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 organizationIt 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 ideasMind 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 SetsMindGenius 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.)