MindManager lets your brainstorming take off

When Mindjet released its first version of MindManager for the Mac last year — christened version 6 to keep naming parity with the Windows version — the program dropped into the marketplace fully formed and feature-rich. With the exception of Microsoft Office integration (it offered none), MindManager proved to be an excellent mind-mapping application that featured both file-format and feature parity with its Windows counterpart. Like many mind-mapping tools, you start with a topic and add branches as you mine your idea. Version 7.0.270 of this brainstorming tool offers several new and helpful features, including options for exporting your mind maps in a number of useful formats.

MindManager offers five major new features, several smaller new features, and about nine minor enhancements. At the top of the list of major features is an outline view, which allows you to switch between mind-map, visual view, and a standard outline view. As with the visual mind map, the outline view allows you to add new topics and subtopics by pressing the enter or option-enter keys, and lets you rearrange items using the move button or by dragging and dropping your topics to where you want them to appear in the outline. Additionally, you can now export your mind map as an OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) file — a standard outline-application format — making it possible to modify your outline in programs such as OmniGroup’s OmniOutliner and then import it back into MindManager. The only drawback to moving back and forth between mind-mapping programs is that, when imported back into MindManager, your mind map will lose any formatting or images you may have added when using MindManager. The program also now allows you to export your maps in many more formats, including RTF, CSS-savvy HTML, and a hyperlinked HTML-based outline.

Version 7 offers new and better printing options, making it possible for you to print large maps over several pages, add footers and headers to your mind maps, and preview your print job. MindManager also now allows you to create custom views of your mind map by creating filters. So, for example, if you want to see only items that have been assigned to a specific individual and that are more than 50 percent complete, you can create a filter to view only that information. Any custom filter that you create can then be saved for future use.

MindManager integrates well with project-planning software such as AEC Software’s FastTrack Schedule and Project Wizards’ Merlin. You can assign any item on your map a beginning and end date, as well as assets, such as employees. Then when you import your map into your project-management software, the timelines you’ve created in MindManager will be reflected in your schedule. As with documents imported using the OPML format, projects imported back into MindManager from other project management software will lose the special formatting that you created using MindManager, but all schedule and schedule-dependent information will remain intact.

Other new features include better support for AppleScript, better control over how background images display, several new template formats, and an improved image library. The program also sports a new timer feature with visual queues to indicate when a meeting or planning session has gone into overtime.

My chief complaint about the last version of MindManager was its lack of integration with Microsoft Office, a feature that’s a major part of the program’s Windows counterpart. That integration is still missing from this version. But according to Mindjet, Microsoft does not publish APIs (application program interfaces) for the Mac version of Office, making it difficult or impossible to link these two programs. Mindjet says it’s hopeful that the next version of Office (which will use an XML format similar to that used by MindManager) will offer more options for integration.

Buying advice
MindManager 7.0.270 is a top-notch brainstorming tool. It’s easy to use, integrates well with many other productivity programs, and lets you export your mind maps in a variety of formats. While the program still lacks integration with Microsoft Office applications, this shouldn’t deter you from using an otherwise excellent application.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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