In the time it takes you to read this sentence, an idea could spring to life. For most of us, jotting down that idea means fumbling for a pen and paper. Software such as ConceptDraw MindMap Pro 5.5 can help you capture the thought just as easily.

Think of a good candidate for a web design team you're assembling? Suddenly inspired to build a canoe from scratch? ConceptDraw MindMap Pro 5.5's open interface - really, it's just a blank page with objects for text and artwork - is like the king of idea-generation because it doesn't try to flaunt its powerful features.

The current version ConceptDraw MindMap Pro streamlines the familiar MindMap interface so you can find clip art, tools, and document viewing options faster and more easily.

For example, there are sidebars on the left for dropping artwork onto the page, and a symbol library where you can attach icons - such as a stop sign or a thumbs-up symbol - to any object. Using ConceptDraw MindMap Pro 5.5 is almost like running Microsoft Word 2008 in full-screen mode, but without all the palettes and menu choices, so you can focus on your idea.

(You can even export files in Word-compatible Rich Text Format and use them as Word outlines.) ConceptDraw MindMap Pro 5.5's "blank page" concept works better than the more cluttered Zengobi Curio 5, a similar brainstorming tool.

NEXT PAGE: mimicking the brain

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