U.S. Community Solar Market to Grow Fivefold in 2017, Top 500 MW in 2020

The United States community solar market is approaching a tipping point. In its latest report, U.S. Community Solar Outlook 2015-2020, GTM Research forecasts the market to grow fivefold this year with 115 megawatts installed. By 2020, community solar in the United States will be an annual half-gigawatt opportunity.

With 66 cumulative megawatts installed through the end of 2014, the U.S. community solar market is just getting off of the ground. However, GTM Research has pegged it as the most significant solar growth market for the United States. Between 2014 and 2020, GTM Research expects U.S. community solar to have a compound annual growth rate of 59 percent.

According to the report, there are 24 states with at least one community solar project on-line, and 20 states have or are in the process of enacting community solar legislation.  However, only four states will install the majority of community solar over the next two years: California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota.

In the near term, these state markets with community solar legislation will serve as the core drivers of demand, fueling just over 80 percent of installations over the next two years.

“Looking ahead to 2020,” said Senior Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman, “the community solar opportunity is poised to become more geographically diversified, as developers ramp up service offerings to utilities in states without community solar legislation in place and national rooftop solar companies enter the community solar scene.”

The report identifies 29 developers that are actively working on community solar projects. Today two companies, Clean Energy Collective and SunShare, together account for 32 percent of operating community solar capacity.

However, GTM Research expects a wave of market entry and expansion over the next five years, as rooftop solar companies including NRG, SunEdison, and SolarCity build out their community solar efforts.

The next five years will see the U.S. community solar market add an impressive 1.8 gigawatts, compared to just 66 megawatts through the end of 2014

The Next Gen App for Curbing Your Transportation Emissions

Save time, travel costs and carbon? Yup, there’s an app for that: TripGo. It’s already being used in over 50 major metropolitan cities around the globe to streamline commuting times, travel itineraries and intelligently lower travel emissions.

Created by the Australian-based company SkedGo, the underlying sustainability focus of the TripGo app is designed to reinforce the need for smarter, cleaner and resource friendly transportation methods, i.e., smart cars, electric vehicles, improved mass transit infrastructure, bicycle commuting, ride shares, etc.

Because according to the latest findings in, A Global High Shift Scenario, the report released last month by the Institute for Transportation and the University of California, “Transportation, driven by rapid-growth in car use, has been the fastest growing source of CO2 in the world.”

So whether you’re trying to shave minutes off of your daily commute, or taking a vacation in an unfamiliar city, TripGo automatically plans trips to, from and between events in your calendar, and smartly proposes the least carbon-intensive connections using your personal transport preferences.

TripGo supports the following modes of transportation:

  • Public transport: buses, ferries, subways, trains, trams
  • Taxi
  • Shuttle services
  • Car
  • Motorbike
  • Bicycle
  • Walking

Additional TripGo features include:

  • Real-time public transport information.
  • Door-to-door options for easy comparison on price, time and environmental impact – including public transport, taxi and bike share.
  • Trip planners according to your transport preferences.
  • Get reminders for your upcoming planned trips
  • Public transport pricing.
  • Tolls and car park information.
  • Taxi fares.
  • Search for points of interest and businesses.
  • Save trips to calendar.
  • Open from Apple Maps.
  • Launch turn by turn navigation.
  • Universal for iPhone and iPad.

To date, over 500k have downloaded TripGo. To learn more, download the app, or see if TripGo is available in your city: http://skedgo.com/tripgo


This article is brought to you by our sponsor – TripGo

Review: TheBrain 8 offers new options for visualizing, organizing information

Several months ago, TheBrain Technologies introduced the latest version of its powerful mind mapping and knowledge visualization tool, TheBrain 8, which provides new ways for you to classify, organize and manipulate your information.

For this build, the developer has focused heavily on the user experience – helping you get started faster with templates, making it easier to apply tags and thought types, a new timeline view and all-around faster performance make TheBrain 8 a pleasure to work with. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at what’s new and improved, and what it means to you from a business standpoint.

Quick-start templates

One of the challenges of getting started with a tool like TheBrain is that it’s a blank slate. It’s hard to know where to start, much less what’s possible. To help users get a jump-start on the development of their brains, the developer has thoughtfully added 5 templates to this new version. Each one contains an existing set of thoughts, thought types and tags that you can edit, delete and customize to meet your needs. Templates included in TheBrain 8 are:

One Brain For It All: A complete brain structure that contains thoughts, tags and types for business and personal information organization. I opened this brain and played around with it for a while. It’s pretty comprehensive, and really gives you a sense of how TheBrain can be used to visually represent large quantities of information. Looking at the thought types tab below the map, I was delighted to see that you can not only create a hierarchy of them, but also color code and assign an icon to them, which adds more meaning and context.

Business Brain: Exclusively the business portion from the One Brain for It All.

Business Types and Tags: This option is designed for users who have an existing thought structure but want to augment their classification with just new thought types and tags.

Education Brain: A helpful brain for students to organize projects, courses, career goals and capture their ideas.

Brainstorming Brain: This brain features thoughts on goal directed thinking, David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology and Alexander Osborn’s (the father of brainstorming) brainstorming rules.

You don’t have to start a new map when using these templates, either – you can import any of these quick-start brains into your existing brain at any time.

Thought types vs. tags

In version 8, the developer has added a new tab in the tools area at the bottom center of the workspace for thought types, where you can more quickly and easily activate, modify, create and delete them. In the previous version of the program, you had to manage thought types via a dialog box that was only accessible via the program’s menu. It’s nice to see that this feature has been brought front and center.

As I explored TheBrain 8, I got a bit confused on the differences between thought types and tags. So I asked my contact at TheBrain Technologies, Shelley Hayduk, to help me understand what’s unique about each type of map content, and the best ways to use them:

Thought types are a single attribute for a thought; you can only have one thought type per thought.  Thought types are an additional classification of meaning you can add to your information; they are useful for grouping large amounts of information. Thought types can be used to define the thought color and icon of each thought so that each of them has a consistent look. In other words, let’s say every topic that’s related to your direct report Bob is colored green with a green icon of a person. This enables you to visually scan your map and see every project Bob is managing.

TheBrain 8 lets you quickly filter your map’s contents and display them in groupings by thought type. This gives you a powerful view into the ways in which you have classified information. I clicked on several thought types in my One Map For It All brain, and was impressed to see how this giant map instantly rearranged itself around filtered views of the thought types I selected.

One of the exciting aspects of creating new thought types is that you’re not limited to TheBrain’s set of icons. Using the program’s “capture thought icon” command, you can capture a screen shot of any image on your screen, using a resizable selection box. The program automatically converts it to a thumbnail image and displays it next to your new thought type.

Why is this a big deal? Whenever I’m using a mind mapping program, I often add some topics where I can envision the type of image I’d like to use as a symbol or icon to accompany it. But inevitably, there is no such visual in the program’s icon library. It’s very frustrating to me, because I have a particular feeling I’m trying to capture with a specific icon or symbol. TheBrain 8 does away with that limitation by enabling me to use any image I choose – and I don’t even have to save it to my hard drive. I just select it and go. This is very cool!

In contrast, tags let you assign additional attributes and contexts to a thought to further define or classify it. You can have as many tags per thought as you like. If you want to aggregate items that are scattered throughout your map but share a common tag, you can do that by simply clicking the checkbox next to the tag name. That displays the corresponding tag next to thoughts that contain it, but it doesn’t filter your map’s contents.

This blog post on TheBrain Technologies website goes into greater detail about tags versus thought types, if you’re interested.

Timeline view

One of the things the developers of the brain have tried to do in this new release is to provide users with new ways of looking at the information in their brains. For example, the program enables you to look at a time-based scale that displays the 1,000 most recently created and modified thoughts. Clicking on a clock icon next to the program’s search box displays a list of topics added to your map, grouped by date. When you click on a topic in this view, TheBrain automatically takes you to that topic within your map.

I don’t think I’d ever use this feature, but I’m sure that certain types of users who bill their time (attorneys and consultants, for example) may find it to be of some value.

New icon library

Another way in which the developers of the brain have added semantic value and meaning to your maps as with the addition of 1,500 new icons or symbols. This enables you to add context to your map topics. Categories of icons in the library include technology, business, art and education. You can also add your own icons, or paste one from the Windows clipboard into the icon tool dialog box.

Improved access to local and online brains

In the last version of TheBrain, the developer made it fairly easy to save local brains to your online file repository and vice versa. But in this version, they have made it absolutely seamless. You can now open both local and online brains right from the open file dialog box – which now incorporates a keyword search to help you find maps faster.

Quick create thoughts

TheBrain 8 contains a new capability that enables you to add new topics to your maps more quickly than ever before. To do this, you simply begin typing a new thought name into the search box. If a thought with that name already exists, you can click on it to view it. If not, you simply click on the “create” button adjacent to the search box, and the program will add it to your map as an orphan thought, which you can then link to any thought in your map.

I like the idea of being able to check for duplicate thoughts before adding a new one to your map. But I found the way the program added my new idea as an orphan to be confusing at first. It looked like it created a titally new map, with my new thought at its center. I found myself asking, “What just happened?” I had to refer to TheBrain 8 Transition Guide to figure it out. Hint: In order to link your new thought to an existing one, you must use the program’s “pin bar” below the workspace.

Twitter search integration

TheBrain 8 now enables you to create and save Twitter searches as topics in your map. When you create a search, the dialog box gives you the options of “all” (a conventional Twitter keyword search), a hashtag search or to view the latest tweets from a specific Twitter account. Once you have created a search, clicking on a topic’s Twitter icon opens that search in your web browser. Search results do not appear in your map. As a way to maintain links to your favorite Twitter views, it has some value. But I would have liked it better if it enabled you to integrate selected tweets into your brain.

New online menu

TheBrain 8 adds a new “online” menu to its toolbar that enables you to quickly access your cloud-based maps easier from your desktop and to streamline the process of sharing thoughts with others. The online menu allows you to synchronize the currently opened brain with your cloud account. You can also launch a web browser to display your settings in TheBrain Cloud, so you can quickly change the access rights to the online version of your map or grant a new team member with access to it. In addition, a new “copy web thought URL” enables you to copy the URL of your currently active thought to your system clipboard. In the previous version of TheBrain, you had to open your map within your cloud account in order to obtain its URL. Now you can do this from the desktop.

Under the hood

At the code level, TheBrain 8 has been streamlined significantly, making the program faster and more responsive. It incorporates enhanced multi-threading technology, which means that you can continue working on your brain while doing other things, such as synchronizing a large map to your Cloud account. The developer says these speed and architecture improvements now make it possible to manage brains of unlimited size – ideal for large knowledge management projects.


In many ways, TheBrain 8 is an incremental rather than revolutionary upgrade to this excellent program. If you haven’t tried TheBrain before, it’s worth a look. This new version is easier to use than ever, and I think you’ll find it a refreshing change from “conventional” mind mapping software. The big difference is that you can use TheBrain to define more complex relationships between topics, without causing a lot of visual clutter. It also offers streamlined collaboration via the developer’s Cloud service, which is easier to use from the desktop than ever.

If you’re already using a previous version of TheBrain, should you upgrade? My answer is, it depends. If you are working with  large brains (thousands of thoughts), then you will definitely benefit from the speed and performance improvements that multi-threading brings to the table. If you’re using the Cloud service to collaborate with a team, you’ll also benefit from faster synching and one-click access to your account, map and sharing settings.

If you’re using a recent version of TheBrain (6 or 7) on a stand-alone basis with smaller maps (under 1,000 thoughts), then the case to upgrade is a bit less compelling. That’s not to take anything away from TheBrain 8 – it’s an impressive piece of software with lots of great information visualization options. I just don’t see anything earth-shattering in this new version that makes it a “must-upgrade” for the average existing user.

TheBrain 8 is available for immediate download at http://www.thebrain.com and is offered in two editions: Free and Pro. TheBrain Free does not expire and lets anyone link ideas and web pages on their desktops and in the cloud. TheBrain Pro offers unlimited file management, advanced search, secure cloud backup and much more. You can purchase TheBrain Pro as a desktop license only for US$219 or with both the license and one year of services for $299, which includes future upgrades and the full suite of online sync and other cloud services. TheBrain also offers an all-inclusive software upgrade and cloud services plan for $159 per year.

To learn more about TheBrain 8 and download the free version, please visit the product page on TheBrain Technologies website.

How To Do Market Research

The market research is the process through which certain information is collected from the market, this information is analyzed and, based on this analysis, decisions are made ​​or designed strategies.

The depth of market research and the need for it can be diverse and can range from a somewhat informal research that allows us to better meet our customers through small surveys, to a formal investigation, costly and several months of duration to allow us to test a hypothesis market.

Whatever the case, is usually thought to conduct a market research is a complex task that is why we should hire the services of a specialist that do for us now (which often charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars); However, the truth is that making a marketing research is something that any of us can do if we have the will and know the steps.

Let’s look at what are the steps to do market research, along with a simple example that will help us gain a better understanding:

1. Determine the need for research

The first step is to determine the need for research; that is, the reason why it is necessary to perform it.

Generally, the need for market research arises from a problem or opportunity that has been presented.

If a problem arises, there may be the need for an investigation to find the cause and solution of it, and should there be an opportunity, there could be a need for an investigation to determine if this really is an opportunity, and find out how you can leverage.

Example: We have identified the opportunity to launch a new product to market, which is a new brand of shirts for men, so there is a need to conduct a market research that allows us to determine the feasibility of launching or enter the product to market.

2. Establish the objectives of the research

Once you have determined the need for market research, the next step is to set goals that will have the same.

The objectives of market research must arise from the need of research.

If the need arose from a problem, the objectives may be related to find the cause and solution of the problem, and if the need arose from an opportunity, objectives could be related to determining the feasibility of the idea, and knowing how to take full advantage.

Example: Once you have determined the need for market research that allows us to determine the feasibility of launching a new brand of men’s shirts to the market, we set the following objectives:

  • know the possible consumer reaction that forms the target before the introduction of a new brand of shirts to market.
  • know the tastes, preferences, customs and habits that make up the target with respect to the purchase or use of the garment shirt.
  • determine the possible selling price could have each of the shirts.

3. Identify the information to be collected

Once you have determined the need for and objectives of the research, the next step is to identify the information we need and therefore collect.

The information collected should be to allow us, once analyzed, meet the need and objectives of the research.

Example: To assess the feasibility of launching the new brand of shirts to market and achieve the objectives, we determined that the information we need and collecting shall be:

  • acceptance of a new brand of shirts by consumers making up the target audience.
  • at first it was fixed when buying a shirt.
  • their models and favorite colors.
  • places generally buy their shirts.
  • the average amount usually pay for a shirt.

4. Determine the sources of information

Once we have identified the information that we collect for research, the next step is to determine the sources from which we will obtain such information.

The sources of information are usually classified into primary and secondary sources:

  • Primary Sources : are sources that provide information “first hand” to the present investigation. Examples of primary sources are the consumers, competition, company employees, the company records, etc.
  • Secondary Sources : are sources that provide information that has already been collected and used for purposes other current research. Examples of secondary sources are the databases of the enterprise, government agencies, books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Example: Once you have determined the information we collect in order to achieve the objectives of our investigation, we determined that the sources of information that we will use will be shaped by consumers who make up our target audience.

5. Select and develop techniques for collecting information

Once you have determined what is the information we collect, and where we are going to get, the next step is to determine how we are going to get; ie select and develop the techniques or methods of gathering information that we will use.

Among the main techniques or methods of data collection used in market research are thesurvey , interviewing, observation , the market test , the focus group and survey.

Example: to gather the information we need will make use of the technique of the survey, which was conducted on a representative sample of the target audience. Some of the questions included in the questionnaire of our survey are:

  • Are you willing to try a new brand of shirts?
  • What is the first thing that you set when deciding to buy a shirt?
  • What are your favorite models?
  • What are your favorite colors?
  • Where do you usually buy your shirts?
  • How much is what usually pay for a shirt?

6. Collect information

Once you have determined the information we collect, sources where we get, and the techniques or methods of collecting information that will use, the next step is to effectively make the collection of information.

To do this, previously named the charge or responsible for gathering the information, the train if necessary, and determine the place or places where it is held, the date when it will start and how long it will last.

Example: Once you have determined that we will make use of the survey and have designed our questionnaire, we turn to appoint personnel to make the target audience surveys, and make it effective.

7. Analyze information

Once you have collected the required information, the next step is posting it (count data), processing (sorting the data, tabulate, encode), interpret, analyze and draw our conclusions.

Example: Once the information collected through surveys, data were tabulated, analyzed and the following conclusions were obtained:

  • launch a new brand of men’s shirts market is feasible, as there is sufficient demand and consumer forming the target audience is willing to try a new brand of long shirts and when it is of good quality.
  • the first thing a consumer that makes up the target audience when deciding fixed by buying a shirt is the model and the quality of the fabric.
  • There is a preference for bold patterns and bright colors.
  • the consumer that makes up the target audience usually buy their shirts in department stores.
  • the average price you usually pay for a shirt is $ 25.

8. Make decisions and design strategies

Finally, once you have analyzed the data collected and received our findings, the next step is to make decisions or design strategies based on the analysis and conclusions drawn.

Example: Once you have analyzed the information collected and concluded primarily to launch a new brand of shirts to the market is feasible, we make the following decisions or design the following strategies:

  • the decision to introduce the brand new shirts to the market is taken.
  • we proceed with the design and manufacture of shirts, paying special attention to the quality of the fabric and striking design models based on light colors.
  • it comes into contact with different intermediaries that serve as outlets, giving more importance to department stores.
  • the decision that the sale price of each shirt will be US $ 20 is taken.

New MindManager for Windows offers valuable ease-of-use enhancements

MindManager 15 for Windows, released today by mind mapping software developer Mindjet, offers some practical new features and enhancements that will help you to be more productive and well organized than ever before.

The most significant new features of MindManager 15 include a vastly expanded selection of map parts, project management improvements, a new set of hand-drawn icons and a reorganized and simplified template view. The developer’s objective for this new version was to make it easier for new users to get started with the program, while also responding to customer requests for enhancements to existing features.

Here’s what’s new in MindManager 15, and the significance of these new features and enhancements to business users of the program:

Expanded map parts

I’ve always been a fan of this feature of MindManager, because it makes it easy to build common types of mind maps using drag-and-drop functionality. My biggest complaint with it was that there weren’t enough map parts and they didn’t address enough key business uses of mind maps. In addition, the thumbnail images were so small that it was hard to see what each map part looked like.

Mindjet has remedied these past shortcomings in MindManager 15, which includes 50 new map parts. These “plus and play” map components are divided into categories, including brainstorming, project planning, business analysis and meeting planning. In addition, you can select any topic in one of your maps and save it and all of its child topics into a new map part. This could potentially save you many hours of work if you repeatedly create the same types of mind maps.

Improved templates view

In previous versions of MindManager, the templates view required a lot of scrolling. In version 15, Mindjet has regrouped them into six topic-focused folders – management, meetings and events, personal productivity, problem solving, project management and strategic planning. This gives you a concise, high-level view of the types of templates that are available. You can then open a folder to view all of the templates it contains.

In addition, it displays blank templates for creating radial, right, tree and org chart maps, and continues to give you access to Mindjet’s online MapsForThat gallery. Any templates you have created are stored in a new My Templates folder. This new compact layout makes MindManager’s templates view much easier to use.

Hand drawn icon set

In addition to the standard set of icons that ships with previous versions of MindManager, version 15 now includes a set of over 600 hand-drawn icons. They are available in four colors. Mindjet VP of Products Michael Deutch says he was inspired by a post on this blog about the Vector Doodlekit, a third-party collection of hand-drawn icons and symbols, to include a similar set of resources in MindManager 15. The goal is to enable users to create mind maps with a more organic, hand-drawn look.

Project management enhancements

In previous versions of MindManager, if you had a project that was going to start significantly earlier or later than you planned, you had to manually change the start and end dates of each task. In version 15, a new “move project” command simplifies this process. By changing the start date of the overall project, MindManager 15 automatically adjusts all of the task date ranges. You can also use a new command to eliminate slack time in the GANTT view of your project. This can help you to ensure that your project gets done at the earliest possible date.

New topic “quick add” buttons

As part of Mindjet’s goal to improve the usability of MindManager for new users, version 15 now includes small nodes, each containing a plus sign (+), that stick out of the top, bottom and side of each topic. Clicking on one creates a new linked topic in that direction. Deutch said that new users sometimes get stuck trying to figure out how to add new topics to their mind maps. These quick add buttons make it easy to see what to do next. In addition, they enable any users of MindManager 15 to quickly add topics without having to mouse back up to the program’s ribbon toolbar each time – nice!

These new buttons each require a small amount of extra vertical space, however, which can potentially cause printing and page fit problems for some users. If you don’t want them to be visible, you can turn them off in the program’s options. Very smart!

Auto-creation of slides

A new command in MindManager 15 enables users to have the program auto-create slides. If you need to quickly present a mind map to your colleagues, this can be a big time-saver. A new map theme included in this version contains font sizes and settings that are optimized for display on a screen, too.

Whither MindManager 15 for Mac?

Deutch said a Mac version is now under development; Mindjet hopes to release it by year-end. He said the company is driving toward a new development platform that will make it easier to develop one set of code and deploy it to all platforms (Windows, Mac, mobile and web). That sounds like an ambitious goal, but Deutch believes it’s achievable in the next year or two.

MindManager + SpigitEngage?

During Mindjet’s briefing for MindManager 15, I asked for an update on the company’s acquisition of Spigit, a developer of enterprise idea management solutions. Can we expect to see some connections between MindManager and SpigitEngage? Deutch said the Mindjet team has done some research to figure out where the two applications could potentially connect. Clearly there are steps in the innovation process where visual thinking could have a significant impact. The next step is to determine where such integration will offer the greatest benefit to Mindjet and Spigit customers.


MindManager 15 for Windows represents a well thought-out evolution of the program’s comprehensive feature set. The usability enhancements – such as the new templates view, quick-add buttons and the expanded map parts gallery – will be especially appreciated by new users. Experienced users of MindManager will appreciate some of its more powerful new features, like move project and remove slack time for projects.

For more information about and pricing for MindManager 15 for Windows, please visit Mindjet’s product page.

Watch this blog for a review of MindManager 15 in the next month or so, where I will take a deeper look at the new and enhanced features of this excellent program.

iMindQ 6 debuts strong presentation and project management tools

The new iMindQ 6 from Seavus features a well-designed new presentation mode, enhanced project management tools and other improvements clearly aimed at the needs of busy business people.

When iMindQ was launched only three months ago it was an impressive mind mapping program, worthy of your attention. But its developer hasn’t rested on its laurels. It continues to add new functionality to this well-designed visual mapping tool, while also maintaining its ease of use. The latest release of iMindQ, version 6, was launched in mid-October.

Here’s what’s new and notable in this new release:

Rich presentation mode

This new version of iMindQ offers a rich presentation mode that enables you to present your ideas with style. Best of all, Seavus hasn’t followed the lead of many mind mapping programs in moving to a slide-based presentation view, which displays topics in isolation and makes it hard for audiences to follow where you are within the structure of your mind map. Rather, it uses the superior model of “flying” around it, which helps the audience better follow your flow of ideas and information.

To access the presentation mode, simply click on the “from beginning” button in the “present” tab of the program’s ribbon toolbar, and iMindQ 6 immediately launches a full-screen view of your mind map. You can advance to the next topic using either your mouse or the space key. As you progress through the child topics of your map, they are highlighted in a different color, making it easy for the audience to follow along. Child topics “pop” open with a pleasing animation.

In addition to an automatic mode for generating presentations, iMindQ 6 enables you to manually “roll your own” using what the developer calls “Smart Presentation Mode.” You can use iMindQ’s default settings to generate “scenes” (the equivalent of slides in PowerPoint) and then tweak them to suit. You can also manually create new scenes by dragging and dropping one or more map topics onto a blank scene.

The animations panel to the right of the program’s work area displays each step in the selected scene’s animation at the top of this panel; controls to adjust the animation type, effects and timing are located at the bottom. Once you’ve adjusted the scene’s properties, you can preview it in the presentation view of your mind map in the middle of the screen – it’s nice to be able to do this without having to play your presentation. A “show panels” button can be used to display them so you can tweak your presentation, or they can be toggled closed to give the screen a cleaner appearance, ideal for thinking about how you want to present your ideas.

Whether you’re working with a mind map, flow chart, concept map or GANTT chart, the process works exactly the same. You can let the program create a set of scenes for you and then tweak them to meet your needs, or you can add your own using the process I just described for mind maps.

I played around with the default mind map that opens automatically in iMindQ 6 and found the presentation view and controls to be very easy and intuitive to use. It’s nice to see a mind mapping program that gives you this much control over presentation settings and which uses the “fly around” presentation mode I mentioned at the beginning of this review.

New project planning options


In iMindQ 6 you can now manage and set working hours according to your project’s needs by using the 3 new calendars that are included in iMindQ 6: Standard, night shift and 24 hours. These are accessible via a “working time” command, which displays a dialog box that enables you to first select one of the three the base calendar types and then lets you designate days as working, non-working, exception and non-default work weeks. For companies that have people doing shift work or flexible time arrangements, these customizations will be quite welcome.

You can mark non-working days in the calendar, such as holidays, and input details about them. I created an exception day; its date on the monthly calender immediately changed color to indicate it’s a restricted day.

Summary tasks appear in the GANTT view as brackets, while individual tasks are displayed as gray bars. When you define a relationship between two task topics in the mind map view, a line depicting that dependency is automatically added to the GANTT view. Clicking on a small box in the middle of the relationship lines enables you to quickly change the direction of the dependency.

Expanded map templates library

iMindQ 6 also includes an expanded collection of mind map templates, including 26 business, 4 educational and 2 personal. You can also save mind maps as templates for future use. The business maps are colorful but very professional in appearance, and really make the greatest use of iMindQ’s ability to shift seamlessly between mind maps, concept maps and flow charts. In other words, they enable you to create more complex relationships between topics, as depicted in the screen shot of the templates at right. Business templates include:

  • Business plan
  • Balanced scorecard
  • Fishbone diagram
  • Employee performance evaluation
  • Business Model Canvas (nice – a first for a mind mapping program!)
  • Project plan
  • Promotional plan
  • Risk management matrix
  • WBS chart
  • Stakeholder map

Clearly a lot of time and thought went into the creation of these map templates, which are not only focused on key business needs but also get the blend of color and content just right – not too boring but not too gaudy, either. Just attractive and functional.

Here, too, you see the true benefit of iMindQ being more than just another mind mapping program: Its ability to also produce flow charts and concept maps means you have a variety of options for depicting and connecting your ideas. How else could you support visual business tools as diverse as a fishbone diagram, business model canvas and balanced scorecard? These templates are truly impressive, and showcase what’s possible with iMindQ.

The growing iMindQ family

In addition to desktop versions of iMindQ for Windows and Mac OS X, Seavus has launched apps for the iPad and iPhone, and recently announced an app for Android and an online version of its mind mapping tool. Both of the mobile apps and iMindQ Online support popular cloud-based storage services like Dropbox and Box. The next step will be for the desktop programs to be able to open files stored online, which will enable you to start creating a mind map on your mobile device and then continue working on it with your PC or Mac.


In my first review of iMindQ in July, I told you I was very pleased with this capable mind mapping program. It continues to get better in version 6, adding some well-designed capabilities that should increase its appeal to business users. Seavus continues to walk the fine line of adding features and functionality to their flagship mind mapping program, while at the same time not making it overly complex to use.

iMindQ 6’s layout is clean, well-organized and intuitive, which makes it a pleasure to use. As you know from reading my reviews on this blog, if a program contains features and functionality that cause me to scratch my head or which aren’t easy to use, I’m not afraid to tell you what I think. Everything I’ve seen in iMindQ so far has met my expectations and then some.

A perpetual license for iMindQ 6 is US$149 for Windows and $99 for Mac; a subscription payment model is also available at $67 and $45, respectively. Considering that some of its competitors retail for up to $350, iMindQ 6 is an excellent value, based upon a comparison of functionality and cost.

With so many announcements coming out of Seavus in the last 6 months, it will be fascinating to see where the developer takes its family of mind mapping tools from here.

iMindMap 8: An awesome new tool for creating and presenting your ideas

ThinkBuzan has placed brainstorming front and center in iMindMap 8, the latest version of its popular mind mapping software program. It features an excellent new free-form ideation mode, improved Windows ribbon toolbar and branch target tool, as well as a redesigned presentation view that contains some great new capabilities.

In this review of iMindMap 8 Ultimate, we’ll take a closer look at the most relevant business-focused functionality of this new version, and I’ll give you my opinion on the program’s pros and cons.

A significant improvement in usability

When I reviewed iMindMap 7 a little over a year ago, I praised its many new features, but expressed some reservations about its overly-complex toolbars and contextual tools, which I thought could overwhelm first-time users. For version 8, ThinkBuzan has succeeded in fixing these issues and helping users get oriented and get down to the task of creating mind maps.

One case in point: When you first open iMindMap 8 Ultimate, you’re given three choices: Create a new session in brainstorming view, create a “professional” mind map or a Buzan mind map (see the screen shot below). What’s interesting to me is the distinction between the latter two map types. The thumbnail image of the professional mind map shows skinny, angular connector lines and rounded rectangle topic shapes, while the Buzan mind map has colorful tapered branches with words upon them – what we’ve come to expect from iMindMap. Apparently, it’s developers have recognized that business people tend to be very pragmatic, and want map designs that look more professional and less “creative.”

Brief on-screen instructions are clear and easy to understand, and should help new users understand the basic concepts of creating mind maps and brainstorming with iMindMap 8. Nicely done!

To give me a better sense of what changed from version 7 to 8, I opened up a map I created last year in iMindMap 7, and compared the two. The differences are striking! iMindMap 7 looks cluttered, with tabs and buttons everywhere – in the toolbar above the workspace (which has two sets of text menus above it) and in the properties panel on the left side of the workspace, which displays 6 tabs, with several more hidden from view.

By comparison, iMindMap 8’s user interface is simpler, more businesslike and efficiently designed. Its menus and options are all still available, but they are better presented in ways that don’t overwhelm the user. Kudos to ThinkBuzan on an excellent user interface!

Brainstorming view rocks

iMindMap 8’s new brainstorming view (only available in the program’s Ultimate version) resembles a cork board; ideas and images can be placed on it and are styled to resemble Post-It notes. It’s a perfect representation of a brainstorming wall in your cubicle, office or in a meeting room.

Using the program’s contextual brainstorming toolbar, you can easily add ideas, small ideas (think of half-sized sticky notes) and images to its canvas, and move them around at will. A playful-looking font gives you the impression of hand-written notes, adding to the authenticity of this creative thinking environment. Images appear as if they have been affixed to a sticky note at the top edge with a piece of transparent tape – a nice touch, in my opinion.

One key to capturing ideas in a program like this is the ability to do so quickly. That means keyboard-only input. I experimented a bit and determined that the INSERT key doesn’t work, but the spacebar creates a new idea in your brainstorming workspace. You can also create a new, regular-sized idea by double-clicking in a blank area of the workspace.

Adding a group to your brainstorm causes iMindMap 8 to add a white box to the corkboard surface. Like images, groups appear as if they were taped to the surface. Adding items to a group is as simple as dragging and dropping them into it. The box automatically resizes as you add more ideas to it.

This is an ideal setup, because it enables you to engage in free-form brainstorming, without regard to the structure of your ideas. You can then switch from ideation to evaluation, grouping your ideas in ways that make sense to you. In doing so, you’re creating a hierarchy that will drive how they are arranged when you switch to mind map view.

Another way to visually classify your ideas is by color; iMindMap 8 enables you to select from 8 colors for ideas. The virtual Post-It notes can also be toggled between full and half-size, if you need to squeeze more ideas into the space of your screen. In addition, you can drag with your mouse on a blank area of the workspace to access additional screen real estate, giving you almost unlimited room to capture your inspirations.

I played around with brainstorming mode while evaluating iMindMap 8, and was delighted with its functionality. I’m an avid student of brainstorming tools, technologies and techniques, and I’m not easily impressed. ThinkBuzan definitely got brainstorming mode right in iMindMap 8!

Simplified branch target aids new users

In iMindMap parlance, the branch target is a set of buttons that pop up as you hover over the end of a map branch. They enable you to complete common tasks without needing to move your cursor back to the ribbon toolbar each time. In version 7, the branch target was like a Swiss Army Knife, with a myriad of commands clustered into a two-tiered set of icons. In iMindMap 8, it has been considerably simplified to do four things:

  • Adjust the branch’s shape
  • Add a new subtopic
  • Add a new box topic
  • Add a relationship line

ThinkBuzan has wisely limited its functionality to one essential über-task: Adding content to your mind map. This should make iMindMap 8 much more intuitive to use, especially for first-time and occasional users.

Another simplification: In previous versions, when you selected a branch, control points were visible, which enabled you to reshape the branch. These are now turned off by default, but can be toggled on via a command in the layout menu. I think this is a wise decision; the average user will probably never used this feature. Advanced users, who want precise control over branch shapes, will appreciate that it’s still there and can be turned on as needed.

Presentation view gets a facelift

The presentation view of iMindMap has been significantly improved in version 8, and contains some very cool touches. You can auto-create a presentation with a single mouse click, or “roll your own.” You can then make adjustments in the slide viewer panel on the left side of the program’s workspace by dragging and dropping them into the order that makes the most sense to you. You can even rotate the view, to add more visual interest (don’t overdo it, though!).

You can also group slides in presentation view. How does this work? Let’s say you have a pair of topics at the lowest level of one of your map’s branches that the auto-create function has interpreted as two separate slides. Simply multi-select the two slides and group them. The result is a single slide with both topics displayed. Two slides have become one using a simple, intuitive process. If you change your mind, iMindMap 8’s presentation toolbar contains an ungroup button, which returns the topic to its previous state.

As you view a slide in the sorter, a blue box appears over the mind map that corresponds to the amount of it that will be shown in that slide. If you want to adjust that to zoom in, zoom out or reposition that slide’s view, you can do so by manipulating the blue box. Nice! The updated presentation view in version 8 now enables you to add notes to each slide. During a presentation, these notes appear to you but not to your audience.

When you give a presentation using iMindMap 8, your presenter view displays the current slide with a timer below it; to the right are smaller views of the next slide and any notes you have added to the current one. Your audience only sees the current slide.

You can also open a vertical sorter panel during a presentation, which enables you to immediately move to any slide in your presentation – ideal if a member of your audience wants you to go back to a specific slide for additional discussion about it. Best of all, this all happens “behind the scenes” – only on your screen. I love the intuitive way this works!

Best of all, iMindMap 8 “flys” you from one topic to another during presentations, rather than just displaying a series of map “snapshots” as some competing programs do. This latter approach is inferior, in my opinion, because it causes your audience to lose sense of where the currently-displayed topic resides within the overall structure of your mind map.

One of the keys when presenting information to an audience is to include your company or brand logo on each slide. iMindMap 8 makes this easy. All you do is click on the “branding” icon in the presentation toolbar, and the program lets you select an image from your hard drive. You then have the option of placing it in any one of the four corners of your slides. It may take some experimentation to get the logo to display at the size you want it – you can’t scale it up or down within iMindMap. Perhaps ThinkBuzan will add this capability in a future version.

Presentation view also includes an intelligent group of settings that give you more finite control over how it handles animations, transitions and how the program traverses from one slide to another. Kiosk mode enables you to set up your presentation to auto-run and loop continuously, unattended. This is ideal for trade show booths, lobby displays and other applications where you want your presentation to run continuously.

Contextual menus reduce visual clutter

In iMindMap 8, ThinkBuzan has adopted a user interface technique that Microsoft Office has used for years to help manage complexity: Contextual menus. These are additional tabs that only appear in the ribbon toolbar when you’re performing certain functions – such as branch tools, brainstorming and presentation mode. This helps to decrease toolbar clutter and once again, makes iMindMap 8 easier to use.

New icon library and properties panel

iMindMap 8 features a new icon library and properties panel, nestled in a set of buttons that expand into tabbed panels on the right side of the workspace. Seven buttons/tabs provide fast access to topic notes, the image library, icon library, attachments, flowcharts, snippets (segments of mind maps that can be added to your map at any time) and task data. The design of these tools is clean, uncluttered and intuitive.


It’s common for mind mapping programs to fall victim to “featuritis.” Under pressure from customers and salespeople to “just add this one more feature,” software often becomes bloated and harder to use as more features and functionality are added.

That’s why iMindMap 8 is a breath of fresh air. Its clean, intuitive design makes it a pleasure to work with. As I’ve said in previous reviews on this blog, there’s a real art to keeping what’s visible in a user interface simple enough so new users don’t get overwhelmed, while also keeping advanced functionality close at hand to meet the needs of power users. ThinkBuzan got this balance right in version 8.

I’m an especially big fan of the new brainstorming mode, which helps you get into a creative mode with its corkboard background and colorful sticky notes to capture your ideas. I’m glad to see it supports keyboard-only input, so when the ideas are coming hot and heavy, you can keep up, whether you’re facilitating a group brainstorming session or ideating solo.

The presentation mode also includes some thoughtful touches that elevate it above many competing programs. I especially love the group/ungroup slide and branding capabilities. In addition, the “flip screen” command is very useful – since most times you’re going to be preparing presentations at your desk or at a laptop, without the benefit of a second screen. Being able to toggle back and forth between your view and what your audience will see is a real plus. Compare that to what you would otherwise need to do – run your presentation, exit from it, tweak and repeat. This is much faster!

March 2018
« Jan    
  • America's Best Colleges
    Forbes' list of public and private colleges and universities ranks the best schools--from the students' point of view.
  • Twelve Nasty Work-From-Home Scams
    Does the offer of making a mint in your pajamas sound too good to be true? It surely is.
  • The World's Most Powerful Celebrities
    Oprah Winfrey takes back her crown while pop chart phenomenon Lady Gaga catapults to No. 4 on this year's Celebrity 100.
  • The World's Leading Companies
    This comprehensive report analyzes the world's biggest companies and the best performing of these titans.
  • The World's Billionaires
    Carlos Slim Helu takes the No. 1 spot on Forbes' annual list of the world's richest as a record 164 billionaires return to the ranking amid the global economic recovery.
NY Business