This edition of NetSpeak revisits the good old mind map technology and profiles a select set of on-line tools that help us adopt this technology in fresh grounds.

As you are well aware, the process of representing various facets of an idea or topic in a pictorial form is called mind mapping.

A mind map is a graphical representation of several concepts/tasks centred on a main theme or task.

A mind map helps us visualise different components of a project or a theme from a single easily comprehensible diagram — you get a bird's eye view of the project in one shot.

In addition, it lets you view multiple dimensions of your project/task in a non-linear fashion. The mind-map technology is used in diverse fronts such as project planning, exposition of ideas, developing business plan and so on.

The mind map technology is emerging to be yet another means to deliver/share information. In fact, a quick search on the Net will fetch numerous useful mind maps pertaining to the subject of your choice. The mind map, ‘Using the Internet to spice-up your math class' (http://goo.gl/54OY5), is a good example.

This resource-packed mind map features a huge collection of links pertaining to mathematics that include open-courseware, videos, on-line calculators and so on. The mind map ‘population and planet' (http://goo.gl/x9smU) that depicts the chain effects of population growth is yet another instance of a valuable mind map.

The availability of several free mind-mapping tools (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/j_murali/article963720.ece) has induced the popularity of this concept.

Apart from the tools discussed in the past, several new mind-applications continue to emerge. Mind42 (http://mind42.com/), an easy-to-use, collaborative mind-mapping application is one of such products encountered by NetSpeak in the recent past. The advantage of this application is that you can invite your collaborators and create mind maps with their active help.

Chrome users may find the extension Mind42 (http://goo.gl/xzGcQ) useful, as it helps them access the application directly from the browser.

The free on-line mind-map creation tool Spider Scribe (http://www.spiderscribe.net/) is yet another one of this kind tested by this author. Besides text content, Scribe maps can accommodate a variety of content items that include word documents, images and Google maps. This service also enables collaborative production of mind maps.

Literature on tool

An offshoot of this tilt towards the mind map technology is the development of new tools that incorporate mind-mapping features. The free software SciPlore MindMapping is an apt instance of this trend.

This product, which focuses on the academia, combines mind mapping with reference to management. The advantage of SciPlore lies in its ability to help a researcher manage literature and organise ideas with the help of mind map technology.

If the literature collection is stored in PDF documents the process becomes quite easy and the resulting mind map becomes rather enriched. The SciPlore MindMapping package enables one to create a mind map organising PDF documents quite meticulously. An advantage of this software is that when you link a PDF document to a node of the mind map, it automatically extracts bookmarks contained in the document and displays them as branches emanating from the node.

Another priced feature of this mind-mapping tool is that you can make it monitor a specific folder for files. This means, if you place a file in this folder, the software automatically detects it and displays it in the mind map. Besides PDF documents, the software detects files in formats such as DOC and RTF. And, in the case of PDF files, it automatically imports the bookmarks and make them part of the mind map tree. For details: http://sciplore.org/software /sciplore_ mindmapping/.

Google skills

As mentioned several times in this column, your ability to find information on-line quickly depends (to a large extent) on your skills to use Google. To help a user improve her Google skills, Google offers a slew of resources and applications (like the search puzzle service ‘Google a day', discussed in the past). To help you further sharpen your Google skills and keep up with the latest developments in the Web search realm, Google has started a blog called ‘Inside search' (http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/). It is likely that a regular ride on this blog could make you a better Web searcher.

SlideFinder

To help us find materials in a specific format (say PDF documents), popular search engines offer certain search commands. For instance, if your (Google) search intention is to obtain only PDF documents related to a keyword, you should use the command modifier ‘filetype:' (example: filetype:your-keyword). Yet another way to obtain documents of a certain genre is to enlist the service of a special search service that indexes only such documents. So if you need only PDF documents, look for a PDF search engine such as the PDF database (http://pdfdatabase.com/) mentioned in an earlier column. Now, if you are looking for PowerPoint presentations, a visit to the special service ‘Slide finder' (http://www.slidefinder.net/) might help.

Linux

There are umpteen ways to try Linux, the popular free, open-source operating system (like installing it on a virtual machine software like VirtualBox, discussed in the past — (http://www.hindu.com/biz/2009/09/21/stories/2009092150011300.htm). Now, if you wish to take a shot at Linux without having to install anything, then the on-line application ‘A PC Emulator in Javascript” (http://bellard.org/jslinux/) that runs a version of Linux inside your browser could come in handy. The application offers a clipboard facility that lets you transfer data to/from your machine to the Linux system running inside the browser too.

He can be contacted at jmurali@gmail.com