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Jewish World Review May 2, 2001 / 9 Iyar, 5761

Mike Berman

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Consumer Reports

Software that will help you brainstorm -- PROBLEM: You've been saddled with total responsibility for this big project because you've convinced those around you that you're the guru of whatever it is you do, but, truthfully, you don't know where to begin.

Solution: Project KickStart 3 from Experience in Software Inc. ($129.95) or MindManager Business Edition from MindJet LLC ($169.00).

One prompts you through the brainstorming process to give you a workable plan and the other gives you a visual image of your plan so you can see how all the phases fit together. I discovered that one actually enhances the other.

Project KickStart gives you all the tools you need to get those little gray cells working, stimulating the creative process with suggestions for starting phases, courses of action for each phase and objectives. If you find one that fits, you just drag and drop it into your plan.

It also works with numerous pieces of software including Microsoft Project, a wide variety of PIMs (personal information management software such as Microsoft Outlook) and word processors, such as Microsoft Word and spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel.

Features of the program include:

An intuitive interface, including an eight-step toolbar, to guide you through the creation of your project.

Libraries of sample goals, phases and obstacles.

Ten levels of sub-tasking.

A pop-up calendar.

It will convert your data into a Gantt chart.

You can shift tasks according to schedule demands.

You can print a wide variety of reports.

You can include your plan in proposals, budgets and reports because of its link to Word and Excel.

You can e-mail or export your project to your Palm Pilot or to the Web.

I used it to develop a plan for a Web site that I'm thinking of creating and was amazed at how easy it was to use. If I was mired in the muck of thought, all I had to do was choose from the extensive list of samples and drag them into my project.

But that wasn't enough. I still couldn't see how all the pieces fit together. That's where MindManager came into play.

I took all the phases of my project and was able to create a flow chart (they call it a mind map) showing how everything would work together and I also was able to spot a few steps in my plan that were unnecessary or redundant.

I did need to spend about 10 minutes going through the program's tutorial to figure out how it worked, but after that I was off on a creative frenzy.

A few of the key features of the program are:

A new and simplified tool for conferencing via the Internet.

It can link to other Windows documents and Web sites.

An open interface allows for development of new tools to customize the program.

Its "brainstorm" mode helps stimulate your little gray cells for writing speeches, strategic planning or decision-making.

You can organize multiple projects at once.

Its general toolkit speeds up the formatting and editing of your flow chart.

It's easily exportable to the Web.

Both of these programs can be ordered directly from the companies through their Web sites - and

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