MindMap 4 Professional

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, March 2007
Published by: ConceptDraw
Requires: Windows — 98 through XP, Intel Pentium processor or faster, 256MB RAM, 100MB available hard drive space; Mac OS X — PowerPC G3 processor or faster, 256MB RAM, 100MB available hard drive space
MSRP: US$119.99 (Personal), $199.00 (Professional)

Connecting your thoughts and ideas then describing them in ways that can be understood by someone other than yourself is one of the most important things we do throughout our lives. The problem we encounter during our attempts to describe our ideas to others, can often be likened to that of a young child who has just learned to do addition in his head and no longer sees any need to also work out all the problems on paper. He can see the answer just fine, so why bother writing down the steps it took to get there? That's what mind mapping software is all about—simply and graphically laying out the structure behind your idea. MindMap 4 is an interesting entry in a growing software segment of idea mapping and idea visualization tools.

We tested MindMap 4 mainly on a Pentium 4/2.8GHz running Windows XP Professional. It's a common enough system which handled MindMap easily. We also tried MindMap on an older Pentium III/1GHz machine running Windows 2000 Professional and it ran just as well. Evidently, MindMap is not a resource hog on any level, which is very good news for small businesses and SOHOs on tight budgets and using older PCs or Macs. The software was completely stable throughout almost a full month of review, during which time we used it to produce several pieces of meeting collateral.


If someone demanded that I describe MindMap 4 in one word, I'd have to say, "cheerful!" I know that it's faintly silly to anthropomorphize a piece of software, and I'm not attempting to do so. But the fact remains that MindMap is cheerful. From the language used on the product web site to describe the product, to the language and tone used in the online help system, to the style and look of the enormous pile of categorized sprites, icons, symbols, chart primitives and so on, MindMap looks and feels cheerful. The designers of the product seem to have recognized that because people are generally proud of their ideas, it's probably best to give them an idea visualization tool that looks and feels encouraging and light on its feet.

With its tendency toward riotously colorful objects, icons and symbols, MindMap is just as clearly a potentially brilliant marketing tool as it is a visualization tool. When using MindMap, I found that it was very important to lay out the framework of an idea—essentially, the beginning, middle and end—and only then populate the map with all of the objects, connectors, symbols icons and text captions needed to help people understand and visualize the idea or concept. One of my sales managers looked in on a MindMap session and enquired about its usefulness as a sales tool. My considered response was pointed and brief: whatever you do with MindMap and your sales group, keep it in-house because the look and feel of completed maps is often a bit too cartoon-ish to fly well outside the company walls.

Cons: Most of MindMap 4 is quite intuitive to use, but I strongly recommend spending about 15 minutes with the tutorial supplied in the online help system. It's detailed and will show you how to perform several important basic functions such as adding object connectors and a few other tasks which aren't immediately obvious if you just dive in.

Pros: It's almost Microsoft Visio for the financially disadvantaged. Better than Visio (and the market leading MindManager too in some respects), MindMap 4 is supplied with a huge, and more important, refreshing set of icons, idea boxes, symbols, objects and hundreds of other items which you can drag & drop to help illustrate ideas, thoughts, projects, products, plans and anything else you can think of. Visio was never designed to be a mind mapper or idea visualization tool — MindMap is. So it's important to understand the crucial distinction between the ubiquitous design tool (Visio) and the idea mapping and visualization tool (MindMap). To get the most out of MindMap, you have to use it often enough to make it part of your daily toolkit. In that way, you'll quickly begin creating ideas in MindMap first, moving to other tools such as word processors, spreadsheets, design, DTP and project management software only after providing the people around you with the clearest view of your ideas. As with all mind mapping software, the effort you put into it shouldn't be viewed as an extra step or an additional workload, but rather as a method of making your ideas more thoroughly understood from the beginning. More often than not, the approach will save you time and effort later on. Recommended.

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