Comparison of Commercial versus Free software.
MindView 5 Mac
I downloaded the demo version of MindView 5 Mac to experiment with commercial mind mapping software.
I used it to create an outline for a workshop, which I have to present. At first I was overawed by the amount of icons on the desktop and the size of the manual – 121 pages. However I found “Quick Start” and used this to begin planning my workshop. Within about 5 minutes I had worked out how to add subheadings, had a play with styles and background colours and was well on my way to preparing my presentation. The beauty of this product is that it can be directly imported into Microsoft PowerPoint. I also played with it in presentation mode and thought this was a great feature as well.
It can easily be converted to an outline and exported to Microsoft Word where you can have the beginning of an essay / report. This would be extremely handy for students who don’t like to think in a linear fashion to begin with.
It has a bank of it’s own clipart as well as being able to import your own if needed.
Notes can be added with text or by an audio note: a useful feature for those who may be having problems with writing.
New boxes can be easily added by double clicking on the box.
XMind on My Study Bar V3 for XP
Once again I have come across problems with My Study Bar. This could be such a useful tool but so far I haven’t found it isn’t easy to use.
I spoke about some of the problems I have had to date in an audio blog, which I posted a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately my experiences aren’t getting any better.
Although XMind can be downloaded as free software I am particularly interested in using it on My Study Bar as this is more feasible when working at a school.
Today I experimented with XMind on My Study Bar. I didn’t find it as easy to learn how to use as MindView 5. There wasn’t a manual to go with it and although there is a Help section I didn’t find this as easy to read and understand as the manual for MindView 5.
It has similar features to MindView 5, in that you can select the type of mind map you wish, change background colours, font type and size. It doesn’t have a presentation mode, which isn’t really necessary but a nice feature. It can be saved onto the USB stick to be opened at another time, but not onto the computer. This makes sense as the program isn’t on the computer. I haven’t been able to export it into a Word document, despite the tutorial saying, that by first clicking on HTML you then can choose a word format. It can however, be saved as an outline in a txt file.
So once again, the excitement of using one of the features of My Study Bar is dashed by it not working. Students and teachers need technology to work as it is supposed to, otherwise frustration sets in and it won’t be used. I do like mind mapping though and will be encouraging the student I am working with to use it to plan his school reports or use it to make summaries as a way of doing revision.
LetMe Type is an example of text prediction software and is found on My Study Bar. Before this can be used effectively, it would be best to import a list of words, so that the writer may start to use it immediately instead of having to wait for it to “learn” a list of words while using the “learning on” function. It is useful to be able to turn the learning words function off, especially if the user may be a poor speller. This stops it from learning incorrect spelling.
In settings you can set up the desired number of suggestions as well as how many characters you wish to type in before a suggestion is given. This can be set according to the needs of the student.
The background colour, font type and size can be adjusted to suit the user’s individual needs.
You can tell LetMe Type to only work within certain apps, or not to work within certain apps.
Vocabulary may be grouped according to subjects, through the use of different lexicons. This is a useful feature as it can be customised for the user.
I am fortunate enough to have co-writer downloaded onto a laptop at school but haven’t had time to teach myself or others how to use it. During the past week I have had a play and was impressed with its ability to immediately predict words without having to add the vocabulary first. Not only was it able to complete the word being typed but predict what word might be coming next in the sentence. This is because it is based on linguistic word prediction. As it can predict words in sentences this will build motivation and confidence in the user.
It is also able to recognise invented and phonetic spelling, letter reversals and words with omissions and give fairly accurate suggestions. This is extremely useful to poor and or phonetic spellers.
Unlike LetMe Type it already comes with a huge bank of subject specific vocabulary (over 200 topics) which can be turned on to assist for example, in writing reports on particular topics. Similar to LetMe Type you can also create your own topic banks.
Co-writer 6 has the ability to have each word in the drop down box read out to the user. Therefore when having to choose the correct word you don’t have to be able to know what it looks like, you can listen to each of the words. LetMe Type doesn’t have this ability.
As a shortcut each program allows you to insert the word by typing in the number beside it. This leads to greater productivity as it isn’t necessary to be using the cursor to highlight the word chosen.
Co-writer 6 will immediately read the sentence back to the writer once a full stop has been placed. This will help with editing to make sure that what is written is what the user wants.
Features such as background colour, text type and size can be changed to suit the needs of the user as well. Speech can be adjusted as well and used in any format where text is being written.
The good news is that Co-writer 6 is now available for OSx operating systems. Co-writer 6 is an extremely useful tool, I only wish it didn’t cost so much, thus making it difficult to use in schools due to budget restrictions.