Mindjet today released what is perhaps the most significant upgrade to its flagship mind mapping program. MindManager 8 provides an integrated information environment that is like nothing else available today, presenting not only map topics but linked files and web pages within a single-unified workspace. The result is greater productivity – because you no longer have to switch to another program to edit an attached Word document or view a web page – and fewer interruptions of your creative flow. MindManager 8 also breaks new ground by leveraging Adobe’s integration of its Flash and PDF technologies to export mind maps in an interactive format, with expandable/contractible branches and working links. In addition, Mindjet officially released MindManager Web, it’s software as a service browser-based tool that is a companion to the desktop version of MindManager.
Let’s take a closer look at the groundbreaking features of MindManager 8, which I have had a chance to work with under non-disclosure agreement for the last month or so:
Embedded browser: This is such a simple idea – displaying the contents of attached files and web page links within the map workspace, using an embedded browser – that it now seems surprising to me that no one thought of it until now. This new feature is a pleasure to use, because all of your map’s assets are displayed in a single window, instead of popping up in separate ones all over your computer’s screen. What’s especially cool is that you can actually edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in the browser window – without leaving MindManager. As I type this, I have actually opened the Word document in which I’m writing this blog post within MindManager 8, and am editing it in the embedded browser window. Pretty cool!
Database integration: For years, Mindjet has steadily grown MindManager’s ability to connect with outside sources of information, knowledge and ideas – starting with attachments and links, and growing to encompass Microsoft Office files and Outlook e-mails. The big component that’s been missing has been database integration – until now. MindManager 8 can import data from Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQLServer, MySQL, Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft Excel and TXT and CSV text files, where you can work with it visually within your maps.
Adding data to your map is very easy: Using a database pane on the right side of the workspace, you first tell MindManager what data source you want to access, and select the table from which you want data to be pulled (the program can only query one table at a time; if your data spans several tables, then you’re best off to create a “view” within your database of choice, which MindManager treats as if it’s a single table). Then you type in the query – the text string – that you want to use to search the recordset. You can then select the fields you want to be displayed, and add the selected records to a topic in your map. Each record appears as a separate sub-topic. You can also drag and drop individual records from the database pane and attach them to topics within your map. Each record is live, and is updated each time the map is opened or when you click the “refresh” icon in the data record.
Once you’ve placed your data in your map, you can right-click the data repository icon on any record and manipulate it further, editing its values, modifying which fields are shown versus hidden, disconnecting the record from the database and converting it to a topic. The bottom line is that this feature alone is worth the upgrade to MindManager 8 – it is very elegantly implemented and was a pleasure to play around with! To help you to better understand this powerful new functionality, I have created the screencast below:
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/wp-content/uploads/mm8-database/mm8-database.swf” height=”449″ width=”599″ /]
Task automation: If you do a lot of project management, you’ll appreciate this new feature. MindManager 8 now automates the calculation of task information and completion percentages. It is also designed to roll-up task start/end dates and percentage completion of parent topics, based upon the status of their sub-topics. It can also flag past due tasks based on date criteria that you set. All of this functionality can be accessed from an integrated task pane, which incorporates MindManager’s basic task management capabilities as well as the roll-up options. A new version of JCVGantt (which Mindjet recently acquired), version 3.3, supports MindManager 8 and takes over the task roll-up functionality if it’s installed.
Expanded export options: One shortcoming of mind mapping software is that it has always been hard to share maps with others who don’t have licensed copies of it – while also preserving their interactivity. Maps could either be exported to a static format, such as a PDF or image file, or shared as a fully interactive read-only file, but the only option was to download a viewer program in order to open it. Not an ideal option for some corporate environments.
Mindjet has found a clever solution to this challenge: MindManager 8 leverages the integration between PDF and Flash technology that Adobe recently added to the popular Acrobat Reader. You can now export your maps to an enhanced PDF format that supports expanding and contracting of map branches, clickable web links, searching within the text of the map and zooming in and out to better view the map. Nice! MindManager 8 also enables you to export directly to a Flash SWF file format, so you can incorporate your maps into blogs and web pages. Mindjet calls this new export tool the MindManager Player.
More Map Parts: One of the most promising new features in recent versions of MindManager has been the addition of “Map Parts” – pre-formatted applets you could drag and drop into your maps to conduct Google searches and import RSS feeds to your maps, for example. MindManager 8 adds many new web services, including Map Part connectors for Google, Yahoo and Windows Live searches, MySpace and Facebook social networking, and Amazon.com, eBay and the StrikeIron D&B business listing service. Version 8 of MindManager also offers an API, so developers can easily build additional Map Part connectors for use with the program. I hope Mindjet continues to add to these services; it would be great to see Map Parts for LinkedIn, Digg.com, Twitter and other increasingly popular web services.
Improved collaboration: The MindManager 8 ribbon toolbar now contains a “Connect” tab, to make it easier to access the Mindjet Connect collaborative workspace. In the past, all Connect functionality was hidden in the lower left corner of the workspace, which made it hard for some users to find. The new arrangement makes it easier to access your workspaces and invite others to collaborate within them. With MindManager 8 and Mindjet’s new web client, MindManager Web, you now have two options for collaborating with your team members and project partners: You can either send them “player files” (enhanced PDFs that are read-only) or you can invite them to contribute to your maps via a shared workspace and the MindManager Web client. This triumvirate of MindManager, MindManager Web and Mindjet Connect should help many companies drive greater productivity and efficiency through improved collaboration.
I always try to integrate the programs I’m evaluating into my workflow, and this one has been no exception. I’ve actually been using MindManager to maintain a list of future blog topics, which I access via my laptop at my full-time job. It’s stored in a Mindjet Connect workspace. When I’m at home, I use MindManager Web to access it and add ideas to it. This arrangement has worked really well, and the tools are all very well integrated and performed flawlessly.
MindManager 8 is a giant leap forward for business users of visual mapping. Its well-designed integrated workspace, database connectivity and vastly improved map sharing and collaboration capabilities will save you time and should take your productivity to a whole new level. This is much more than just another incremental software upgrade. The cumulative effect of all of these improvements represents a quantum leap for anyone who needs to gather, manipulate and share large amounts of information, data, knowledge and ideas.
If you are already using a previous version of MindManager, there’s enough new value here to make upgrading to version 8 a no brainer. If you’re new to visual mapping, you’ll find that MindManager 8’s elegant design is easy to get started with, but also has enough advanced functionality under the hood to please even the most finicky power user.
Pricing of MindManager 8 remains the same as version 7: US$349 per user, and a special introductory upgrade price of $129 (which will increase to the retail upgrade price of $179 after December 31, 2008). Each copy of MindManager 8 also comes with 6 months of free access to Mindjet Connect, so you can get acquainted with the productivity benefits of this marvelous collaboration tool. The subscription cost for MindManager Web is $120 per user per year (click here fore my review of MindManager Web).
A trial version of MindManager 8 is available for download from the Mindjet website; I strongly urge you to take a look the program that computer industry analyst firm IDC calls “a game changer.”
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