Project Management

Five reasons to use MindGenius on your projects

MindGenius software provides a better user experience for data capture, categorization, and export activities than other mind mapping tools, according to IT project expert Dr. Andrew Makar.

I am frequently asked, "What is the best mind mapping project management tool?" There are a lot of great mind mapping tools on the market, including Mindjet MindManager, MatchWare's MindView, and MindMeister, but when pressed to choose a favorite, I'd have to say MindGenius.

At first glance, I thought MindGenius was very similar to a lot of the mind mapping tools available. But when I started using MindGenius, I noticed how well key features were implemented and realized how these features make a difference in usability and productivity. Here's a closer look at some of the benefits that caught my attention, with a focus on how these MindGenius features compare to other mind mapping tools' features.

1: Create maps faster with better usability

In mind mapping tools, nodes are created by either clicking the mouse on an empty space or pressing the Insert key. Every mind mapping tool works differently, and it can be annoying when a node isn't created correctly. This is especially true when you are brainstorming risks or facilitating a scope mind mapping session.

Fortunately, MindGenius solves this problem quite elegantly: You simply start typing. With each keystroke, a new branch is created. When you finish typing a thought and click the OK button, a new branch is created (Figure A). When you press the Insert key, it creates a child note; if you type again, it creates a sibling node. In several meetings, I've fumbled creating nodes and reorganizing them; MindGenius makes this much easier. Figure A

MindGenius Add/Edit Branch (Click the image to enlarge.)

2: Better branch navigation and map organization

It can be a challenge to navigate all the branches in large mind maps (sometimes 200-400 ideas, comments, and thoughts are in a map) as users zoom in and out on the various sub-topics. MindGenius solves the "too many branches" problem with its Map Explorer feature. Figure B depicts a sample map with a growing number of branches as scope, issues, risks, financials, and the high-level work breakdown structure (WBS) are generated. Figure B

A busy mind map (Click the image to enlarge.)
The Map Explorer feature allows you to view a specific topic and hide all of the other portions of the map. The topic focus feature comes in other tools, but with MindGenius, the Map Explorer allows you to easily navigate the branches of the map without having to zoom in to determine which branch you want to view in detail. Map Explorer is just one example of how MindGenius makes working with large mind maps easier. Figure C depicts the map filtered on the WBS branch. Figure C

A busy mind map using Map Explorer (Click the image to enlarge.)

By using the Map Explorer window, you won't lose how information is connected across a large map. MindGenius has been used on maps with more than 10,000 branches, and the information is easily retrieved without zooming or scaling the mind map.

3: Faster organization of ideas

Mind mapping is an effective front end to capture data quickly, yet the data isn't very useful if it takes you hours to organize it. MindGenius enables users to quickly turn unstructured data into a structured view with a few clicks of the mouse. Figure D depicts an unstructured risk mind map from a recent risk brainstorming session. Figure D

Unstructured risk mind map (Click the image to enlarge.)
The MindGenius Category Dropper feature allows you to quickly categorize each risk using a critical, high, medium, or low value. With one click of a button, the map can be organized by category using the Create Category Map button. Figure E depicts the categorization using the Category Dropper. Figure E

Categorized mind map with Category Dropper (Click the image to enlarge.)
By clicking the Create Category Map button, a new mind map is created that instantly organizes the risks by a specific category (Figure F). MindGenius also lets you create your own category sets so you can categorize any mind map based on your requirements. By assigning different categories, managers can view the data from various points of view. Figure F

Category risk mind map (Click the image to enlarge.)

The time saved generating a categorized map is invaluable and is one of the main reasons why I recommend MindGenius over other mind mapping tools.

4: Ask better questions with Question Sets

MindGenius has a feature that helps you create better mind map content. By using the Question Sets window, you can ask facilitated questions for a project audit, scope confirmation, schedule assessment, etc. (Figure G). In addition to the 21 delivered question sets, MindGenius also lets you create your own question sets. Figure G

Question Sets (Click the image to enlarge.)

If you are conducting a project or systems audit, a scope planning session, or an interactive brainstorming session, you'll find the Question Sets feature useful. Brainstorming can be unstructured, but a little pre-planning will help the quality of the session.

5: All the other PM stuff you'd expect but better

MindGenius also offers Gantt Chart integration and full Microsoft Office export, including Microsoft Project, Excel, and PowerPoint. MindGenius has the unique ability to filter using the Map Explorer and create exports of the filtered map into PowerPoint. This allows you to get a quick snapshot of the map's key elements and include the correct view into the PowerPoint presentation. The Excel integration leverages delivered fields that export as individual columns in a spreadsheet or a Microsoft Project plan.

The Gantt chart and planning capability in MindGenius has enough features to manage a small project all on its own or develop a high-level shell for further refinement. MindGenius understands that people use other applications in the enterprise and being able to integrate rather than replace desktop productivity tools are key differentiators.

Give it a try

MindGenius Business Edition Version 4 electronic download retails for $235 USD, and the boxed product with a CD retails for $295 USD. The company offers education pricing for students and universities. For more specifics about pricing, visit the MindGenius Store.

The best way to experience the features I describe in this post is to download the fully functional 30-day trial of MindGenius.

MindGenius is offering TechRepublic readers a 10% discount (coupon code MGTAPR) on all versions of the software. (The offer does not include physical CDs and shipping.)

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

19 comments
UnkleJon
UnkleJon

Hi - I work in a company that stopped upgrading MS Project back at 2003 version. I am now using MindGenius after bailing out from Mindjet after their licensing policy changed. I am looking to build a business case for adopting MS Project 2010 [or any newer versions] Can any of you MindGenius Geniuses help me with examples of why operationally using MS Project 2010 is better than 2003 with MindGenius. I know itÂ’s a big ask but I cannot get hold of project 2010 to try it myself so hoping this is one of those DUH!!! Questions were the obvious is staring me in the face.

edukes
edukes

Hi, I strongly hope someone can help me out with the following! When I try to save my document in MindGenius Business 4 I receive an error message saying: "Could not save document. (C:\Users\Ellen\map1.mgmx) A semi colon character was expected" Does anyone know how to solve this? Lots of thanks. Ellen Duke

bekacg
bekacg

Thank you, Dr. Makar for a very insightful brief on the value of mind mapping. I use the Mindjet tool for a lot of advanced PM, program management, and business development activities. I also find it useful when outlining key documents and correspondence. The utility of the mindmap is limited only by the imagination! I chose to pay for the extra features a commerical (vice freeware) tool offered as there are markers, task information features, labeling, and dynamic icon sets that enhance the use of the tool. Invariably, I believe my use of a good suite of tools enhances my consulting performance. Mind Genius has a most impressive set of capabilities and the cost is well worth it. Thanks again,

r.m.allen
r.m.allen

I've been using Mind Genius for seven years and find it most useful when I quickly want to capture points that are being made in a project meeting. It's quick and easy to learn how to use at this level. Sharing the information is straightforward too such as sending it out as a spreadsheet for people who prefer lists to pictures. However, I've shied away from using it for more sophisticated activities such as project management mainly because the learning curve gets steep quickly and the tool starts to appear 'lumpy' such as ticking all actions as completed in the picture map. That said it is a tool has continuied to improve during my time of using it and I hope it will continue to do so.

WorkflowGuru
WorkflowGuru

...for a well-presented and valuable post. The mind mapping tools I've tried in the past always left me lukewarm at best. MindGenius looks and sounds like a better mousetrap. Would like to hear from other members about their experience with MindGenius and mind mapping tools in general.

jcbaldenebro
jcbaldenebro

Do you recommend and prefer use a MindGenius to administrate your projects?

Jim-Bob_z
Jim-Bob_z

As usual, your article is incomplete, so readers are served poorly and/or misled. Editors, please try harder to improve this, as has been pointed out many times. Average cost per user of the above: around $200. Average cost per user of the below: exactly $0. Difference in performance/functions: Trivial to Indistinguishable, for most users. Best value choice: Reader can decide, but not with incomplete information. http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page IHTH Jim-MN

bald0ne
bald0ne

I use Freemind. It's not got the look and feel of the screenshots above, but it's free and does the mindmapping job perfectly.

amakar
amakar

For large project management administration, you are correct that any mind mapping tool will make project schedule management difficult. This is why i recommend using the mind map to generate the WBS and high level scope. Export it to MS-Project and refine it. From a meeting minutes perspective, I create a mind map for each "workstream" I own in the program and maintain notes. The % complete feature is very useful for the follow-up and action items. These actions don't make it into a project schedule but as an action item tracker with meeting minutes, MindGenius is an excellent productivity tool. Thanks! Andy

amakar
amakar

Thanks for the kind words! When I first saw MindGenius I thought the same thing about how it was similar to other tools on the market. Then I took a deeper dive at the features and the nuances make it stand head and shoulders above the rest. The Map Explorer and Category Map generation sold me. I do have a section on mind mapping on my blog at: http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com/table/mind-mapping-project-management/ Let me know if you have any questions! Andy

amakar
amakar

Hi - I use MindGenius to capture ideas, track issues, maintain meeting minutes and do high level functions with a WBS. I then use MS Project for project schedule administration. If you combine both these tools, you have a powerful toolkit for your projects Andy

amakar
amakar

Hi Jim - I wrote the article so I'd like to understand what is incomplete and how "as usual", readers are served poorly and misled. Unless this is just comment blog spam, I'm missing your meaning in the comment. Andy

Fairbs
Fairbs

I could also say that your comment is incomplete since it doesn't include examples of other times where the author has been incomplete. Essentially, this article is an opinion piece just like your comment is an opinion. What I would like to know is what makes Mind Map tools more valuable than using spreadsheets or even flip charts to do things like keeping track of risks or parking lot items. Do they save time or include artificial intelligence to improve PM processes or brainstorming?

justjackx
justjackx

I have been looking for something like this for ages, never had much luck. Thats for the info about freemind. If it works anything like mind genius, then its exactly what I need. sam - seo tips

amakar
amakar

I've been using these tools for the past 6 years and Freemind provides a basic mind mapping function and Xmind provide similar solutions, the commercial tools are well worth the cost. Freemind has usability issues in the Java applet format and Xmind is nice but constrained by the Eclipse format. When it comes to usability and integration with other tools, the commercial ones stand above the rest. I still like Mindjet but the features described above in MindGenius are a differentiators for a project manager looking to apply mind mapping to a project. It all depends on what you want to use mind mapping for and the free tools can accommodate the basic features. As your mind maps grow, you'll want to explore the commercial solutions as well. Andy

roaldly
roaldly

I used MinManager in a previous job, then switched to Freemind and for the last year or so I've used Xmind (the free version). Xmind has the features I require, and is pleasant to use. The free software tend to be without features like export to Microsoft Project, but for brainstorming and for following up on tasks they are doing the job as well as the commercial versions. -Roald

Jim-Bob_z
Jim-Bob_z

Hi, Andy, and thanks for following up. (Note: I have no relationship whatsoever to SourceForge or its FreeMind project, so no, this is not "comment blog spam", and I receive no benefit from them except many of their excellent free products just like everyone else can.) Sorry I wasn't more clear, though I still think I was _adequately_ clear. My comment, "Editors, please try harder to improve this, as has been pointed out many times," was directed at the Editors, not any author(s). My goal is to reduce the occurrence of articles that purport to include a market survey (as yours does IMHO) but leave out significant players (as your does). TechRepublic editors often allow this shortcoming in their publications, and many of us readers complain about it often, as it causes us more work (to do our own research to confirm or refute the authors' conclusions) and it reduces our opinion of the value of TechReplublic publications, so in effect we are trying to help TR improve their service, which would in turn benefit all readers, and presumably would also benefit TR in some tangible way, e.g. more advertising revenue due to increased market share. My post is a specific application to your article of my general belief/principle: When you go beyond just raving about MindGenius (which would have been just fine, and in line with the title of your article) and begin _implying_ that it is the "best deal", you incur the responsibility to be "fair" (maybe a better word would be "complete", which is the word I chose) and include _all_ the significant contenders, which FreeMind certainly is, again IMHO, and in the opinion of many presumed experts. For example, it has more "Likes" than _all_ the other alternatives _combined_, on http://alternativeto.net/software/mindgenius/, and there are hundreds of similar posts. When cost to obtain software is considered, which is so important to so many small businesses etc. nowadays, it is hard to beat its value-per-cost: It's nearly infinite, as yielded by the straightforward mathematical result of dividing its high value by near-zero cost to obtain, which last is just the effort to download it and any contribution given. IHTH Jim

amakar
amakar

Hi Andyf - Spreadsheets are good for tracking financials and yet even though we use Excel for issue and risk logs, they are not effective word processors. Mind maps provide greater flexibility to track comments, dates, and even attachments to specific issues or risks. You can still use spreadsheets, but mind mapping provides greater flexibility and even creativity. Flip charts work fine in a conference room as do white boards, but the challenge is capturing the data and then distributing it. Sure you can take a picture or translate it into a Word document...but the better solution is the use a brainstorm capture tool like mind mapping software so the ideas can be quickly captured, formatted and distributed. I see a lot of time saved in meeting minute distribution and brainstorming. I previously gave a presentation on Mind Mapping Across the Project Lifecycle for a local PMI chapter. Here is the link the presentation: http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com/mind-mapping-project-management/mind-mapping-across-the-project-lifecycle.html Give it a shot and I think you'll find it useful in your day to day work...independent of the software application you choose. Andy Makar

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