What are the advantages for using BigPicture over Native Excel for Mapping?
This is an important question because BigPicture uses Excel shapes and connectors for its freeform maps. Those same shapes and connectors can be used to create maps and diagrams in Excel without BigPicture. So what’s the difference? Here are a few of the key benefits to using BigPicture vs “Excel-alone” for free-form diagramming in Excel.
Adding New Shapes and Connectors
In BigPicture, a new shape and connector can be added to a map simply by dragging the mouse from a connection point and releasing the mouse, or via the Outline Pane where BigPicture will draw the connector and shape for you. In Excel-alone, a multi-step process is required. First, the new shape must be added. Then a connector has to be added and attached manually to the original shape and the new shape.
Both BigPicture and Excel-alone support using cell references to label shapes. Accessing “live” Excel content in a diagram is a major benefit of making a mind map in Excel. The labels of shapes update automatically as the values of cells they reference in Excel change. However, only BigPicture supports using multiple cells to label a single shape. With Excel-alone, you can only reference the contents of a single cell when labeling a shape.
Changing Shape Type
In BigPicture, if the type of a shape is changed (say from a rectangle to a circle), existing connectors stay attached to the new shape type at appropriate connection positions. When using Excel-alone, all connections are lost when the type of a shape is changed. The user must then manually re-attach connectors to the new shape type.
Collapse and Expand
In BigPicture, child shapes may be collapsed and hidden from view when the Collapse shape is clicked at a connection point, and expanded when the Expand shape is clicked. When using Excel-alone, there is no capability for “folding” or collapsing and expanding connections.
Attributes such as Pictures, Markers, Notes and Hyperlinks
In BigPicture, supplementary attribute shapes (such as markers, notes and hyperlinks) can be attached to a shape. These attribute shapes move with the shape as it is repositioned in a map. In addition, the contents of these attributes can be easily edited in BigPicture. If attribute shapes are desired when using Excel-alone, they must be manually grouped with the shape, and ungrouped when they need to be changed or edited.
Navigating Free Form Maps
BigPicture has an Outline Pane (See #1) where all shapes in a map are listed by their label. You can navigate through shapes by clicking on entries in the outline. In addition, you can search and replace label text throughout shapes in open maps. In Excel-alone, a Selection Pane (See #2) can be shown which list shapes by their internal name, such as Rectangle1 or BP_Expand_18_4, (See #3) not their label. No facility is available in Excel to search or replace text in shape labels.
BigPicture allows you to create slide shows where the map unfolds in any way you like. This is especially useful if you are presenting the map to an audience and you want to explain it in steps. These slide shows can include supporting text and images that are displayed by slide. Excel-alone has no facility for presenting shapes and diagrams step-by-step.