ThinkBuzan has launched a new integrated approach to go-anywhere mind mapping that it has christened iMindMap Freedom. Along with an all-new online map storage and sharing service called ThinkBuzan Cloud, the developer has released new mind mapping apps for the iPhone and iPad, with versions coming in the near future the Android platform and Blackberry Playbook tablet. These apps can seamlessly share mind maps via ThinkBuzan Cloud, which also includes a web-based version of iMindMap.
Here’s what’s new, and my impressions from working with these new tools:
ThinkBuzan Cloud online mapping and storage
This all-new online workspace (pictured above) features a slick new design that is very easy to use. I created a simple map using the application’s webified version of iMindMap, and found that it delivers the same organic experience as the desktop version. New branches are dragged out from existing ones, and can be easily repositioned in the workspace using the blue ring at the tip of the branch – very familiar to users of the PC and Mac versions of ThinkBuzan’s flagship mind mapping program.
A simple toolbar across the top of the screen provides access to common commands such as text font, size, color and decoration (bold, italic formats) and text alignment (right/center/left/justified). Drop-down buttons enable you to add box branches and relationship lines to your map, while an insert button enables you to create floating topics, add images and boundaries. Above it, a set of text-based drop-down menus give you access to still more features.
On the right side of the workspace, a vertical panel with “window shade” sub-panels enables you to access the app’s icon library, search an extensive image library and add notes to your map (confusingly located within a sub-panel called “properties” – a minor complaint, however).
On several occasions, I tried to leave my mind map without saving it. Amazingly, both times I got warnings that my map wasn’t saved, and gave me an opportunity to do so – great attention to detail!
iMindMap HD for iPad
Next, I updated the existing iMindMap app on my iPad, hoping that would automatically upgrade it to iMindMap Freedom. Alas, the process wasn’t that easy, but it was easy to follow, thanks to some clear, easy to understand prompts from the app’s developers. Once my copy of iMindMap HD was upgraded, I was asked to login to my ThinkBuzan Cloud account. As soon as I did that, I received a message stating that I would next be taken to the AppStore to download a new version of the app, one specifically designed to work with ThinkBuzan Cloud. That installation process went smoothly, and within minutes, I was up and running.
This new app, which is still called iMindMap HD for now, operates much like the last version, with some noticeable improvements. For starters, when you select a topic, two arcs, one blue and the other red, appear at the end of the selected branch (like c-shaped segments of a circle, facing each other – see the screen shot above). This is the iPad adaptation of the concentric rings in the desktop version of iMindMap, which make it easy to move a branch (blue) or add a sub-topic (red). My gut feeling is that the developers discovered that it’s hard to tap and drag objects on the iPad’s screen with a high degree of precision, so the model of the concentric rings didn’t work well in this tablet environment. Placing these icons next to each other, on the other hand, works very well.
Buttons in a toolbar at the bottom of the workspace enable you to select from four kinds of branches: normal, box branches (which enclose their text in a rectangular box), freehand branches (where the shape of the branch follows your finger as you drag it across the iPad’s screen) and relationships.
Branches also have control points, which means you can reshape them at will. You can also drag controls points along the length of the branch, giving you another level of flexibility in shaping branches. I didn’t see any option to add control points, however – not a big deal.
iMindMap HD gives you a great deal of control over the appearance of your map branches. You can add icons, change branch type and color, adjust the font size, decoration, color and alignment, and create topic boundaries from within a convenient multi-tabbed dialog box. You can also add notes, audio, links and task data to selected map branches via a separate “attachments” button.
In addition, you can add images to your maps – either from iMindMap’s provided collection or from your iPad’s image gallery – nice! Finally, tapping and holding your finger over a branch invokes a context-sensitive menu, where you can cut, copy, delete and collapse it.
At the map level, this app enables you to select a background color and whether or not SmartLayout and shadows are enabled.
I was able to synchronize iMindMap HD with my ThinkBuzan Cloud account, open the map I created in its web client and work with it. When I was done, I closed my map, and looked for the changes online. Nothing. Same old map. So I tapped the synchronize button in iMindMap HD. Viola! An updated mind map. It would be nice if this synchronization process happened automatically, but that’s OK – remember, this is a new, integrated product for ThinkBuzan. Perhaps this will be offered in a future release.
In conclusion, I found iMindMap HD a delight to use. It synchronizes quickly and reliably with ThinkBuzan Cloud. The development team has done a marvelous job of creating an enjoyable, easy-to-use app that translates the organic approach of iMindMap from the desktop to this popular mobile platform.
Perhaps the biggest change is that ThinkBuzan is offering its new iPad and iPhone apps for free. When I looked back at a post I wrote in September 2010 announcing the first iteration of iMindMap Mobile HD for the iPad, ThinkBuzan gave it a list price of $32.99. I think they have come to realize that it’s best to enable more people to try mind mapping on their mobile devices, which means some of them may upgrade to ThinkBuzan’s desktop mapping software in the future.
An annual subscription to iMindMap Freedom costs US$13.99, very affordable and well worth the investment, considering the “freedom” you get to work with your maps on multiple computing platforms simultaneously.