I use a mind mapping program at work for doing information architecture - mapping out web site navigation for organization.
One day while I was slaving over one of our projects I realized .. this can be used for more than just navigation!
I enjoy writing fiction. I'm not published. However, letting my mind fall into these non-existent realms is very calming. One of my biggest problems, however, is my focus tends to wane.
Enter XMind: A free mind mapping software. Not exactly what I'd call a writer's needed utility, but let me explain WHY it's so useful.
I read a book a while ago by director/writer Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spykids 1-4, many others) called "Rebel Without a Crew". Very good book and I'd recommend anyone who does anything creative to read it. Within he talks about using index cards to jot down his story plot ideas and then he can easily push them around on a table. The idea was he could change the flow of the story, on the fly. It's how he wrote the movie El Mariachi.
I took this idea one step further. Using XMind I can make a quick "fish bone" time line, add all my ideas and slide them around, add extra tidbits of information and shuffle things till I'm happy.
This method has allowed me to take one of my current stories, Deadland Chronicles, from a whole slew of ideas that where put in note pads, Word documents or just in my head and toss them together quickly, fleshing out ideas and insuring that they work well together.
It's an extremely easy program to us. It took me a few hours to get really comfortable with it, but after I got the basics it was easy.
If you don't believe me, go to www.xmind.net and download it. It's free! Try it out and see what you think. You can thank me later!
Note: You could use other mind mapping software like Freemind, Gliffy or VUE - but XMind seems to be the best to me. More robust and feature rich than others.
If you have any other ways of getting things organized, comment below! I'm always open to new solutions!