Inspiration 9: Can Visual Learning and Mind Mapping Help You?

Since its inception in the late eighties Inspiration has evolved to become one of the leading visual learning and mind mapping applications available on the market. There are two main project types which you can create using Inspiration, these are called Diagram and Map. Map, as one might expect, is for creating a typical mind map with coloured lines and ideas branching from a central main idea. Diagram on the other hand is used for creating a wide range of different visual aids such as spider diagrams, tree diagrams, flow diagrams and even diagrams that combine all three if one desired. It is also possible to switch either Map or Diagram into what is called Outline View, which rearranges the diagram/map into a list. This view is very useful when planning and arranging any type of written project.

The ability to map ideas on a page and create a visual link between said ideas is a fantastic tool for those of us who find visual learning beneficial. This can be enhanced further by adding images (either from the built-in library or your computer) and by changing the colours, fonts and shapes of the branches. Due to the freedom present in diagram mode you can create any number of simple or complex diagrams and maps. For this reason Inspiration is also incredibly useful for revising and organising information on a topic. You could even use it to create a diagram depicting a concept like the carbon cycle for example, which could then be exported as an image file to use elsewhere.

The process of creating a mind map using Inspiration has been made very straightforward. Thankfully you don’t have to draw every single line and box, which is something I would personally find more frustrating than inspiring. The way they have done this is by the use of a feature called Rapidfire. When Rapidfire is activated all you need to do to create a new branch is to type your idea and press enter. Pressing Enter initiates the creation of a new branch along with the text that you had typed.

As well as being able to visually map ideas and information on the page, Inspiration also gives you the ability to attach detailed notes, files and web links to any of your branches. This feature is incredibly helpful when you need to organise large amounts of research for a project. A central hub with links to all of your research is a lot more efficient than navigating folders and links to find a specific file or web page.

It is no surprise then that Inspiration is an application perfectly suited to anyone who finds it difficult to organise their work or to effectively plan any projects they are working on. Over the years I’ve talked to a lot of people about writing various different documents -whether it was during my studies or those that I have trained- and it seems that some people do not like to plan their work as they feel it takes up too much time. The Export to Microsoft Word (Also known as Transfer) feature in Inspiration circumvents this issue by taking all the information you have put on your Map/Diagram and arranging it as headers and paragraphs in Word. This means then that you can essentially write your document while you are planning it.

Inspiration can also be used to plan presentations as you have the ability to export to Microsoft PowerPoint as well. This can be done either directly from Diagram/Map or the built in Presentation Manager.

To summarise, Inspiration is a fantastic tool for anyone who finds visual learning helpful and/or has difficulty with organising their work effectively. The ability to attach notes and files, along with the freedom available in creating the diagram allows for an endless number of possibilities while using the software. You can make it as simple or as complex as you wish and then Export it ready to expand and finish.

There is a free trial available on their website (link) so at the very least it’s worth trying to see if you like it, and if you do, it’s a reasonably priced piece of software; especially in comparison to other specialist software out there. At time of writing a single user license only costs £39.99 (or local equivalent).

Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 – What is it? and Who Can it Help?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a voice recognition application for PC developed by the American company, Nuance. It is primarily used for dictation but is also capable of performing many other tasks on your computer, such as navigation and Application control. Version 1 was released in June 1997 and over the past eighteen years it has evolved dramatically. The current version (13) is available in several editions, these are; Home, Premium, Professional and Legal. I should also note that there is a Mac version of Dragon available which is called DragonDictate and is currently on version 4.

The use of Dragon is fairly straightforward, it is quite simply talking. Using your voice you either dictate what you want to be typed or you give a voice command for it to do something. Dragon is more or less fully compatible with many applications including Microsoft Word, Excel and Internet Explorer. It is partially compatible with other applications such as Mindview, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. While with other applications it will not work at all, except through the indirect route of the Dictation Box.

Due to the wealth of abilities that Dragon has available in terms of dictation and voice commands it is a great benefit to a wide range of people. I myself regularly use Dragon to dictate my blogs and stories as I unfortunately sometimes suffer from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) induced pain in my wrists. Thankfully the pain is not always severe and I am able to often use a keyboard and mouse with little difficulty. I have developed the habit of always using Dragon when typing large amounts of text (even when I’m not in pain) to avoid aggravating my wrists. However I have met people who do not always have this luxury (if at all) and for them, Dragon has been even more of a blessing than it has been for me.

While Dragon has been a great benefit to those with physical disabilities it has also shown great promise amongst those who have difficulty in spelling and writing generally, especially in regards to dyslexia. Due to the nature of Dragon you are able to dictate and not worry about how the words are going to be spelt or how the sentence will be structured. You can simply dictate, get the information down and then go back and proof read it by adding punctuation and restructuring sentences or by changing the odd word or phrase. I have met and trained so many people who have found Dragon incredibly helpful as they were previously finding it difficult to translate their thoughts into words through typing. It is as though Dragon has given them a direct route from mind to page and they have been able to make a lot of progress a lot more efficiently than they were before.

It should be noted that I’m in no way saying that Dragon is perfect for everyone as we are all different. However it is definitely a tool that has helped many people and one that I feel is worth looking into.

Technical Specification (Recommended)
Processor: Duel Core 2.2GHz 2MB L2 CACHE
Disk Space: 4GB (downloads require 3 times as much before install)
OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1 32Bit and 64Bit, Windows Server 2008 R2 64 Bit Windows Server 2012 64Bit
Sound: Sound Card supporting 16 Bit recording
Other: Internet connection for Activation and a Web Browser to view Online Help, DVD-ROM drive for disc installation Continue reading “Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 – What is it? and Who Can it Help?”