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Some folks keep their ideas and thoughts neatly organized in their heads; others need to see their ideas visually to stay sane. Mindjet’s MindManager 7 is one of the easiest and most efficient mind mapping software applications available today.
While MindManager can creatively capture your flitting brainstorms, it’s also powerful enough to nurture sophisticated charts and diagrams. A meeting leader can use MindManager to organize a group’s thoughts and ideas (think virtual whiteboard), and you also can use the application to view the strategic big picture of a large case while linking to important documents directly from the application.
The most notable new feature in MindManager 7 is the adoption of the “Ribbon” user interface that now pervades Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft adopted the ribbon as a way to better expose the underlying functionality of programs. It replaces the standard “File, Edit, View” menu bar at the top. The ribbon presents commands that are organized into sets of tabs along the top of the application, and the tabs on the ribbon correspond to tasks being performed by a particular application, such as Microsoft Office or Excel. Where it previously might have taken two or three clicks to find a feature buried in a menu, you can find just about everything you need with one click in the ribbon. Although the ribbon does require a short learning curve, it soon becomes second nature.
MindManager 7 continues to provide unparalleled integration with the Microsoft Office suite. For example, you can easily export a mind map out of MindManager into a Word document or a PowerPoint slide. You also have the ability to establish links between MindManager “topics” — individual text boxes in a mind map — and external data items, such as Outlook appointments, tasks or specific Excel data ranges. If you make a change to information on one side of a link, the other side gets updated as well.
MindManager maps can be entirely exported into several Officecompatible applications including Word, PowerPoint and Visio. Maps can be exported in Rich Text Format or PDF. They also can be imported as simple graphic files (BMP, JPG, GIF) or Web pages.
Creating a map is fun and easy. You can either start from scratch with a main topic box or you can select from a collection of styles and templates included in the application. As you add subtopics and floating topics you can customize your collection of boxes by changing fonts and colors. The main idea of the map usually appears in a box in the center while each topic shoots outward in a clockwise direction. You don’t have to stick with this format, of course, so MindManager also provides a horizontal or vertical outline if that is what you prefer.
Adding boxes to your map is as simple as double-clicking a blank space, or you can click the “Topic” button from the “Home” or “Insert” tabs on the ribbon. You can zoom in and out of your map by using the slider located in the bottom right corner of the application. The “Format” tab on the ribbon allows you to customize each topic box for font size, color and so on.
When you have so many boxes on your map that you start to get lost, MindManager provides a few tools to help, such as the “Filtered Map” or “Focus on Topic” buttons. The “Filtered Map” button can hide unnecessary boxes temporarily, and the “Focus on Topic” button brings the selected topic to the center of the map. You also can click the “Balance Map” button, which equally spaces your boxes if things get too jumbled together.
The “Topic Sorting” feature allows you to sort subtopics alphanumerically or alphabetically. If you get dizzy looking at the visual side of MindManager, you can jump to the outline view, which squeezes your map into a standard outline format. It can be helpful in studying a timeline of events or a complex legal analysis.
Presentation mode is a wonderful way to walk a group through a map. Engaging presentation mode displays your map in full-screen mode, automatically hiding the ribbon and collapsing your topics so the map isn’t overwhelming. You can use the buttons at the bottom to proceed and reveal each topic, or you can selectively expand single topics. A tiny “Timer” tool is handy to keep your presentation on time, or you can use the timer in a brainstorming session to make sure you don’t waste precious minutes on any particular topic.
While similar tools on the market claim to help you develop a visual map of your thoughts, nothing gives you quite the freedom and flexibility that MindManager does. The fact that you can move boxes around at will and link to Web pages or files provides an incredible platform for developing visual diagrams and presentation flowcharts. Fortunately, you can explore MindManager for 21 days before you buy at www.mindjet.com to help convince yourself that it can become a unique and indispensable tool for gathering your thoughts in a visual map.
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