Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mac Mind mapping software: Inspiration, OmniOutliner and MindNode

I've used several mind mapping tools over the past few years, including, most recently, MindManager for Windows. I like the tools well enough, but it's a niche market. The leading vendors like Mindjet and NovaMind typically charge $250-$400 for their products; that feels a bit much when Aperture sells for $80 on the Mac App store.

All of the commercial products use proprietary, closed data formats -- so there's a severe data lock problem with this domain. It's tough to switch vendors. Some, like NovaMind, have quite good import/export features -- but that doesn't change the fundamental data lock issue. Many of the products, including some respected freeware apps, are Java based. That's a big negative for a Mac user.

Which is why it's nice to see that Inspiration is back. It was never actually gone -- but they stopped marketing it for adult and business use (schools only). Visiting their web site today they seem to be taking another stab at a broader market. Inspiration isn't nearly as pretty as MindManager, and it doesn't have MM/Windows deep Office integration, but it's much less expensive. I'd give it a try (it used to import MORE 3.1 documents btw!), but the trial software registration form is ridiculous. I'll wait until they get a clue on that front.

Inspiration is nice, but what I really want is for the OmniGroup to deliver a mindmapping solution. They could extend OmniOutliner, OminGraffle, OmniFocus or do a new app -- but my preference would be to extend OmniOutliner. They'd do a beautiful job, and perhaps they'd consider opening up the file format.

Update: The ever reliable "Martin" mentions MindNode in a comment. I loved this part of their web site description:

No file format lock-in. MindNode and MindNode Pro support a variety of file formats. You can import and export FreeMind and OPML files (a file format used by many outlining applications) or export the mind map as PNG image, TIFF image, PDF, RTF or HTML document.

MindNodePro is sold on the App Store for $20 and by direct download. MindNode is quite limited by free. There's an iOS version that currently has its own file format, but the developer promises it will migrate to the MindNode format.

MindNode is a small OS X and iOS developer product ...

... MindNode and MindNode Pro are applications designed and developed by Markus Müller. Based in Vienna, Austria, Markus is an independent software developer whose focus lies on designing intuitive and useful software for the Mac and iPhone platform...

This on is my todo (Toodledo/Todo.app) list to try.

Update 6/4/11: There's a free trial version of MindNode Pro - limited to 20 nodes. That's what I'm experimenting with. It's simple, but elegant. If you drag and drop a file to MindNode it creates a resizable icon shortcut (default size is too big). I like how it works. If you want to create documents, you create then externally and relate them using MindNode. For example, I could related a set of SimpleNote text notes. The documentation is unclear, but i can confirm node names are indexed by Spotlight.

See also:

14 comments:

Martin said...

Years ago as a student, I used a, ehmm, unlicensed copy of MindManager.

Today, it's MindNode Pro, fully licensed:

http://www.mindnode.com/

JGF said...

Wow. What a great referral Martin. I updated my post and revised the title. I am going to try MindNode then Pro version if it's good.

Martin said...

The following screencast might be useful:

http://www.macosxscreencasts.com/review/der-vollstandigste-aller-mindnode-screencasts-gewinnspiel/

MindNode developer Markus Müller is very responsive to requests and questions. Feel free to send him an e-mail if you need a full version for testing or if you have any questions, e.g. the one re. 'Spotlight'.

JGF said...

I tried viewing Martin, but a very evil looking ad with fake buttons popped up - basically phishing-scam class ad. So I closed window.

Either macosxscreencasts.com has been hacked or it's not a good site to use.

I did some testing and it was easy to show that MindNode documents are indexed by Spotlight.

I asked Markus if there might be some improvements on the drag-and-dropped link embedding -- the current icons are large and inconvenient to work with. Seems an easy area to improve on.

Martin said...

The site looks completely normal to me, i.e. a problem with the site seems to be unlikely. Anyway, the podcasts is accessible via iTunes Store for free, with each a German and an English freed.

JGF said...

I tried again, this time I didn't get the evil ad. I wonder if they need to review their ad policies.

Watching the screencast now.

Martin said...

Ads are a double-edged sword I'm afraid. I filter most ads in my browsers with Adblock Plus and other extensions – another reason why I prefer to browse on my Macs and not on iOS devices where filtering is not available.

Martin said...

@Zettt, the guy responsible for 'Mac OS X Screencasts', is disappointingly not willing to change his ads:

Free translation: Let's change the ads. Show me an alternative that allows me to make the same money and I will try to use that alternative.

https://twitter.com/zettt/status/78394463273234432

JGF said...

Thanks Martin. Ad supported business models are a problem. I rely on only one - but it's the big Kahuna (G of course).

bertocorredor said...

I'm a happy user of MindNodePro. It's easy and elegant, and the opml export is a fantastic way to use it as an outliner for Scrivener. It absolute rocks!
The only but is that you cannot attach notes to the nodes, that would be a killer touch for me, let's hope they implement it in the future.
On the PC side I think Freemind is still the king, open source and simple. If they were only to implement OPML export...
If you want something that takes a new approach, take a look into Vue (http://vue.tufts.edu/). It's a complex piece of software but, you guess what? it's open source and does some incredible things. I will be playing with it a little bit more when I have the time.

Alberto

JGF said...

Thanks for the Vue tip - I'll take a look.

With MindNode Pro I'm experimenting with keeping my notes in my Notational Velocity folder (syncs with simplenote too) and dragging and dropping them to MindNode where they show up as (too large) page icons. You can view the document (click-spacebar) or double click to launch.

JGF said...

I'm testing vue. XML file format. One worrisome sign -- the Vue blog was last updated in 2009 (!):

http://vueproject.blogspot.com/

Rob said...

If only I could find a reasonably-fast solution for Windows. I've been using MM8 for a while but it's just too damned sluggish to brainstorm at peak Amphetamine speeds.

Marcy White said...

These are some good options, but another great alternative is Lucidchart. You can check it out at https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/mindmanager-software-alternative