updated 09:20 pm EST, Wed December 26, 2007
ConceptDraw MindMap Pro
As Apple's appeal grows - thanks to the easy-to-use Mac OS X, and the versatility of the Intel processors - the large business and enterprise sectors are starting to adopt the Macintosh platform as a new office standard. Apple has a long history of support from business-minded developers such as Microsoft, Marketcircle, The Omni Group, and CS Odessa, and with them, the company has garnered a variety of productivity software. CS Odessa's ConceptDraw MindMap Professional 5 looks to provide a solid and powerful, but simple way for business professionals to capture brainstorming sessions and put them into a readable flowchart-style plan.
MindMap Pro operates out of a one window design, complimented by drawers and floating palettes to manage data and documents. You can initially choose from several different types of templates, like exam preparation and company organization, or just create a brainstorm or blank document. The templates simply provide a launch point for ideas that need to be sketched out quickly, while blank documents are recommended for simple projects or vast, multi-topic plans.
Starting a brainstorming session is the best way to gather information from a task group, since the built-in timer allows members to focus on getting ideas out and on paper, rather than watching the clock. You start by creating a new brain storm, or by using the brainstorm button on any document. A dialogue window inserts itself, and if the project has any extraneous windows or drawers open, they are temporarily closed. Enter a main topic title, such as "Business Plan" or a product that you wish to design, and the required brainstorming time, and then proceed to filling in ideas. The ideas are entered into a field which are then placed into the central pool for organization once the brainstorm is finished.
Entering brainstorm parameters
Once the timer has expired, organizing the chart is simply a matter of dragging related points together in the desired order. Main topics automatically form when items are dragged to the central idea, and subtopics likewise form when dragged to a main topic. Subtopics also follow the main topic when it is dragged around the window, allowing for simple reconstruction of the chart when new points are added.
New main topics and subtopics can be created through the "Insert" button, through the menus, or by using the freehand tool. Using the two former methods, you simply click on the topic that you wish to expand upon, and generate points until it is satisfactory. Using the latter method, you draw out from the point you wish to expand upon until you have the desired amount. Parallel relationships can also be drawn between objects, for points that don't have hierarchy between them, but are none-the-less still related.
Almost any project people undertake seems to have more to it than was originally thought, and in such cases, you are able to bring a topic over to a new page within the same document. For example, starting a business is a large undertaking in and of itself, and choosing appropriate business software is almost as large a task on its own. Putting both sets of ideas on the same page, in amongst all other topics, could cause for a large and confusing chart. Using the menus or contextual menus, you can turn a main or subtopic into a topic all on its own, allowing for a wider area of unused space for idea placement.
You can also view the chart using the Outline viewer, which organizes topics hierarchically instead of through abstract representation. Links, symbols, notes, and task information can be seen in this mode, as well as on the main chart.
MindMap Pro comes with many different built-in graphics and themes to add a little bit of eye candy to an otherwise dry process. With graphics ranging from business and financial, to animals and food, and the ability to use user-generated graphics, as well as being able to color the chart topics and lines, you should never be out of quick ways to make a presentation interesting. Check back soon for a full review of CS Odessa's ConceptDraw MindMap Pro 5.