MindMeister, the innovator in the web-based mind mapping space, continues to advance with the recent release of a major update, which includes a completely redesigned user interface, social sharing of maps created online, new MS Office export capabilities and much more.
Here’s what’s most notable in MindMeister 6:
Redesigned user interface: The first thing you notice when you open a map in MindMeister is that the user interface looks brighter. That’s because the properties panels on the right, which were formerly dark blue, now have a white background color. Also, this panel has been simplified. In the past, it took up the entire right side of the workspace, from top to bottom. Each of 5 sub-panels could be collapsed separately. The redesigned properties panel is now only half as tall, and can be collapsed in a single mouse click, giving you more screen real estate.
Improved notes functionality: One example of how the usability of MindMeister has been improved is the notes panel. In the past, it contained a toolbar, which enabled you to format your notes text. Usability studies must have confirmed that few users did so. As a result, the developers removed it from the panel and instead provided an unobtrusive “advanced” text link – which opens the notes in a much larger pop-over window, complete with a formatting toolbar. Undoubtedly, this also meets the needs of users who didn’t like the tiny text input window of previous versions. This solution meets the needs of novice users, yet gives power users access to more options with a single mouse click – nicely done!
Social sharing: With version 6.0, MindMeister users can now share maps quickly via e-mail, IM and Twitter with a unique link that has been shortened with the application’s new mm.tt link shortner. This was long overdue, considering the growing popularity of social media. You can share maps from either the map editing view or the “my maps” list. In a clever move, the developers consolidated map sharing (inviting people via e-mail to view and/or edit your map) and social sharing (via a shortened link). You need at least a MindMeister Pro account (US$9.95 per month) in order to use this functionality.
Map themes: MindMeister 6 now includes 12 colorful map themes, another feature that was probably long overdue. Almost all mind maps produced using MindMeister have looked the same – a blue central image with with angular connector lines joining topics and subtopics together, topic text on a plain line and a plain white background. Bleh! What a wonder it is to select a professionally-designed map theme, complete with smooth, rounded connector lines, topic box shapes and background colors. Not only that, but you can click on a “customize map theme” button to further modify the look and feel of your MindMeister maps. With this improvement alone, MindMeister moves the state of the art of web-based mind mapping closer to the experience of using desktop software.
New map exporting options: MindMeister 6 can now export to Word (.docx) and PowerPoint (.pptx) formats. In previous versions, it was possible to share your maps as embedded images, but MindMeister maps were more or less “islands.” You couldn’t easily export their contents to other useful formats for further development and refinement. Now you can. Once again, this is a capability that users of desktop mind mapping software have had for years; it’s nice to see MindMeister making this capability available to users of its innovative web-based application.
Keep-aligned feature: In previous versions, users spent a lot of time dragging and dropping topics to align them with each other. In version 6.0, a new “keep aligned” tool automatically repositions your topics. I tried this on one of my existing right-facing mind maps, which had about 12 topics in moderate disarray, relative to each other. The second I clicked this option, all of the topics jumped into perfect alignment with each other. Not only that, but if I tried to drag one of them out of alignment, it immediately snapped back into position. This tool can be toggled on and off; if you want to have more control over the positioning of your map topics, you can simply switch it off.
MindMeister 6 includes numerous other improvements, which you can read about in the developer’s blog.
It’s great to see a developer listening to its customers and responding with terrific new features and functionality. MindMeister continues to get my recommendation as the top web-based mind mapping application available today.