mailchimp.comIf you only have less than 2000 subscribers, you can get a free email marketing tool through  It is easy to set up, and did I say it’s free if you have less than 2000 subscribers?

Note that the free version even allows for 12,000 emails per month.  It’s free forever!

I learned about mind mapping over two decades ago.  Within the last year, it has recently come back into the scene, at least my scene.

If you are not sure what “mind mapping” is, then this is your opportunity to learn something new.  If you already know what it is and were taught to use it a certain way, you may be surprised of its other applications.

In this article, I will cover three (3) awesome ways you can use and apply Mind Mapping.  In discussing these mind mapping applications, I will cover the following areas:

  • What is mind mapping?
  • What tools exist and where can I find them?
  • What are the three awesome ways to apply it?

Mind Mapping, What Is It?

Basically, a mind map is a way to represent ideas or information where the connections or relationships between the various information is represented in a visual way. The collection of ideas all revolve around a central idea, represented by one or more words.  The act of doing this is called mind mapping.

The image below is an example of a mind map.

Example of a Mind Map

Example of a Mind Map (click for full view)

Tools That Exist and Where to Find Them?

There are many tools that exists out there to help you create mind maps using your computer.  There are two that I have personally used–both free and with wide range of platform support.

  • Freemind – open source product, available at  I personally use this on my Windows 7 laptop.  It is very high quality and certainly does the job.
  • Mindjet – this is a free product as well; it is available on various platforms including tablets (iOS or Android based); it is available through their respective app stores

Three Awesome Uses

The original intent of mind mapping was to map ideas and how they connect/relate to each other.  That hasn’t changed, but it can be used from a  slightly different perspective, making it an indispensable tool.  Below are three awesome applications for this tool:

  • Brainstorming–out of ideas?  use a mind map to come up with new ideas
  • Taking Notes–it doesn’t have to be as linear as traditional notes; makes for easy review
  • Project Planning–if you don’t want to miss crucial project details, use a mind map


I do a lot of writing.  When I want to write about a particular topic, sooner or later, I run out of things to write about.  When I discovered mind mapping as a brainstorming tool, I no longer experience this problem, because the best way to come up with new ideas and other ideas related to it is to brainstorm using a mind map.
Give it a try and you’ll see how well it works.  Believe me it definitely works.  Through mind mapping, a topic which seems pretty limited will quickly open up into various areas you may not have ever thought about.  When you mind map, new ideas can easily come to mind because you are forced to think of other things related to the topic at hand.
Here’s an example of a mind map I built to help me figure what to write on a topic related to “casual running”.
Running Mind Map
At first I thought I didn’t really have much to write about, but then after doing a mind map, I can see that I have more than enough topics to write about.

Taking Notes

Traditional note taking can be messy.  On top of that, the act of jotting down information the old fashion way is very linear.  This means if I want to add another piece of information into my notes, I would have to figure a way to squeeze it into my hand written notes.  If I’m using a note taking program, I would have to find the line where i want to insert it and type it in.  Finding that line might take a bit of time.
Now, try taking notes using a mind map!  Whether you do it by hand or using an application, the experience is totally different.  I personally feel like it doesn’t matter if I missed jotting down something in the early parts of note taking, because I know can quickly find the place where I want to insert it when the time is right.  I certainly don’t want to miss key information during note taking when I get busy trying to figure out where to put a bit of information; and this can easily happen using the traditional methods; but not as easily on a mind map.
Anyway, with a mind map you can start at the center of the page with the central idea.  From there, bits of information can be connected in a radial way.  Although nothing is linear, it has a clear structure.
I’ve personally have done this during a webinar.  It works great!

Project Planning

What is the one thing that worries you the most when project planning?  For most of us, it is the thought of missing a critical piece of the overall project.
The act of using a mind map helps draw out all aspects of a project.  There is just no way around that.  When you start mind mapping, ideas can flow from map nodes that already exists; in other words, existing information can help trigger the thought of  related or relevant information or activity.
Below is an example of a mind map for a desktop deployment project:
Project Mind Map

Project Mind Map


Mind mapping is the act of using a mind map to graphically draw out an idea or concept.  It is a very versatile tool.

You can do this by hand, but there are many tools out there that can facilitate the creation and saving of mind maps.  The two free tools mentioned here are MindJet (for Android) and FreeMind.

A mind map is not simply a tool for mapping concepts and ideas, but can easily be adapted in various ways.  Three awesome and very practical applications of it are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Taking notes
  • Project planning

How have you applied mind maps?

Best note taking app

Evernote, Best note taking app

I’ve use a lot of note taking tools in my life, including the tried and true notepad and pen.  Nothing have come close to the perfection of Evernote.  Why do I say this?  Well, read on and find out.

What’s wrong with traditional note taking apps and tools?  The very biggest problem with them is that they cause your data to be in one physical location, vulnerable to being lost.  The other problem is that sometimes, you never really have access to that same tool; then, your notes become fragmented and out-of-order.  The next thing is that trying to find an old note can be a big challenge.  Lastly, you are limited to what you can write or type.

Evernote comes close to perfection when it comes to solving your note taking challenge.  Why?  Because it addresses each and everyone of those problems.  And guess what?  It’s free!!!

I’m not going to cover every little thing about Evernote here, but I will highlight its key features:

  • Your notes go to the “cloud”; now it doesn’t matter what happens to your electronic device; it breaks, just get another one and you still have your notes.  If you lose your electronic device, it doesn’t matter, you still have your notes; thus you can never lose your notes (unless Evernote disappears from the face of the earth; which is not very likely considering the success they are having )
  • With Evernote, you can take notes with your desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and through simple texting means.  Most of the time, you’ll have your phone, and as such, you can still take notes.
  • The search function within Evernote is great.  You can search using key words, or through tags; nothing can be easier.
  • With Evernote, you aren’t limited to taking notes by typing; you can add other forms of information like:  audio, videos, images, and photos.  You can’t beat that!
  • Last but not least, it is FREE!
Let me know if this information is useful or if you have more information you would like to share.  Comment below.

Today, I tried to see if I could use one of my eFax account to fax a document to my credit union.  It turns out that they no longer provide the client software and it looks like they charge for everything now.

Free Fax Service

Free Fax Service

So I did a little searching and found  They provide both free and premium FAX services.  Of course, being the free-seeking person that I am, I opted to use the free service.  And guess what?  It did the job!

It was very simple.  You just need to make sure that the document you wish to FAX is already in electronic format–e.g. in PDF, JPG, DOC, or some other well known format.

When you setup to send, all you need to have are the following information:

Sender info

  • Your name
  • Your email address

Receiver info

  • Name
  • Company name
  • Fax number

You also have to enter some confirmation code.  This is to help the site protect itself from SPAMMERS.

That’s it!  You don’t have to register, or anything.

After I you click the Send Free FAX button, you will be asked to confirm by checking looking for their confirmation email and clicking a link there to actually send the fax.  Once you send the fax, you will receive another email stating that your fax has been sent.

For the price, you can’t beat this service.


Most people with very minimal computer background use their web browser without thinking about web safety. They just expect their computer to do its job. Well, there is more than meets the eye when surfing the Internet, especially if you are using someone elses computer or a computer shared by many other people. Here’s what I mean.

When you are browsing the Internet, your web browser leaves a trail of where you’ve been, what you’ve typed, what you’ve seen, and the various information you’ve been entering in web forms. In Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), it even remembers the state of you browser so that if it crashes, you can be restored to the last state of your browsing activity.

Now think about who could potentially see this if you are using a public computer or a shared computer! This is an identity theft scenario just waiting to happen.

IE8's Safety

IE8's Safety

This is where IE8 Safety feature comes into play.  Microsoft has updated IE8 with Internet safety as a major change.  As an example, one of the key things you will notice is that IE8 has an InPrivate Browsing feature–a way for you to browse without leaving a trace.  Note that IE8 has no Phishing Filter as it has been replace by SmartScreen Filter.

Delete Browsing History

Clicking this menu item will bring up the Delete Browsing History dialog box where you can select the specific items in your browsing history you want to delete.  The options include:

  • Preserve Favorite website data:  to keep cookies and temporary Internet files that enable your favorite websites to retain site preferences and display faster
  • Temporary Internet files:  copies of web pages, images, and media that are temporarily saved by IE8 for faster viewing
  • Cookies:  files stored on your computer by websites to save preferences such as your login information
  • History:  list of websites you’ve visited
  • Form Data:  information you typed into web forms
  • Passwords:  saved passwords that are automatically filled in when you login to a website you’ve previously logged in
  • InPrivate Filtering data:  Saved data used by InPrivate Filtering to detect where websites may be automatically sharing details about your visit

If you are paranoid like me, you’ll want to make sure that any trace of your browsing history is truly deleted by making sure you check all of the above and uncheck the first one–Preserve Favorite Website Data.

InPrivate Browsing

InPrivate Browsing

InPrivate Browsing

Selecting this menu item or pressing CTRL-SHIFT-P, will open a new IE8 window running in “InPrivate” browsing mode.  This means that your browsing activity isn’t leaving any trails behind.  Be advised that this InPrivate protection is only in effect for this window.  By default, IE8 will open in its normal mode.

You should use this mode when using public or shared computers to prevent others from finding information about your web activity.

Web Page Privacy Policy

This is basically a report of which sites you’ve visited showing if cookies were accepted or blocked.  Depending on your browser’s privacy policy setting, you may or may not have any reports of cookies being accepted by your system.

Privacy Report

Privacy Report

If you select one of the sites in your privacy report, you will notice that the Summary button becomes enabled, and if you click it you will get the following dialog box:

Privacy Report Summary

Privacy Report Summary

If you decide that the current browser privacy policy isn’t sufficient or you simply wish to change it, you can click the Settings button Privacy Report dialog box.  When you do you get this:

Privacy Policy Settings

Privacy Policy Settings

As you can see, it can get pretty involved just trying to make heads or tails of Privacy Policy.  Suffice it to say that in this window you can control how cookies are allowed or disallowed on your computer.  You can also control the pop-up blocker  and control InPrivate browsing settings.  I’ll cover this area in more detail in another article.

InPrivate Filtering and Settings

When you select Safety then InPrivate Filtering from the command bar, you toggle on and off this feature.  What exactly is InPrivate Filtering?  It is a feature that allows you to block the sharing of information about the sites you visit to third party content providers.  This information can be used to generate a profile about you which then can be used for targetted advertisements.

You can choose to automatically block, choose which ones to block/allow, or to simply have it off by selecting the InPrivate Filtering Settings menu item from the Safety command bar drop down menu.  The window for InPrivate Settings is shown below.

InPrivate Filtering Settings

InPrivate Filtering Settings

Security Report

The feature activates when the site you are visiting is secure–meaning it is using HTTPS in the URL.  When you select this from the menu (under Safety in the command bar), IE8 will bring up a little pop up window that provides information about the site.  The example below show what I got when I went to the logon page of gmail.

Security Report on gmail

Security Report on gmail

As you can see, it provides information about who the certificate of authority (CA)  is and other information related to the site’s certificates.   Typically, the CA is the one vouching for the sites identity.  In this case the CA is Verisign–a very reputable CA company.

International Website Address

There isn’t really much information about this function in IE8.  The closest thing on this I can find from Microsoft is an article on “What are International Domain Names?

This item appears to be disabled or grayed out all the time.  So there was no way to determine exactly what it does.  Although, I’m guessing that if a site is an international site where the domain name can be shown in its native language, then this feature might allow you to show it in its original form or standard text encoding.

This appears to be a security feature because it is possible for text encoding to look like a legitimate looking domain when, in fact, it is a foreign site!

You’ll probably not even use this, but it is good to know what it may be used for.

SmartScreen Filter

This is IE8’s replacement for the Phishing Filter that was introduced in IE7.  When it is on, IE8 will send the website you are visiting to Microsoft to check to see if it is in the list of phishing or malicious software distribution sites.  It it is, you will get an RED background in the address bar and you will get a block message from IE8.  You can ignore the message and continue to the bad site or you can go to your home page (recommended).

If you suspect a site is a suspicious or potentially malicious site, you can submit a site to Microsoft for review by selecting Check This Website from the SmartScreen Filter submenu.

Although it isn’t recommended, you can turn off this feature by selecting Turn Off SmartScreen Filter from the submenu.

If you visit a site that is obviously a malicious one, you can simply report this abuse by selecting Report Unsafe Website from the SmartScreen Filter submenu.

As you can see, this is a very powerful feature of IE8 to help protect users from malicious sites that are there to potentially steal your identity or to spread malware to your computer.

Windows Update

This feature will navigate you out of the page you are currently viewing to Microsoft’s update site.  There Microsoft will assess what updates your computer needs and you can opt to install them.

I recommend installing critical security updates at the very minimum as these will close any vulnerabilities your computer might have from hackers who will exploit them.


IE8 is a major change from the previous versions due to heavy focus on security.  The Safety feature of IE8 is a testament to that.


The Page function of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is probably where most action takes place for web page related functions the user will take.  It has the following basic menu items

  • Cut, copy, and paste
  • Accelerators (links to sites)
  • Edit, Save As, Send page or link by E-mail
  • Compatibility viewing options (enable it or configure it)
  • Page displaying options like Zoom, Text size, Style, Encoding, Caret browsing
  • Properties
  • View Source

Most of the items here are common knowledge to the general user population; so we will only cover those functions that are more obscure to the most casual user.  We’ll cover those that are in bold above:  compatibility viewing options, style, encoding, caret browsing, and view source.

Compatibility Viewing Options

Previous versions of Internet Explorer have the reputation of not following web standards, as it relates to how web page mark up codes are interpreted. In addition, they were known to use their own unique mark up code–forcing web masters to create various hacks just to make sure their pages work in IE6 or IE7.

Well, after many years, Microsoft finally saw the light and have come to adopt web standards–resutling in the release of IE8. Now, what happens to the pages that were designed to be best viewed in IE6 or IE7? In some cases, they might not look right. This is where the compatibility option comes in.

If you enable the Compatibility View option, IE8 will allow you to run in a sort of IE6 or IE7 mode.  So if you ever find a site that may have been designed for the older Internet Explorers, you’ll want to enable this option, and add the site to the list of sites you wish to view in compatible mode.  You can add them by selecting Compatibility View Settings.

Bottom line…if a page doesn’t look right, try enabling the Compatbility View option.


The Style menu item has two submenu items–no style and default style.  As some people know, web pages may have styles associated with it.  Styles can be embedded in a page or it can be included using CSS (cascading style sheets).

Styles control how content is displayed.  So by default, IE8 uses styles.  You can disable Style by selecting No Style.  When you do, IE8 will simply show you content in a linear fashion–pretty much in the order they appear in the page, with no style.

When would you use “No Style”?  Probably if you want to keep the view to the content plain.


Encoding is the language and character set to use when displaying a web page. Most people don’t have to mess with this because the default setting is “Auto” and most pages have information to tell the browser what language encoding to use.

However, if for some reason the page does not include that information, and you have the Language Encoding Auto-Select feature on, IE8 can probably determine the correct encoding. For the case it cannot, the Encoding feature allows you to choose.

Caret Browsing

No. This isn’t some new browsing trend where you eat carrots while you browse. It is an accessibility feature on IE8 that allows one to browse using the keyboard.

When it is on, a movable cursor will become visible. Using the keyboard, a user can navigate the browser with that cursor. That same cursor can be used to select and copy snippets of the page being viewed.

This feature can be applied on a per tab basis. Pressing F7 toggles it on or off.

View Source

Most people would probably not care about using this feature, but if for some reason you want to see how a web page is coded in HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), then this is how you would see it.

Closing Remarks

By getting yourself familiar with these features, you will become more knowledgeable about IE8 than probably 99% of the population! As a result, you can be more productive in how you deal with a web page.

In this article we will quickly cover the three basic functions that allow you to get input or output from Internet Explorer 8 (IE8).  These functions are as follows:

  • RSS Feed
  • Get Mail
  • Print
IE* RSS Feed Function

IE* RSS Feed Function

The image on the left is the icon representing the RSS Feed function.  RSS

Active RSS Feed

Active RSS Feed

 stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, but lately it also has come to mean “Rich Site Summary”.  When you browse a site with RSS feed, this icon will change in color from it grey color to bright orange.  At that point, you can click it and you will be able to subscribe to the feed using your RSS reader (mine is set through Google).  Thereafter, any new update from the site will show up in your RSS feed.  Thus RSS feed is a way to get input through IE8.

IE8 Read Mail

IE8 Read Mail

Next is the Read Mail function.  This is tied to your default email program.  On my Windows Vista machine, it defaults to launching Windows Mail.  I don’t quite see how this ties to IE8, but I suppose it makes it convenient to have email readily available from the IE8 interface.

IE8 Print Function

IE8 Print Function

Last but not least is the Print function.  Obviously this is a way to get output from IE8.  When you click the Print icon, you will get three choices:  Print, Print Preview, and Page Setup.  If you select Print IE8  simply prints the page you are looking at to the default printer.  Print Preview allows you to see how the print will look like, possibly make some adjustmenets, before you commit to a print.  Finally, Page Setup allows you to make adjustments to your printing setup–to include margins, printing orientation, font to use, and header/footer information.
There are really nothing earth shattering about the functions just discussed; however, if you’ve never used them, you might not know how useful they can be–after all, these features are IE8’s primary means of inputting and outputting to its users.

Your Internet browser’s setting for home page is your very first view into the Internet the moment the browser is opened.  It only makes sense that you set it to a page that you use most often so that you can save time in your Internet surfing activity.  This page is called your home page.

What if you have more than one page you wished you could open everytime you ran your browser?  Well, with Internet Explorer (IE) 8 (or IE 7 for that matter), you can open more than one.  As a matter of fact, you can open up to 8 home pages when you launch IE 8.

Home Page Icon

Home Page Icon

 The Home Page icon is illustrated on the left.  When you click the icon IE 8 will take you to your home pages.  If you only have one, you can add 7 more by clicking the down arrow immediately to the right of the Home Page icon.

When you click on that down arrow, you can choose from the list of your up to 8

Remove Home Page

Remove Home Page

 home pages or you can manage your home pages.  Specifically, you can

  • Add or Change Home Page
  • or Remove (a home page or all)

If you are setting your home pages for the first time, the quickest way to do it is to open IE 8, set each tab to browse to the appropriate page, then click the Tools item from the command bar, then select Internet Options from the drop down menu that shows. 

In the Internet Options window, make sure you are in the General tab.  From there, simply click the Use Current button, and that will set your home pages.  Click the OK button of the Internet Options window and you are done.

Internet Options dialog box

Internet Options dialog box

Most people don’t know these about Internet Explorer 8’s Home Page function.  You are now one of the few who does; make sure to pass this information on.