On the use and abuse of Technology and its Management from the perspective of an academic at UCL specialising in Project Management, Systems Engineering and Space Science/Technology.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Visualisation tools

I hate long lists, so I quite like mind maps (here's one by Suw Charman on the UK digital rights advocacy landscape) and like a lot of people I start using the techniques in documenting ideas, presentations or projects, forget about them, pick them up again ad infinitum. One day, I'll reach the tipping point and adopt them permanently into my toolbox. Part of the resistance to persistent use is the obvious need to turn my frightful green feltpen creations into communicable electronic documents. Over the years I've tried numerous mindmap tools but none of them have stuck. The other resistance, which might be the same as the first, is the effort it takes to get other people (colleagues) involved as well.

At the Mindjet blog, they are furiously exicited about a new release of Mindmanager? What seems like ages on their website – ahh Windows only. If you want to share your maps with Mac and Unix users, try Freemind. This is free, so at least worth investigating as a baseline even if you feel the need to spend money on something else later, and it's cross platform. Loads of platforms. I might stick with this, especially as colleagues look like they might wanna play too.

My ideal product would play nicely with OmniOutliner as well as the usual Word and HTML formats. What about some standards?.

Our Technology Management Group has had a lovely time with EndNote. The fact that it reformats citations on the fly within Word is the killer feature, and that has sold it to us. We are few, so sharing – and keeping synchronised – a small number of bibliography databases has been un-troublesome. Had we been a larger number, we might have elected to go with a product that allows networked databases, like Reference Manager. There didn't seem to be a cross platform solution to this last time I looked, whereas EndNote plays on Windows and Mac. We could always save to the web, I suppose, and adopt Cite-U-Like, but then we lose the Word integration.

Now what's this on the radar? RefViz, a little (Windows) tool that does textual analysis of references and shows you the correlations. Because I hate lists, I used to dream of this stuff when I was seriously slurping literature, and I could use it again I'm sure. It looks promising, but I'm not clear whether it needs the full texts to succeed, or just the abstracts.