Mind-mapping with MindJet and MindGenius

Ever since Tony Buzan started popularising mind-mapping in 1974, it's had a bit of an uphill struggle to reach the mainstream. Over sixty commercial applications are available for the PC, the Mac and the web. A sprinkling of others are available for the Pocket PC, iPhone and BlackBerry. And you'll even find open source and freeware versions.

So mind-mapping is an industry, albeit a bit of a niche one. And the products/services keep on coming. October saw announcements from two well-known players, MindJet and MindGenius, which suggested that the mind-mapping world has yet to run out of puff.

MindJet has blended communications and mind-mapping into a single web-based collaboration service with Catalyst. Its premise is that most so-called collaboration tools are actually communication tools, completely lacking an application at their heart with which participants can engage. It feels, with some justification, that a mind-mapping application is exactly the right thing for this. It's useful, easy to understand and the nodes can activate files inside their own applications.

The counter to this might be that a generalised voice-video-IM-screen-sharing communication service allows you to run whatever applications you like at the desktop. Either a scribe can do updates or, more clunkily, control can be passed between participants.

The second announcement of the month fits the latter category. It is a desktop application. MindGenius claims that, with an addressable market of 400 to 500 million English-speaking users, it can focus uncompromisingly on improving the mind-mapping experience for this particular market. And it does a good job. Information entry is slick, navigation can be through the graphical image or through a separate 'outliner' pane (called Map Explorer) and any notes attached to the selected entry are visible in another pane. It offers smooth two-way integration with Office applications such as Word, Excel and Project.

Mind-mapping started out as a very personal thing. The aim was to enable you to take notes effectively, learn quickly and plan easily. When personal computers came along, outliners grabbed our attention first, then the more graphical mind-mappers came along. As screens got bigger and resolution improved, so the visual mappers came into their own. But most people were either ignorant of the technique or they saw nothing wrong with sticking with paper and coloured pens.

Once the vendors twigged that they could be used for project work and for effective communication, the brakes came off and MindJet, MindGenius and others offer some good tools for facilitating projects from inception to completion. They also offer varying degrees of data exchange with other applications.

The thing to watch out for is how many brain cycles are consumed with actually operating the application as opposed to getting something done with it. Ideally, you want the program to more or less fade into the background while information is quickly transferred to the screen, moved around, navigated and absorbed.

Bearing this in mind, of the two applications mentioned, I must confess to a slight leaning towards MindGenius.

Am I qualified to comment? Well, I started using mind-maps in the mid-70s and wrote a mind-mapping program in 1981 which, incidentally, is still being published today from somewhere deep in Colorado. I've been using my own program habitually for 28 years and others as and when they find their way into my computer. If you'd prefer to follow a couple of subject experts, then I'd recommend Chuck Frey and Vic Gee.

10 thoughts on “Mind-mapping with MindJet and MindGenius

  1. Hi David
    Interesting observations. Declaring my hand I have been / am a passionate user of Mindjet MindManager for the 10 plus years. I have looked at MindGenius occasionally but never jumped the gap. Principally because I had invested many hours into finding out how MindManager works, it’s limitations and how best to exploit it. I did not fancy doing that again.
    You are absolutely correct the tool must not get in the way of the application. It has to let you flow through the process without delays or interuptions. This is where Mindjet is failing to listen to it’s user and remove some it’s idiosyncratic behaviour behaviour before moving on to the next big thing. A search of their forums, the Yahoo group and the web in general will reveal the repetitve nature of these cries for action.
    Does this mean I am tottering towards another application? No. I am simply doing too much, too quickly with MindManager. From managing my own business, helping others with theirs and, recording and publishing events on the web.
    I am a big user of MindManager in Ink Mode on the Tablet PC which allows you to flow even more than the keyboard. I have 167 ink topics to convert in to a text and formatted map this evening. Hopefully this will communicate a great summary of today’s speaker and the Q&A session which lasted less than 45 minutes in one map. This will be on the web tomorrow subject to the speaker’s approval. It will not shared using the latest technology from Mindjet – the Mindjet Player. It’s too slow, too big, losses the formatting of the desktop version and the navigation process slows down the engagement of the reader. Too many brain cycles before you see what you want! It will be a scrollable clickable image map which replicates the map I see on my desktop. They should “get” the map in less than a minute and then move on to more detailed information if they wish! This is about the time it takes to start the Mindjet Player in my browser window.
    What a burble. What do MindGenius users burble about their application?
    p.s. MindGenius are right the market is huge and none of the current players have come anywhere near dominating it. I hope they will both improve their offerings so that new users get value quickly. For us old users I hope they listen to us.

  2. Woo. You caught me just in time. Whether it has users of the new version, I have no idea but it would make sense. I’ve pointed the people that matter to this comment thread.

  3. I think I first tried mind mapping programs in 2002. At the time Mind Manager and Mind Genius were the only offerings I found, save exotic approaches such as Personal Brain. I opted for Mind Genius for specific functionalities (and also perhaps because it came from the UK).
    A few years later, I switched to Mind Manager whose development seemed more consistent. I upgraded up to version 6; there on I found its performance too sluggish and its resource appetite too great for comfort.
    I tested other options that appeared in the meantime such as the very classy OpenMind, now called MindView, from Danish Matchware. It was great, but its price put me off; indeed, I find most mind mapping programs highly overpriced for what they offer, compared to most other information management software.
    Just in time, came MindGenius’ latest upgrade at a sensible price. I appreciate the developers’ focus and business approach (Chuck Frey wrote about it here: http://mindmappingsoftwareblog.com/whats-next-for-mindgenius/ ). I hope that they will stay on course.
    I have written elsewhere ( http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/879/0/i-want-it-all-now ) that information managers should eventually become cross-platform and web-aware because this is what users will expect. However, this can’t be achieved at the expense of their core functionality, or they will hardly be the tools that users look for in the first place.

  4. Hi Alexander. Thank you for the comment and the links (which didn’t work at first but seem fine now, in case anyone’s revisiting.)
    From the discussions I had with MindGenius, I am optimistic that it will stay on course. Although, judging from your last comment, I’m not sure that the course will be multi-platform or web-aware, although it does provide for a variety of outputs including four HTML versions.
    Hopefully someone from MindGenius will be keeping an eye on these comments and will be able to answer ‘from the horse’s mouth’, so to speak.

  5. Interesting article David.
    In my school MindMapping is now very firmly embedded as a core skill which our students use in order to enhance their learning – we’ve embraced the whole ‘independent learning’ thing. In the Folens A Level textbook for WJEC’s ICT course, MindMaps are supplied as ‘end of chapter summaries’. Students are now at the point of being able to CHOOSE their own methodologies for MindMap construction – whether it be a) by hand, b) drawing within Word etc. c) creation of non-linear hyperlinked slideshows d)using purpose-made MindMapping software such as Inspiration/Kidspiration or the Open Source ‘Freemind’ or, as is now becoming the case, e) using one of the plethora of Web 2.0 apps like bubbl.us & Mindmeister. The latter in fact allow SIMULTANEOUS editing of MindMaps by more than one individual, no matter how remote from easch other they may be situated – which offers VERY exciting possibilities for the classroom.
    It used to be the case that *I* as ICT teacher would introduce students to prograns like these – but it is becoming more so the case that students are finding and using these apps INDEPENDENTLY and telling others about them. MindMapping software provision seems to be a bit of a ‘cut throat’ business now as companies now have to find features that THEY offer which are NOT available on other packages eg. Mindmeister is now available as an iPhone app!
    I am also interested (as are Christina Preston & Dr John Cuthell of Mirandanet) in the area of *CONCEPT* mapping and wonder if you have looked into this area too.

  6. David,
    Although the theme of the next MirandaMod (see http://mirandamod.wikispaces.com/ ) which will take place at the IoE on 22nd October (and is open to all) is e-Safety, the organisers are constructing Mindmeister MindMaps to illustrtae the findings of the meeting. You are welcome to attend or to watch at a distance. You can sign up[ for the e-safety MirandaMod at http://mirandamod.wikispaces.com/Digital+Literacy+-+Digital+Safety and, as has been the case in the past, whether face-to-face or via the Internet, attendees are likely to find the debate stimulating and fascinating. [The MirandaMod format was devised by Theo Keuchel & Drew Buddie for the benevolent ICT association Mirandanet (founded by Christina Preston)].

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