Review: MindManager Offers A New Way To Think - InformationWeek

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Review: MindManager Offers A New Way To Think

If outlines and project managers don't do it for you, this visually-oriented information organizer may help you put your ideas into coherent form.

There are seemingly dozens of tools out there that are supposed to help keep you organized -- from simple contact managers and schedulers to the kind of project manager that takes a college course to understand.



MindManager offers a new view on organizing information.

(Click image to enlarge.)

One of the entries in this field has been MindManager, which has a somewhat different viewpoint on the issue of getting organized. MindManager, according to its Web site, is supposed to help you, "visually capture and manage information." Basically, the idea is that mapping out your projects, thought processes, meetings, etc. in a more graphic manner is an improvement over outlines and out text-centric structures. It makes it easier to keep organized, view all the elements at once, reorganize them, and track them.

It's an interesting concept. It's an attempt to combine your typical org charts with the way people jot down ideas. I took a look at the latest version, MindManager Pro 7.

Mapping Out Your Ideas
A MindManager map begins with what it calls a Central Topic. All the headings in your map are subtopics off of that main topic; you then continue adding more subtopics to that subtopic. This initial phase is pretty easy, and keyboard shortcuts (the Ins key adds a new subtopic to the current topic and the Enter key adds another topic on the same level), you can move pretty quickly.

Once you've got your topics and subtopics flowing, the fun begins. Icons play a major role here (as could be expected). You can add icons to indicate whether a task is completed; how important it is; to flag it to for follow up or discussion, etc. You can also add task info, including priority and start/end dates. You can attach text notes, hyperlinks, or images. You can also add lines between topics in order to indicate some kind of relationship between them.



You can add a variety of icons and other visual indicators to your map.

(Click image to enlarge.)

If you feel that you need a more textual rundown of your projects, you can view your map as an outline, as a multimap (which lets you view any documents you have linked to your topics), or as a presentation.

Modeled After Microsoft Office
Previous users are going to be most startled by the look of the latest version. MindManager 7 is designed very similarly to that of Microsoft Office 2007 -- instead of the drop-down menus of the past, it uses the Office Ribbon design. Click on a category -- Home, Insert, Format, Review, View, or Tools -- and you get groupings of the features that belong to that category.



MindManager uses the same Ribbon toolbar design that Microsoft introduced for Office.

(Click image to enlarge.)

This actually works rather nicely -- assuming you're comfortable with the Ribbon strategy. It also includes an Office-like Quick Access Toolbar so that you can have an easy place to access your most-used features. But considering the mixed reviews that have greeted Microsoft's new Office redesign, it was gutsy for the MindManager folks to commit so fully to the new look. It would be interesting to find out how their current users find the change.

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