A number of months ago, the fine folks at Mind Jet were nice enough to include me in their beta group of the long awaited Mac version of their popular mind mapping software, “MindManager”:http://www.mindjet.com/us/products/mindmanager_6_mac/?s=6.
I’ve been using the software for a while now, and have this to report:
It has totally changed the way I use my computer.
In fact, it’s changed the way I work.
Mind maps are incredibly effective tools for brainstorming. Traditionally, when I’ve wanted to brainstorm a concept, I’ve pulled out my giant pad of newsprint, sat down on the floor, and started riffing on related concepts.
In and of itself, this just rocks. I was very wary of doing the same exercise on my computer. For one, I thought screen real estate would limit my ability to “see the big picture”.
This proves to be quite the opposite in practice, for a couple of reasons: type doesn’t take up nearly as much room as my messy handwriting, and MindManager allows you to collapse nodes that aren’t in use.
The software also does a great job of adapting the map as content is added, and the canvas size changes on the fly to fit everything in.
Using the program in full screen mode works beautifully. Not only does it give me more than adequate space on my 15″ powerbook, it very effectively blocks out the 19 other applications I usually have running, allowing me to concentrate fully on the job at hand.
Maybe it’s because my handwriting is so messy that I find that I need a big space to create a mind map. As a result, I tend to use them only when necessary. Since I’ve started using MindManger though, I’ve started mind mapping everything. Even this post.
Given my proclivity for stripped down word processors (I usually write in TextEdit), I’ve found it very easy to use the notes feature in MindManager to do all my writing as well. It’s a one-stop shop for idea generation and polishing.
In the past, I’d have used “Omni Outliner”:http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnioutliner/ to organize my thoughts. I love OO, as a search through my archives will attest. But MindManger is a better tool for capturing and managing ideas. It’s flat, where OO is linear. In MindManager I get a broader view of the whole concept I’m working on. I can better establish relationships between sub-topics.
What I like most about MindManger is it’s speed. It’s not quite up to par with OO for sheer “think and capture” ability, but it’s close. The keyboard shortcuts are mostly intuitive.
My biggest complaint has to with a couple of non-standard key activities that are driving me a bit nuts. First, after creating a topic, one has to hit return twice to start the next topic – once to close the topic you’re entering, and once again to start the next one. I can’t think of another program where hitting enter _creates_ a new topic. Failing to do this means that I overwrite whatever I had previously written. Luckily cmd-z comes to the rescue, but this is a pain in the ass I could live without.
The second complaint has to do with the space bar. For reasons I can’t comprehend hitting space (when not entering a topic) _also_ creates a new topic. I’m used to holding down the space bar to switch to “hand” mode in photoshop and illustrator. MindManager would really benefit from this feature.
That said, these two annoyances are minor in the greater scheme of things. If you’re a fan of mind maps, I highly recommend MindManager. “They’ve got a 21 day trial available.”:http://www.mindjet.com/us/products/mindmanager_6_mac/?s=6