been meaning to write a review of
MindManger for many weeks now (August 2002). My current consulting
engagement has me working for a Department of Energy contractor at a former
nuclear weapons plant, Rocky Flats, www.rfets.gov
. The work involves that wickedly complex task of Information Technology
Strategy and how to develop one for a "business" that is actually going out of
business - site remediation and closure.
past such an effort would entail the generation of plans and strategies tied to
the business goals of the enterprise. This approach is still in use, but with
some updated methods. First, Balanced Scorecard is the means of identifying the
needs of the organization and how they will be fulfilled. I'm using MindManager, Balanced Scorecard and Visio to do in weeks what would have taken
where does MindManager fit in?
process of developing an IT Strategy involves many "moving" parts. These parts
are typically hierarchical in nature, starting with a set of goals. Measures
and Actions in support of the goals are developed next.
Supporting materials for the Measures, Actions, and Outcomes need to be
assembled in some structured form with links to electronic documents and
outside sources (computer files, books, web sites, emails, three ring binders
with tracking numbers, etc.) BTW a full text indexing tool is mandatory for
any serious work in the "knowledge worker" area. So add this to the tools list
for Project Management.
all this together in MindManager changes how the work can be done. MindManager
becomes a integrative technology, not just a tool for making maps or organizing
thoughts, but for managing all the content associated with these thoughts.
a company web site where I park lots of information for use in my consulting
practice, mostly for my own use. Clients and hopefully strangers go to the site
for information. MindManager is a great way to organize "views" of a
repository. Arranging the "view" is very simple, as is publishing the navigator
for such a view. I can make a view for DOE Stewardship, or another view for
Agile Project Management. Change these views as the information evolves. The
content of the navigation site can include documents on my server as well as
external links. In a sense this is a "poor man's" content management system.
Static for sure, but easily updated and with a great user interface.
End Side Bar
is the work process changed?
a desktop folder paradigm is the first approach to organizing thoughts. This
of course runs out of gas very soon. Indexing, cross indexing, content
management, and all the other "document management" issues soon make this
only documents, but URL's as well as "notes" need to be assembled into a
structure for the strategy.
Dates, deliverables, dependencies, and other "project" like activities also
take place during the "thinking process"
management of all these "items" and their relationships can be done within MindManager.
what's to like?
real problem with a graphically based productivity tool is it is hard to
describe what it does and how it works to improve work just using words. I'll
try to give you the "elevator" speech:
Imagine a graphical hyperlinked "map" which can be rearranged by adding,
deleting, and dragging the nodes and links around.
Imagine a hyperlink tool that can have links, clever graphics associated with
the links, links to local documents, and moderately extensive notes associated
with each node in the hyperlink tree.
would describe the MindManager tool. But since it is a visual tool, words alone
are insufficient. One needs to "experience" the product on the glass before the
words really mean anything.
what's missing? Not Much
any productivity tool today, the original author's intentions are not how the
product gets used. "Mind Mapping" is a concept that has been around awhile, and
it has some formality behind the concept. A quick search will turn up the
"theory" of mind maps. The original Mind Mapping was based on pencil
and paper processes, which limits its ability to interact with modern software
based processes. More than mind mapping, the current product could also be
called "project mapping," or "work process mapping," or any other automation
process creative thought process.
So what's missing that gets in my way?
much. I can build maps very fast, just by typing, talking with the content
providers and a few mouse movements. One test of an application is "do I have
to read the manual?" For MindManager, I NEVER opened a piece of
documentation. Almost everything is intuitive. There are some quirks (below)
but those don't prevent progress from day one. This is not to say I got it
right the very first time. But I never had to call the help desk or had to
stop trying something because I couldn't figure it out. I'm not a wiz at
figuring things out either. The product is just "obvious."
integration with MS Project is "interesting." It was not obvious how to get
started. (Remember the test is to not read the directions). Once I did read
the directions it was working in a few minutes. I use the Critical Tools WBS
and "hanging" PERT tools and they appear to be a bit more seamless than this
approach. The one very clever thing though is that the URL's from the map are
carried over to MS Project. From Project I can then build the WBS and Hanging
PERT's used for the "real" PM activities. This 3-way connection now does
everything I ever wanted to do as a CIO-type.
would be nice to have? ... some free product marketing input
would be nice to have the dependencies created in MS project show up as
"links" in some way in the Mind Map. This would likely clutter the
map, but it would also be useful. So have this feature normally turned off
would be the smart way to implement it.
single hyperlink for a node turns out to be limiting for me. Many times there
are multiple URL's I'd like to associate with a single node in a map. This
could be down with a simple list of links. If there is more than one, then the
navigation process would present me with the choices.
spelling checker is "internal." This is almost unforgivable in today's desktop
environment. Integration with the Word spelling checker needs to be done soon.
Also the current spelling checker is a bit on the weak side, since you have to
tell it to start checking a second time through a "begin check" button. Also
the standards MSFT wording is not present. Finally there is no way direct way
to add words to the dictionary from the UI, so rechecking intentionally
misspelled words (acronyms) is not possible. Turns out that selecting "ignore"
adds the word, which is a bit counter-intuitive for me. But in general its a
is a problem I have not chased down, so like ant good software person it
really can't exist yet. There appears to be a memory leak (at least in the
early versions). I haven't taken the effort to run Dr. Watson and watch, but
the application behaves badly at times when I run other "poorly" behaving
apps, like Word with lots of embedded Visio. The MindManager apps does not
fail, but other memory sensitive apps do. I attribute this to "early stage"
releases which will surely be fixed in coming releases. I've been told it has
actually been fixed, so I'll try to break it again.
web site production - which is one of the best features of this product - has
some behaviors which are a bit confusing. It's a bit hard to example in
writing, but the level of detail for each branch "appears" to be inconsistent
from my expectations. I need to work with this much more before I can provide
a suggested solution. This will in no way prevent powerful use of the web
publishing capabilities. The most important thing is that all the documents
that are local as well as all the other elements of the map can be put in a
folder structure and sent to someone as well as published on the web. For
those of us using "thin clients," (like the Wyse) this is a great feature -
since everything is now accessible from a browser.
the "mind mapping" tools I've used (maybe 3) this is hands down the best. It is
clever but not too clever. It is blazingly fast. It makes use of logical folder
structures for storage that can be moved around the disk with breaking internal
links. The UI is nice - a bit too fluffy for my taste – but I'm a
engineer/scientist by training not a "marketecture" person. It's priced right
for the value, and people who have not seen Mind Maps before are impressed with
how fast they can convey information.
use it, find new ways of expressing difficult concepts. Give your feedback to
Mindjet, they like to hear from users.