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Review: MindManager X5 Pro

MindManager X5 Pro
$299
Mindjet
Larkspur, California
(415) 925-3120
www.mindjet.com

I've written before about MindManager, which is software for producing "mind maps" -- freeform diagrams that link topics in a two-dimensional space, unlike the one-dimensional organization of the typical outline. You may not think of this as a typical developer tool, but I find that development quite often involves brainstorming, and this is an excellent brainstorming tool. In fact, MindManager X5 is quite an advance over previous versions, adding all sorts of rich linking to mind maps.

First off, the whole application has had a facelift, and so have your maps. There's a new template formatting ability that lets you apply a consistent look to an entire map, XP-style icons you can drag in, watermarks and backgrounds galore. Some of this stuff was in previous versions, but it all feels much better integrated now, and you have full control over colors, fonts, icons, and so on. The interface is easy to work with, and makes good use of visual cues for drag-and-drop as well as context menus. The goal is to let you lay down topics about as quickly as you can type, and then reorganize them easily -- and it succeeds.

MindManager makes it easy for anyone to draw flexible mind maps. (Click on image for larger view)

Under the hood, there are major overhauls in the form of an underlying XML engine. This is most easily seen in the smart "map parts" that are available to add to a map. Mindjet supplies a few of these, and promises more in the future. For example, you can add a Google search or an RSS feed directly to a map by dragging in the appropriate map part and filling in data. They're also documenting the process for creating your own map parts so you can extend the product. And entire mind maps can now be exported to XML, giving you a universal format for interchange with other products.

Of course, you might not need to do any programming to interchange with your favorite products. Installing X5 adds a couple of icons to your Outlook toolbar; select an item or a folder, click the icon, and it'll link the Outlook content into your map (there are also map parts for linking from the MindManager side to Outlook). Exporting maps to Outlook, Project, PowerPoint, or Word is only a click of an icon away as well.

The Mindjet folks have also worked hard to make all of the features accessible. In addition to the traditional help file, there are tutorials galore, plus a set of mind maps showing key features and sample uses for the product. It's a great example of the power of using your own product, or as we say in the business, dogfooding.

If you don't need the XML extensibility, there's a $199 version that has just about all the other features. If you'd like to try out the program, you can download a 21-day trial. The only danger is that you might get addicted and need to purchase a copy.


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For more reviews and opinions from Mike Gunderloy, click here.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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