Mindjet MindManager 6
Price: $229 US, £69 (until 30th May 2007, then £149)
Have you ever watched The Apprentice? After Donald Trump has announced the task of the week (while shamelessly plugging either one of his companies or the show’s sponsor for that week) the candidates go off in their respective teams and figure out how they are going to tackle the task. Regular viewers will know that this is when things normally go wrong – the candidates often don’t effectively capture and organise their ideas for success. Having spent some time using Mindjet MindManager, I feel that if they had the use of this software, the Apprentice candidates might do substantially better!
MindManager is a tool for organising thoughts and ideas. There are many such tools available on the Mac (OmniOutliner being one of the more well known), but MindManager use mind mapping techniques as its basis, rather than pure hierarchical outlining.
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is an image-centered diagram that allows you to illustrate connections between portions of information. By presenting these connections in a graphical manner, it is suggested that you can encourage more creative thinking by engaging the artistic, left side of the brain.
That’s the theory – and it works well on paper. You can either draw a map on a large sheet of paper, starting from the centre, or you can write down fragments of information on yellow sticky-notes and stick them on the wall. Either way, the idea is that you can easily group the ideas, sift the information, and get those creative juices flowing.
The problem with that is to make use of it, you have to transcribe the end result – usually in to an electronic document. MindManager allows you to cut out the middle man and record your mind map directly on your Mac.
The application is clean and simple – one of the better examples of that OS X interface design. A plain window allows you to click and start dropping ideas on to a workspace, and tapping the return and tab keys allow you to quickly start adding connections and hierarchies. Everything can be dragged and rearranged, and dropping one item on another will create an automatic join.
The end result is that you can assemble your maps very quickly – and that is what you want – a program that aids you but doesn’t get in the way. After you have the information where you want it, MindManager will allow you to present it as you please. There are a number of included themes, and an Inspector palette allows you to tag your MindMap items with a variety of icons, colors and styles. There is a button bar that is also fully customisable, and has tools for creating relationships arrows and boundaries around your map components.
In terms of managing your information, it is possible to assign target dates, resources, duration and completion percentages to the items on your map, so that you can use it as a project management tool, and you can add hyperlinks, text notes and drag live documents straight on to a map.
As an example of the power of the software as an organisation and presentation tool, I recently spent around two hours creating a mindmap summarising nearly three weeks of interviews and documenation review, to allow a colleague to get an overview of what I had found. The resulting mindmap, printed on a large sheet of paper, allowed him to quickly grasp not only what the key issues were, but how they had been identified. I have also found using the software to be a very effective way of taking notes in meetings.
Mindjet have a refreshing approach to interoperability – they have a Windows version of the software that is binary compatible with the Mac version, and their web site has a large number of user maps for download. They also have a free viewer application to allow maps to be viewed by users who down the software. In addition, the project management functions can be enhanced by using your mindmaps with full project management software – Mindjet have worked with AEC to allow mindmaps to be interoperable with their FastTrack Schedule 9 software.
This really is a cracking piece of software, and probably the best example of electronic mind-mapping I have ever used. If you have any need at all to organise and arrange information for management or presentation, you will not regret spending the money on a license. Download a trial copy and see for yourself!