Thursday, November 02, 2006

Candidate Concept Mapping Software……

When it came to evaluating concept mapping software, I simply searched for all the concept mapping software that I could find advertised or reviewed on the internet. And I looked at two basic criteria:


  1. Was there enough information available to do a quick assessment without actually obtaining the software?
  2. Could the software be downloaded on a trial basis?

I then divided the software packages into 3 groups:


  • General Concept Mapping
  • Mind Mapping
  • Unique (software that claimed to do both concept mapping and mind mapping, or software that appeared to have other unique characteristics).

I ended up looking at the following software in each group:

General Concept Mapping*
Banxia Decision Explorer ₤395 = ~$831 ----- can’t Inspiration do as much at 1/3 the price?
Conzilla free ----- basic concept mapping software
Cornerstone £74 = ~$150 ----- similar to Inspiration, but appears to be less complex
IHMC CmapTools free ----- the Novakian concept map modelling software
Inspiration v.7 $149 ----- the standard concept mapping software
Knowledge Manager €290 = ~$412 ----- Difficult to assess from the net; few examples and need to download them along with the program; suspect it is like Inspiration, but how can you tell from the website; a lot of words and little imagery for something that is supposed to be offering visual enhancement
MindFull £42 = ~$100 ----- stores information in folders; not much flexibility; resembles note-making software; Sonant intentionally produced non-complex software to reach specific client needs (e.g., those with dyslexia).
SmartDraw $297 ----- basically a charting and diagramming software with concept and mind mapping built in; lots of templates, lots of options, very flexible; but most charts are not applicable for my work.
SMART Ideas $59 ----- looks very much like Inspiration
StarThink £49 = ~$100 ----- basic post-it note style thought organizer for writing

Recent Additions – not originally evaluated:
Axon Idea Processor $165 ----- has both concept and mind mapping capabilities; the user showcase of ideas is impressive; definitely worth looking into
Inspiration v.8 $149 ----- originally reviewed for concept mapping, but v.8.0 appears to have mind mapping capabilities too.


Mind Mapping
Aviz ThoughtMapper $59 ----- similar to Freemind, but fewer options
BrainMine $52 ----- similar to Mind Mapper
ConceptDraw Mindmap $249 ----- intrigueing software, with a strong drawing base; most flexible software that I found; too bad it had some drawbacks
Creative Thinker $114-167 ----- uses Hexagon Modeling; looks like a brainstorming software in hexagons; very expensive for what is seen on the website; no trial download
Crystal Maps $99 ----- Described as a type of mind mapping software, using concentric circles and pull-outs; I don’t get it,
DeepaMehta free ----- a semantic map, a networked semantic desktop, a topic map; interesting idea that doesn’t do what I want exactly, but I can see other possible uses for it; can also use online
FreeMind free ----- basic mind mapping getting better with each version
HeadCase €50 = ~$100 ----- interesting software to simulate hand-drawn mind maps; still in in beta testing mode, I think. A bit course & garrish for my use.
KDissert free ----- similare to Freemind
Map it! $58 ----- similar to Mind Mapper
MindChart $44 ----- not sure what this software does; website not much help; no examples
MindGenius $247 ----- has almost everything Mind Manager has; better graphics; better output options
MindManager $349 ----- expensive; supposed to have all the bells and whistles; why do all the maps on their website and on other sites look so much alike?
Mind Mapper $180 ----- basic mind mapping software; has a few nice features that more expensive packages lack
Mind Pad $60 ----- strictly mind mapping software with a few twists (fishbone)
NovaMind $116-140Cdn ----- certainly provides the most visual impact; high graphic content; probably can be dumbed down for Mind Manager types; but other than that, it’s not much different than other products at much less cost; has a script or screen writers feature??
OpenMind $249 ----- very much like others; has storyboard and timeline features
SoftNeuron €15 = ~$20 ----- can’t tell much about this software from the website, but it looks similar to Freemind.
Spark-Space $300 ----- another way to mind map, but appears limited to radiant drawings
View Your Mind free ----- similar to Freemind
VisiMap £69 = ~$140 ----- I have the impression that its much like other software, but it’s also difficult to examine – no examples, no apparent users.
Visual Concept £98 = ~$200 ----- different hexagonal shapes; don’t see how this makes map easier to read; probably makes it more difficult.
Visual Mind $229 ----- another like Mind Mapper

Recent Additions – not originally evaluated:
Axon Idea Processor $165 ----- has both concept and mind mapping capabilities; the user showcase of ideas is impressive; definitely worth looking into
i2Brain $59 ----- goes beyond mind mapping; appears to allow multiple main topics; basic visual options
InfoRapid KnowledgeMap free for private use or $99 for professional use ----- part of the InfoRapid Suite of freeware/shareware programs; seems to be more like an outliner with maps thrown in, but needs to be looked at more closely; the example site is interesting.
Nelements $30 ----- a 3D outlining tool that uses the Roman Room Technique; says it’s a mind mapping software; maybe, but it’s definitely unusual

Unique
3D Topicscape $49 Special, Regular $149 ----- looks interesting but has a very unique display; not sure the program is really practical for many things I want it to do; need to download trial, but it requires a better graphics card than I’m currently using.
aibase $64 ----- knowledge builder, brainstorming tool, learn helper, outliner, vector graphics editor; but it really doesn’t seem to be designed for traditional concept mapping and mind mapping
PersonalBrain $80 ----- certainly different, but closely resembles the display technique developed by Thinkmap; worth exploring further because of its unique format.
Thinkmap $5000 minimum?? ----- makes the Visual Thesaurus; interesting software; but way too expensive; I suspect that Personal Brain might provide the equivalent at much less cost.

My evaluation was initially qualitative. After many hours of reviewing manufacturers’ websites, it was relatively easy to cull those software packages that didn’t need to be evaluated via trial downloads.

  • Several packages were very similar to others in the lists, in regard to the product provided. In this case, I looked at what appeared to be the best of the best, based on what I saw at the website and what I could decipher from the marketing information.
  • For some software, the end product appeared to be almost a carbon-copy of others. I took the same approach as above.
  • Some packages were just too expensive for what apparently was being offered and were ignored.
  • Many sites offered poor or few examples. If the company can’t take the time to showcase their product, I have to wonder how much quality is really in the product. No or few existing users and examples of how the software is used in day-to-day experiences?—that’s not a good sign.
  • Some sites were just poorly designed and, in a few cases, contained grammar and spelling errors—again, a lack of attention to the promotion probably reflects on the probable quality of the product.
  • For products that appeared to be of equal quality, I looked at options and features, based on the promotional material, and selected the software that appeared to offer the best options, regardless of cost. In a few cases, I downloaded all the software and did a quick comparison, but my initial assessment, based on website information, was usually confirmed.

I don’t get it.

  • Why would a company advertise their graphics software with just words and no visual images?
  • Why would a company produce a website with grammar and spelling errors?
  • Why would a company produce a website to promote a good product, yet fail to give realistic examples?
  • Why would a company try to promote a product and provide a list companies that are using it, but fail to give some examples of how they are using it?

C’mon guys! Put some effort into the user and promotional side of the business. Otherwise, competitiveness in the market will likely be short-lived.


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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a very large list of concept mapping, mindmapping and related software at http://mind-mapping.org

November 03, 2006 1:37 AM  
Blogger Sarab Singh said...

I am a big beleiver in this sort of thing... but since I am in inveterate skeptic, I don't believe my own hunch yet. I need someone to persuasively argue that semantic webs are really serious shit, same for hypertext learning stuff.

November 03, 2006 5:49 AM  
Anonymous speaker said...

Thanks for your insightful post on concept mapping software. I use FreeMind for mindmapping, CMap for concept mapping, and recently came across PersonalBrain as I looked for a tool that would support a graph topology to support documenting my personal network (Social Capital). Your article has added other candidates that I was not previously aware of to my list.

speaker
www.speakhead.com

November 09, 2006 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

there is another tool which is not listed, but it has some unique features, which you can't find in the tools listed here.
It is called I-Navigation

Regards.

November 14, 2006 7:10 AM  
Blogger Staz said...

Unfortunately, I had failed to "just say yes" to one of the Blogger buttons, so I never saw any comments coming through. Oh well, I'm still learning how to use this software.
Thanks for the comment. I'm aware of the site, but I doubt I'll be able to keep up with the new product lines. Every day I find a new one.
I'm an inveterate tinkerer....can't resist trying out the new software. I'll post what I can in comparative fashion, which was really the intent of my post. But I have to start really using the software sometime and get out of 'test' mode.

November 15, 2006 7:49 PM  
Blogger Staz said...

Sarab,
I think a healthy amount of scepticism is probably the right approach. Although I've used hardcopy mapping for many years for various purposes, I'm relatively new at using the software. Given my background in computer engineerng, however, I'm probably not a good candidate for an unbiased opinion when anything hightech is considered.
However, I had a few concerns myself when I first started out on this venture. It's easy to construct maps (simple, complex, good and bad), but the real question is whether they are meaningful to the intended audience and worth the effort. I've been researching the "science" of knowledge mapping and learning systems, recently, simply to convince myself that I'm on the right track. When I get a chance, I'll post what I've found.

November 15, 2006 8:36 PM  
Blogger Staz said...

Speaker,
I've used all three of the software packages you mentioned. One certainly can't complain about the price (free) of Freemind and CMap Tools or their performance. PersonalBrain, however, is a very unique piece of software and I'm still playing with it. It's ability to automatically network a website was an interesting function. The shuffling of top platform entries is somewhat unique; I've only seen this idea once before on much more expensive software.
For data and file management, I think this software might be very useful. It's easy to use and probably much more practical than concept or mind map software for this purpose.

November 15, 2006 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Zahid Ayar said...

hello Staz,

thanks 4 preparing this list...now i can check out the different available mind mapping packages on the internet...

im zahid ayar the developer of Nelements, by the way...

have a good day,

Zahid

November 18, 2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Staz,

I'm very interested to read your thoughts of Axon Idea Processor. Do you plan on publishing such a review?

- Wes

December 04, 2006 2:08 AM  
Blogger Staz said...

I-Navigation? It seems a new product pops up every week or two. That's a new one for me. It has a rather unusual front-end.

December 04, 2006 11:33 PM  
Blogger isd said...

I tried the demo of I-navigation.
I's awesome...
The best navigation system I've seen for maps...
Only ONE LITTLE problem:
the soft is a mind mapping software. not a concept mapping one.
(I would love to create photo collections browsable this way but no possibility to batch this, shame)

March 08, 2007 2:49 AM  

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