When MindManager was acquired by Corel several months ago, businesspeople around the world wondered what this could mean. Would Corel treate it as a cash cow or would it invest in making this popular mind mapping software even better? Based on the briefing I recently received from MindManager VP of Products Michael Deutch, my verdict is that MindManager is not only alive and well, but is even thriving under its new ownership.
MindManager 2017 debuts with a wealth of new productivity enhancing features and fixes for many of the weaknesses of earlier versions. In fact, there so much to talk about that I will be doing separate reviews of the Windows, Mac and Enterprise versions of this popular mind mapping software program. For the purpose of this review, we will focus on MindManager 2017 for Windows. Here is an overview of the most significant new and improved functionality of this program:
The primary focus of this new version: Deutsch explains that 85 to 90% of the improvements and new features in MindManager 2017 are the result of customer requests. Why is this important? Because it shows that the product is evolving based upon customer needs, not as the result of adding features and functionality for their own sake – a trap that many software developers fall into. As the workplace is evolving, MindManager needs to grow with it, and it looks like that is happening so far under its new ownership by Corel.
New timeline layout: In addition to a variety of mind map formats, concept maps and flow charts, MindManager 2017 now offers a timeline view that gives you a new way to look at your map data, while retaining all of the powerful functionality of the program. In other words, while working in timeline view, you can still filter your diagram’s content and view and edit topic meta-data (such as notes, icons and links). You can easily create both horizontal and vertical timelines; the software ships with several timeline templates that you can use as a starting point for your projects.
Flowchart enhancements: The functionality of this view has been improved in version 2017 to enable you to create workflow diagrams faster. You can now pin topics in swim lanes, making it easier to reposition elements without destroying the format of your timeline. A new context menu enables you to insert relationships and format relationship lines. In addition, MindManager 2017 enables you to create right angle relationship lines, which give workflow diagram is a neater appearance. Finally, the workflow view in version 2017 adds a pen mode, which tablet users will appreciate.
When you are creating workflow diagrams, you can now insert a topic between two existing ones. It’s quite useful to do this as you lay out a business process. At first, it took a bit of trial and error before I realized that I needed to select two topics that are adjacent to each other for this command to be usable in the context menu. In addition, a new image control enables you to easily size images so they look attractive in your workflow layout.
Deutch explains that the development team’s goal for this version of MindManager was to make it more useful for creation of workflow diagrams in real time during meetings. For that reason, quick-add buttons (the nodes with the plus signs that surround the currently-selected topic) appear in workflow view; previously, they were only available in map view.
The most innovative new aspect of the workflow view, however, is a new insert shapes menu that can be invoked by hovering over one of a topic’s four quick add buttons. This circular pop-up menu appears contains 9 common workflow shapes, which you can place in your diagram in the direction of your choosing. If you’re not changing topic shapes, you can use the quick-add buttons (the plus signs that appear on all 4 sides of the selected topic) to add additional topics of the same type to your flowchart (the shapes wheel has a hollow center, so the quick-add button below it is still visible).
Updated image library: MindManager 2017 contains 700 new images, which are stored in a larger size and scale better without a loss of quality compared to earlier versions of the program. The new version of MindManager also includes new templates that take advantage of these updated images.
Universal file export: Previous versions of MindManager were crippled by a problematic export to a Flash-enhanced PDF format. The new version does away with this, replacing it with an HTML 5 export that creates an interactive map that is much more true to the mind map from which it was generated. Deutch sad that this expert capability will continue to be incrementally enhanced in quarterly updates to MindManager (Corel’s commitment for all of its software programs is to publish updates to them quarterly). These interactive maps be embedded in any web page, blog or intranet.
I was curious to see if this new export capability worked better than the previous version – which was so problematic that I gave up on using it. I exported a simple mind map, in which I applied a number of font treatments, images, colors and links. Much to my delight, the HTML 5 export reproduced all of elements of my mind map faithfully.
One thing that was a bit confusing: When you’re viewing your exported map in a browser, there’s a menu at the top left of the browser screen. It gives you viewing options (standard, walk through and outline), as well as print button and something called “general options.” But they were all greyed out and not clickable. On the other side of the workspace, there was a help button, but it takes you to the main page of MindManager 2017’s online help. Deutch explained that these capabilities and the HTML 5 export help file will be coming soon, which is why the commands aren’t currently active.
Redesigned and expanded file management: MindManager 2017 adds SharePoint integration to the base product; previously, it was only available in the MindManager Enterprise. Check in/check out capabilities have been added to prevent file versioning problems. With new support for Box, users can store and access files in the cloud, and lock and unlock Box files directly in MindManager. Hopefully, future updates will also add support for Dropbox and Google Drive.
Zapier integration: This is by far the biggest update to MindManager. It automates tasks between MindManager and 700+ web applications and services including Gmail, OneNote, Box, Evernote, Slack, Trello, Jira, Basecamp and more. You can now send topics from MindManager maps to Zapier-connected applications or receive data from these applications to be used in a map.
What does Zapier integration make possible? First, it enables you to create enhanced dashboard maps, where you can update external data sources with just a few clicks. Zapier also takes MindManager’s project management capabilities to a new level of efficiency. You can even send emails to the mind map of your choice, and can use it to connect to document management repositories, project management tools and CRM systems. Think of Zapier as the Rosetta Stone of web-based collaboration. It will be amazing to see how MindManager customers put this to use as they create their own “zaps” to connect MindManager with other applications.
I asked Deutch if Corel will provide resources to help customers get started faster with Zapier. He indicated that his team may schedule several webinars and produce FAQ documents to help new users work their way through Zapier’s intricacies. He also said that Corel is working on several Zapier-enhanced templates that will be available in the near future.
I played around with Zapier a bit, and found that it took a bit of trial and error to get MindManager to send topics to my Evernote account. But it is fairly easy to keep editing the template of your zap until you get it to display your topic data in the format you want.
Visualize critical path: This is a capability that MindManager customers have been asking for, and now it’s finally available in version 2017. In project management parlance, the critical path displays the shortest possible timeline to the completion of a project. It also helps project managers visualize which tasks could delay the project timetable if they fall behind schedule.
MindManager also debuts a new critical path topic icon, which helps you see the project’s critical path in map view. If you are working with map branches in collapsed mode, the critical path icon appears on topics that are part of it – a great visual indicator for this scenario. Also, in GANTT view, the critical path is highlighted in red.
Task highlights: In previous versions of MindManager, it was hard to see at-a-glance which tasks were completed, late or at risk. The development team has remedied that shortcoming by highlighting topics with a set of red/yellow/green topic highlights. Red means a task is late, yellow means it’s at risk (due very soon) and green means it has been completed. Users can also customize the colors so they can control how late, at-risk and completed tasks are displayed. This sounds like a minor enhancement, but it should be very much appreciated by project managers, who will be able to visually skim a large mind map and immediately tell which tasks need immediate attention.
Missing in action: Brainstorming mode
I was disappointed to see that the MindManager development team eliminated the card-based brainstorming mode that has been available in the right-hand pane of the last several versions of the program. I asked about it, because I thought this model of using cards as creative prompts was brilliant, and could be adapted to many other types of process-based thinking. But, alas – Deutch told me that their data showed that users of MindManager hardly used this tool, and so it was removed as part of a clean-up of old and outdated features.
In my opinion, this is the most significant upgrade to MindManager in many years. New capabilities that were launched in recent versions are now more fully realized. In other words, some inherent shortcomings that customers told the development team about have been fixed. The new timeline view gives you another powerful way to visualize your thoughts and plans. And Zapier integration will take MindManager 2017 to a whole new level of productivity, efficiency and insight.
MindManager 2017 for Windows is available now in English, French and German as an individual license for $349 (USD), £249, EUR349 suggested retail price (SRP). Upgrade pricing is $179 (USD), £129, EUR179 SRP. UK and European prices exclusive of VAT.