Take Your Concept Maps To The Next Level with BigPicture

If you’re a mind mapping or concept mapping enthusiast, you know how effective these tools can be.  Ideas, processes, and decisions are clarified and presented with powerful visuals–something BigPicture for Excel software does with ease:

hypothese bp map closeup

BP chart image

But BigPicture can go beyond these diagrams. One of the software’s stand-out features is its ability to link to Excel spreadsheet data, and automatically reflect any changes in that data should it change–creating what we call a ‘live-linked data map’. This feature allows you to automatically display your data as visual maps that can be manipulated, customized, and hyper-linked to other resources.

That means you can take data, such as a compiled list of the final MLB (Major League Baseball) standings, plus other information, for the 2014 season:

mlb data sheet

This data sheet has one row for each of the 30 MLB teams. It lists the team name, division, league, location, and two hyperlinks for team information. It also lists the number of wins and losses, the winning percentage, and total runs scored for each team.

 

That information can be easily converted into a map that looks like this:

mlb data map

 

This map displays  League and Division, and features end tables of the teams in a given division, along with their wins, losses, winning percentage, and runs scored. The end tables also show markers and hyperlinks for the teams and their locations.  All that data from the spreadsheet is now shown in a visual, logical map that can be easily read and understood.

Want to learn how to do this yourself? Head over to our BigPicture Help Manual, and check out the step-by-step guide, “What is a Data Map and how do I create a Data Map?”

 

 

Quantitative Maps in BigPicture: Video Tutorial

While BigPicture can be used for pure fun, like creating maps of your favorite sports’ tournaments, analyzing who’s overpaid in the NFL, or brainstorming about your next vacation–BigPicture can also be used for more serious and sophisticated applications.  For example, BigPicture can help you understand quantitative models through visual maps. This can be useful for professionals in management science and other quantitative fields.

BigPicture helps you show, in a visual manner, how a quantitative model translates variable  inputs into the bottom-line outputs.  To learn how to take advantage of this great technique, watch our step-by-step guide below:

Download BigPicture so you can start exploring all its features and capabilities.

Five-Star Review for BigPicture in Small Business Trends

BigPicture garnered a rave review from Small Business Trends, an award-winning online publication for small business owners, entrepreneursFive-Star Review for BigPicture in Small Business Trends and the people who interact with them. The online magazine bills itself as “one of the most popular independent small business publications on the web.”

Reporter Matt Mansfield goes through the software’s myriad features, noting that “BigPicture is like peeling an onion – there are a lot of layers inside, each one adding depth and functionality to this new Excel add-on.”

Mansfield explores BigPicture’s mind mapping capability, both with and without Excel data, and is more than a little impressed:

Let me take a deep breath here so I can yell, “Squeeee!!!!”

Why am I so excited? Because BigPicture combines the power of Excel to manipulate numbers and play all sorts of “what if?” scenarios and reporting set-ups with automatically created, easy-to-understand images.

The review also covers BigPicture’s capabilities for sales reporting, dashboard-building, and org-chart generation. Mansfield’s reaction is nothing short of glowing:

With its deeply flexible features and functionality, as well as an ever growing set of documentation and videos, BigPicture is the one tool you don’t want to overlook in 2015.

In summary, Small Business Trends gave BigPicture a full five out of five stars for all three of their metrics: usefulness, functionality, and price.  We couldn’t agree more with them!

Read the complete review here.

Two Rave Reviews for BigPicture

 

Industry leader Mind Mapping Software Blog says: “BigPicture’s elegant toolset is ideal for any executive who already uses Excel in his or her work… Calling BigPicture an add-in hardly does it justice. It offers a comprehensive toolset that enables you to quickly get to work creating new mind maps, concept maps and flow chart diagrams, while leveraging Excel’s existing drawing and editing tools to adjust the formatting of individual elements.” Read the complete review here.

Small Business Trends’ review of BigPicture says, “by the time you reach the center of BigPicture, you’re going to wonder how you ever lived without it… With its deeply flexible features and functionality, as well as an ever growing set of documentation and videos, BigPicture is the one tool you don’t want to overlook in 2015.”

 

What’s New in BigPicture? Attach Custom Shapes

The BigPicture development team is always working to improve our software, which means regular updates.  Here’s a sample of what we’ve added to our latest deployment of BigPicture Beta on May 5, 2015:

Attach Custom Shapes

This option is available under the Attach Shapes category, and can be found via Attach Shapes > Custom. This is simply a way that you can add Excel shapes to the selected topic(s).

By utilizing the Custom command a default light yellow call-out shape will be attached to the selected topic(s) and will move with the topic(s). Simply select that topic(s) that you would like to attach an image to, right click and choose the Attach Shapes > Custom > Add New command. (NOTE: You can also access this command from the Topic Tools icon in the BigPicture ribbon.)

Here are some additional notes describing how this command can improve your maps:

  1. The default light yellow call-out shape will appear above top-most topic selected.
  2. You can customize your shape by utilizing Excel’s standard capabilities of changing the color, shape effects, size, font, text, etc.
  3. If you decide to move the topic(s) that the custom shape is attached to, the shape will move also.
  4. Custom shapes can overlap.
  5. Multiple custom shapes can be added to the same topic, or group of topics. All of which can be moved and re-sized. (NOTE: To access any custom shapes that may be hidden behind another one, simply right click and utilize the Send to Back and Bring to Front commands from the pop-up menu.)
  6. If you collapse (hide) any of the topics that the shape is attached to, the shape will collapse (hide) with it.
  7. A custom shape can be to a single topic or multiple topics.

If you would like to use the same style custom shape (or any other existing “non-BigPicture” Excel shape) that already exists:

  • Select the topic(s) that you would like to add that custom shape to FIRST
  • Choose the Attach Shapes > Custom > Copy Existing command.
  • At this point a dialog will appear asking you to select the shape that you would like to copy. Click on the existing shape that you would like to duplicate.
  • Click OK.

NOTE: To remove a custom shape, just click on the shape and hit your delete key on your keyboard.

screensteps2Click here for a complete overview of BigPicture updates.

What’s New in BigPicture? Attach Boundary Shapes

The BigPicture development team is always working to improve our software, which means regular updates.  Here’s a sample of what we’ve added to our latest deployment of BigPicture Beta on May 5, 2015:

Attach Boundary Shapes

BigPicture now has the ability to Attach Shapes to your existing topics. There are two commands that have been added under the “Attach Shape” category. The first is the Attach Shapes > Boundary command which will typically be attached to a group of related topics. The second is the Attach Shapes > Custom command that would be more applicable with a single topic. These new commands are incredibly flexible and will help you add some additional pizazz to your maps!

By utilizing the Boundary command a default shape will be placed behind the selected topics and will move and re-size with the topics. Simply select that topics that you would like to “group” together with a boundary and right click on a topic and choose the Attach Shapes > Boundary > Add New command. (NOTE: You can also access this command from the Topic Tools icon in the BigPicture ribbon.)

Here are some additional notes describing how this command works and how it can improve your maps:

(Note that the numbers correspond to the image below.)

  1. The default shape will appear behind the selected topics.
  2. You can customize your boundary shape by utilizing Excel’s standard capabilities of changing the color, shape effects, size, font, text, etc.
  3. If you decide to move one of the topics in the boundary shape, the shape will re-size automatically.
  4. A boundary can be placed around a single topic.
  5. Boundaries can overlap.
  6. Multiple boundary shapes can be added to the same topic, or group of topics. All of which can be moved and re-sized. (NOTE: To access any boundaries that may be hidden behind another one, simply right click and utilize the Send to Back and Bring to Front commands from the pop-up menu.)
  7. Boundaries can even be manipulated so that they do not surround the topics – yet will still collapse and open with the topics that they have been “bound” to!

You can change the topics included in an existing boundary:

  • Click on a Topic in the group that has the boundary that you would like to edit.
  • Right-click and choose Attach Shapes > Boundary > Edit Existing command. A dialog will come up that lists the topics that are currently included.
  • To add topics simply click on the topics that you would like included.
  • If you would like to remove a topic click on any of the white space in your spreadsheet to clear the listing and then select only the topics that you would like included in your boundary.

If you would like to use the same style boundary shape that already exists in your map:

  • Select the topics that you would like to add a boundary to FIRST.
  • Choose the Attach Shapes > Boundary > Copy Existing command. At this point a dialog will appear asking you to select the Shape that you would like to copy.
  • Click on the existing Boundary shape or attached custom shape that you would like to duplicate.
  • Click OK.

All in all, you will now be able to add a lot of other supporting shapes to a map and they will conveniently move and hide with the topics they are attached to.

NOTE: To remove a boundary, just delete the shape in Excel by clicking on it and hitting your Delete key on your keyboard

screensteps1Click here for a complete overview of BigPicture updates.

BigPicture Example Series: Data Map of Power Generation in the Midwest

In the BigPicture Example Series, we’ll show you different ways you can make BigPicture work for you.  You can check out all these example files with your copy of the BigPicture software, which you can download here. Get BigPicture today and start playing with these fun and informative example models. The possibilities are limitless.

BigPicture is an excellent tool for generating a Data Map from a set of example data. For example: check out this  data set of major electric power plants in four states in the US Midwest:

powergendataset

A Data Map is created by grouping values in selected columns in a data set. In this example, grouping is made by State and Primary Energy Source. The map includes a topic for each state, with subsequent child topics following each state representing the possible Primary Energy Source values in that state. In BigPicture, these parent and child topics are called “Grouped Topics”.

powergen1

A set of end topics will follow the grouped topics for each State and Primary Energy Source. These end topics represent those electric power plants that have the same State and Primary Energy Source values. You can select the data you want to include for each end topic. In this example we’ll display Plant name, Operating Company name and the value for Capacity (MW).

In a Data Map, end topics are usually displayed in End Tables, instead of in actual map topics. By using tables, the number of topics required for a map is minimized, while still allowing the graphical display of the data. However, if desired, you can create an individual topic in the map for each end topic, resulting in a larger map with more connectors and topics.

powergen2

The capacity value for each plant can be subtotalled up through the grouped topics that precede it. For example, the grouped topic for the state Illinois will show the total Capacity for all plants in Illinois. These values are “live”, so if you change a capacity value in the data set , the map values will recalculate.

powergen3

Markers and pictures can be added to enhance the map. For this map, BigPicture adde a company logo to each plant’s entry by matching a picture file from the Photos folder to the listed company name. A hyperlink was also added to the table to provide a link to a web location that has additional information on each plant. BigPicture reads this hyperlink from the Detailed Description column of the data set and displays the Hyperlink in each plant’s entry in the End Table. Illustrative pictures are also added to grouped topics to highlight each State and Primary Energy Source.

 

Check out the full example model in BigPicture’s ‘Example Spreadsheets’ section under the Help menu:

 

help