A common frustration for people with creative minds is how to get others to understand their awesome ideas. Before creative people experience an epiphanal moment, they go through days, weeks or even years of intellectual gestation, considering all the stages of how to get their projects up and running, all the alternatives, dead-ends and desired outcomes. Of course, the secret to getting others to fully understand the breadth and depth of a brilliant idea is to present it with plenty of historical data and other supporting information in the form of illustrations and charts. That way others can get a feeling of how big the idea is, how long it lasts and who might be interested in it. Traditionally, this has been accomplished using Keynote presentations (or PowerPoint, if you must) and Excel spreadsheets. But these leave so much out. Here are a few useful tools that provide additional ways to illustrate all the aspects of your newborn idea. First, check out OmniPlan (free in beta, www.omnigroup.com/applications/omniplan ). This application sets new standards of ease in illustrating plans and project assignments. It delivers beautiful, Gantt-type charts that illustrate who does what and the resources they need to accomplish their tasks. It is a visual business plan in a paint-by-numbers form. The first time I used it, I delineated the 100-plus steps to get six different products to market in less than two hours. Sometimes less detail is needed to show the scope of an idea. If this is the case, try TimeLine (US$49.95; www.beedocuments .com/software/Timeline). TimeLine simply illustrates events against a calendar timeline at the bottom of an illustration. The application is great for roughing out the details and sequence of executing a project. Another key aspect to getting an idea across is keeping all the documents relating to it over time in one convenient place so you can remember and reference its history. A clever tool to facilitate this is PersonalAide (freeware; www.los.dtcurrie.net/projects ). This program works like a typical Mac file window but differs in that the folders store aliases of (or links to) e-mail, illustrations and documents pertaining to each particular project. The program is simple, handy and, let's not forget, free. The coolest way of illustrating an idea when working with others is to involve them while the idea is evolving. Enter Near-Time (US$4.95 a month and up, depending on usage; www.near-time.com ), an inexpensive, remotely hosted, secure website to which you and your associates have the key. It is a combination of weblog, wiki (user-editable) site and calendar site. You post documents and your collaborators edit or comment as appropriate. You can also post news and advances. Project participants need only to get onto the internet to pitch their thoughts into the mix. The system is sufficiently economical to be used by just two people and sufficiently secure that any enterprising business can trust it to keep creatives and executives singing from the same songsheet.