Menu Planning with MindMaple

It’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down, we’re getting our last few heatwaves before the leaves begin to turn and the temperature drops to a moderate degree. With Labor Day rapidly approaching, many of us will attend and host end-of-summer parties with friends and families.

I used MindMaple to build a menu and help narrow down my dish options. By inputting about 15 different appetizers, drinks, entrees and desserts, I was able to make my final selections easily.

Download the template below for some inspiration (or just to grab these amazing recipes). Photos are property of their respective owners, who have been linked in the template for your reference.

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Balancing your MindMaple mind map

Mindmaps are great tools for organizing, whether you’re organizing plans, notes, or ideas. However, sometimes mind mapping can get messy.

For me, that’s part of the fun. When I’m brainstorming, if I spend too much time thinking about how to structure the map, making sure it looks perfect and orderly, I diminish the organic thought process that makes mind mapping effective. Instead, I usually just continue mapping until all my ideas are out on the screen, and organize afterwards. Thankfully MindMaple has some features that make it easy to organize your map.

At first, your map might look like this:

Select “Balance map” from the “Format” menu…

…and MindMaple will automatically organize your map for you.

Your map should look more symmetrical and balanced. However this organization is not perfect. The Floating Topic has not moved, the arrows are in an awkward position, and the map looks a bit cramped overall.

Adjust the space between topics

First, let’s space the topics out. Select the Central Topic and then select “Increase” from the “Format” menu. You can choose to increase the Sibling Spacing (vertical spacing) or the Child Spacing (horizontal spacing). You can also decrease the spacing between topics. In addition, by selecting a specific Subtopic you can adjust the spacing of that Subtopic’s child topics.

Here’s my map after respacing the topics and moving the Floating Topic.

How to adjust relationship arrows

Now let’s adjust the relationship arrows, some of which are hidden behind the topics. Select the arrow you wish to adjust. Two guidelines, each with a green dot and a red dot, will appear adjacent to the ends of the arrow.

The red dots anchor the arrow to a specific location on a topic. By clicking and dragging the red dots, you can adjust the starting and ending points of the arrow.  By clicking and dragging the green dots, you can adjust the curvature and length of the arrow.

While an arrow is selected, you can modify its style and appearance by selecting “Relationship” from the top menu ribbon. For example, by selecting “Relationship Shape” you can change the arrow style from curved to angled.

The mind map with angled arrows:

Change the growth direction of your map

MindMaple can also change the expansion direction of your map. Select the Central Topic. From the top menu ribbon, select “Format” and then select “Growth Direction.” You can choose the orientation of topic growth.

The result of choosing “Left Map”:

Use gridlines to organize your map

I often prefer organizing my maps personally instead of using the automatic organization tools. A valuable feature are map gridlines, which you can turn on by selecting “View” from the menu ribbon and then selecting “Gridlines.”

A crisscross of faint lines will appear on the background of your map, which you can reference in order to align your map topics.

Good luck with your mind mapping!

Contest winner – Understand your brain with mind mapping

Congratulations to Ken Shapiro, the winner of our recent mind mapping contest. He is the recipient of the prize $250 Amazon gift card.

We received many great entries for this contest, but we were especially inspired by Ken’s map, which truly shows the creative value of mind mapping. Ken has faced (and is still facing) some serious challenges. In his own words:

“I am a relatively young man of 42 who — after having brain surgery to remove a large cerebral aneurysm approximately 20 months ago — suffered a stroke which has left me with extremely limited use of my left arm and hand, as well as the need to walk with a cane. Fortunately, I have retained cognitive function but do find my thoughts scattered and at times difficult to express clearly.”

Mapping the human mind

Our minds are so complicated; constantly awash in new thoughts and sensations from moment tomoment; able to shift from frustration to joy in a matter of milliseconds. We ourselves are completely baffled by their workings of our own brains. We have trouble breaking habits, making decisions, or pulling ourselves out of a bad mood.

Ken’s map is extraordinary because it conveys in a single image the complexity of the human mind. Joy and gratitude are present side by side with anger and anxiety. Distinct thoughts feed into one another in a network. Powerful abstract emotions are connected with the actions of day-to-day life.

Hope and Anxiety

Ken’s aspirations are listed under the topic “Hope.” Certainly our goals and aspirations depend on our hope for the future, and they provide us with hope during times of difficulty. However, Ken has also drawn an arrow connecting “Aspirations” with “Anxiety.”

Aspirations and anxiety? At first, I didn’t understand this connection. But as I thought about it, I realized Ken’s connection contained a perceptive insight into my own mind. It’s true that my aspirations have caused anxiety for me before: sometimes they seem overwhelming or impossibly challenging. Other times I forget my reasons for pursuing them, or wonder if I am wasting my time.

Of course, just because my aspirations can be intimidating at times doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable and worth pursuing with vigor. It’s part of the human experience to have a mix of emotions that may even appear contradictory at times around a particular subject of importance.  Ken’s map helped me to see that.

Mind mapping and self-knowledge

With a single arrow, Ken’s map communicates a deep insight into human experience. His map contains many other insightful connections as well.

Our thoughts are often connected to one another in ways that are difficult to see until we make the effort to step back and look carefully at our habits and histories. As Ken’s map shows, mind mapping can be a valuable tool for this process. Perhaps by mapping our thoughts in this way, we can learn much about ourselves and make better decisions.

That’s part of why mind mapping is so exciting. We can turn the power of mind mapping to any topic, and it helps us make new associations. We form connections between concepts we had never considered before. When we let creativity take control and no longer hinder our thought process with structures and expectations, we can find new solutions and ideas.

Learn more about Ken’s story at his blog, http://semi-colon.blogspot.com/.

Enter Round 2 of the contest!

MindMaple is sponsoring a second mind mapping contest. To enter, make a mind map of your favorite book you’ve read recently, and send it to office@mindmaple.com by September 1. Learn more about the contest at the MindMaple website.

Design Options in MindMaple – Episode 1

MindMaple offers users many ways to customize their mind maps. In this post, we’ll make a map that illustrates how you can customize the colors and design of your maps.

There are various preset color themes you can use for mind maps in MindMaple Pro (a limited number of themes is available in MindMaple Lite). These can be accessed by selecting “Format” on the top ribbon, and selecting “Theme Color.” This will initiate a drop-down menu from which you can select a number of colors, and create your own color theme if you wish.

What if you want to make a map that will be visually unique? Let’s imagine you want to make a mind map about the colors of the rainbow. It’s hard to imagine a situation in which you’d need to make a map like this, but it provides a good illustration of how to customize your maps.

Here’s how your map will look starting out:

Let’s liven up this map! Right-click the main topic, and select “Format Topic” (or hit the shortcut Ctrl + 1). From this menu, you can customize a number of features about your topic. For our main topic, let’s select the “rainbow” from the “Preset colors” drop-down menu.

Rainbow is a “Gradient fill,” but you can also use solid colors to customize your topics, as well as images or textures. For a gradient fill, you can choose from a number of gradient layouts, including linear, rectangular, and radial. Radial creates a curved effect that matches well with the rainbow pattern, so let’s choose that.

Our main topic still has an orange border, which looks strange juxtaposed with the rainbow. Let’s change it to a thin black border. Select the topic, and enter the “Format Topic” menu (by right-clicking or hitting Ctrl + 1). Select “Line Color” from the menu on the left, and select “Solid line” choosing black as the color.

While still in the “Format Topic” menu, select “Line Style” from the left menu, and decrease the Width by 1 point. Our map will now look like this:

Now let’s get started on the individual topics. Select the “Red” Topic and enter the “Format Topic” menu. Select “Solid fill” and choose a red color. Then select “Line Color” from the left menu, choosing “Solid line” and a darker red color for the line.

Let’s get a little bit more detailed and give the red topic a gradient fill. In the “Format Topic” menu, select “Fill” from the left menu, then select “Gradient fill.” Underneath “Gradient stops,” you should see a drop down arrow next to the words “Stop 1.” Clicking the arrow shows there are currently 4 stops (you can add or remove stops). For each stop, you can choose a different color to add to the gradient. By adjusting the “Stop position” bar for the each stop, you can control where each color will fade into the next color. Try experimenting with the various settings to see what you prefer.

Let’s increase the text size to make it more visible, and change the font color to white over the darker backgrounds. To do this, highlight the text you wish to change and click the “Style” tab on the top ribbon. Then change the text font, color, size, and other options.

Now let’s change the branch shape to let us show off more colors! Select the central topic, and click the “Style” tab from the top ribbon. Clicking the arrow next to “Branch Shape” will show a drop-down menu from which you can select a number of branch styles. Let’s select “Tapered Curve.”

To change the color of an individual branch, select the topic attached to the branch and click the “Style” tab. Click the small arrow at the bottom right of the “Branch Style” box on the ribbon to open the “Format Branch” menu. From here you can customize the branch shape, color, and style.

For one final touch, let’s change the shape of the topics. Select all topics (Ctrl + A is a handy shortcut), select the “Style” from the top ribbon, and select “Topic Shape” from the “Topic Style” box. A drop-down menu will appear, from which you can choose a number of options. Let’s select “Oval.”

Our finished map!

5 Reasons to Use Images and Colors in Your Mind Maps to Maximize Benefits!

Mind mapping serves as a very helpful tool to organize ideas and increase productivity and creativity.  Furthermore, the use of images and colors enhance your maps and really bring them to life.  Not only are they pleasing to the eye, but they provide valuable ways to retain more of the information and expand on ideas.

Here are reasons that images and colors can help you to maximize your mapping experience:

  1. Using images and colors help you to retain information better than words alone.  Our minds will attach easier to them, since they are “pretty.”
  2. Using different colors for the branches allow you to distinguish the branches from one another.
  3. You can use the same color for multiple branches to show relations between them.
  4. Images serve as symbols to represent additional thoughts and concepts.
  5. Using images and colors spark more interest and creativity when creating your mind maps.  They can make you feel more excited about the topic as well.

How do you use MindMaple?

We at MindMaple are currently in the process of expanding and improving our website. One of our expansions is a page offering suggested uses for MindMaple, including a series of sample maps.

We want all visitors to the website, especially those who might be new to mind mapping, to see the diverse and creative ways that mind mapping can be used. I’ve attached a few of the maps we’ve made to illustrate uses of mind mapping for students and home users, but as we want our website to reflect the interest of our users we would love to hear from you!

What do you think of our maps? What are some creative ways you like to use mind mapping that we might have missed? Share your ideas and maps in the comments, or send them to us at office@mindmaple.com.

This map is an example of how your might use MindMaple to plan for a big event (in this case, a wedding):

This map, based on the mind map used in our youtube video, shows how mind mapping is useful for making travel plans:

This map illustrates how MindMaple can be used for studying and organizing notes for school:

Cupcakes!

Everyone loves cupcakes, but I bet most people don’t spend much time thinking about the “cupcake industry” or the ingredients that make cupcakes possible. However, that’s not the case for Jason at the blog Frugal Dad. In the following infographic he shares a lot of information about cupcakes and their ingredients.

You might not think such a topic would make an interesting story, but the quality of the visual information makes the graphic really fun to explore! Just another example of the power of visual information.

Enjoy! And don’t forget to treat yourself to a cupcake this weekend.