MindManager 8 for Mac Review

Mind mapping on the Mac has been largely an affair of personal productivity, i.e. no mind mapping software delivered an integration with enterprise-scale business systems such as Microsoft Sharepoint. MindManager 8's focus is exactly on that weak spot and also on more Mac OS X integration.What’s new in MindManager 8 for the Mac? Here’s a list:

iCal integration
iWork 08 integration
iChat integration
Address Book integration
MobileMe integration
Microsoft Office 2008 integration
Microsoft Entourage integration
Sharepoint and Office Live integration
In-Topic Hyperlinks
Gesture support
Built-in browser
iPhone support
Share mind maps with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
Quick Look support
Snow Leopard support

Impressive, isn’t it? I can tell you from experience with MindManager 8 that it becomes even more impressive in some areas.

Let’s start with iCal. Now here is a feature that really impressed me. You can add events and to-dos, of course, and they all synchronise with iCal in real-time. But what really impressed me is the Smart Calendar Topic. That one gives you a topic filtered list of calendar events and/or to-dos, each one shown in their own subtopic. As you change events and to-dos in iCal or as time passes by, the list will update automatically.
Another integration that I like is the Address Book integration, although this one isn’t a matter of drag-and-drop a vCard onto one of your topics in the map. You have a Resources item in your Markers Inspector; that’s where you add Address Book data and from there you add it to topics on your map.

iWork and Microsoft Office integration work differently. They require you to log into MindJet’s online transformation services (MindJet Catalyst) with your MindJet ID and convert your map into the required format or vice versa.

The process is simple enough: you select “Convert File” from the File menu, after which your web browser opens and you’re taken to a page with a Flash interface. From here, you can upload your files to the MindJet server and have them converted. However, the conversion capabilities from iWork and Office to MindManager are limited to Pages and Word documents. The other direction supports Keynote and Powerpoint as well.

Contrary to MindManager 8 for Windows, the Mac version requires the extra conversion step for both types of office documents.

Maps can now be sent directly from iChat windows (something I couldn’t try out) and they have the ability to synchronise maps by dragging them directly to their iDisk icon. Lacking a MobileMe subscription myself, I couldn’t try that feature, either.
MindManager 8's built-in web browser is too light weightI could test the Address Book integration, which is good and which works as expected. MindManager 8 integrates with iPhoto as well. You can drag and drop images from iPhoto into MindManager, but there’s no media browser support, so you will have to open the iPhoto application for this to work, and neither is there support for Aperture libraries, which I personally find a shortcoming for an application that will be used on a professional level.

Sharepoint and Office Live integration are new as well in MindManager 8 for the Mac. However, to try out these features one needs a live connection to such systems, which I don’t have, so I can’t give you an opinion based on hands-on experience. However, according to the reviewers’ guide, you can access maps anywhere by dragging and dropping your maps in the Favorite Files or Sharepoint tab.

In-Topic Hyperlinks are less dependent on third-party software and so here I was happily surprised to find that any URLs you now type in MindManager will be automatically converted into live links—you can turn that off as well.

Better yet, MindManager 8 for the Mac comes with a web browser built-in. There’s a catch, though: the browser is not a straight window so it doesn’t show up in the list of open windows under the Windows menu. If you want to create a map from multiple sites you visit, you need to organize your windows so that they don’t overlap the browser, because if you do, you’ll be forced to either move your front window out of the way or hide and show again the browser.
Except for this ‘glitch’, the browser could really be a great addition. You can add web pages as a subtopic to your current topic by simply clicking an icon in the browser itself, so you never need to leave the browser as long as you’re surfing from one site to another. But a serious minus is that the browser isn’t fully featured: you can’t import Safari or Firefox bookmarks, you can’t create bookmarks, and you can’t search without entering the search engine’s URL first. There are no tabs, either…

With regards to sharing maps, you can actually share maps as you would a web page. You’ll have to go through MindJet Catalyst again, but it’s worth the trouble if you want to share a map on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn even. The MindJet Catalyst service itself uses the AddThis bookmarking service to share the map, filling in the blanks for you.

As we come to the end of this review I keep wondering what I really think of MindManager 8 for the Mac. And after careful consideration I believe it has a lot going for it. It’s more of a business tool than it was before. It’s better suited for business than any of its competitors on the Mac too, I think.
However, I also think there is still plenty of room for improvement. I don’t really like the way the web browser has been implemented and find it too limited to work well. I also don’t like the fact that you’re forced to use an intermediate step (MindJet Catalyst) when converting files or sharing maps. It’s not that I don’t trust MindJet with my data, which they don’t store, by the way; it’s just that I don’t think the solution is the most elegant one possible.

But other than these points of criticism, I think MindJet has done a great job at upgrading a good product into a real power house in the mind mapping market that is 95% on par with its yet slightly more powerful Windows counterpart. MindManager 8 for the Mac costs 249.00 USD online.


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