I’m a mindmapper. It’s my preferred method for brainstorming and idea generation. My natural tendency is to grab a sheet of paper and a pen, lay down the main topic and start ringing that central idea with other ideas until the page is full. It’s fast, fun, and free from the constraints of a more linear method of listing things. The problem I most often encounter comes when trying to capture these brainstorming sessions and quickly reference the ideas contained therein.
I turned to a software solution to this problem. There are several options out there. I tried a few of them, and settled for NovaMind because it felt the most intuitive at the time. And I continued to use NovaMind for several years. I don’t anymore. The developers decided that they wanted to tap into the Windows market and after they made that decision, the interface changed significantly. And I didn’t like it. So I stopped using it, and went back to paper and pen.
And while there are many advantages to being able to create, save and search mindmaps using a keyboard and mouse, there’s something intangible lost when working electronically. The flow of ideas is slowed and feels less natural when compared to using a pen and paper. It’s more obvious and even painful when the interface sucks.
Out of my way
It had been over a year since I used mindmapping software when I stumbled upon MindNode. The developer of MindNode has made simplicity the name of the game when designing the interface. Everything is controllable from the keyboard which goes a long way toward removing the barrier between mind and mindmap when using a computer to brainstorm. And while this simplicity comes at the cost of some of the more esoteric features of heftier mindmapping apps out there, like NovaMind, it more than makes up for the shortcoming by getting out of the way.
Not being one who’s ever completely satisfied with even great tools, I had a nitpick about MindNode that kept me from purchasing it out right. One of the features that I really liked about NovaMind was the ability to tack a text note to a node. NovaMind even went a step further and offered a screenwriting add-on that allowed you to create formatted script snippets right in the mindmap. Very handy. But I’d be happy with just text notes.
So that morning, which was a Saturday, I emailed the developer, Markus Muller, and asked him if he was planning to add this feature. Later that afternoon, I received a response letting me know that this was a planned feature, and he even offered to email me personally when it had been included.
Was this a big deal? A quick 2 minute response dashed off on a Saturday afternoon? Hell, yes. Even if I don’t end up buying this software, and I will as soon as this feature is added, I’ll recommend (am recommending) MindNode based firstly on the quality of the software, but I’ll immediately follow it by saying “and the developer is quick to respond to the user community and their needs.” After my adventures with piss-poor customer service, it’s always refreshing to give my money to someone who actually gives a crap about the people who are paying their bills.
When the competition’s offerings are priced at well over $100 or even $250, MindNode Pro’s $15 license seems too good to be true. And if you’re not happy with paying that much, but satisfied with fewer features, you can use the freeware version and still experience the ease of use.
Final verdict: Get it. Now.
The superior interface design with its ease of use and complete keyboard control, the very responsive developer, and the terrific price, MindNode is the best mindmapping software on the market. If you mindmap, you should use MindNode.