"How to" Guideline series is coordinated by Helen Mongan-Rallis of the Education Department at the University of Minnesota Duluth. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions to improve these guidelines please me at e-mail hrallis@d.umn.edu.

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Inspiration Basics

Developed by Helen Mongan-Rallis, February 2003. Last updated: December 5, 2007 . Adapted from Inspiration 7 Getting Started Guide

  1. Links to Inspiration website
  2. Overview of concepts
  3. Using the basic functions in the diagram view
  4. Using the basic functions in the outline view

Links to Inspiration website

Overview of concepts

Diagram view

Used to process, organize and prioritize information visually. Consists of a visual showing symbols, links, labels. These are created by using the diagramming toolbar (at top), formatting toolbar (at bottom) and the symbol palette (on left).

  1. Concept map: hierarchical diagram representing a set of concepts, beginning with the most general and working down to the most specific. Concepts are linked by arrows which may be labeled to explain the relationship between concepts. Useful for illustrating concepts or mapping knowledge.
  2. Idea map: Used for brainstorming ideas. Begins with the main idea in the center. As related ideas are added, these are inserted into symbols connected to the main idea by links. These ideas, in turn, can be connected to sub-ideas. Useful for planning, drafting initial ideas for writing, problem solving.
  3. Web: a diagram that shows the relationship among different concepts/terms/ideas. Shows with the main idea in the center connected to different categories of information. Useful for analyzing stories, for brainstorming, for planning reports.
  4. Storyboard: a hierarchical diagram used to organize multimedia presentations, web sites, plan portfolios.

Diagram view

Outline view

displays the diagram view in a conventional hierarchical structure. Once you have used the diagram -- or visual -- view to brainstorm ideas, plan a project, organize ideas, you can then convert this into a text outline. You can also use the outline view to add ideas or topics and to add notes.

Outline view

Using the basic functions in the diagram view

Main idea

When you open a new Inspiration document, it will show a symbol in the center of the screen. This is for the main idea. Click inside the symbol and type the name of your main idea.


Using symbol palette:

There is an extensive library of symbols on the palette to the left of the screen.

  1. Click once on the main idea symbol in the center of your screen.
  2. Next click on one of the symbols on the symbol palette. This replaces the default main idea symbol with the one that you have selected.
  3. basic tool bar buttonnOn the symbol palette, click on the right arrow located just below the word "basic." This enables you to scroll to the next symbol palette. If you click on the down arrow just below the word "basic" this will display a list of the different symbol palettes. To select a category, move the cursor over the desired category and then click on it.
  4. Experiment with replacing the main idea symbol with different symbols that you have selected from the different symbol palettes.
  5. You can also add symbols to the diagram by clicking on them and dragging and dropping them anywhere onto the diagram. When you do this, the symbols will not be connected to any other symbols.
  6. To move symbols to different positions on the diagram, click on them --> drag --> drop in the desired location.

    Inserting your own photos or other images as symbol:

  7. Click once on the symbol that you wish to replace with your own photo or other image from source outside of Inspiration.
  8. From the Edit menu --> select Insert Graphic --> this opens a box .
  9. Navigate to where you have the desired image stored --> click the Open button.
  10. This will replace the original image with the one you have selected (it is a good idea to resize the image to a suitable size prior to inserting it into your diagram so that it doesn't take up too much space).

Adding symbols using the create button

  1. Create button Click once to select the main idea symbol.
  2. Next move the cursor over the create button (on the diagramming tool bar). Notice that as you move the cursor over different parts of the create button, the different symbols radiating from the center change color.
  3. Click on one of these. Notice how this creates a new symbol on your diagram, connected to your main idea with an arrow.
  4. Select the main idea again (by clicking once on it). Create another symbol linked to it using the create button, but this time radiating from the main idea in another direction.
  5. Now select one of the new symbols that you have created, and create a set of symbols radiating out from that symbol, using the create button.
  6. Notice that when you create subtopics (shown as symbols) connected to the main idea, a small arrow appears to the right of the main idea. This is a Subtopic Quick Control button. It shows that there are subtopics, and can be used to display or to hide the subtopics.
  7. To label the subtopic symbols, click in the center of them, then type the desired label. If you make a mistake or decide later that you wish to change the label, all you need to do is click on the label once to select it and then enter the new label.
  8. To label the connections or links between two symbols, click on the connecting arrow and type in the label.

Adding symbols using the rapid fire button

rapid fire buttonThe rapid fire tool enables you to brainstorm ideas connected to the main idea (or to sub-ideas) quickly and easily without having to worry about creating a new symbol each time. To do this:

  1. Select one of the symbols on your diagram (can be the main idea or any symbol from which you would like to brainstorm connections).
  2. Click on the Rapid Fire button. This places a red rapid fire icon in the symbol, indicating that the Rapid Fire tool is turned on.
  3. Type the idea that you want to connect to the concept in the symbol that you have selected. Then hit the return/enter key. Type the next idea and hit return/enter. Notice that each time you hit return/enter, a new symbol appears with the idea in the center
  4. To turn off the Rapid Fire tool, click on the Rapid Fire button.

Adding symbols that are not connected to main or other ideas

Sometime you will want to add ideas to the diagram, but not be sure where they fit in or to which ideas they connect. You can create "free floating" symbols for these ideas. To do this:

  1. Click anywhere on the diagram in one of the open spaces (so anyone except on an existing symbol or line).
  2. Type your idea. As soon as you do this, Inspiration will automatically create a symbol as a container for your idea. This will not be connected to anything.
  3. You can move the symbols (free floating or connected symbols) anywhere on the screen simply by clicking on them and dragging them to the desired location.

Adding links to connect symbols

link buttonLinks show the connections or relationships between ideas.

  1. Create a series of free-floating symbols (i.e. not connected to any other symbols) as you did above (either by clicking on an open space and typing or by selecting a symbol from the symbol palette and then dragging and dropping it onto the diagram).
  2. Click on the symbol from which you want your arrow or link to start.
  3. On the Diagram Toolbar, click on the Link button. This will replace the cursor with an arrow symbol (indicating that the Link tool is turned on)
  4. Click on the symbol where you would like the link to end --> this creates an arrow connecting the two symbols.
  5. You can repeat this, always click first on the symbol from which you want the arrow to start and then clicking on the destination symbol.
  6. To turn off the Link tool, click on the Link button on the Diagram Toolbar.
  7. When you move symbols that are linked to other symbols, the links remain connected to the two symbols.

Adding notes to symbols

Note buttonYou can create notes that explain or expand on details about symbols. These enable you to begin writing while you are still in the visual/diagramming phase of your project.

  1. Select the idea (symbol) on which you wish to expand by writing a note.
  2. From the Diagram Toolbar, click on the Note button --> this opens a Post-It note below the symbol with the label of the symbol displayed as the title of the note. A blinking cursor appears in the note, indicating that you can begin typing text onto the note.
  3. Type the desired text onto the note. If you enter more text than can fit into the note, a scroll bar appears on the side of the note so you can scroll up or down to read the entire contents of the note.
  4. Resizing the note: you can increase or decrease the size of the note by clicking and dragging on the tab on the bottom right corner of the note.
  5. Moving the note: you can reposition the note by clicking on it and dragging it to the desired position to the side, above, or below the symbol (or anywhere else on the screen).

Changing color of symbols

When you create symbols, they are created in the default color. You can customize your symbols by changing the color, using the Formatting Toolbar. On the Formatting Toolbar, there are 2 colored cylinder shaped buttons. The left one allows you to change the fill color of the symbols, and the right one changes the line color.

Formatting toobar

  1. Select the symbol whose color you wish to change.
  2. To change the fill color: Click and hold on the Fill Color button --> this bring up a palette showing the range of color options --> Move the cursor and click on the color you would like to choose. This will change the fill of the symbol.
  3. To change the line color: Click on the Line Color button and follow the same process as you did for fill color.
  4. Some picture symbols are made up of a variety of colors:

Using the basic functions in the outline view

Outline buttonTo switch to outline view from the diagram view, click on the Outline button.This transforms the diagram into an outline that displays the symbols as topics and subtopics and also shows the notes that are attached to each topic.

Adding topics

The process of adding topics in outline view is similar to adding symbols in the diagram view.

  1. Click on the outline at the point in which you would like to add a topic (e.g. at the end of the list that appears once you switch from diagram to outline view; or you may wish to insert a new topic between existing topics).
  2. On the Outline toolbar, click on the New Topic button --> this inserts a new topic and creates a new prefix for the topic.
  3. Type in the title of this topic.
  4. Inserting a subtopic works in the same way as inserting a topic, except that you select the subtopic button.

Reorganizing topics

To reorder the topics within outline view, simply click on the topic you wish to move --> then drag and drop it to the desired location within the outline.

Changing the level of a topic

  1. Click on the topic that you want to change to a subtopic.
  2. On the Outline toolbar, click on the Right button --> this moves the topic to the right and makes it a subtopic.
  3. To turn a subtopic into a topic, click on the subtopic --> then click on the Left button.

Hiding subtopics

  1. To make it easier to organize or view your outline, you can hide the subtopics. To do this click on the Subtopic Quick Control arrow to the left of the topic.
  2. To reveal the subtopic again, repeat the above step.

Adding notes to topics and subtopics

Using notes enables you to expand your ideas and begin writing more detail under relevant topics and subtopics. Notes may be any length -- from short phrases to several pages.

  1. Click on the topic under which you want to add a note.
  2. From the Outline toolbar, click on the Note button --> this places the cursor immediately under the topic or sub-topic.
  3. Type in the desired text.
  4. To hide or show the notes, click on the Quick Control icon in the margin to the left of the note (similar to hiding or showing sub-topics).

Selecting topic defaults

You can change the default settings for font, text size, text color,font style, and for the prefix scheme.

  1. To change font style, click on the Topics Default button on the Formatting Toolbar --> this opens the Topics Default box.
  2. Choose the level of topic for which you wish to change the default (e.g. click on the button to the left of Main Idea) --> from the list of options below, select font, size, color and style for this topic level.
  3. Repeat for each level of topic as desired.
  4. To change the prefix scheme, click on the Prefix button and select your desired prefix style.

Printing the outline

You can print the outline using the default settings or change the settings by going to the File menu -->select Page Setup --> adjust the settings, as desired, for layout, margins, and header/footer.

Link to Inspiration - Beyond the Basics

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