social, health, political imagery through the lens of G J Huba PhD © 2012-2021

A few years ago, I introduced the term VIsual THinking ENvironment to describe applications that provide a number of visual thinking tools like mind maps, concept maps, flow charts, diagramming, statistical graphics, and visual representations of models, theories, and new knowledge in an integrated way within a single application.

As I used and experimented with new (or newly revised) mind mapping applications every year, I noticed how they were evolving from mind mapping to thinking environments by continuing to implement new and easier ways to process diagrams, figures, photography, sketches, doodles, and logic models together and build integration among tools that permit input visualization and visual output.

The best (and right now the only) evolving mind mapping application to include related new or adapted visual information processing methods is iMindMap 11. It is the only application that provides a well-conceived suite of techniques to form a Visual Thinking Environment (VITHEN). I believe that iMindMap should be rated A++ as a mind mapping program and A as an evolving VITHEN. I fully expect the entire iMindMap 11 suite to be as useful and developed as the mind mapping module within an iteration or three.

So, what is a VITHEN? The following mind map (created in iMindMap 11) incorporates my definition. A fully developed VITHEN not only will produce mind maps and other graphics but most importantly encourages intelligent use in model and theory building and optimizing creativity and effective knowledge development and presentation.

Click on the image to expand it.

What is a Visual Thinking Environment or VITHEN

The next posts include a “formal review” of iMindMap 11, examples of advanced mind maps (which I characterize as MIND MODELS), and an analysis of advantages of a VIsual THinking ENvironment over traditional mind mapping and other graphic thinking tools.

Click here for a full review of iMindMap, Version 11.
Review posted 10-28-18.



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  1. Chuck Frey #
    October 19, 2018

    What about MindManager 2019? It enables creation of many types of visual models, including concept maps, flowcharts, 4 quadrant diagrams, business model designs, Venn diagrams and a powerful information architect toolset that lets you create your own. No matter which type of diagram you choose, each topic can still contain notes, icons, links and task data.

    • October 29, 2018

      Hi Chuck, I waited more than a week to answer your question until I had posted my full review of iMindMap Version 11 (see the link above in this post). I have always thought that a key difference between a great mind mapping application as opposed to an adequate one is that the great application almost “forces” creative thinking as ideas are displayed simultaneously and hierarchically with other relationships shown as well as priorities and relevance. A great mind mapping application which evolves into a visual thinking environment to me is one which almost makes it automatic to think better using visual tools. It is not a simple comparison of features in different programs (or to a standard) that defines which is a better mind mapping tool that is transitioning to a higher level as a visual thinking environment. I do look at competing mind mapping programs before I make a pronouncement that one is the best. MindManager 2019 is not available for the Mac so I can not directly compare it to iMindMap Version 11 but I have done so with the previous version which is available on the Mac. Even though I used MM for years (I started at their 2nd release which was more than a decade before iMM appeared), I see Mind Manager as more of a front end to a database or presentation method than as a tool that sparks creativity and new and better ways of visual thinking. It is the ability of a program to spark creative and definitive visual thinking that makes it a better program not the features in the program. Mind Manager just does not fell the same to me as iMindMap, and I find MM to be only a runner-up. This is a judgment call, but it is a judgment that I made after a lot of experience with mind mapping apps. George

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