Posts Tagged ‘Review’

EverBank Review – Exclusive Review of EverBank Online Banking

Hey Everyone, Josh here again for another Modest Money review! Today, we are going to go over one of the fads that seems to be sweeping the world, online banking. Now, there are a lot of online banks out there, and I understand the need for them. However, as with any other product, there are some good online banks and some that aren’t so good. I’ve been hearing a lot about EverBank in the personal finance blogosphere. So, I figured I’d take a look and see what I find.

EverBank Short Review

EverBank Pros – EverBank hosts all kinds of banks accounts ranging from your standard check and CDs to high yield money market accounts. Also, interest rates on money market accounts are far beyond interest rates found on competitor money market accounts. Earning more always works for me! One thing that I find really neat is that you can write checks directly from your money market account. This is a feature I haven’t seen with any of their competitors.

EverBank Cons – Minimum account balances to start an account and to avoid fees are a bit high for me. To open a money market account with them for instance, you have to start with at least $1,500 and to avoid the monthly fee, the minimum balance is $5,000.00.

EverBank Overall – EverBank is a fairly well known bank with plenty of resources. They are also FDIC insured, which gives it’s customers a bit of piece of mind. There are benefits to investors in money market accounts as they generally have high yields. Also, it’s pretty simple to open an account. The only read draw back that I’ve found is that the accounts require high minimum balances. That being said, I would consider this to be a great option for money market investors that want higher yields, but not the best option for standard checking, savings and other forms of accounts.

EverBank Long Review

Now lets get into the good stuff. EverBank has been really grabbing the attention of consumers who like to invest their savings with rather large returns. In the beginning, they offer a 3% return on money market accounts as a promotional rate. After 6 months, that return is reduced to 2%. If you’re in the market now, you know that these are incredibly high returns. I would even venture to say that they’re the largest returns I’ve seen on money market accounts since before the great recession years ago! Also, when it comes to money market returns. EverBank guarantees that your account will be in the top 5% listed on BankRate.com as far as returns are considered. That’s a pretty strong guarantee! The top 5% guarantee is on money market and checking accounts which is a big plus!

OK, now lets talk about fees. Lets face it, any bank charges fees. That’s how they stay in business and offer us the services that make managing our money easier. When it comes to their checking accounts, they boast that they come with no monthly fees, no ATM fees and no annual fees. They also refund any fees charged by other ATMs if you maintain an account balance of greater than $5,000.00.

When it comes to money market accounts, they make it pretty difficult to figure out their fee structure on their website. As a matter of fact, all I was able to find on their site is that their Money Market accounts are free. However, after further research, I found that the accounts are only free under conditions. I’ve read several reports of $8.95 monthly fees if accounts do not maintain a minimum balance of $5,000.00. Because there are so many free money market accounts out there, if I didn’t have $5,000.00 to put into it, I’d have to search for another company to work with.

Another thing you really need to think about when it comes to choosing a bank no matter if it’s online or off, it’s important to know that you’re working with a reputable bank. That being said, I’ve read some very mixed results with regard to the reputation of EverBank. Those who are higher profile generally tend to love working with them. Even some regular consumers like myself have a lot of good things to say. However, I’ve also read a few complaints about differences between what the website says and what the mailed in terms say. For instance, I read one report that the website said you needed a minimum balance of $1,500.00 to avoid a $4.95 monthly fee. However, when that individual got his paperwork in the mail, he read about the $5,000.00 minimum balance with a $8.95 fee being avoided.

In EverBank’s Defense To The Above Mentioned Matter

After being upset, that person wrote a blog post about his experience and was contacted by the big wigs at EverBank. When he was contacted, he was informed that EverBank had multiple servers and at the time he signed up, they were in the process of changing terms on accounts. Because the server he had accessed and applied for the account through had not yet been updated, the terms came out different online than they did in print. EverBank claims to have cleared this matter up. I’ve only found one complaint about this. No one else online seems to have experienced any related issue.

My Overall Thoughts Of EverBank

When I started my research on this company, I grew very concerned with discrepancies in what consumers were told online and what was printed and mailed to them. I was also a bit concerned about the fees not being outwardly mentioned on their site. However, after I dug a bit further into what they have to offer and how reputable they really are, I was shockingly pleased. The bottom line is, EverBank was designed for consumers and businesses alike that have $5,000.00 or more in a savings or money market account. You don’t necessarily have to have that much money in the account, but without it, it may not be what you’re looking for.

When it comes to checking accounts, there are no monthly or annual fees. Not to mention, this is the first bank I’ve come across that’s willing to refund fees that ATMs from other banks charge. When it comes to the checking accounts, as long as you’ve got $1,500.00 to start your account with, I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to start an account with them!

LearnVest Review – Exclusive Review of LearnVest

Hey everyone, thanks for joining me for this week’s review. Today, we’re going to look at one of the most unique personal finance management tools out there. The tool is LearnVest. The biggest reason it’s unique is that it was designed to be custom tailored to women. The program is meant to teach women the concepts involved in better money management. Let’s see if this program stacks up as a viable option in today’s review!

LearnVest Short Review

LearnVest Pros: LearnVest offers an incredibly easy to use platform that makes it simple to find and manage everything you need. Another cool thing about LearnVest is that it allows you to attach all of your finance accounts ranging from credit cards to checking accounts, investment accounts, loans, credit cards, mortgages, and more! The program watches your spending and other aspects of your overall financial profile and gives suggestions that help you to take control of your finances! Oh yea, and it’s free!

LearnVest Cons: There’s really not much bad to be said about LearnVest. The only thing I can come up with is they haven’t provided a way to track cash purchases. I don’t know about you, but I still have some of that green paper floating around from here to there. I think at some point for one of these financial management platforms to reign supreme, they’re going to need to offer a way to track cash purchases too. I’m sure a simple input system would be fine, but no one seems to be offering it.

LearnVest Overall: Overall, LearnVest is an amazing program that I’d recommend to anyone that wants to take control of their finances. Although it was designed for women, I think it works perfect no matter what sex you are. Not to mention, it’s free. So, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.

LearnVest Long Review

Short reviews are never enough to get into any great detail on a product or service. That being said, thanks for sticking around for the long review. In true, Modest Money review fashion, let’s start off with the price. Ready? The price is free! That’s right, the service is absolutely, 100% FREE. LearnVest makes their money through advertisements so that they don’t have to charge you a dime in the process of helping you manage your money.

So, What Exactly Does LearnVest Do?

It’s actually better to ask what it doesn’t do when it comes to personal finance management. When you sign up for an account, you attach all of your debts, checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, etc… to your profile. Once everything is attached to your profile, LearnVest software will dig through and look for improvements in all areas of your financial profile. That may be cuts in spending or telling you which debts are best to pay off. Although many applications offer these types of services, I haven’t come across a more intuitive option. The system is very accurate!

Isn’t There Danger In Giving A Company Access To So Much Information?

Yes, it is dangerous to give access to all of your financial data to some companies. However, LearnVest isn’t just any company, they’re LearnVest. They have made a name for themselves in the personal finance industry by offering exceptional tools, awesome training, and top of the line security measures on your accounts. Although it may be dangerous to give your information to just anyone, they aren’t just anyone, they’re know for being a trustworthy, secure company.

Some Of My Favorite LearnVest Features

Categorizing Income and Purchases – If you’re a fan of the Monday Money series, you know that I’m a budget nut. Unlike most people, I actually love to sit down and crunch numbers to see where I can improve. However, using LearnVest makes it so you don’t have to. Once you attach your accounts, the program automatically categorizes everything for you. This way, you can go into the account once in a while and see where improvements in your budget can be made, since they’ve already done the work of separating and categorizing the purchases you’ve made.

Debt Advice – Debt can be overwhelming to say the least. Not knowing where to start, it may seem almost impossible to dig your way out of debt. However, LearnVest makes it simple. They show you opportunities to reduce overall interest paid by allocating funds to the right debts at the right times. And I’ve gotta say, their advice is spot on.

Education – This is the strongest point that LearnVest has going for them. They want to do a lot of things, but one more than anything else. Their ultimate goal is to educate their users on money management and how to save. Through various forms of education material, they teach everything from basic strategies to advanced strategies that revolve around saving money and living a more financially free lifestyle.

My Overall Thoughts Of LearnVest

LearnVest is an absolutely amazing company and I would tell all my friends and family to use it if asked. The bottom line is, it’s free, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. LearnVest is more than a personal finance management software, they go beyond showing you what you can do with your finances. Their core goal is to teach you the fundamental aspects of living a financially free lifestyle, which I think is great! And you know what else? The do a great job at it!

Lending Club Review – Peer to Peer Lending Platform Review

Peer to Peer Lending (or P2PL) is an industry that’s still in its infancy. But in the United States, it’s not altogether clear whether the P2P ethos is going to survive! Many of the early US P2PL players have been co-opted by the large financial institutions they were meant to supplant. Next time you’re thinking about investing or borrowing with an American company that’s nominally “P2P”, read the fine print and see where your money is coming from.

That said, there are still a couple of American lenders that still hold the P2P line pretty well, Lending Club being the most well known, along with Prosper. Lending Club is coming off of a big year. In 2014, LC had the biggest IPO of the year, was valued at over $8 billion, and reported more than $6 billion in loans issued. For a business that, at it’s core, is just people lending money to people, this was quite an accomplishment.

So, does Lending Club still have what it takes to be a compelling lending option to a diverse array of American borrowers? And will investors still have something to smile about when they see their returns? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think, but I will say there is still plenty to love about Lending Club, all of which I will make clear in this Lending Club review.

First Review Impressions

So why P2PL at all? Well, Peer to peer has a lot of advantages over traditional lenders. First, banks take a lot of time to issue loans. They also tend to have high standards for their borrowers. People with mid-to-low credit may be denied a loan entirely, or given an APR that’s in the stratosphere. There are all kinds of P2P companies, some of which cater directly to folks that are denied loans by these institutions. Second, because these loans are financed by individuals bidding on them in a “reverse auction” format, loan rates are driven lower, at least in theory. In true P2P, rates go as low as an individual investor is willing to risk.

Lending Club doesn’t totally solve either of these problems. In the case of high standards from traditional loan providers, Lending Club also expects a lot from their prospective borrowers. their minimum accepted credit score is 640, which isn’t that low. But at that level, a borrower may have an APR in the upper 20’s per cent! That’s not what I would call affordable, so right away this is going to put a Lending Club loan out of reach for many people. This is not necessarily a bad mark for Lending Club. They’ve got to be picky. Otherwise, users would default all the time, which would jeopardize the other side of their business, the investors. Most borrowers see interest rates in the 7 to 15% range. That’s not so bad.

In the real world, some users pick Lending Club because they have no other option, even if the interest and fees paid are pretty expensive. Accessibility and convenience is a key leverage point for Lending Club, and a key to their continued success. As always, look for the best loan available if good terms don’t seem to materialize. But even if you can’t secure Lending Club’s best rates, you can be sure that this is reputable company. There won’t be any surprise fees, and even their middle rates can save you money, especially if you’re paying off a credit card debt or other expensive loan.

In the case of investors driving down interest rates through competition, it doesn’t quite work that way with Lending Club. Borrowers are lumped into “Loan Grades” according to their credit score and Debt-to-Income ratio. Interest rates are pretty much set in stone from there, so there’s no real “Reverse Auction” power happening. Borrowers get what they get, as do investors. Again, this isn’t necessarily a negative comment. In fact, it’s all pretty transparent. Borrowers will know exactly what they’re getting, and investors will have a very good idea of the default risk they are taking on. Whether individual borrowers will be able to qualify or afford the loans…that’s another story. But for highly qualified borrowers, Lending Club personal loans may be the cheapest and most convenient option in the country.

A Deeper Look

So you get the basics. But how does borrowing and investing look for real users. The average 36 month personal loan APR is 11.72% at the time of this writing, 60-month 15.67%. There is no fee for early repayment. Borrower candidates that I can see benefiting from this model, at these rates, are high-credit-score candidates who need money fast, but don’t want to get screwed by usurious quick lending loan sharks. For these folks, this will be an affordable loan, provided faster than could be had through a bank. Lending Club is especially great if you can afford to pay off your loan faster than the 36-60 month loan terms. That’s where you really save. People who use Lending Club in this way love it!

For lender/investors, users are seeing an average 8.6% annual return. I like that number. Investing with Lending Club is more “hands on” than other investment forms. You’ve got to do a fair bit of mucking around on the loan forum, jumping on promising loans when you find them. Your success as a Lending Club investor depends entirely upon your energy, commitment, and skill. If you fund hundreds of quality loans, you can see returns that well exceed 10%. But then, you’ve got to put in the work. With Lending Club, you’ll get out what you put in more than any other investment form I can think of.

Final Thoughts on Lending Club

So to me personally, Lending Club is more attractive to the lender than the borrower. This is not to say that there isn’t a certain type of borrower who will love Lending Club. To reiterate, this is a borrower with strong credit credentials, a need for fast lending, and the ability to repay faster than the given terms of their loan. To me, it’s hard to imagine this candidate not having even better loan terms available from other providers, but let’s say there aren’t and you can’t wait. If that sounds like you, Lending Club will be your best friend.

Investors, especially those who like to tinker, will really like Lending Club. While 401(k)s and IRAs are available, the ideal investor candidate will be someone who is interested in the P2PL format for its own sake and will savor the hunt for juicy loans! These folks can see awesome returns, even better than passive investment options like set-it-and-forget-it stock and bond funds. But it takes some work and experience to learn the system, what to look for, and how to make the most money.

At the end of the day, Lending Club is a quality company, though one that isn’t right for everybody. If it’s a good fit for you, you can rest assured that it is a reliable service. Lending Club has very detailed, transparent terms, rates, and user statistics. The risk that is involved is laid out on the table, where everyone can see it. Whether this is a system that works for you, that’s up to your best judgment. But for certain individuals, Lending Club’s take on P2PL will be both profitable and inspiring.

ROMOSS Sense 6 Plus LCD 20000mAh External Battery Pack Review

Are you looking for Extra-powerful, Innovative Mobile Battery pack for your mobile then you came at right place as here I am going to give you a quick review about it. First lets talk about what are your expectations with a power pack. Fast charging?? More juice?? Multi-charger?? Compatible with long range of devices??

ROMOSS Sense 6 plus fulfills all your expectations which comes with digital LCD panel and comes with ultra powerful 20000mAh external battery power which supports dual USB Output.

Lets talk about its features:

 

Features:

> First thing is its portable which makes it useful for both indoor as well as outdoor purposes.

> It comes with dual usb support and also chargeable with usb.

> It packs 20000mAh power which is sufficient to charge your mobile 5-6 times though depends on your device so you don’t need to worry if you are going on a long trip. This power pack can be your great companion.

> Amazing crystal clear LCD Display which shows the status of your power pack like how much power it still contains. Thus you can predict how much you can charge more and when your power bank needs charging.

> It supports large range of devices like mp3’s , pods, mobile phones, pda’s etc something like smaller devices though it cannot support large devices like laptops but you are not looking for that I hope.

> Quick Charging technology which is super efficient and utilizes almost 92% of the power which makes your charging more fruitful and also it takes less time to charge which saves around 50% of your time.

Efficiency

As per the above image from Gearbest.com, it comes with cloud grade efficient smart matching algorithm technology which is latest innovation and can charge your iphone 5s like 10 times. Its maximum charging efficiency is upto 95% but normally it plays around 92% which is lot more compared to other power banks in the market.

Body

Power banks also need to be physically strong along with powerful in terms of power and this power bank bests others in terms of build quality too. It comes with Alloy plastic body (pc + Abs) and also look wise its stylish, durable and sleek. It comes with elegant white finish that looks luxurious and feels great in your palm.

Specifications

General Brand: ROMOSS
Type: Portable Mobile Powers
Model: Sense 6 Plus
Compatibility : Universal, Universal
Compatible with: Mobile Phones and tablet PCs
Capacity (mAh): Cell Capacity: 20000mAh, Rated Capacity: 12580mAh
Special Functions: LCD Digital Display, Multi-Output
Connection Type: Two USB Output Interface
Battery type: Li-ion Battery
Color: White
Material: ABS, PVC
Specification Power: 74Wh / 3.7V
Charging time: 6.5 hours with 2.1A input; 13.5 hours with 1A input
Input: DC5V 2.1A
Output: DC5V 2.1A / DC5V 1A
Dimension and Weight Product weight: 0.470 kg
Package weight: 0.62 kg
Product size (L x W x H) : 16.0 x 8.0 x 2.3 cm / 6.29 x 3.14 x 0.90 inches
Package size (L x W x H): 21.5 x 14.0 x 3.5 cm / 8.45 x 5.50 x 1.38 inches
Package Contents Package Contents : ROMOSS Sense 6 Plus LCD 20000mAh External Battery Pack Mobile Power Bank Portable Charger, 1 x USB Charging Cable

Thus this was a quick introduction to an amazing yet powerful power bank which satisfies your device’s power hunger very efficiently.

I hope you will like this power booster. Also don’t forget to check out the latest iPhone accessories 

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.

Conclusion

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.

Conclusion

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!

Best Blog Software for Both Beginners & Developers to Use

To select the best blog software for our readers, we have reviewed dozens of blog applications mainly from feature and support. As a result, we found that the ones introduced below are the best, coming with a large number of highlights to enable bloggers to get started easily and manage their blogs effortlessly.

The most common and efficient way to set up a blog is to utilize blogging software. Doing this way, normal bloggers, especially beginners, can either save the time and energy of working on building a blog manually or save the budget spent in hiring a web developer to handle the code-related process. There are dozens of choices, and we only select the best ones to introduce here. All of them are backed by a large community of developers and contributors, and come with great ease of use.

In below, we have worked out a comprehensive review to list the main information of them to explain why they are the best. Move on to the details.

WordPress

Website: http://wordpress.org/

WordPress, which is both free and priceless at the same time, is PHP open source software that can be used to create a beautiful blog. It is easy to install and upgrade this software. If you want to use an FTP program, you are able to create a database, upload WordPress using FTP and run the installer. If you are not familiar with FTP, you need to choose a web host offering 1-click script installer to help you install this application with a few clicks.

WordPress is the most widely-used blogging platform as well as CMS around the world that has over 60 million loyal fans including some large and well brands like eBay, Metro UK, Variety and BBC America. Starting as simply a personal blogging tool, now WordPress is adopted for all kinds of mainstream purposes, such as education, technology, e-commerce, etc.

WordPress is backed by a huge community consisting of millions of users in all levels of knowledge on this software – from beginners with nearly no technical skills to web developers having been devoted to the online development for years. With the contributions of so many people, WordPress comes with excellent customizability, with which users can make any changes they like to give a new look or add new functionality to their blogs.

Reliability is the most important factor to evaluate software. According to our experience, most software complaints come from mass of bugs and problems, and meanwhile, most happy experience come from reliability. In this case, WordPress has been proven to be a reliable software for many years so far.

More highlights of this blog software are listed in below.

  • Simplicity & flexibility.
  • Available in more than 70 languages.
  • Built-in comments & search engine optimization.
  • Thousands of free elegant-designed themes & plugins.
  • Textpattern

    Website: http://textpattern.com/

    As a reputed blogging tool, Textpattern has great flexibility and extensibility which are loved much by web designers, developers, publisher, and bloggers (the largest part of its customer base). The powerful and sophisticated engine makes this CMS a suitable choice for whatever types of blog and other website that you can imagine.

    Textpattern is a flexible, elegant and easy-to-use, with numerous built-in tags and reusable code partials that enable you to fully control the presentations of the content of your blog. With a browser-based interface in more than 40 languages, excellent support and full range of features, this software is suitable for publishers, designers and developers to establish a blog.

    The admin interface of Textpattern is minimalist, efficient and clearly labeled, with which bloggers can easily get on with publishing and managing content. Built-in tags and textile are also coming with the software, which enables users to have complete control over the content and presentation, as well as get the ability to transform plain text into fully-formatted web content in seconds.

    What’s more, if you want to go beyond the software’ default capabilities, you are allowed to quickly install any of hundreds of available plugins or create your own in PHP. Moreover, In the Textpattern’s wiki, technicians and engineers have worked out a pile of in-depth articles with a lot of information about software installation, administration, themes and plugins. If you can’t find the answers you need in the wiki, you can check the official forum or contact the company’s community.

    b2evolution

    Website: http://www.b2evolution.net/

    b2evolution is a popular CCMS (Content + Community Management System) that is mostly used to set up and manage multiple blogs. Being free and open source under GNU GPL, you can freely download and install this software to fully power your own blogs.

    b2evolution can run on any web hosting platforms supporting the recent versions of PHP and MySQL, and it is another state-of-the-art publishing system besides WordPress, with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and ease of use. Besides, b2evolution comes with many features including an extensive plugin and skin system.

    Nucleus CMS

    Website: http://www.nucleuscms.org/

    Nucleus CMS is a self-hosted fully featured content management system that comes with the largest advantages in blog management. Now in version 3.65, it is one of the lightest, most flexible and secure options for maintaining one or multiple weblogs with a team of authors.

    Nucleus CMS has a large number of helpful blogging-related features which can be used to schedule works, boost search engine rankings, managing comments and categories, and so on. Also, there is a built-in backup system which allows users to create a backup version of the database contents with a simple one click to significantly reduce the risk of unexpected data loss.

    Weebly

    Website: http://www.weebly.com/

    Starting a blog with Weebly is very simple, because you have the ability to use flexible drag and drop interface to build your blog content quickly and easily. Moreover, the powerful design and publishing elements enables you to focus on your content while the Weebly services pull all the weight in the background. In addition, there are a plethora of widgets and media options in your blog dashboard, so that you can make it all work with ease, no matter you blog is about photo journal, video diary or literary review.

    More highlights of this software are :

    • Full control over layout and post structure allows you to create exceptional blog sites.
    • Complete category, tag and sidebar customization provide the key navigation and interaction elements modern blog visitors crave.
    • Free blog templates are able to work as standalone sites or pieces of a larger website.
    • RSS and social sharing feature are built into every blog to help amplify your message across the channels that matter.

    Typepad

    Website: http://www.typepad.com/

    Typepad is one of the most famous blog software, with which you are able to publish quickly and easily from your computer, mobile or even via email. In addition, this application allows you to tweak a theme with custom CSS. You just need to use the Theme Builder to easily build your own design or design your own template from the ground up. Moreover, you are able to use your blog built with Typepad to sell your products or services, run ads and join their effective affiliate program.

    In addition, you have the ability to see what is going on with your blog since the smart stats of audience integrated with Google analytics is on your blog. Furthermore, you are capable of using the beautiful templates and user-friendly design tools to handcraft you own special blog. If you had any problem about blogging, you are allowed to contact the professional Typepad team for help anytime.

    Drupal

    Website: http://drupal.org/

    Some people might be surprised at the selection of Drupal for blogging, as it is not commonly used for this purpose. But in fact, according to our review and experience, Drupal is a quite good CMS for building and maintaining fully featured blogs due to its user-friendly user interface and built-in blogging features.

    The functionality and customization possibilities are unlimited with Drupal because there are over 24,000 modules and themes available at Drupal.org, let alone the numerous ones at other marketplaces. The active community is still working on the development and extension of Drupal core.

    Wix

    Website: http://www.wix.com/

    Being a beginner, if you have sufficient ideas about PowerPoint presentation, then Wix is an appropriate tool for you. It is ranked as one of the best website building software available presently because of its versatility in the operations and simplification of tasks.

    Wix appreciates the fact that you are a beginner in the field of website building and provides you with a simple user interface. The drag and drop feature is one of the most attractive features of Wix because it allows you to upload content or images within minutes.

    One of the highlights of this website building tool is a series of templates facilitating the design and appearance of the website. However, the templates once applied cannot be changed after the project has initialized. To make it possible, the user has to start all over again.

    Wix offers a manageable storage and bandwidth limit of 500MB each.

    SquareSpace

    Website: https://www.squarespace.com/

    It is one of the most versatile website building software with some premium features for the prospective website makers. It offers a sleek design to the website that is full of attractive features and functions. Being premium website building software, it has several plans for its clients that help the clients choose the most appropriate one for their websites.

    When it comes to the technical specification, SquareSpace provides its remarkable service in various packages starting at $8 per month. Under the cheapest offering, SquareSpace allows 500GB of bandwidth, a mobile-compatible website with up to 20 pages and 2 GB storage. Adding to it, the client gets a custom domain and an all-time support. In its best plan, SquareSpace allows you to enjoy unlimited bandwidth in addition to other premium features.

    The best part of SquareSpace is that it allows the website to transform into WordPress in the long run to enjoy its highly customizable features.

    uCoz

    Website: https://www.ucoz.com/

    uCoz is a website building software having the simplest user interface. It is the software that builds websites for free. It offers many features to the users who choose to make a website using this software.

    Being a template-based website building tool for beginners, uCoz consists of about 250 default templates and 22 modules. Adding to it, it is compatible with tons of widgets and gadgets that can be customized into the website. It supports data backup and allows unlimited disk space to all its clients.

    Jimdo

    Website: https://www.jimdo.com/

    If you are looking forward to having a remarkable user interface on your website, there is no better solution than Jimdo. It is a website building software that consists of Dropbox integration and many attractive features. The Dropbox integration allows you to share or use the photos easily, thanks to the Dropbox account!

    Being a paid website building software, Jimdo has some very attractive features to offer. It has the ability of produce coupon codes which are required in multiple fields. Apart from it, Jimdo has an automated system of email where purchase confirmation emails are generated automatically.

    When it comes to the specification, you get about 20 custom email addresses which you can use for different legal purposes. Adding to it, Jimdo allows you to get unlimited storage.

    Conclusion

    Based on our review on the blogging tools’ features and users’ votes, WordPress is the deserved winner of the best blogging software that can be used to build a rich-featured, easy-to-use, and search engine friendly blog. However, as WordPress needs a server to reside on, we recommend the following 3 best web hosts for WordPress companies for their ability to well serve WordPress blogs with excellent reliability and high performance.

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