MindMapper 12 was recently launched by SimTech Systems. It strengthens this program’s position as a solid mind mapping program for business. Here are the most significant new and improved features and my thoughts on them:
Project management: MindMapper 12’s project management toolset has been significantly expanded. Tasks can be shown in a new schedule view, which is a Gantt chart. Topics are displayed on the left side of the schedule, along with start and end dates and planned and actual costs. The next section of the table displays resources (people and equipment assigned to the project), their cost (per hour or unit cost) the planned and actual hours they have put into the project and the cost implications (rate multiplied by time). The final part of the table displays the task durations in a Gantt view. The horizontal bars in the Gantt chart automatically display what the developer calls their “achievement” rate – the percentage of task completed – in visual form. The percentage complete is depicted in a striped pattern, as shown at right. It’s a great way to communicate this information visually.
When you add schedule data to a map topic, it gives you the option of inserting dependencies, right in the map view. This is depicted as a relationship line, and is displayed as a connecting line in the Gantt view.
Presentation mode: Three presentation options are now offered in MindMapper 12:
- “Brief with outline” displays your map as a hierarchical outline in a narrow vertical panel on the left side of the screen. If you click on a low-level subtopic, it is highlighted in the map view to the right, while all other topics are dimmed. You navigate through your presentation by clicking on the points in the outline.
- In the “brief with scenario” option, the program displays larger chunks of your map at one time. The developer defines a “scenario” as one logical unit of the mind map – usually one topic of the map plus its subtopics. Both modes provide your audience with an important sense of context – in other words, they show how the topic you’re currently viewing is related to the rest of the map.
- The third mode, which is simply called “play slide,” expands the topic to fill the screen without any other interface elements displayed. The program gives you several options, which enable you to select a range of slides to present from, as well as set up a delay function so your presentation can run by itself – useful for locations like sales displays and trade show booths.
Table conversion feature: When this new command is selected, all of the sub-topics below it are converted into a table. The program enables you to select from a number of table styles and templates. I’m not sure how I would ever use such a feature; think of it as a different way of presenting the lower-level content of your map in a more linear form.
Field topics: This interesting new feature enhances your ability to create records and capture data in them. Think of a field topic as a fill-in-the-blank record capture. When you convert a topic into a field, the original text (address, for example) is grayed out and you can enter data into it (the person’s actual address). This gives you a way to easily capture simple data in your maps, while ensuring that it is entered in a consistent format (see screen capture).
Enhanced printing: One of the complaints of mind mapping software is that printing large maps can be ponderous. If you try to print one of these monsters on a single page, the text is so small that it’s unreadable. The alternative is to print your map across multiple pages, but you’re usually at the mercy of the way that the program decides to divide your map into separate pages. Not so with MindMapper 12. It solves this challenge by giving you an improved set of printing options. For example, you can move your map freely around the print canvas to position it exactly as you want it. You can change the level of print zoom, and perform physical and logical partitioning of pages. With the physical partition, you select the percentage zoom and how many pages horizontally and vertically your mind map should be printed on. With the logical partition, the program does it for you, based upon the first-level topics.
Collaboration: Sim Tech Systems, the developer of MindMapper 12, has launched an online collaboration service, which enables you to conduct online meetings with other MindMapper users, and to share and co-edit your maps with them. To utilize this feature, you must subscribe to the MindMapper Collaboration service. Packages are available that enable up to 5 or 20 people to participate in an online meeting.
A voting tool gives you a structured way to get input from meeting participants, while a report window enables you to see who contributed which content to the map. At any point during the online meeting, the organizer can take a “snapshot” of the map, which can be used to roll it back to a previous state – useful if you don’t like the direction the meeting is headed. I like the way the developer has implemented this feature; snapshots are much more manageable than trying to roll back the map one step at a time to a state that is 200 changes back, for example. As the meeting organizer, however, it’s up to you to remember to take snapshots throughout the meeting. This is an excellent feature!
If you don’t own a licensed copy of MindMapper 12, you can still participate in an online meeting, utilizing a web version of the program called iMindMapper. It requires Internet Explorer and administrative privileges to download and install an ActiveX control on your computer.
Upload to Twitter: MindMapper 12 gains a simple social media feature. You can select a topic and upload it to your Twitter feed. This may be useful if you want to plan a campaign of tweets. You could use it to launch these brief messages, one at a time. It would be nice if tweets could be scheduled, so you could set up and automatically deploy a tweet campaign from within MindMapper. A future capability, perhaps?
MindMapper Mobile for Android: An Android version of MindMapper was also released at the same time as version 12, along with a web folder application, so the mobile and desktop versions of MindMapper can exchange maps. It’s a free download and is available in the Android Market.
Ideation meeting templates: MindMapper 12 has a new tab in its ribbon toolbar called “ideation.” Within it, you can use a number of techniques to capture ideas, including:
- Radiant association
- Attribute listing
- Processing planning
- Cause and effect (fishbone mapping)
- Backward thinking
- SWOT analysis
- Forced connections
When you click on an ideation technique, the program displays a sample map (see screen shot above) – which is very helpful if you don’t know anything about some of these methods – while a vertical pane on the right side of the screen displays some explanatory text and a simple step-by-step procedure to use the technique. It also contains links to completed examples of each map type.
It’s nice to see this level of support for idea development and creative problem solving in MindMapper 12. The number of ideation techniques included is impressive. I also like the fact that the developers weren’t satisfied to just provide the tools, expecting you to figure them out. It actually explains how to employ them and gives you sample maps to help you visualize what to do.
Sim Tech only releases upgrades to MindMapper every two to three years. But usually, the wait it worth it, and MindMapper 12 is no exception. The program’s expanded business toolset should make it attractive to many executives. It offers an extensive array of capabilities that are equal to almost any business task you could think of, but arranges them in a logical, easy-to-use way. That’s a fine balance that’s not easy to achieve.
My favorite capabilities in this new version include the rollback capability of the online collaboration space, as well as the clever implementation of its brainstorming techniques. A lot of thought has obviously gone into how to make this program easy for people to use, without a big learning curve.
MindMapper 12 Professional is available from the Sim Tech Systems website and it costs $249.
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