I’ve been playing around with MindJet MindManager over the last week or so and I have to say, overall I really like it. Mindmapping provides a great mechanism in getting your thoughts down on paper and establishing relationships between different concepts, especially for someone who suffers from “chronic editor” syndrome such as myself.
I’d love to post some examples of some of the things that I have been working on, but the only real “work neutral” mindmap I have available is the one I previously posted. Some really good examples can be found in the mindmaps that Cote produces. These are some really good examples of the complexity that can be represented using this technique.
I had first read about mindmapping quite a few years ago in the book Quantum Learning: Unleashing the Genius in You by Bobbi Deporter (with Mike Hernacki). Deporter and Hernacki describe the Mind Mapping technique as “a whole brain technique using visual images and other graphic devices to form impressions”. The key piece of this, for me, has been the connection and breakdown of different concepts into sub concepts. The graphical nature of a mind-map, coupled with the distilling of the key concepts and relationships and visual representation, have allowed me to retain much more information while taking notes over the past week than I have previously experienced.
I had attempted mind-mapping when reading Quantum Learning, but the extremely manual process (actual drawing) turned me off immediately. For me, it just seemed like too much work.
That’s where Mind Manager comes in. With a few natural keystrokes you can string all of these concepts together, attach images or URL’s to the key concepts for further reference material, and flag concepts as priorities or something to pay attention to. The additional benefit of a tool to do this stuff is the ability to dynamically refactor your mind maps without having to throw away your piece of paper and recopy everything. The refactoring of these concepts has been something that I have been doing quite a bit.
The folks at MindJet were nice enough to give me complimentary licenses for both the Macintosh and Windows environments. Since buying a Mac in June, I have decided to use it exclusively at home in order to learn as much about the environment as possible (and, of course, to justify the investment). So, I have had the opportunity to work on a few mind maps across the two environments. There is no ‘import’ or conversion necessary. I store the maps on my thumb drive, work on them at home, take them to work, and they just load and are ready for continued editing on the Windows platform.
There are some differences between the two versions of the product. The Windows version has quite a bit of Microsoft Office integration. You can export your mind maps to Visio, Word, Excel and even Microsoft Project, in addition to JPG and PNG image formats and PDF. Both versions allow you to add task information to map nodes, including flagging nodes as resources and flagging them as quarter, half, three quarters done, as well as completed. I have not experimented with taking these types of mind maps and exporting them to project, but I’m assuming these move along with them (I can mess with it later and validate this).
The Macintosh version has a more limited set of export formats. JPG and PNG are supported along with multiple flavors of RTF (Word, TextEdit) and PDF.
For me, the use of this tool over the past week has been a really positive experience – on the Macintosh. The Windows version has some pretty major performance issues that are being talked about in the support forums as well as being addressed specifically by the Vice President of Engineering on the companies blog.
The Windows machine that I am running MindManager on has 2G of memory and 80G of hard drive space. When docked, I run at a pretty high screen resolution (1280×1024 – maybe even higher). Docked, the software runs well enough to do the work I need to do as another connected concept hits me on some of the things I am working on.
The strange part is that as soon as I undock and run in ‘laptop’ mode at the standard 1024×768 resolution, performance drops to the point where the software isn’t even usable. I’m not sure why this is the case, but at a seminar the other day with the Windows laptop, I was unable to take notes using the software whatsoever, as the software began exhibiting the symptoms mentioned in the above links.
Overall, the technique of mind mapping is proving extremely helpful to me. As mentioned earlier, using the technique has increased the retention that I am experiencing while thinking through problems. The MindManager software is excellent – on a Mac. The Windows version needs some work to fix some of the performance challenges that I am experiencing.
The price tag for the software is not the cheapest in the world either. A single user license for MindManager 6.0 Pro weighs in at a whopping $349, with the Basic and Macintosh versions available at $229. The question then becomes is the price tag worth the value received from the software. While I’m receiving a ton of value from using the software, the price of a single user license would definitely stop me from even taking the time to try it in the first place. While the company does make trial software available (both a 5 day express trial with no registration required and a 21 day “premium trial” of which the premium is registering with the company), I rarely “do” trials on products in this price range for the fear of getting addicted to them and having to pay for them.
So the real question for me as I use the software further is whether I will buy it. Time will tell. I like to (and see it as an obligation) to support software I find useful with my wallet. The only real guarantee that useful software will continue to be available is if there is a community behind it, or, in the case of commercial software, people actually buy it. Once the “newness” of the software wears off, we’ll see if I continue to see value in the process and whether I keep using the software. At the point that I find it indispensable, I will definitely shell out the money to show my support for the product.
And when that happens, you’ll definitely be the first to know.