Not quite as powerful as MindManager, but still an effective project management tool and half the price
MindGenius is a mindmapping application. Mindmaps can be used to map out thought processes, brainstorm, develop concepts and create plans, and have developed from pen and paper illustrations into dedicated software packages. There are plenty of free or inexpensive applications that allow you to easily draw mind maps, from dedicated mindmapping software like Freemind to vector graphics applications such as Inkscape, but commercial programs such as Mind Genius or Mindjet’s MindManager, which we reviewed a couple of years ago, offer features above and beyond simple vector drawings.
For the uninitiated, mindmapping is a way of organising and exploring thoughts and ideas around a central concept. Ideas are structured in a tree format and, in computer-based versions, branches can be collapsed and expanded to hide or reveal detail. Unsurprisingly, a tool designed to help you organise ideas has developed into a powerful business aid. A simple brainstorm can, with a little work and further thought, be transformed into a fully-fledged project management plan.
Mindmaps are an ideal way to keep track of project work. Different parts of the project can be broken down along collapsible branches, allowing you to see the project’s overall framework while giving quick access to the important details. In MindGenius 4, individual nodes can be assigned resources and start and due dates, as well as priority, status, progress and costs (including days and hours required). This information can then be used to convert your mindmap automatically into a fully-fledged Gantt chart, which can be further customised by dragging and dropping interlinks between tasks and deliverables. Tasks can be assigned as Actions for Microsoft Outlook and are subsequently sent to the respective Outlook task list.
New to this version is a brain storming mode. While mind maps typically force you to create links between concepts as they are created, the brainstorming mode allows you to simply drop ideas on to the page. These can then be tagged with user-defined categories and questions relevant to that thought or concept. The assignment of these questions and categories can then be used to structure an automatically-generated mindmap. This is a useful method to ease the path from idea generation into more concrete plans.
While the basic tasks of map creation, like creating nodes, assigning categories and adjusting formatting and layout, as well as more complex project-oriented tasks like Gantt change manipulation, are easy to access and use, some important general tasks are surprisingly well hidden. For example, to add a web link to a node you have to use the Attach File dialogue.
Comprehensive filter tools allow you to pare back complex maps to reveal just those details you need to view at any point, useful in project management when you need to find items due on a given deadline, or examine the work programs of different team members. Maps can be exported in a large number of formats including, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Project and Visio, as well in static forms like .jpg and .pdf. You can also turn your maps into a presentation using an inbuilt presentation tool. While this is not as sophisticated as PowerPoint, it does have the advantage of maintaining live maps on slides, meaning that you can change course and explore different branches as the presentation requires.
An academic version of MindGenius 4 is also available to students, teachers and schools at a bargain price of £57. With the heavyweight project management facilities and filter options, however, MindGenius 4 is better suited to higher education than high school. MindGenius 4 can do all the bread and butter mind mapping tasks with ease, and is a very useful tool for taking projects from the ideas stage all the way through to implementation and ongoing management. While it lacks the comprehensive Microsoft Office integration and web services found in the MindManager series, it is also half the price, so is a better choice if you don’t need those extra features.