IdeaMapper is a promising mind mapping app for the iPad that offers a unique interface that replicates the process of creating a mind map on a white board – complete with colored markers and a dry eraser!
IdeaMapper’s method of creating visual maps seems a little unusual at first – until you realize that it is primarily designed as a tool to support brainstorming. You don’t add topics to the central topic in the traditional way, by dragging your finger outward from it or clicking some sort of an “add topic” icon. instead, you randomly add keywords in the app’s workspace, and then connect them with lines.
The effect is much like the brainstorming mode of ConceptDraw MINDMAP, where the brainstorming mode allows you to add your ideas as free-floating topics to the workspace. It’s only after you exit the program’s brainstorming mode that you decide what the relationships between all of your topics should be.
When you’re ready to connect your ideas, you select a colored marker from the “tray” at the bottom of the screen, and then drag your finger between the topics to be selected. The fun, colorful interfaces encourages creativity and play. You can select from 25 line colors from a “box” of markers at the bottom of the screen. In addition, four more markers are laying horizontally in the tray that you can “pick up” and use.
IdeaMapper is a little hard to get used to at first, because it behaves differently than any other mind mapping app available today. But as I played with it more, I decided that there is a simple brilliance to this methodology. Why? Because it does a better job of encouraging free-form brainstorming than other mind mapping apps, which tend to inadvertently force you into considering where your idea “fits” within the context of the topics you’ve already added to the map. In other words, if developing breakthrough ideas is your goal, then I believe IdeaMapper will do an excellent job of supporting this objective. When it comes to brainstorming ideas, you want your ideas to be freewheeling, unconstrained by any limitations. IdeaMapper’s simple approach enables this process.
Some solid thinking has gone into this app’s functionality: When you select the “add a keyword” tool, it stays “locked” on, which enables you to add multiple ideas in rapid succession. That’s cool, because it ensures that IdeaMapper doesn’t get in the way of your creative “flow.”
You can draw a line by connecting a keyword to another keyword, or a keyword to the end of a line. Curiously, when you add a connection line, the formerly free-floating text “jumps” onto it. IdeaMapper’s tapered topic lines have an organic look to them, which adds to the app’s creative appeal. You can also add symbols or images from the iPad’s photo library to your map. Icons in IdeaMapper are free floating; they don’t seem to be attached to a parent topic, but may be positioned anywhere. The disadvantage of this approach is that these graphics don’t “follow” when you move a map branch. You need to drag and drop them to the new location manually.
Moving topics in IdeaMapper Is accomplished by tapping on a hand icon. When you tap on the end of a topic line, a box appears at the end of it. Dragging your finger over the iPad’s screen moves the topic. In practice, this works fairly intuitively. However, it was a bit confusing to me that I couldn’t toggle this “hand” tool on and off.
Moving around the workspace is done using a two-finger drag gesture. This works quite nicely, because it prevents you from inadvertently moving your map around the screen. Zooming, as you would expect, is done by pinching two fingers closer together to zoom out, and farther apart to zoom in.
Exporting your mind maps is somewhat limited, with only “mail as a PNG image” and “save to photo library” supported. Hopefully, at some future date the developer will add support for some sort of native mapping format, so you can take visual maps created in IdeaMapper and continue working on them in a desktop- or web-based mind mapping application.
In conclusion, IdeaMapper shows a lot of promise with its intuitive and fun whiteboard metaphor for mind mapping. I give the developer a lot of credit for utiilizing a visual thinking metaphor that most businesspeople are already familiar with – th eubiquitous whiteboard. However, IdeaMapper is still a little rough around the edges in terms of features and functionality. But, like any iPad app, hopefully it will grow and improve in the months and years ahead. Idea Mapper costs only US$4.99 in the Apple AppStore; you can learn more about it on its AppStore web page or on its Facebook page.