XMind 7 Pro, the new version of this popular mind mapping software program, may be the most significant update to it – ever. It features a new user interface (UI) and dozens of enhancements that make it a useful tool for businesses and individuals alike.
In this review, we will take a closer look at the new and improved features of XMind 7 Pro that are designed to help business people be more productive and creative with it.
Updated user interface
When you open XMind 7 Pro, the first thing you notice is its simplified toolbar, which provides quick access to its most common functions. While most of its competitors have transitioned to a ribbon toolbar, with each tab packed with dozens of toolbar icons, XMind continues to resist this trend. Considering the clean, easy-to-use appearance of version 7’s toolbar, this isn’t necessarily a bad decision. One of XMind’s greatest strengths is its ease of use, which makes it an ideal program to recommend to new users of mind mapping software. This new version maintains Xmind’s legendary usability.
[Tweet “One of XMind’s greatest strengths is its ease of use, says @chuckfrey.”]
Other updated user interface elements include a fresher form of the Properties view, re-designed tab bars, and refined markers and clip art library.
A new home panel
When you start XMind 7 Pro, it opens to an improved home panel, which gives you the options of creating mind maps from templates, selecting a theme or opening a recently used file. You can pin files to the home panel, so they are always accessible whenever you launch XMind – nice!
XMind 7 Pro gives you a choice of 16 blank templates, which include the usual selection of radial and directional maps, plus fishbone diagrams, vertical and horizontal timelines and several matrix diagrams.
Next to the “blank” map button at the top of the screen is another one entitled “templates.” This gives you access to another library of 20 templates that have a more finished appearance. That is, they are already styled with topic, background and connector line color schemes. Templates in this library include a cause-and-effect diagram, SWOT analysis, project status report, flowchart, personal management and travel plan. For new users, this updated library should be very welcome, because you can start with a complete mind map that is already styled, and simply focus on modifying what is already there, rather than starting from scratch.
Significantly updated Gantt chart
In XMind 7 Pro, you can add and modify task data directly in Gantt Chart view, including start/end date, person to whom it’s assigned, priority level and progress. In addition, you can also export Gantt charts to images or PDFs, or print directly from Gantt view. This significantly increases its value to business users who want to use their mind mapping software to manage projects.
XMind 7 Pro’s new home for metadata: The information card
XMind 7 Pro gives you a lot of flexibility to show or hide topic metadata. It appears in the form of an “information card” below each topic. The program provides a set of controls that enables you to show or hide labels, notes, hyperlinks and tasks. You can show as much or as little information as you want.
In theory, this is potentially a valuable feature, because it gives you a lot of control over how much or how little information you displaying your mind maps. In practice, however, I found it rather clunky to use. To begin with, I couldn’t figure out why I could see the information card settings in the properties window sometimes but not other times. After a bit of experimentation, I finally figured out that you had to click in a blank area of the workspace in order for the settings to appear – exactly the opposite of what I would’ve expected.
The other thing that was a bit confusing is that one of the information card settings is “show task info.” But the only task data that actually appears in the information card is the start and end dates. The task priority and percentage complete still appear to the left of the topic.
I populated one topic with all four of the elements that can be shown in the information card: a label, notes, hyperlink and task info. I then returned to the information card properties and unclicked each of these four settings, one at a time. As I did so, it disappeared from the information card beneath my selected topic, and appeared in an icon only view within the topic itself. In other words, unchecking the boxes did not make these forms of metadata completely go away, but just appear in a more or less condensed format.
I actually think this is a valuable approach. Experienced XMind users can look at a set of icons within a topic and immediately understand what they mean. But that’s not the case for first-time users and non-mind mappers. Making it more explicit within the information card helps the two groups of people to understand what data topic contains.
XMind 7 adds a new type of topic metadata that should be especially useful to teams: comments. This makes it easy for team members to collaborate without adding a lot of visual clutter to mind maps. When you select insert/comment from the right-click menu, the dialog box that open represents a chat window, with the thread of conversation at the bottom and a form field for adding new comments at the top.
In addition, it contains several buttons, which enable you to navigate “horizontally” from one topic to the next – to review additional comments from your colleagues. This is much faster than closing the comments window, selecting the next topic and right-clicking to access that topic’s comments. So it’s not a map review function, where you as the team leader can accept or reject changes, but it is the next best thing.
Callouts are the more traditional way to add comments to mind maps – but they take up space and push topics out of the way. That’s the trade-off. But if you need to add a comment to a mind map and ensure that your colleagues see it, the callout is the way to go. XMind 7 Pro finally adds topic callouts in this new version. It treats them just like any other topic, which means you can add topics and subtopics to them.
In the new version of XMind, callouts even have their own properties panel, which gives you a choice of 3 callout shapes, shape border thickness and color, connection type and font, size and color. This is the first time I’ve seen these many options applied to the lowly topic callout.
New timeline view
This new view depicts all of your map’s topics in a horizontal line. Subtopics are formatting in groups above and below the main timeline. Changing the sequence of timeline topics is a simple matter of dragging and dropping them in the sequence that makes the most sense to you. If you need to show a project schedule, this looks like a great way to do that.
Share to Biggerplate.com
In addition to the usual selection of export options, XMind 7 Pro now enables you to upload your mind maps directly to Biggerplate,com, the world’s largest mind map library. Nice!
Numerous other improvements
XMind 7 Pro includes numerous other smaller improvements, which are summarized here. These include:
- Export the entire workbook to Excel
- Only calculate work days for tasks
- New topic shapes: circle, parallelogram and cloud
- Support for exporting mind maps in the Microsoft Project 2010 file format
XMind continues to get better and better. It’s so good that I regularly recommend it to business people who are just starting out with mind mapping. Why? Not because I’m compensated in any way for it (I’m really not!). I do it because of XMind’s practical design and ease of use. It doesn’t overwhelm business users with numerous features and toolbar buttons that many of them may rarely use, if ever. It’s simple and intuitive. Version 7 makes XMind even easier to use, with its new, simplified toolbar. As always, the program is stable and reliable. I highly recommend it.
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