Quiz time: Name 5 brainstorming/mindmapping apps that have all the bells and whistles but are hard to use. What’s that? You can name more? So true, my friend. So true. There are many brainstorming tools on the web and available as stand alone tools. They all purport to give you this feature and that feature, to be intuitive and come with libraries of pictures. Lines connect automatically to clouds floating over a nebulous sea of white space and text and colours brighten every box, line and word like a colour the number paint set. What happened to the idea of a simple, quick diagram when you need something to quickly and succinctly diagram your ideas?
Simple Diagrams is that solution. This new downloadable application takes back the idea of what a brainstorm is supposed to be. Using Adobe Air, the application quickly downloads and sets itself up. Once in your system, you simply choose to start a new diagram or continue a diagram you have already started. But the main feature of this program is the simplicity of what it offers. Now, you may say that I simply have a bias towards minimalist apps and design. However, when you are trying to quickly draw a mindmap from ideas given by a group of 18 Grade 2/3’s, you don’t have time to fuss around with colours, styles of lines, etc. You want it done for you so you can focus on the ideas.
Simple Diagrams gives you a nice choice of styles for your mindmap area. You can choose from a chalkboard styles, whiteboard style or just a white space. I personally like the chalkboard style background as I think it lends itself nicely to the types of pictures it comes with. There are not a huge amount of pictures that come with the program (hopefully more will come later) but the ones that are provided are nicely designed, simple and more than adequately cover the types of pictures you would want in a brainstorm. The program also provides you with different spaces to write your text on including stickypads, index cards or you can simply double click on the picture to add your text right to the board. The text editing features are few but include the important ones. Some ways to change the font would be nice, however. If you really want to, there is the ability to add pictures to your board as well. Exporting features are very few with the only choice being to export it to basecamp or save as a .png file. There are also no collaborative tools either. The main thing for me, though, is that it is simply an easy, quick tool that I can use without having to fuss around with features. It looks nice, is fun to easy and easy to read once you are done. As it is brand new, I am sure they will be adding new features but hopefully it will not start to suffer from feature overload.
The program is free for Mac and Windows but will pop up messages every once and awhile to remind you to pay for it. However, it is only 19 dollars for what I think is a great little program. The other nice thing is that they will allow you to install the program on a home computer and a work computer using the same license which is a nice touch particularly for educators.