One of the hallmarks of a well-designed software program is how well it eases the way to competency for new users. Two mind mapping software programs that do a good job of this are OpenMind 2 from Matchware and NovaMind 3.2 from NovaMind Software Pty.
OpenMind 2 has a lot of great features that seem to have been designed with maximum usability in mind. But one that really stands out for me is the elegant way in which it handles map styles. The OpenMind 2 interface includes tabbed panels along the right side of the workspace, which provide access to the most common tasks. One of these is the multimedia panel, which contains a set of 12 map styles. Each style contains a set of definitions for how the central topic, connector lines, topics and subtopics should appear, and each one is attractive and highly functional. To apply a new style to your map, you simply drag and drop a map style into your workspace, and your map is instantly transformed into that style. For new users, who may find it challenging to figure out how to adjust the appearance of individual elements of their map, much less come up with a combination that’s attractive, this is a real plus!
NovaMind v3.2 helps users to position their map branches accurately, without unnecessarily restricting branch positioning. It accomplishes this throuh a unique "snap lines" feature, which helps users to vertically align branches to each other. If a dragged branch is aligned with another branch above or below it, a blue dashed line will appear, showing you which branch NovaMind has found for you to align with. The branch will then “snap” to exact alignment. Of course, if you don’t want perfectly aligned branches, you can simply ignore the visual feedback of the dotted line. This feature is undoubtedly inspired by graphic design programs like Adobe Illustrator, where alignment of specific elements of your drawing is critical to an attractive end result. This feature makes it easier for newbies to create attractive visual maps using NovaMind.
In both cases, these programs help users to create a better end result, without getting in the way. Considering that mind mapping software is a fairly young but fast-growing software genre, chances are that a lot of users of it are fairly new to it. That makes little usability enhancements like these even more important. Kudos to Matchware and NovaMind Development for making our lives just a little bit easier!