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Is MindManager Too Rigid?

Posted by Sravan | February 18, 2009 .

When I first heard about MindManager Web from Ryan, I expected that it could be better than the usual mind mapping softwares and that RIA technologies are more ideal for the flexibility they can provide the user with. The way I defined ‘better’ in this context is that the mapping shouldn’t interfere with the user’s flow of thought for any reason in its attempt to enable it.

I haven’t even heard of MindManager or MindJet before (thanks Ryan), though I now realize that it is a leading player in this area especially among enterprises. They have recently released MindManager Web, a Flex app which is an online alternative to the MindManager software. They are offering a 30-day free trial, upon which users will have to pay $10 per month per user for 1000MB to continue the services.

The signing up is straightforward though I don’t like that I have to provide more than just my name and email address. Once the app is launched, it took just about 2 min to load after which it had another “signing in” state for a few seconds (but I had already been logged in). There are a few tutorials also in the form of maps, and the animation between page to page navigations is seamless and made me smile.

The dark look is cool, and thankfully when a new map is launched it is like a whiteboard (preferable to blackboards). The various menus and sidebars lurk in a darker background (understandably), but I felt that it may not be the ideal color for beginners to get familiarized with new features. That said, most features can be got using a right-click anywhere on the map.

MindManager Screenshot

One great feature that makes the software stand out is that it is ideal for cross-geographic collaborative brainstorming sessions. The chat and instant meeting features allow you to discuss and nail ideas then and there while on a conf call. Much better than exchanging long mails.

Now that the Flex website is out, an AIR app can be expected. Right? It is easier maintaining an AIR version for cross-platform support rather than a MindManager 8 for Windows and a MindManager 7 for Mac. You can check the various products in their catalog and get an overview of the MindManager Web.

I use the Java-based open source software Freemind if ever. I am used to the keyboard shortcuts. That is one feature that I like about Freemind. It doesn’t very much interfere with the thought process and is easier than going through a series of clicks. It is lightweight, has sufficient number of features. But no collaboration.

On an individual basis or even a meeting in a single room, of course, nothing beats pen and paper. However, it may be difficult to communicate ideas through rapidly drawn illegible maps with a marker and trying to get that on a webex session.

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9 Comments so far
  1. Moxie  February 18, 2009 10:44 am

    This is very cool. I’ve been using MindManager desktop software for many years to many all sorts of personal and work stuffs. Didn’t even know they have an online up already. It makes great sense because people like me (or us) usually hover around multiple computers but always with single mind (hopefully) to use.

  2. Sravan  February 18, 2009 8:05 pm

    Yes, the USP is collaboration. I believe they can do better with usability, but then this is still the first release.

  3. Tom Van den Eynde  February 18, 2009 11:19 pm

    I’m a firm believer of mind mapping software. I’ve used Mind Manager in the past and I think it’s the ideal way to, as the name implies, manage your mind around a specific topic. Collaboration is nice but integration of different maps (hyperlink style) would be even nicer. I also want to use it for project management but I’m afraid it still falls short there. I however don’t understand all the fuss about Mind Manager releasing a Flex based solution because Mindomo (www.mindomo.com) is already offering a Flex based solution for 2 years or so (for $6/month)…

  4. Dan  February 19, 2009 12:57 am

    If you’d like a tool for managing your time and projects, you can use this application inspired by David Allen’s GTD:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage and prioritize your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  5. Sravan  February 19, 2009 8:33 pm

    I had no idea about mindomo, Tom. Thanks, it looks interesting. Though, unlike you I’m not big on mind mapping software.

    Thank you, Dan. There have been so many GTD softwares coming up. I use ThinkingRock.

  6. Andrew Wilcox  February 20, 2009 1:54 am

    As pointed out Mindjet are a bit behind on web based mind mapping applications but they maybe they are the only one to offer simultaneous editing of a map by many concurrent users. I had an excellent session with someone in The Netherlands last week.

    The desk top application has had keyboard shortcuts for more than ten years. You can brainstorm very rapidly without touching a mouse. The Learning tab has a long list. For brainstorming all you need to do is type, press return twice, type, press return twice, …. Insert sub-topics by pressing insert. Move around using the arrow keys.

  7. JulesLt  February 20, 2009 3:11 am

    Hmm – it’s debatable whether it’s really easier to maintain an AIR app than Windows and Mac versions, given that using AIR forces you to develop using a far less robust programming environment (i.e. JavaScript / ActionScript – and a far narrower set of standard APIs & libraries).

    If I was looking at cross-platform desktop development, I’d probably go with Qt. However, I’d also question the whole idea – it may indeed save costs, which seems logical to the firm doing the development – but it’s evident from the Mac software market that ‘native’ software typically wins over cross-platform solutions.

    If you’re considering cross-platform development then – right now – you are probably considering supporting Macs in addition to Windows – so you need to consider ‘who buys software on the Mac’ and why – why are they using a Mac over Windows in the first place?

  8. Sravan  February 20, 2009 6:39 am

    Didn’t know that about the desktop app, Andrew. But I guess that is more or less expected.

    Interesting perspective there, Jules. I never thought about it in that way.

  9. Ari  February 6, 2010 11:08 am

    I have found an alternative to mind manager. It’s free digital board Pinoteo (www.pinoteo.com).
    It’s also have smth in common with onenote. All in all it’s very useful for creating fast notes and diagramms, and schemes

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