MindManager 8 review . . . continued

In order to meet the Kickstartnews.com standard of real reviews by real users, we inserted MindManager 8 into the workflow of a busy design & consulting firm and the planning unit of an investigative research company. The first usage test occurred when a marketing campaign developer used MindManager 8 to create a product advertising concept for a line of teen clothing. The feedback we received was exemplary in its praise for MindManager 8. First and foremost, the campaign design group was able to present visual representations of their marketing & ad concepts as they were coming up with them. In other words, there was no change in the concept between the time someone thought of it and the time it was essentially described in MindManager. So the ability to explain your initial idea with words as well as physical representations is synchronized more quickly than is possible when using design tools such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign.

No less surprising, the research team loaded with the MindManager 8 experiment ended up asking us for a free license for the software because they didn't want to give it up (or the laptop on which we provided the installation). The main reason was that they found it much easier and faster to block out research project ideas complete with interrelated disciplines, web links and other conveniences. The corollary benefit was/is that the project presentation was also simply more clearly and easily recognized and understood by the current run of clients they were dealing with in respect of a market research project for a new clothing product line (you guessed it - the teen clothing line mentioned above), an industrial re-location project plan in respect of a company considering some investment in a facility in Slovakia, and a software development idea & market readiness study proposed by a long-time corporate client. You just can't get this sort of planning done with Google's online office software (Docs, etc.) or Microsoft Windows Office Live products because they're both utterly simplistic with respect to communicating initial project ideas and concepts.


In each of the foregoing examples of real applications, the software functioned as designed, provided a very easy learning curve, and enhanced rather than detracted from the concept and visualization process. The main comment we received was that MindManager 8 provides a level of sophistication and expression of ideas for an individual and within a team or workgroup that is not provided by any other software. The design campaign team actually briefly complained that MindManger 8 lacks sophisticated graphics editing components, but it was merely illustrative of how comfortable the team had become with MindManager and how often they wanted to stay with the software.

Conceptually, Mindjet has taken a firm but expansive direction with MindManager. You're not going to end up with a fully formed product design that can simply be dumped into Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign or AutoCAD for refinement. That's not what MindManager is meant to accomplish. The hard work of product proof-of-concept development, product technical specification and technical design still has to be done using advanced software available specifically for those purposes. MindManager is available to get you to those advanced stages of idea, academic, technical, product and project planning the fastest and most explanatory way possible for now, whether you're working on your own or in a team environment. That said, we still used MindManager to add technical lists, bills of materials, specification lists, to-do lists, concept notes, technical notes and all sorts of other things to our planning.

Cons: MindManager continues to evolve in the most positive and productive ways, but even smoother web integration is needed. We found a PDF conversion problem which appears to prevent MindManager PDFs from being viewed with Foxit Reader. Although Mindjet has clearly targeted idea mapping, concept mapping and project mapping, the border between those things and the realities of day-to-day project management tends to blur, so we'd like to see a version of MindManager which fully integrates the (additional cost) JVCGantt add-in. Without JVCGantt there's no way to generate a gantt chart out of MindManager. Similarly, wherever your work with MindManager comes to a logical conclusion or end, we think you should be able to output your mindmap in a variety of file formats (layered PSD, DOC, AI, etc.) so that work in other software can be done, if desired, for presentations that are going to be published. MindManager 8 works well on Tablet PCs, but sketches drawn using gestures don't render well (someone at Cabre in the UK commented on this and we were able to reproduce the minor problem quite easily). Rendering of inserted sketches really does push this sort of software to its limit. We're not totally crazy about the $120 annual subscription fee for MindManager Web, but busy business applications can justify its cost (and accountants can use the fee as an ongoing write-off), and you should note as well that not everyone actually needs MindManager Web to get the most out of MindManager 8.

Pros: We could wish that MindManager existed twenty or thirty years ago, but our time machine is broken right now so we'll pass over that particular thought. Take the time to get to know MindManager 8 and you'll be rewarded with an idea, concept, product and project presentation, demonstration and explanation tool second to none. Microsoft PowerPoint is a morass of difficulty compared to MindManager 8. Similarly, Microsoft Project, a project management tool designed to be used after an idea has gained form, cannot take the place of MindManager. These key differences between the three products are crucial to understanding how radically important, useful and quick MindManager can be in a pressurized business environment or in a creative design shop. Over the past several years, Mindjet has embraced user requests to the point where the software fully reflects the needs of a wide variety of active users of the product. It's an achievement of which Mindjet is justifiably proud and it shows as well in the care and attention to the reliability and stability of the software. There are people using MindManager 8 for all sorts of things that you might think are better left to other software. Not so for the guy at Cabre who is cutting & pasting dated columns from Excel into MindManager in order to automatically create a (much better looking) smart Annual Planner. Third-party vendors such as Olympic Limited are coming up with all sorts of useful MindManager plug-ins/add-ons. The Mindjet resource pages on the web site contain a wealth of reasonably well organized tutorials, tips & tricks. The Mindjet User Forum is quite active, and we used it as a first source for answers to questions. In our view there's nothing else quite like MindManager 8 available today. If you need to organize ideas, plan projects, explain concepts, pursue private projects, conduct research or any of a thousand other efforts, MindManager 8 may be the software you need to speed up your efforts, visualize your own ideas and help you clearly explain what you're doing to other people. Highly recommended.



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