I’ve been trying out quite a few mind mapping software programmes recently. Between the corporate big boys and the freeware, there is a newcomer who aims to occupy the space in-between.
MindMaple is a new company. At the moment, MindMaple is offering a 50% launch discount off their regular price of USD199. They have kindly offered me a complementary copy of their software and I have been using it regularly for the past week.
Let’s start with what I liked about MindMaple. Three things stand out for me.
Firstly, it’s very easy to learn the ropes of this programme, even if you are new to mind mapping. Many commands can be executed through the mouse or keyboard. The commands are neatly organised into tabs, and MindMaple does not overwhelm you with too many features. It gives you enough to get the job done. I especially like the ability to balance the map. After adding many new nodes, the mind map can become lop-sided. The “balance” command instantly recalibrates the mind map automatically.
Secondly, MindMaple looks good – better than many of its competitors. It is stylish, elegant, and has visual appeal. Each level of nodes has a distinctive style for up to 5 levels whereas most competitors stop at 3 – 4 levels. It makes it that much easier to see, at a glance, the relative importance of each node.
Thirdly, MindMaple has a focus on task management. Most of the features you expect are present, such as priority, completion level, duration, and notes. It’s comprehensive except for one glaring miss, which is the ability to export to Microsoft Project.
And that brings me to some of the other cons of MindMaple. My number one gripe is the lack of support for FreeMind files. FreeMind is one of the most popular mind mapping software out there, not just because it’s free as its name implies, but it’s good enough to meet the needs of most people. I am not comfortable with the idea of being tied into a proprietory format, just in case my needs change in the future. (Note: The MindMaple folks have indicated that they will be adding a FreeMind import feature in a future version).
Secondly, in this day of social networking and crowd-sourcing, there is a lack of online collaboration features. It would be nice to be able to work on a mind map together with a colleague half way round the globe, which is especially important for the corporate customer. There is a nicely implemented commenting feature in MindMaple, but that’s no substitute for collaborative mind mapping.
Thirdly, some of the commands are not quite intuitive. For example, I press Ctrl+F3 to collapse all the nodes but Ctrl+Shift+A to expand them. It would be much simpler to assign a single command e.g. Ctrl+Shift+A to toggle between the two states instead. (Note: I’ve sent this feedback to MindMaple, and the friendly folks there have agreed to update this.).
By default, you click and drag a node to create a new child node. If you wish to move the node, you have to position the cursor over a particular location of the node where it’s linked to the parent branch. I find this confusing, and often end up mistakenly creating a new child node when I had wanted to adjust the location of the node instead.
Lastly, the software is still rough in the edges. I was unable to launch the help file, the HTML help executable file crashes. The update feature doesn’t work, I had to download the installation file directly from the MindMaple web site.
After one week, I do like using MindMaple. It’s easy to use and I like its look. But has it done enough to justify its price tag? There are many free and cheaper mind mapping alternatives out there, and MindMaple needs to beat them convincingly. There is still room for improvement. I’ve no doubt that the MindMaple guys are working hard on their update, and I look forward to the next release.
At the moment, my mind mapping software of choice is XMind. It’s free, works almost as well, and most importantly, it can import and export FreeMind files.
If you would like a free copy of MindMaple to review, please contact me.
Mind map of the MindMaple review