I’ve never known the developers at NovaMind Pty. Ltd. to rest on their laurels. They’re always improving their mind mapping products on a regular basis. Within the last week, they announced a major update to NovaMind 5 for Windows, which itself was launched last April.
Here’s what’s new and improved in NovaMind 5 for Windows:
Full screen mode: The NovaMind Pro and Platinum editions add a full-screen editing feature, which hides the toolbar and footer to give you more screen real estate in which to edit your mind maps. This should be especially useful for those of you who frequently work with large mind maps. If you’re operating in full screen mode and need to access a command on the ribbon toolbar, you simply move your mouse cursor to the top edge of the screen, and the toolbar slides quickly into view. When you’re done with it and mouse away from it, the toolbar slides back into hiding. I tried this on the big flat screen on my home PC, and it really does make the workspace appear to be much more spacious. I may use this mode for any complex mind maps I create in NovaMind 5 from now on.
New detail levels: The latest update of NovaMind 5 adds a set of controls that enable you to quickly adjust how many levels of your mind maps are being displayed. Your choices include showing only the first level of topics, the first two levels, show all levels of subtopics or collapse a topic. Each of these new toolbar commands has a corresponding Windows hotkey (for example, show only the first level of topics is Shift+Alt+1), so you can quickly change your view of your mind map without touching your mouse. You can also use another hotkey to toggle through each level setting until you find one that meets your needs.
Focus in: As part of the detail level controls, NovaMind 5 for Windows now enables you to “focus in” on a specific topic – which expands the selected topic and collapses all others. There is no focus out command, because NovaMind is still displaying your entire mind map, but with only the currently-selected branch open. As you may know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I’m a big fan of the focus in/focus out capabilities of certain mind mapping programs, because it enables you to remove all other distractions from view and concentrate on the topic you’re currently trying to develop. If you’re ADD like I am, this feature is quite valuable. Unfortunately, NovaMind doesn’t remove the rest of your map from the workspace, but only collapses the other branches.
When it comes to zeroing in on a topic in your mind map, NovaMind distinguishes between focus and hoist. In their view, focus in is when the currently selected topic and its children are expanded while all other topics are contracted. Hoist, on the other hand, is when only the currently selected topic and its children are visible in the work space. According to NovaMind founder Gideon King, his development team decided to implement this functionality using the former technique, because it retains the context of the currently-selected topic by showing its siblings in relationship with it. One of the big drawbacks of hoist, according to Gideon, is that you lose the context surrounding the current topic.
Also, because of the map layout engine NovaMind employs – in which you can position topics wherever you want and to have different layouts at any point in the topic hierarchy – coming back out of a hoist state and once again displaying all of the topics in their correct position would be very challenging, he added.
Find and replace: NovaMind 5 now enables you to find and replace text in your mind maps, and gives you a nice set of options to control how this new functionality behaves. For example, you can tell it to “look in” all open documents, the current document, selected topics or the selected map (a NovaMind document may contain more than one mind map, in tabbed pages). You can also use a pair of check boxes to restrict your find and replace to topic text and/or notes. I tried using this on one of my existing maps, and found the find/replace dialog box to be initially a little confusing. At first, I only saw one form field, with “replace” and “replace all” buttons next to it. Normally, a find and replace command in a software program has two form fields – one for the text you’re looking for, and the other, of course, for what you want to replace it with. Upon closer inspection, I finally noticed that there was another form field above the replace field, but it completely spans the width of the dialog box from right to left, and I didn’t even see it was there at first. There’s some text sitting in it that says “type here to start a search,” but I thought it meant to type in the form field below. If this first form field was a little shorter, it would be easier to see. This is a minor usability detail, however.
Improved image handling: As you know if you read my review of NovaMind 5 when it was first released, I really liked the way the program enables you to easily add images to your topics, using an innovative four-quadrant selector (see example at right). The developers have improved the functionality of this aspect of the program to make it even more versatile. If you drag and drop an image to a new topic that doesn’t have any text, the program removes the text box completely and tiles the image across the shape of the topic.In addition, the quadrant selector now has a new box above the upper left quadrant (see image at right), which enables you to easily attach an image to the currently-selected topic as a shape.
In NovaMind 5, shapes are powerful layout elements that are attached to topics but are not part of them. Shapes have a number of unique qualities, including the ability to overlap the topics to which they are attached, and to be in front of or in back of the topics. Shapes can either be part of the layout of the topic, pushing other topics out of the way, or be floating independent of other topics, allowing you to overlap a shape with other objects.
The best way to explain shapes is to say that they behave like visual annotations of a topic, enabling you to alter the shape of it and make it more interesting and meaningful. Some examples of what you can do with shapes in NovaMind 5 are shown above right.
For more details on other improvements to NovaMind 5 for Windows, please visit the NovaMind Blog.
While none of the enhancements and new functionality are in themselves earth shattering, the cumulative effect of NovaMind continually upgrading the program’s capabilities is a big win for users of this innovative program.
If you already have NovaMind 5, this update will be available for download the next time you open the program. If you haven’t made the move to NovaMind 5, perhaps now is the time!