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Webbing, also known as mind mapping, is a non-linear graphical organization technique for brainstorming a story idea, process, or concept. It is a common tool used everywhere from elementary schools to Fortune 500 companies. When you web an idea, you start with a central topic and then quickly add several branches. Once an initial web is created, each of the individual branches can be mined further to generate sub-ideas.
MindManager 6.0.4 Mac is a visual organizational tool that you can use to collect and organize—or web—a variety of ideas that may have a single obvious theme, but that may not have obvious, direct relationships to each other. Similar to NovaMind Software’s NovaMind, MindManager allows you to sequence complex ideas into an easily understandable form and gives you the ability to link documents, images, timelines, and organizational charts to your idea maps, making a range of information available in a single document.
MindManager 6 is the Mac version of a product that’s been available on Windows for about 12 years. Rather than doing a straight port from the Windows version to the Mac, Mindjet built a brand new application, paying strict attention to Apple’s design guidelines, making MindManager feel as familiar as Apple’s Pages ( ) and Keynote ( ).
MindManager ships with seven pre-defined templates for creating standard maps, such as organizational charts and to-do lists, but the strength of the program is really unleashed when you start with a completely blank document and let the ideas roll out of your head and onto the page. Hitting the return key creates new sub-topics from the main topic. Holding down the Command key while pressing return creates a new sub-topic from the currently selected sub-topic, making it easy to let the ideas flow. This is similar to features found in other mind-mapping programs, which often have hot keys for creating new topics and sub-topics.
Once you’ve finished your initial brainstorming session, it’s easy to go back and format or reorganize the information in a more precise manner. You can change the colors of topics, move them around the map, rearrange topic levels, add priority or completion levels to each item, and even add documents, images, graphics, or notes to any item on the page. All of these changes can be accomplished easily, typically with the click of a single button. And, while it is possible to add Web-page hyperlinks or links to external documents, it is also possible to attach entire documents or images to your mind map so it becomes a repository for the all the files associated with a project.
Once you’ve created your map, you can easily share it by exporting it as a PDF, JPG, TIFF, or PNG file. Or, you can export the entire map in outline form, including all your notes, as text. Better yet, Mindjet offers a free viewer on its Web site that allows you to view and print your mind map. Using the viewer also allows other people to open attached documents, provided they have the applications necessary to view the attached documents.
MindManager’s XML-based file format is compatible across platforms, but the company acknowledges that the Windows version has more functionality than the Mac version, in particular in the realm of Microsoft Office integration. For example, if you were to attach an Excel spreadsheet to your document, you can actually manipulate the data from within MindManager with the Windows version. In the Mac version, the spreadsheet is read-only—you can’t change anything without opening Excel. This is a minor shortcoming to an otherwise excellent program.
Macworld’s buying advice
Mindjet’s MindManager 6.0.4 offers an elegant user interface and excellent tools for brainstorming, webbing, and mapping everything from major projects to simple school reports. The program provides myriad ways to graphically organize your ideas and share them with colleagues and collaborators. While this initial Mac release lacks some features found in the Windows version, the program is a strong addition to the existing slate of Mac brainstorming apps.
[ Jeffery Battersby is a writer and network analyst who still maps his mind with a Moleskine notebook. ]MindManager makes it easy to brainstorm and then visually organize your ideas into a coherent plan of action.