Sunday, September 9, 2007

ConceptDraw MindMap 5 for Mac OS X

Over the last week or so I have the opportunity to try out ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC from CS Odessa. The program is very pleasing to the eye and has many features which makes it easy to use. I found the interface to be very straightforward and without so much as cracking open the manual I was creating some fairly complex mind maps. When you first start ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC you are presented with the Startup Dialog box with a choice of several options. You can start your mind map from a template or just jump in with a blank mind map. If you prefer you could also have ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC open up a new outline for you. One of the really nice features is the Brainstorming mode. Simply click on Brainstorm icon and set your timer for the session length and begin to record your ideas. Once you have finished your brainstorming session you can drag your ideas and link them any way that you want. For those individuals who may not be familiar to mind mapping the Startup Dialog is a good place to begin. More advanced users can decide not to show the Startup Dialog by going into the Preferences within the application.

Once ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC is open you start with the Main idea centrally located on the screen. Start typing your Main Idea and then press the Enter key to have new ideas shoot off radially around the main topic. Adding subtopics can be accomplished with the keyboard or by clicking on the Insert icon on the toolbar. You can also add topics and subtopics by using the Freehand tool which lets you click and drag where you would like your topics and subtopics to appear on the map. If you would like to arrange you ideas differently around the Main Topic simply click on the Arrange icon to see your options. This is a nice touch which quickly will rearrange your ideas. Numbering your ideas is also quickly accomplished by clicking on the Auto Numeration icon. There are a couple of unique features which ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC brings to the table-that being able to view your mind map and outline together on the page. This is a very nice touch and one that I found helpful when doing business proposals. Of course you also have the ability to view the outline or mind map be itself on the screen if you choose to. Formatting your mind map is extremely easy with the advent of Map Themes. Simply click on the Map Themes icon and select from an assortment of map themes. In seconds your whole map will be reformatted using the color and shape themes. It is very easy to experiment and cycle through the formats until you get it the way you like.

ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC has an array of markers that can be added to your topics and subtopics as well as professionally drawn images that you can use to adorn your mind map. The images are all categorized and have a clean and neat modern look to them. It would be great if ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC had a search feature when looking for a specific image. Images can be scaled once they are placed in a topic or subtopic but it did take a little practice to get the hang as how to do it. The formatting of topics and lines is very easy accomplished using the Inspector. I found It very easy to use the Relationships tool to draw connections between topics. Using the inspector you can easily format the relationships to change the line width, color and determine if you want arrows to appear. ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC supports Floating topics as well as Callouts. The only thing that I found missing as far as formatting of the mind map in ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC was the ability to draw boundaries around topics and subtopics. I think that this is a feature that should be considered for a future release of this application.

ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC gives you a range of ways to link attachments to your topics and subtopics. You can attach files, web links, folders, emails, and topics to your mind maps by using the inspector. Once you have made an attachment ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC will show an icon to represent your attachment. Placing your mouse over the attachment icon will display a pop up dialog showing you your linking information. This is a really nice touch. Similarly, you can attach a note to any topic or subtopic which opens up the text note editor. Text can be stylized within the note using the Font inspector dialog box.

ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC can also be effectively used for project planning and allows one to enter task information for each topic or subtopic. One can record a Start Date, Use Due Date, as well as enter the Duration of the task and the Percentage of the task that is completed. Once you add Percentage of the task completed to a task you will see an icon on your map to correspond to the information entered. It is also possible to manually click on the Percentage completed icon in the mind map to change the data. Topics can also be sorted on the percentage complete task for quick review. You can also enter any Resources that are associated with the task. It is presumed that this data could be exported or opened with ConceptDraw Project or Microsoft Project for further analysis.

Since no mind mapping application is an island it is great to know that you can export your mind maps and outlines in different fie formats. It is now possible to export your mind maps to an image format, HTML, Microsoft Project, Microsoft PowerPoint. Exporting to Microsoft PowerPoint will be delivered next month in a scheduled upgrade release. Outlines can be exported to as well as TextOutline format, RTF, and OPML. There is also an export available which can send your mind maps and outlines to your iPod. CS Odessa will be releasing an upgrade which would allow MindManager users to import their mind maps.

ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC is a full featured mind mapping application for Macintosh OS X with a clean and easy to use interface. ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC is a powerful program with lots of nice touches and features. ConceptDraw MindMap 5 MAC certainly is a very competitive mind mapping application especially on the Macintosh platform. With the exception of boundaries and some minor subtle interface issues (resizing images) this is a worthwhile program to look at on the Macintosh platform. I would hope as we move to mind mapping 2.0 that all of the major publishers find a way for our mind maps to live on the web with an easy solution to publish and tag them from our desktop applications. Once on the web it should be easy for our invited colleagues to collaborate and work with the mind maps.

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