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MindManager Business Edition 4.0

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Pros

  • Rich interface makes mind-map creation quick and easy.

Cons

  • Cheesy graphics hamper the creation of elegant-looking mind maps.

Instead of a linear presentation of ideas, you can create a diagram called a ‘mind map’ showing the relations between ideas in a single image. MindManager Business Edition 4.0 is the most usable and powerful mind-map creation software available.

Mind maps, first developed in the 1960s, use tree-style structures to display the connections between a central idea and branch ideas that radiate from the central concept. The maps can be used to plan anything from Web sites to business models to meeting notes.

MindManager's help file makes wildly excessive claims for the effectiveness of mind maps, but they can be useful for planning any project that fits the basic tree-structure model. Not all tasks fit the model, though: the mind map that displays the Tips and Tricks section in the program's help file is harder to use than a conventional list.

Building a mind map in MindManager is a simple matter of starting with a blank window, then clicking on icons to add branches and labels, or to move branches after they have been created. You can build a diagram as quickly with a keyboard as with a mouse, and often more quickly, because you can insert a new branch just by pressing the Ins key and typing the branch's name.

A brainstorming feature lets you add multiple branches at top speed simply by typing their labels. Toolbar icons and well-designed menus let you easily add highlighting, draw boundaries around a group of branches, draw links between sub-branches at distant points of the diagram, and add icons such as pound signs or smiley faces to individual branches.

Any branch's label can act as a hyperlink to a Web page or to any file or program on your hard drive. By using hyperlinks to join two or more mind maps, you can create multilayer maps. Each layer can be distributed for editing by other users, and then relinked. A built-in Internet conferencing feature allows multiple MindManager users to view one or more maps at the same time, and the leader of the conference can give the other users permission to make changes to maps. Maps can also be exported as Web pages or PowerPoint presentations.

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MindManager's main weakness is the incoherent and cheesy graphic style of the icons and symbols used on its maps. Even if you avoid using the frowning eyebrows or smiley face icons, making a MindManager map look visually elegant is hard. But the program itself offers an exceptionally rich interface and creates mind maps almost as fast as you can think.

A Standard Edition of MindManager 4.0 is available for £73.40 (ex. VAT).

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