Free Your Mind

Have you ever experienced writer’s block, or had a lot of information but didn’t know how to organize it, found it difficult to break down what you were going to say in your public speak, had difficulty organizing a shopping list or to do list?

Free_MindI know I have had those moments too. To over comes those moments of frustration even before they begin, I free my mind with a program called Free Mind. FreeMind is a free mind-mapping software.

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.[source: Wikipedia ]

The great thing about Free Mind is that it is 100% free software and open source software, licensed under GNU GPL V2+ (GNU General Public License) Basically, that means that you are free to use FreeMind to whatever purpose you want without paying for that, and that any code derived from current FreeMind’s code must also be licensed under GPL V2+.[Source: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page]

Here are a few screenshots so you can see what a Free Mind document generally looks like:

800px-FreeMind-computer-knowledge-080 800px-FreeMind-freemind-development-080 800px-FreeMind-learning-german-080 800px-FreeMind-my-health-080

 

I have used other mind mapping programs but Free Mind is my favourite. There are other programs out there that save to the cloud, have flexible nodes and some are aesthetically very pleasing. The reason I choose Free Mind is because:

Multiplatform

The software is built in Java so it runs on just about anything. It works on Windows, Linux and Mac.

Universal

The file format is universal. Every mind mapping program out there will import a free mind (.mm) file, but not the other way around as most other programs have their own formats. 

Rigid

The node branches are rigid meaning you cannot move them around in space the way you like. Note: you can move the actual nodes around to different branches but the branches don’t stretch or shrink.  For some this constraint would be more of a con than a pro. I on the other hand like it because it keeps things organized and plus it forces me think in a modular fashion and for that to happen I need to understand the information that I am jotting. I have used other programs(free and paid) that give you the flexibility of moving the nodes around with a flexible stretch branch and although this freedom of movement may seem like a great thing at first, but when it comes to getting the actual work down I think it can be very counter productive. 

Multiple Uses

Although this is true for most mind mapping programs, I still feel the need to mention it for those who may be new to the idea of mind mapping.

  • Keep track of projects including tasks, subtasks, priority level using icons and colours 
  • knowledge base – you can have multiple mind maps interconnected with other mind maps and store information in nodes or link to actual files such as images, word documents, excel sheets etc..
  • essay writing and brain storming – you can quickly jot down ideas that you have in a brain storming session and then easily move the modes around and create topics and subtopics to bring structure to your fictional or non-fictional writing
  • A shopping list or a ToDo list – Once you start using mind maps instead of a flat list you will never want to go back to boring ToDo lists.
  • Database – you can organize information about clients, about collection of antique items which you can categorize, keep inventory of your valuables…etc..

Features

  • export to HTML, image formats(PNG, JPG, PDF etc…)
  • visually format the nodes and branches for better readability. There is even an auto-format feature which I use all the time and it works surprisingly well.
  • it’s an open format meaning there is no risk to committing to Free Mind in the beginning and then changing to a different program because it uses XML which can be imported into any other mind mapping program.
  • FREE!
  • use graphical links(lines with arrow pointers) to link nodes
  • link to other Free Mind maps and other files like Word, Excel, image files or any other file on your computer

Other Mind Mapping Programs

You may also want to try out these mind mapping programs to see which one fits your specific needs.

  • Mind Node  –  by far the most beautifully designed mind mapping program out there. The only thing that keeps me from using it is that it is only for Mac OSX and IOS. 
  • Mindjet – for serious business use, is more than just mind mapping software—it’s a total suite of applications and tools designed to help you and the people you work with brainstorm, stay on top of projects, collaborate on tasks, and stay organized together.
  • XMind – like Mindjet this is again for serious business use. There is a free version with some of the advanced features lacking, but it gets the job done. XMind is also one of the more popular mind mapping programs.

That’s my take on freeing your mind with mind maps. Please share, like, tweet, retweet if you like this post. Also leave a comment below.

This is Why I’m closing the doors on OpenAtrium for Good!

I think the title of this post is damn right to the point isn’t it? We were using OpenAtrium 1 at work a year ago, but due to so many issues of having too many errors, memory leaks, and being just overly bloated, I decided to stop using it.

Fast forward to 2014: I started looking for a collaboration and project management tool again and decided to check on the development on OpenAtrium 2. It is based on Drupal 7 core which I thought was amazing. I downloaded and installed OpenAtrium 2 and it had a colour packed home page which looked attractive, but one that I quickly got annoyed with.

The OpenAtrium website now has a responsive design and is mobile friendly, but at what cost?

Who is OpenAtrium really for?

OpenAtrium is targeted towards web developers and architects, end users probably won’t be that interested and even if they won’t understand it because the software is complex and multi-dimensional. As you can see in the screenshot of OpenAtrium.com below, this is supposed to tell the viewer what is inside OpenAtrium. There are images and short descriptions for each component, but that is it. There is no link to get into technical details. Data Security for e.g. says Granular access control side wide – an architect would need to know how this is accomplished! How are Events managed, what is the workflow like in order to determine whether this piece of software is suitable for their organization or not.

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 11.34.43 AM

 

Where is the Contact Page?

Wait! What? There is no Contact page. I’m forced to use twitter or Facebook? You’re kidding right?

Oh wait a minute, yes there is a link to the contact page on the FAQs page,oh…but it DOES NOT WORK! And mind you this is supposed to lead their customer’s  to a page where they can contact their sales team! AMAZING!

Phase2 can offer custom enterprise platform development services, specific to the solution set Open Atrium offers. For more information and to contact our sales team, go here.

 

Where is the Documentation?

There is NO direct link from OpenAtrium.com to documentation! That’s right! You get to see OpenAtrium Documentation AFTER you download the software and install it.  During Installation, I kept getting errors which were very crude MySQL errors which told me absolutely NOTHING. I finally figured it out by googling it.

Okay, seriously,… where is the Documentation?

A link on the Home Page(of the OpenAtrium installation) does take you to a page which kind of looks like a documentation page, but nah.. it really isn’t! It’s more like a prank! The Webinars are LONG and do not get to the point quickly! When you click the How To Guides, it’s empty! Phase2 probably need to read a “How To Guide” for writing “How To Guides”.

Oh but wait, they do have links to Spanish Documentation! You can’t even get the English version right! As the Linux philosophy goes:

Do One thing, do it right!

FAQs? – What are FAQs for?

The FAQs on the OpenAtrium site seem like sarcasm. The questions are ridiculously long and the answers are worse. For e.g.

Q. We’ve been trying to model what a Group, a Space, and a Team wold look like using existing metaphors and it’s been challenging to map from an OA 1.x perspective to an OA 2.x perspective. the access controls at the bottom of a node edit form are particularly confusing due to inconsistencies in terminology. The ones on the side bar look like they’ve been renamed appropriately. Could you provide some clarity?

Most of the questions seem like they might be coming from people working at Phase 2 (The company behind OpenAtrium).They should change the title of the page to “FAQs that our developers keep asking us”

Other Broken Things on OpenAtrium’s website:

  • Credit’s link at the bottom of the page takes you to an empty box that says “Credits”
  • Copyright details at the bottom of the page seems like it’s not updated.
  • No Contact page
  • No direct link to OpenAtrium Documentation

Finall conclusion: it almost seems like that Phase2 might actually have a good product, but they’ve made OpenAtrium.com and documentation very difficult to navigate and left chunks of it out which really just drives away the people that might actually be interested in using this product. UNLESS, that is their whole purpose, drive the developers away and target the endusers and managers that have little to no technical skills making it a really sneak sales technique and a kind of faking to be truly OpenSource. Or maybe they just have low standards!

I am angry, disappointed and feel deceived and betrayed by the people behind OpenAtrium.

Project Management Tools – PHProjekt Vs SugarCRM Vs Dolibarr

Has anyone ever a difficult time organizing their meetings, leads, prospect clients, current customer issues, projects and TODOs. I know I have. I am pretty organized, but still I want and need a centralized system from where I can track everything, something that quickly gives me an overall picture. Currently I use text documents, spread sheets, gmail, google calendar and my memory to accomplish this.

I have thought about getting  a CRM system or a Project Management Software to help me with my getting more organized and efficient. Just yesterday I seriously started doing a lot of research and testing things out. I was looking for a LAMP based web application that handles project management and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Although I’m a proud owner of by business, I’m still pretty much regarded as a freelancer as opposed to an entrepreneur. I need something simple that gets the work done.

I narrowed it down to these 3:

  1. SugarCRM
  2. Dolibarr
  3. PHProjekt

Now I’m really confused as to which one I should use.

These are some of the things that I need.

  • Ability to have customer accounts related to projects
  • Add and schedule different tasks inside a project
  • Time tracking for each task and summary of time spent on each project
  • ability to calculate ROI (not a must but good to have)
  • Keep customer related info such as project history, internal notes as to what kind of sales strategy is working with this customer, project proposals, services they are currently using from me etc…
  • Keep track of work that I outsource
  • Controllable access to let contractors check and update their tasks, and have clients update and check project issues and progress

Any help in deciding what I should be using is very much welcomed. Please leave a comment or contact me from my contact page. Thanks