XMind, one of the best low-cost mind mapping software programs available today, just got better with the release of a new 2012 version. This new version includes a redesigned Gantt chart, the ability to maintain a set of revisions of your mind maps so you can roll it back to previous versions, and much more.
The goal of the program’s developers was to make it more attractive to business users. Here’s what they have done to support that:
Improved Gantt chart: This functionality has been completely redesigned to make it easier to use. You can now create dependencies between tasks and change the scale of the timeline. It also works with the program’s drilldown feature. In other words, if you focus in on a single branch in the map view, the Gantt chart will also display only the task data related to that branch.
Revisions: For certain types of work, where you need to be able to refer back to the previous version of a document, the ability to revert to a previous version is a plus. XMind 2012 now supports this functionality in a mind mapping program; it captures the file each time you click the “save” toolbar icon. Dates and times of each revision are displayed in chronological order in a table in a new “revisions” tab that appears on the right side of the workspace. Double-clicking on any version will display it in a preview pop-up window. It contains a series of numbered squares that correspond to each revision, enabling you to quickly switch between them to see how your map has evolved. A box with the program’s logo within it returns you to the map’s current state. But for some reason, you can’t revert to the version you’re viewing from this window. You must do so from the properties tab.
Clicking on the version of the map you want to use and then on the “revert” button causes the selected version to appear on screen. You can still switch to the other saved versions of your mind map at any time, however, which is nice. You never have to worry about losing anything. I actually tried reverting back to the first version of my map, and then taking its content in a different direction. As soon as I saved it, it became a new entry in the revisions list. Even though I had “branched” the map in a new direction, I could still return to any previous version I had saved. That’s encouraging.
Spellcheck: This new capability is actually quite clever: Not only does it highlight misspelled words, but it suggests alternatives. You can spell check only the current version of your map, or the current plus all previous versions – that’s cool. The results are displayed in a tab in the properties panel of the program, in a hierarchical table. The first column displays the misspelled word and its location within your mind map. The second column displays a list of suggested words. Double-clicking on that entry highlights it (already in edit mode) within the mind map, so you can quickly type the correct spelling.
I like the way this has been implemented. It would be even cooler if you could simply click on one of the suggested words, and it would replace the misspelled one. Oh, well – perhaps in a future version of XMind! Still, I like the direction they’re headed with this feature.
Both of these new features can be accessed from the program’s “view” menu.
Spotlight integration: In the new Mac version of the program, you can search the contents of your mind maps using Spotlight.
Free map sharing: With the introduction of this new version, the program’s developer has made both public and private map sharing free.
New pricing model: To make XMind 2012 more palatable to businesses, its developer has introduced a new pricing plan for the Pro version (US$79 per year); you can still make a one-time purchase of it for $129. In addition, a new version called XMind 2012 Plus has been launched that contains basic business features (such as export to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF) and costs $79. A basic version without these features and no map sharing is still available for free.
To help differentiate these three tiers, the developer has grouped the functionality of them into three logical groups:
- Mind Toolbox – Includes relationships, boundaries, summaries, topic labels, markers, notes and drill down
- Creative Toolbox – Includes image gallery, extract theme, map shot, map merge and advanced map filtering
- Business Toolbox includes encrypt map with password, audio notes, task management and full map search.
The free version of XMind 2012 comes with only the Mind Toolbox. Plus adds the Creative Toolbox, and the Pro version contains all three toolboxes. This makes it easier to understand what each version offers. For a more detailed comparison of the free, Plus and Pro versions, please see this pricing chart on the developer’s website.
The bottom line is that the free basic version of XMind has become even more basic than before. You can create all of the types of diagrams the program normally supports, such as mind maps, org charts and fishbone diagrams. You can do some basic embellishment of your maps and share them online. But that’s all.
I think this is a wise decision on the part of XMind’s developers. I’ve always praised the program as an ideal mind mapping tool for beginners, because of its simplicity and ease of use. But if a user of the free program wanted to step up to something more powerful, their only choice was to make the big leap to the Pro version. The new Plus version now enables users of the free version to make a smaller, less expensive step to a middle-tier product that adds useful business functionality but doesn’t overwhelm them.
XMind 2012 is an incremental upgrade, not a revolutionary one. Still, its developer’s steady improvements are appreciated in this genre of productivity software, where some developers only issue updates every 2 to 3 years.
XMind continues to get my vote as one of the best values available in the world of mind mapping software. If you’re new to mind mapping, you’ll appreciate its simple design and ease of use. It can help you get more work done, without a big learning curve. If you’re a more experienced visual mapper, you’ll find that the three versions of the program give you room to grow as you become proficient with it.
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