Corel continues to make big strides in advancing the functionality of its flagship mind mapping program, MindManager. With the recent release of MindManager 2020, the developer has enhanced the ability of individuals and teams to collaborate, work with data and streamline common tasks.
The most notable enhancements in this release include co-editing of mind maps, a new MindManager Snap content capture tool and deep integration with Microsoft Excel. It also includes a host of other improvements, which we will touch on in this product update.
Co-editing mind maps
MindManager 2020 isn’t the first mind mapping application to enable multiple people to simultaneously edit a mind map. What’s slick about it is the way in which it’s integrated with cloud-based file repositories and the desktop version of MindManager. Here’s how it works:
Now that cloud storage has become the norm for many companies, enabling them to share files easily, they have developed sophisticated folder structures and permissions for them. The MindManager development team wisely decided to leverage this existing infrastructure when they designed the co-editing features of MindManager 2020.
The program honors existing permissions from Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and SharePoint, including who has access to the file and the rights to edit it. In fact, you can’t even co-edit a mind map unless your file is already stored on one of these services.
To begin your co-editing session, you first navigate to the folder in your cloud storage service of choice and open the file. If you have previously opened up this file in the desktop version of MindManager, the program automatically transfers the session to its web client.
Within this co-editing environment, you and your colleagues can expand and contract map branches, follow links and do everything that you could do before in the MindManager map viewer. If you have the right permissions, you can also make edits to the map.
During a co-editing session, it’s amazing to see all of the colored icons and initials of your co-editors floating around the screen like manic bees. The web client features a simplified ribbon toolbar and inspector tab, which makes it easier for non-MindManager users to work with it.
I asked the development team if the map owner can roll back changes. This is common functionality for business applications that enable multiple people to contribute to a document. They said yes, but only if your web-based file storage service enables you to store previous versions of the file. For example, in any of Google’s online productivity tools, it’s easy to save multiple versions of your file and return to them at any time. Once again, MindManager leverages the existing infrastructure of the host file storage service.
If you started your session from the desktop, the desktop version of MindManager prompts you to reload the file at the end of your co-editing session. Once you do so, your updated map is loaded into the workspace.
The whole experience is seamless and easy to use. Corel emphasizes that this is an add-on feature; it’s not a part of the core MindManager 2020 single license or enterprise version of the product. You can add it for a fee of $29 per year. But in order to do so, you must also purchase software protection (which gives you access to all product updates). No doubt, Corel requires this so that it can provide a stable and reliable experience to users of its desktop software and any colleagues who are co-editing mind maps. Having said all this, however, Corel does have co-editing enabled for the trial period of the software, so you can get a sense of what’s possible with it,
Add content to your maps with MindManager Snap
MindManager Snap is a slick content capture tool that enables you to quickly and easily grab content from just about any source, save it for future reference and insert it into your mind maps. It includes three components:
A desktop capture tool: Using this application, you can quickly type a note, select a file or capture a web page URL. The title you give it in the app’s input form will become the topic name when you add it to your mind map.
When you save a clipping in Snap, it’s stored in an online queue. When you open MindManager 2020, your clippings appear in a vertical pane on the right side of the program’s workspace. From there, you can easily drag and drop them into your mind maps.
This simple, elegant tool doesn’t require you to have MindManager 2020 or a mind map open in order to capture items. It holds everything until the next time you open MindManager. Nothing gets lost.
A Chrome browser extension: This tool adds right-click functionality to the Google Chrome web browser. When you find a web page that you want to save to the queue, simply right-click anywhere on the page and select the MindManager Snap command.
MindManager Go: This new app for iOS and Android is a new mobile map viewer. You can also use it to send notes to the queue, select an image from your mobile device’s image gallery or snap a picture from within the application.
MindManager Go also enables you to access any of your mind maps that are stored in cloud-based file repositories, including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and Sharepoint.
At this time, you cannot bookmark web pages from your smartphone’s web browsers. Nor does Snap offer Outlook integration. But those are both capabilities that the Corel team is willing to entertain for future iterations of this tool.
My conclusion? Snap will be of greatest interest to users who conduct a lot of online research and those who need to capture creative inspirations, any time, anywhere.
Connecting your mind maps with data
MindManager 2020 includes a new Excel Data Mapper, which enables you to leverage the data you have gathered within spreadsheets in a more accessible, visual format.
You access the Excel Data Mapper via a properties panel on the right side of the screen. You first select the Excel file that you want to connect with. You then use a wizard to tell this tool, step by step, how you want to arrange your Excel data within your mind map. It enables you to insert your data into topics and subtopics or have MindManager pour them into topic properties. You also have the option of importing all data from a specific sheet or a custom cell range. This wizard lets you select a column, tell MindManager what level of topic it should appear within, or click a plus button to add a property within that topic level, and assign a column to it. That enables you to pull in exactly the data you want from your spreadsheet, format it the way that makes the most sense to you and ignore everything else.
Once MindManager 2020 has completed its import, it’s very gratifying to see your linear spreadsheet data neatly arranged into topics and properties. It gives you a whole new sense of it. You can also continue to refine and update the properties within MindManager. Everything is fully editable.
One caution, however: This tool probably isn’t the best if you have hundreds of records – unless you have fields that classify your records into different types or “buckets.” In that case, you can use those fields to set up topic levels, so the resulting mind map will be more manageable.
In any case, I urge you to play around with the Excel Data Mapper. If you don’t like the way you structured an import, simply delete the topic to which your data is connected and start over. You’ll get the hang of it, and will be learning as you go.
Enhanced Excel export tool
MindManager 2020 also includes an enhanced Excel export tool that enables you to either quickly export all of your map data into an Excel file or to do a custom export. The latter gives you more granular choices to include or exclude icons, tags and other properties, and how you want them to be formatted with Excel. For example, you can choose an outline or pivot table format.
Project cost tracking
In previous versions of MindManager, it was possible to track project costs, but only by manually creating topic properties to contain them. In MindManager 2020, they now have a dedicated type of property that can be filled in within the program’s task pane. Rolling up costs is also simplified and can be further refined using SmartRules.
If you recall, SmartRules, which were introduced in the 2019 version of MindManager, enable you to set thresholds for a topic property. When its value falls outside of that range, the topic will automatically change color, giving you a visual indication that you need to pay attention to that item.
Enhanced diagramming tools
MindManager 2020 includes a number of flowchart enhancements that enable users to create sophisticated diagrams, without having to manually re-position multiple shapes and connector lines. For example, if you add a swim lane to a flow chart that already contains several of them, all of the shapes and connectors will automatically move to accommodate it.
In addition, you can now group floating topics or flowchart topics by using a shape or Smart Shape as a container. When you move a shape or Smart Shape that contains floating or flowchart topics, all topics move with the container object. Once again, this represents a significant time savings compared to having to reposition multiple individual flow chart elements.
I tried this to see how it works, and was really pleased with how intuitive it is. I first created a topic, and then branched 3 others off of it. Next, I selected a rectangle from the shapes drop-down menu and drew one to enclose all three of these topics. I then clicked and dragged the rectangle, and the shapes automatically moved with it! I right-clicked on the rectangle and to see if I could learn why. What I discovered is that a container command was checked. By default, MindManager assumes that you want shapes to act as containers. This setting is on unless you manually turn it off. Smart functionality!
Relationship lines in flow charts have been enhanced to enable multiple lines to be joined to multiple locations on a topic. This provides you with much greater freedom to design exactly the type of flow chart you envision.
According to the MindManager development team, the new Snap content capture tool and any other topic enhancements (such as notes, links and attachments) can be used in the program’s diagramming view, enabling you to create rich, multi-faceted collections of knowledge, information and processes.
Since Corel bought MindManager several years ago, they have steadily improved its capabilities, which appear to be aimed squarely at the needs of today’s busy executives and knowledge workers.
The updates in MindManager 2020 are well-designed and easy to use – and give users a world-class set of tools to manipulate ideas, manage projects and collaborate like never before. I continue to be impressed that even team members who don’t own licensed copies of MindManager can still collaborate and benefit from it.
I’m also impressed with the developer’s decision to make co-editing revolve around file-level access controls its users are already using in popular online file repositories and collaboration spaces. This increases the likelihood it will be adopted and used by teams. Greater integration and fewer islands of information is usually a good thing!
Some of the best news of all: Corel has held the line on pricing for MindManager 2020. A single license is still US$349. The upgrade protection plan, needed to access the co-editing features, is $69 a year. It entitles you to all upgrades to MindManager. Finally. co-editing is $29 per year.