True innovation – new features and functionality that advance the practice of mind mapping and visual thinking – is rare. That’s why MindManager 2019, recently released by Corel, may be the most significant release in its long history.
From advances in conditional formatting to powerful, flexible Smart Rules, the developer has evolved MindManager into a powerful business intelligence and analysis tool. It still does mind mapping very well, but has continued to get stronger as an all-around visual thinking power tool.
In this review, we’ll take a closer look at what’s new and significant in MindManager 2019, with an emphasis on how you can use it to think and plan more effectively.
Smart Rules: Conditional formatting on steroids
In MindManager 2019, Smart Rules represent the next generation of conditional formatting. This capability was fairly simple: If a value was outside of a certain range, a conditional formatting rule would tell the program to format a topic red, for example.
Smart Rules extend this capability well beyond conditional formatting. It enables you to empower your processes and create interactive diagrams. To the best of my knowledge, no other diagramming program offers this capability.
Smart Rules are based on a series of triggers. When a trigger is true, the effects that you have set up within the rule get applied. In addition to applying formatting when a trigger is true, it can apply metadata and make other changes to your map.
One set of properties you can apply with a Smart Rule is to apply it to a topic if it is part of – or “belongs to” – a branch or part of a location within your diagram. This enables you to create properties and then automatically apply values, tags and icons to topics based on Smart Rules.
Here’s an example: When I move a topic within a specific quadrant of a 2×2 table, new fill color, text color and formatting, priority and resource settings are applied.
Here’s one practical example of this “belongs to” rule in action: Let’s say you’re building a mind map and want to create a group of tasks on a specific branch of your map. In previous versions of MindManager, you had to format each topic with task properties, one at a time. Now you can set up a rule that says when you add new topics to that specific branch, automatically make it a task that has certain properties. Like this:
You can also set a Smart Rule to change the status of a task as you move it from one branch to another, or one column to another in the program’s Kanban view. In addition, you can save your Smart Rules in a library, so you can re-use them in other mind maps – nice! This also means that you can create a set of rules to apply consistent formatting on every mind map you create. That can be useful if you’re trying to enforce a consistent design motif for your company’s mind maps.
Another innovative application of Smart Rules is background scoring. In other words, as you move a topic within a specific location or branch, the program will automatically apply scoring metadata to it. How could this possibly be useful? One of the most valuable ways is to use it to apply values to ideas based on their degree of fit with your corporate strategy, resources required to implement them or other criteria.
Here’s how that would work: You could set up columns for low, medium and high values, and then drag and drop ideas you brainstormed into the appropriate columns. As you did so, scores would automatically be applied to them, helping you to quickly and quantitatively prioritize them.
Overall, this powerful new feature can eliminate manual steps and add much more utility to your mind maps and diagrams than ever before. It will be fascinating to see what creative customers will do with Smart Rules!
The digital architect grows more powerful, too
MindManager debuted the digital architect in the 2018 version of the program. It provided a set of tools that enabled users to add shapes to their mind map workspace, lock them in place and create new types of diagrams. But in MindManager 2019, it is taken a major leap forward with some remarkable new functionality:
- Schedule and priority views can now display icons and tags for the first time.
- You can now drag and drop items within columns to change their order. This enables you to truly use MindManager 2019 as your go-to Kanban tool.
- An expanded palette of icons enables you to do more than just prioritize topics in these views with numerical icons. You can now create icon-based categories for your tasks, adding much more meaning and context to them.
- In addition, within these vertical column views, you can click on a topic to view it’s notes, just like in Map view.
In this new version, the program adds boundaries, boxes and background images. The number and types of shapes has been expanded, making it truly an interactive design platform. You can now create funnels and matrices, and can edit and group shapes, giving them enhanced functionality. Much like a vector graphics program, Manager 2019 now includes alignment lines, which pop up as you move objects relative to each other. This enables you to align them to each other quickly and easily.
Kanban view is easy to use and flexible
I spent some time playing around with the Kanban view of MindManager 2019. It was quite easy to customize the default template, changing the names of columns, adding them, assigning background colors and then quickly adding tasks. “Mark Done” automatically moves a task to the Done column of the chart. Plus, topic formatting can be hidden to give your Kanban board a cleaner appearance.
Project planning enhancements
Past versions of MindManager enabled you to designate the amount of effort each task required. In MindManager 2019, Corel has built this out even more, in response to customer requests.
Effort has always been based on the number of hours of work, multiplied by the number of people assigned. But that assumed that the people assigned to a task were working on it full-time – which is rarely the case. In the new version of MindManager, you can factor in a percentage that designates how much each person’s time is actually devoted to that task. That gives you a much more accurate estimate of the actual effort required.
In this new version, you can include effort as a variable in your calculations, which enables you to do your own flavor of resource loading.
Finally, GANTT view has been enhanced. In this new version, you can add resources, sub-tasks, predecessors and successors from within this project timeline view.
HTML 5 export gets some real power
Corel continues to improve MindManager’s HTML5 export capabilities. In the 2018 version, the developer was able to achieve a look and feel that is very true to the original mind map. But it wasn’t able to render all of the objects and shapes it contained. Those limitations have been removed in MindManager 2019.
Also, if you have created any filters in your mind map, they are exported and are fully functional in the HTML 5-based browser view. This includes any power filters! When you view your mind map in the browser, you’ll notice a series of check boxes in a panel to the right side of the map viewing space. They enable you to apply or remove the filters from your original mind map. This promises to make your mind maps even more valuable to those people with whom you share them!
Reflections on the evolution of MindManager
During the last decade, I have watched MindManager grow, evolve and at times take several steps backwards. When I first became familiar with the program, it was owned by Mindjet. It was an innovative product that deserved to be the world’s most popular mind mapping software. With regular updates every year or two, it soon became a visual thinking and planning tool preferred by many power users around the globe.
All that began to change in 2013, when Mindjet merged with Spigit, a company that produces enterprise idea management software. The theory was that the two applications could be joined end-to-end to create a complete innovation system. Unfortunately, customers didn’t have a clue what that meant, and the new venture floundered.
As the company struggled, the MindManager development team became starved for resources and people. Continuing development of its flagship visual thinking tool suffered during this time period. Development slowed, and it didn’t seem like the company was listening to its large base of customers any more.
The next chapter in MindManager’s resilient life story happened three years later, in 2016. Much to everyone’s surprise, Corel Corporation purchased MindManager. Here was a large, stable parent that has an excellent track record of buying software programs and shepherding them to become all that they could be. Fear and uncertainty from MindManager’s user base gradually gave way to cautious optimism.
Now, two years later, it’s easy to see the impact that Corel’s ownership has had on the development and evolution of MindManager. Innovations and enhancements are coming quicker than ever, which is both a relief and a pleasure to see. Corel is devoting more manpower and programming expertise to the program, and is starting to evolve it in some exciting new directions.
I can’t wait to see what comes next for MindManager. Welcome back, old friend!