MindManager gives users a new way of project and planning management in a more visual way than standard project management applications. In release 7.2 the focus is on better collaboration between remotely dispersed users through use of WebDAV servers, although there are some restrictions on how maps can be saved.
Better remote collaboration support; integration with Office applications.
No click-to-call IP telephony feature, no client for Microsoft SharePoint in this version yet.
£ 199 for both electronic download and boxed copy. Upgrade from MindManager Lite is £149
Version 7.2 of Mindjet's MindManager package, launched in June, has been upgraded since the 7.0 release in 2007, the main thrust being improved remote collaboration support with the ability to access MindManager map files from a Web-based Distributed, Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) server.
WebDAV lets users work on documents on remote servers as if they were local, but there are major restrictions on how maps are saved.
MindManager's help files say that WebDAV cannot save new unnamed maps to the server or export a map as a file stored on the server. Local maps cannot be saved to the server, or maps saved to the server with a new name.
Unfortunately a SharePoint client/plug-in is not currently available for MindManager Pro version 7, and Mindjet is unsure as to when this will be released.
In addition users could sign up for the software-as-a-service version of MindManager, MindManager Connect, released in July. This allows Connect users to work on MindManager maps simultaneously, exchange text messages with other online Connect users and share maps through online workspaces, or just share screens.
More support for collaboration over the internet will be available in the future with the planned introduction of MindManager Web, currently in beta, which will allow firms to host web conferences using desktop sharing, chat and whiteboards. However, Mindjet does not yet have a definitive date for general availability.
The MindManager package brings with it a different way of thinking, not just about project management, but other forms of planning which may have difficulty being represented on the venerable Gantt chart.
However, Mindjet rethought MindManager's lack of Gannt chart support and acquired project management application JCVGantt from Gannt Solution in May, releasing JCVGannt Pro 3, a separate tool for users who need project management through this type of chart.
We reviewed MindManager Professional 7.2 running under Windows XP Professional and Vista Ultimate, although there is MindManager 7 Mac, specifically targeting Macintosh systems which requires Mac OS X 10.4.X (Tiger) or later to run.
Using MindManager is relatively simple. We could create a main topic and add sub-topics as branches. We could easily add task information like duration, who the task was assigned to and how much of the task has been completed.
Comments can be added, and other files such as PDFs, Word documents and images can be attached, as well as a large selection of information icons, bookmarks, URLs and Mindjet RSS news feeds.
As well as having an Office 2007-like interface which gives a similar look and feel, MindManager 7.2 also has a significant degree of integration with Microsoft's Office 2007 productivity suite.
The Office applications from which MindManager can pass and take data are Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, Visio and Word. Exporting a test MindManager map to Word resulted in the creation of a Word file which, on opening, showed an image of our map, together with a bulleted list of the topics and subtopics making up the map.
Exporting to Adobe's PDF format only gives an image of the map. MindManager can import Word files, but not PDF files.
With PowerPoint we could export our map as separate slides or as a presentation for further enhancement if users are presenting to an audience.
We could also import multiple Excel spreadsheets into MindManager, but we could not expand them to see the information contained inside; we had to invoke the Excel application itself to see the data on the spreadsheet.
Further Office-based functionality is available if users have Office Project and Office Visio installed. We could export our maps as a Visio flowchart or org-chart straight into Visio, and import and export tasks from a map to a Project file or visa versa.
As a competitor to Microsoft Office Project, MindManager does lack the a bility to fire up an IP phone conversation directly from the application.
The basic productivity boost theoretically achievable by deploying MindManager is that employees thinking visually allows them to collaborate better if they have a centralised repository containing all the documents, prioritised schedules and thoughts around the goals they are trying to achieve, rather than a linear track and documents distributed all over the place.
This linking and layering of multi-dimensional information, combined with employees' ability to see the whole plan and be able to drill down to pick up any related documents, again, in theory, should lead to more efficient task management and better project collaboration.
In conclusion, although MindManager requires a different approach to project and planning management, it could give a productivity boost to organisations, especially if employees are able to think beyond the constraints of traditional project and planning applications.