Utility software

The one-two project punch

Maybe it’s because I took those report-card warnings from my elementary school teachers to heart—“Needs to play well with others”—but I’m always impressed when two different programs from two different companies not only work well together but actually team up to extend each others’ capabilities.

This spirit of cooperative collaboration seems to be in full effect among makers of project management and mind-mapping programs lately. Project-management programs are great for assigning tasks to people, marshaling your resources, and generally coming up with a plan of attack. But brainstorming the ideas that form the basis of that plan? That’s really more of the strength of mind-mapping programs that allow you to capture and organize those free-floating thoughts.

So why not turn to one tool to complement the other? That’s what AEC Software and Mindjet have done. Version 9.1 of AEC’s FastTrack Schedule adds integration with Mindjet’s MindManager 6. With just a few clicks, FastTrack Schedule users can import data from MindManager files, turning brainstorming maps into editable project-management schedules.

“We thought about adding an element like that [on our own],” said Ryan Kish, AEC’s vice president of marketing, as he demonstrated the FastTrack-MindManager integration to me at AEC’s Expo booth (#S943). “But what we do best is scheduling. As far as mapping out ideas, that’ what [MindJet] does well.”

The two companies launched a month-long Smart Project Workflow promotion that bundles the two applications together. MBAWare offers a $399 bundle of FastTrack Schedule and MindManager for business users; CreationEngine is doing the same thing for education users with a $189 bundle. The promotion ends January 31.

Of course, ProjectWizards would point out that integration with mind-mapping tools is old hat for its project-management program Merlin. The first version of Merlin let you import mind maps created in NovaMind’s self-titled mind-mapping application. (As they did at last year’s Expo, the two companies are showing their wares side-by-side [booth #S331].)

With Merlin 2, released in November, ProjectWizards has extended this interoperability. In addition to import mind maps, you can export Merlin-created projects into mind-mapping programs turning them into mind maps. And ProjectWizards didn’t limit this capability to NovaMind; you can also export projects into MindManager as well as the free Java-based FreeMind.

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