common that the OS community can gather a so rich gift, I hope that now the OS community will notice this product and concur in short to the development of the product (at the date of this post the OS project on sourceforge counts only one developer) in order to ensure long and productive life even to the OS version of  XMind.

I will follow the Xmind project with great interest.

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Aug 22 2008

Little tales in the ocean of Freeware

There are a lot of free software, covering probably all needs. It is often difficult to find a really "good" utility due to many authors and solution proposed. "Good" means to me: stable, bug free, lightweight (minimal resources occupation), fast and specific in functionality.
In this short post I review three little utilities I selected and found really "good" and usefull in my everyday work.

Quick Find -

This utililty helps me in finding programs links located in start menu. At this moment my start menu is made up of 3 columns (windows XP) and looking for a program is often a nightmare.
QuickFind caches all the entries and let the user to find the right one with a nice incremental search.

Iconize -

This utility can close any application to the System Tray even if the application cannot natively close to the Tray. Useful when you open a lot of applications at the same time and want the program bar free or with the applications needed at the moment.

Startup Delayer -

This utility can schedule the starting time of each application during start-up of the PC.
My PC was usual to start-up in 2/3 minutes...thanks to this utility now I can being active on my PC in 30/50 seconds because all the applications planned to start during the start-up are delayed after the log in. I sorted the scheduled starting time by importance, so the last entries are the less usefull applications or the applications I probably don't need at first.
During the startup a nice controller let the user manage the progress, even temporarily avoiding specific applications from start.

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