MindView 3.0 Business Edition: mind maps made easy
Mind mapping frees you from the tyranny of the top-down page and can be a powerful tool for small business people as it allows thoughts to be recorded as they occur and without too much initial analysis. I’ve used mind mapping for years for planning the content of books, websites and elearning projects, or when coming up with creative ideas that tend to tumble out as they occur.
Matchware’s MindView 3 Business Edition mind-mapping software finds itself in a pretty crowded marketplace that ranges from the open-source Freemind to industry standard MindJet which costs £199 (£233.83 incl VAT) and a raft of new online mind-mapping services.
So what can MindView bring to the party? First and foremost it’s easy to use. Anyone who’s used a computer to create mind maps knows that it’s essential the software doesn’t interfere with the process. Intuitive keyboard shortcuts such as [enter] for creating a new node on the same level and [insert] for creating a child node are shared with other mind-mapping software, but somehow MindView feels more slick and responsive than others I’ve tried.
MindView Business Edition now allows you to add “calculated fields”. This means you can plan a project, adding tasks as child nodes and assigning each a cost (or any other custom field you choose). You can then add a SUM field to the parent node and MindView will add up all the child nodes to give a total. This can then be exported to Excel to form the basis of a more in-depth analysis.
MindView also allows you to view your data in Timeline format (mainly useful for laying out data for educational purposes, it seems to me) and in the Gantt form so beloved of project managers. By attaching dates to nodes, you can develop a Gantt chart in mind-map mode before then viewing it as a project plan. It’s all very easy to do and, in the main, simply works as you’d expect. Indeed, the mind-map approach to adding tasks and subtasks to a project is much more intuitive and productive than the traditional spreadsheet-style approach. It’s possible to get the broad plan in place using the mind-map view and then tune it in project-plan view – the best of both worlds.
Export to Word, Powerpoint and Excel is supported if you have them installed on your PC and you can also export as a picture, in Rich Text Format or as a web page. However, there is no export to PDF which, to me, is a critical omission and MindView is very limited in the formats it allows you to import, making it hard to swap data between applications.
Seen as a standalone application, MindView is a joy to use and it’s possible to create the largest of mind maps quickly and then use the new Focus Mode to zoom in on a child node and work as if that node and its children were a separate mind map – much easier than having to navigate around the entire tree structure.
Aside from the import/export limitations, my only major reservation is the price. At £245 (£291 including 19% German VAT) it’s more expensive than its main competitor, whilst offering a broadly similar feature set. Were money no object, MindView would be my choice of mind-mapping software. For basic needs, FreeMind will do just fine (and includes PDF output) and Mindjet is the standard across the industry. For me, MindView is the superior product.