MindManager and Teaching

Mindmanager 9 update

5/29/2012 9:16 AM
This is the version of MindManager that I currently use. I know that there are more current versions, with more extended collaboration and “cloud” functionality baked in. However, I have not really experimented with those. The principal advantage of MindManager 9 compared to earlier versions is that it is much more stable and does not eat up processor cycles any longer.

MindManager 8 update

Updated 4/16/2009 9:34 AM

After a quick review of MM8, here are my reactions:

1.  MM Player.  Doesn’t export text in the text boxes (at least consistently; might depend on whether any highlighting or images appear intext boxes), or any inking.  Regrettably, this makes it MM Player useless for me and my colleagues.

2.  Linking to dbs don’t help me much directly.

3.  So called improved searching—I can’t see any difference in actual performance.  Anyone who installed an ifilter had WDS search of mmaps for a long time.  The speed of internal search seems unusable as it has always been.

Temporarily very excited b/c of MM Player export.  But ultimately disappointed that MM Player only works  with mickey mouse maps, that one might as well print to pdf.

As for the Mindjet Web, Mindjet Connect, etc., initiatves, I’ve found the marketing quite confusing.  I think a “liteweight version of the app” as cloud service versus “co-mapping/screen sharing” versus “shared hard drive” in the cloud are potentially separate services.  I can’t tell you which MM product performs which service at what price–even though I’d be considered a sophisticated user.  That’s not a good marketing position to be in.

Continuing weaknesses:

  • Still eats up cycles.  As for eating up cycles for no good reason, MM8 seems to eat up a few % points less, but still eats up cycles for no good reason (even when apps are minimized in the background).  In other words, instead of 4-10%, MM8 eats 2-8%.
  • No customizable hotkeys.
  • No ability to undock text boxes, sidebars to leverage multiple screens.
  • No ability to launch multiple instances or to separate out windows outside of main program window, which means again, inability to leverage multiple screens.  (With maps, screen real estate is so darn important–I don’t see why this is difficult to implement).

Positives

  • Notwithstanding the competition, I still use Mindmanager.  Notwithstanding the above complaints, it remains my central app.  Xmind.net is free, and visually very similar to Mindmanager.   Mindmapper is powerful, but not quite there yet.  Novamind 5 looks interesting, but I’ve never really tried it.

Older Review

Updated Mar 2006:

Since Mindjet published a small ”blurb” and then a case study about how I use Mindmanager in teaching, I have received numerous e-mail inquiries. Given limited time to respond, I thought it would make more sense to put up a standard web page response.

Many were interested in seeing some sample maps. Here are some examples from civil procedure (map 1, map 2) and communications law (map 1). (Note, that some of the diagrams embedded in the maps were created using other diagramming software, such as SMART Ideas.)

These are the maps that I archive at the end of class for my students. What is important to understand is that much of this material is created ”on-the-fly,” in real time. As I explain in my essay about using information technology in teaching, I think that it is imperative to be able to capture the dynamic interaction in class on the board. If you do not, at bottom, you encourage a passive form of learning which is not much different from television.

For teachers, here are some suggestions. Create your lecture notes in MM, color all notes to self (including extra details, reference, questions you might ask the students, etc.) that you don’t want your students to see with some unique color. Then, before class, copy the relevant branches you’ll be teaching into a brand new map. Select all the colored branches and delete them. Now you have the skeleton of the materials you want to teach.

Once class begins, your students should see only the first level of the map. Remember that the power of visual outlining software is that it allows you to see the big picture as well as drill down into details. Open up branches only as you go. Then, use MM like you would use a blackboard, but instead of writing on the board, type branches–not only your own thoughts and comments, but also the comments and answers of your students.

If you have a tablet, you can also draw (the Version 6 interface is much improved to X5 and now one can draw directly into a text box). Then move branches, reorganize them, color them, code them, etc. in real time.

To do this live, while using the Socratic method, requires extreme facility with the user interface. I use a tablet, and the pen is faster than the mouse. Also, I’ve written numerous macros that create hotkeys to highlight branches or put boundaries or open up one level only, etc. (Before you ask, I will not share these macros because they require some maintenance and do not work always perfectly.) I’ve reiterated to Mindjet that they should allow customization in terms of hotkeys.

In my view, Mindmanager appears to be the best program out there among the visual outliners. But there is increasing competition, which you should be able to locate easily on the Internet.

The greatest weaknesses of Mindmanager currently are:

  • inability to customize hotkeys for effective teaching in real time (For example, when you are teaching, you want to open up only one branch at a time; to do so, you currently have to hit some three key combination–who’s going to do that? I’ve reprogrammed simply to hit F5. Same goes for something simple like highlighting a branch yellow.)
  • clumsy printing (mindmaps we get large to print on single sheets; ideally, it would intelligently print subtopics page by page)
  • slow rendering (if you do not have a fast computer, moving around a large map is quite slow)
  • slow searching (in X5, the find dialog for a very large map can lock up your computer for over a minute; X6 is slightly faster, but still not where it should be)
  • bugs that eat up processor cycles (even when Mindmanager is not doing anything, it could eat up to 20% of your processor; also when a text box is open, sometimes, the processor goes up to 100%) Version 6 still has this problem; the solution is to reset all toolbars.
  • mmaps cannot be indexed by desktop search engines (e.g., google desktop search), without various technical contrivances. Now Copernic and Google desktop can search mmaps.

These faults notwithstanding, it’s still the program I use and recommend. Version 6 just came out, and adds various sophisticated tools. For most academics, the embedding of file attachments (if it scales well) [looks like it doesn’t scale well] the custom data fields will probably be the most important additions (and of course, better Tablet PC inking support).

Good luck. I’m sorry but I cannot give any detailed recommendations or advice, as a general matter. I hope this get you started.

Best,
Jerry Kang