If only all software packages were as successful as Inspiration. Inspiration Software originally designed their self-named software for teachers. However, this easy-to-use flowchart application has found a home with everyone from Web designers to IT professionals.
Inspiration can organize information into topic outlines, flowcharts, and diagrams. It's an excellent prototyping tool for people working in Web design: you brainstorm using your computer, creating symbols that you can drop, drag, format, and rearrange until you've managed to organize your thoughts. You can turn a collection of random pages into a neatly ordered site tree, allowing anyone who's looked at the chart to intuit how the pages are grouped and how users will navigate from section to section.
A Friendly Introduction
The application is beginner-friendly and easy to explore; when you create a new document, a blank field with a central, floating oval appears where you type your main idea. Details, related ideas, and other items are added accordingly. You can then use the floating palette to select from a variety of object shapes, or use the top or bottom tool bars to begin manipulating the objects into order: change the color, change the size or shape, or reposition.
One of the most-powerful features in Inspiration is the ability to group objects, link them together, and organize them in outline or tree form. The Arrange feature lets you render visual order on the massed ovals, rectangles or other eclectic object shapes you've selected.
Visual thinkers will quickly warm to how easily they can generate and manipulate linear, branched, or clustered diagrams. For those who brainstorm better using text and outlines, Inspiration can create a text outline and convert the results to an attractive visual diagram. The tool bar for the outline option is easy to use and intuitive, and it's incredibly simple to switch back and forth between the outline and diagram modes.
In the beginning Inspiration is easy use because most of the functions its buttons perform are self-evident, but its most-powerful features reveal themselves as users continue to further manipulate information. One of the strongest methods for organizing content is to create links between objects -- an idea to its supporting details, or a Web page to its sub-pages. The program's Rapid Fire button is especially efficient at this task: it differs from the Create and Link buttons in that you can simultaneously generate and link multiple, related objects. However, using the Rapid Fire button is an exercise in experimentation: it took a few attempts to understand that the Rapid Fire command breaks out separate objects only after the user hits the Enter button between objects, then clicks outside the parent object. Rapid Fire is a crucial tool for quickly rearranging or generating a flow of related objects -- a core task for whomever would want to use Inspiration.
Macworld's Buying Advice
The only drawback to Inspiration is that it's necessary to read the instruction manual cover-to-cover in order to truly find your way around the program. But the payoff of a solid-performing application is well worth this investment. Plus, Inspiration 6.0, at $69, is much less of a monetary investment than the competition. A free 30-day download is available from the Inspiration Software Web site.Simplicity: Inspiration 6.0 features a simple layout plan.Remember the Past: Archiving is made easy using Inspiration 6.0.An Example Layout: Inspiration 6.0 keeps things simple, at least in the beginning.