Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mind2Chart- Project Planning Made Easy!

I had shared with you a couple of weeks ago about a new MindManger Pro 7 add-in called Mind2Chart that adds project planning to your visual maps. I had a chance to use Mind2Chart and find it to be a valuable add-in for those of you that want to take your visual maps to the next level and add project management. Mind2Chart uses the underlying MindManager 7 database to drive the application. In a sense they are one in kind- any changes to MindManager Pro 7 are reflected in Mind2Chart and vice e versa. The changes are immediate and Mind2Chart feels very snappy and fast when working with it. I for one know how wonderful a tool MindManager Pro 7 is when brainstorming and setting up the "what" of projects whereas a Mind2Chart is very adept of doing the "when" portion and providing the group with a Gantt Chart to visually see when deliverables are due and how far along tasks are.

Installing and setting up Mind2Chart was a breeze and once installed you will now notice a new icon on your Home tab called Chart Item. This lets you add items on your MindManager Pro 7 map to Mind2Chart. By doing a select all and then selecting the Chart Item bottom you can add all of your items to your Mind2Chart. To view Mind2Chart you simply click on the Mind2Chart button which is on the View Menu. This splits your MindManager 7 screen and displays your Tasks and Gantt Chart on the bottom of the screen. Any changes that you make in Mind2Chart are automatically updated on your MindManager 7 visual map. Using the Mind2Chart tools you can link tasks and control the dependencies for tasks. You will notice that Mind2Chart keeps the first task item as a Summary item that varies depending on the amount of time that the sub- tasks below take. You have the full complement of dependencies that you can use including: Start to Start, Start to Finish, Finish to Start, and Finish to Finish. To set the dependencies you simply click on two or more tasks and then select from the drop down menu the type of dependency and immediately you will see this relationship show up in the Gantt Chart. You will also notice that your MindManager visual map has a new relationship line with the type of dependency noted on the relationship line. Setting the Start Date is as easy as clicking in the field and selecting the date from the Calendar picker. Now all you need to do is decide how much time the task will take and you are ready to view your Gantt Chart. Using the Resource button on the Mind2Chart application you can easily add the name of resources who will be working on the task. If you prefer you can also add resources within MindManager Pro 7 using the Task Information pane. Once you are done adding Resources and Tasks you can create a Task and Resource Spreadsheet with Excel with a click of the mouse. It is also possible to use the Print Preview command to generate a preview of your Gantt Chart and Tasks.

Overall, I found Mind2Chart to be a very easy and powerful MindManager Pro 7 add-in for project planning. This is an ideal tool for those of you who are not full time project managers but who are using MindManager Pro 7 to orchestrate projects. Its split screen interface makes it very easy to work with when going back and forth within MindManager Pro 7. I have found the Mind2Chart Company to be very responsive to my feedback and they have already added features to Mind2Chart since its initial release. It would be nice if Mind2Chart allowed you to be able to color code your tasks in the Gantt Chart or for that matter to inherit the color from within your MindManager Pro 7 visual map. More importantly, I for one would vote for Mind2Chart to be able to generate the overall cost of the project based on your resource type, cost information and time. With the exception of these issues, Mind2Chart is a powerful project planning tool that continues to impress me. You should be aware that the folks at Mind2Chart are working on some of my recommendations and I hope to be able to report to you soon that the aforementioned recommendations have been implemented within a new release of Mind2Chart. If you are using MindManager Pro 7 to orchestrate projects you will find the Mind2Chart is a little gem to move you towards project planning. Likewise, once you have used MindManager Pro 7 and Mind2Chart to plan your project you can then export it to Microsoft Project to take advantage of its advanced reporting and charting features. You can download a free 14 day trial of Mind2Chart by clicking here. Mind2Chart has a full set of video tutorials on their website for anyone who is interested in taking a look how the application works with MindManager Pro 7.

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