MindManager Pro 7

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, August 2007
Published by: Mindjet
Requires: Windows XP through Vista including server versions of both operating systems; available for Mac OS X

MSRP: US$349.00 (Pro - Windows), $99.00 (Lite - Windows), $129.00 (Mac OS X)

MindManager Pro 7 is a wonderfully powerful tool for creating diagrams that can be used to describe ideas, projects, plans, organizations, tasks and processes. Designed for Windows PCs and Macs, MindManager Pro 7 fits into a relatively new genre of software designed primarily to be used at the earliest point in planning and development processes, and secondarily throughout the ongoing evolution and management of those efforts. Because MindManager Pro 7 also provides collaborative access within the context of its dynamic maps, it's appropriate for use not only by individuals but also by teams and workgroups involved in an enormous range of simple and complex projects, planning processes and product development cycles.

I think mind mapping software is misnamed. Talk to a psychiatrist, psychologist or neurologist about mind maps and he'll blink at you quizzically, likely assuming you're talking about brain patterning, neurological mapping, brain disease research or something like that. Nuh-uh when we're talking about software. Simply put, mind mapping software makes use of objects, links and text expanding from a central point in a page layout to create a descriptive diagram expressing a particular subject. Mind maps are great for representing ideas, words, tasks, timelines and concepts, and for supporting study, decision making, organization and problem solving. Mind mapping efforts can embrace exciting subjects, along with many more mundane things such as meeting agendas, financial planning, task charting and so on. Mind maps can ideally be used to organize information in a manner similar to the way in which your brain works.


The question we ask before starting reviews of this sort of software is simple: We've been getting along just fine for all these years, developing plans and ideas, creating designs, making agendas and so on. So why on earth do we need to add yet another tool or layer to the process? The answer is unusually simple. In fact, for whatever business or effort you're involved in, MindManager Pro 7 can used to effectively and productively reduce the number of layers in your design, planning and development processes. Our view is that MindManager Pro 7, if you fully embrace it for use throughout your business (no matter what size business—from one employee to thousands), can provide a versatile foundation for planning and development. From simple maps such as meeting agendas and sales projections, to deeply complex expression of new ideas, MindManager Pro 7 provides you with ability to physically demonstrate the way in which you visualize a particular idea or plan. At its core therefore, MindManager Pro 7 is a tool to help others understand what you're thinking about, how you thought it up in the first place, and all the things you think are important and relate to the main point you're trying to make, thereby providing the means by which people can see your thoughts from your perspective. That's gold baby—pure gold.

Mind mapping guru Tony Buzan suggests using the following foundation structures for Mind Mapping:

  • Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
  • Use images, symbols, codes and dimensions throughout your mind map.
  • Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  • Each word and image must be alone and sitting on its own line.
  • The lines must be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines should be thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the center.
  • Make the lines the same length as the word/image.
  • Use colors—your own code—throughout the mind map.
  • Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
  • Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.
  • Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.

Of course the preceding is all just a guideline. The beauty of MindManager pro 7 is that it can be used freeform as well, to map just about anything you can conceive. Alternatively, as the Interactive Quick Start Guide built into MindManager Pro 7 will demonstrate, there's an enormous amount of general automation available once you learn and practice using the software. Doing so is in our opinion time very well spent. Can MindManager Pro 7 be used exactly as Buzan suggests? Yes. More important, a couple of months of review in two busy businesses revealed that once staff embraced MindManager Pro 7, their success rate at helping other people more completely understand their ideas and plans improved geometrically. That impressive little fact is what it's all about. The more thoroughly ideas and plans are understood by all stakeholders during the earliest phases of a project, the more efficiently and successfully the whole thing is going to go. That's money in the bank.

The MindManager Pro 7 user interface has a new look & feel which amounts to a similar approach to that laid out by Microsoft in its Ribbon menu interface. This is a matter of adjustment for MindManager 6 users because while all the same features are available in addition to the new stuff, it's grouped in a different way. Our view is that the Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office 2007 and in products such as MindManager Pro 7 makes a lot of sense. Basically, the ribbon approach is meant to group contextually similar features and functions in the same place. The future of ribbon interfaces appears to hold more dynamic functionality, automatically grouping and displaying or removing items as you work on a particular project. At the moment, it works quite well, providing logical sets of features and functions for each mode you select.

Cons: One of the most important enterprise and SMB planning developments is formal risk assessment procedures, consultations, and general risk analysis & planning. It's possible for MindManager Pro 7 to fit into a variety of risk assessment applications, but powerful as it is, MindManager is still very much a manually tactile product. To understand MindManager, you must learn it thoroughly and allow your ideas to float free of constraints, trusting that after you actually get everything into a mind map, creating arcs between dependencies, points of failure and outright flaws will help to develop some sort of basic model of risk during the creation of a new idea, product or project. It's a learning curve that some people should embrace, and which others will dislike. But it's a fact of the product that using MindManager pro 7 means giving up some preconceived and possibly well practiced habits and notions about how ideas and planning should evolve. If you fail to temporarily set aside those habits and notions as you start to learn and use MindManager Pro 7, you may have problems coming to grips with the software. All we're saying in this 'Con' is that keeping an open mind while learning MindManager is worth the effort. Fine layout control over map elements is not possible because there's no nudge function, i.e., your keyboard arrow keys move focus from object to object rather than moving or repositioning the objects in small increments. This type of fine layout control is available in most other object-oriented and page layout software. Curiously, there's no map explorer function, something which would be handy for dragging & dropping elements or objects between maps.

Pros: Some of you may be somewhat apprehensive about trying out a software product which clearly boasts significant power. Don't be afraid. MindManager Pro 7 offers an Interactive Quick Start Guide which essentially walks you through the major areas of the software while instructing you in the creation of a relatively simple mind map. Once you realize how easy it is to use, Mind Manager might become an indispensable tool for your idea development, product development, project planning and management efforts. Planners, students, designers, project managers, product developers, business developers, sales managers, marketers, merchandisers and many others can benefit from MindManager Pro 7. It can't do your work for you, but it sure can help you (and your partners, team members, co-workers, associates and so on) better visualize and understand ideas, projects and plans. Our business test environments throughout the review period drew praise for easing collaboration and for sustainable improvements in productivity. Our student testers used MindManager for everything from note-taking to project planning. Mindjet offers a number of highly informative Webinars (web/online seminars) on the product web site. Extensive integration with Microsoft Office 2007 including dynamic updating of Outlook tasks contained in a mind map. You'll find MindManager Pro quick access buttons in each Office 2007 component program. A number of excellent third-party MindManager Pro add-ins are available including TPassist 2007 which adds a robust Microsoft Project-like component to MindManager, and IntelliGantt which is used for creating Gantt charts within maps. We were able to integrate dynamically updating RSS feeds (from several different blogs) into different parts of various maps—useful for including current status and other details from various sources without having to enter it manually or otherwise edit maps. Large user base, active user forums on the Mindjet web site. MindManager Pro 7 remains an unusually useful and amazingly creative product. Highly recommended.

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