Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in virtualization, networking, open source, and cloud computing

Content Creation and Mind Mapping

In conjunction with my shift to more “open” file formats such as Markdown (MultiMarkdown, to be specific), RTF, and OPML—a shift described a little bit here—I’ve also had two other shifts in my content creation process that I think are worth mentioning.

First, I’ve started using a new and different method to create presentations. So what is this “different” way of creating presentations? The real value of a presentation is the content, not the pretty fonts and colors (generally speaking). Therefore, it kind of makes sense to me that I should focus first on content, and after content is mostly finalized then worry about appearance. To accomplish this, I’ve started creating my presentation content first in OPML format, then exporting that content into the presentation application (Apple Keynote, so far) for final formatting. While Keynote’s file format isn’t as “open” as I would like, the real meat of the presentation is the content, which is already stored separately in OPML format. This keeps me from having all my information locked up in Keynote’s file format (which, admittedly, is XML-based).

The second shift is related to this focus on “content first.” As I’ve turned my attention toward content creation first and foremost, I’ve taken an interest in the use of mind maps. Since many mind mapping applications can import and export OPML, this means that I’m also not locked into any one specific mind mapping application, and it fits well into my new presentation creation workflow:

  1. Do some brainstorming and idea creation using a mind map.

  2. Transfer the information from the mind map to my outliner via OPML. In the outlining application, revise and organize the content into its final form.

  3. Transfer the outline into Keynote for formatting and appearance.

The real problem so far has been finding the right mind mapping application. There are many different applications on Mac OS X: MindNode/MindNode Pro, Novamind, MyThoughts, MindManager, XMind, and Freemind, to name a few. I ruled out XMind and Freemind because they are Java applications; I much prefer native applications over Java applications for performance and integration reasons. That leaves MindNode (Pro), Novamind, MyThoughts, and MindManager. So far I’ve tried MindNode, Novamind, and MindManager. Of these, MindManager is far and away my favorite—it feels mature, polished, supports AppleScript, and seems to perform well.

Unfortunately, MindManager is also the priciest of the bunch. At $249, it is significantly more expensive than any of the other applications in this category. I’m still a bit on the fence with the decision, but I expect I’ll decide one way or another within the next week or so. I’d love to hear from any MindManager users on their likes, dislikes, and use cases. Speak up in the comments below!

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