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I've run into a few situations, where a teacher wants the student to make a mind map, or maybe the student wants to use one to keep better track of notes. Mind maps are nice, but if you do them by hand, they can get a bit messy. I know mine do anyway. So that's what Gliffy is for.
Gliffy is a web app, that helps you create and lay out a mind map, quickly, and easily. It can be really nice to have and instead of spending all that time working on paper, you could probably cut the time in half, and make it cleaner with Gliffy.
So there are a few things that you need to know to get started. First of all, the UI is kind of rough, but the basic structure of the app is based on drop downs. For example, in the left and right sidebars, you can click something, for example UML, and the UML items will drop down. Then all you need to do to put them into your document is click and drag.
Really, that is the hardest part. Everything else seems to be pretty easy. You just find whatever you need, and drag it into the document. There are a variety of shapes, classic flow chart symbols, lines, and all that good stuff.
The next useful thing is sharing. Gliffy allows you to share your mind maps, as a hosted jpg, on their server. This is really a nice feature. If you need to collaborate with friends, or something like that, you just send them a link and you're set.
Then the other thing I really like is the ability to print. When you print from it's print button, the mind map will scale to an 8.5×11" piece of paper. I printed out the one you see here, and on paper it looks good.
Even though this is a tool for school, it is much more expandable. You can use it for work, brainstorming business ideas, designing websites, and just about every other thing that needs basic planning. The fact that Gliffy can be applied to all of these areas, to me, is amazing. Out of the tools for schools I've seen so far, this is one of my favorites, because it goes beyond school, and allows me to do things for work.
Though I must say, I came into this web app disappointed. I was immediately repelled because of the way it looked. I'm kind of picky with that stuff, and no offense to Gliffy, but it's ugly! Despite that, I went on, and I was really really surprised. There is a whole lot of functionality, that is very useful.
So even though it's ugly, it's the thing to use for school, whether it be note-taking, or even using it out of school, with stuff business related. I highly recommend everyone reading this, check out the site. Don't let the UI scare you off!