We look at the latest version of the the Mindmapping software for Windows and roundup the top iPad apps and look to the future on what apps to expect for the Android tablet.
Mindjet Mind Manager 8
Mind-mapping software aims to take the clutter from your head or desk and organise it in a graphically simple and intuitive way - that will help you keep on top of whatever project you're working on.
At such a high price, MindManager, one of the most fully-featured and high-end mind mappers, isn't aimed at planning your holiday packing, but more the kind of sprawling and complex project management many engineers find themselves knotted into. It's already used by employees at companies including 3M, Siemens and IBM.
MindManager works by organising elements around a central project title. It's as easy as drag-and-drop - you simply type out a heading for a section, move items around to where you want them, and you can automatically add in sub-items, regroup and reorder items. On top of that, you can add and change grouping colours, shadings, line styles, fonts, and so on. There are ready-made templates to apply including marketing strategy, SWOT analysis and project planner with more specialist ones available to download from the website.
In short order, you'll have a sprawling mess of stuff on the screen in hierarchies and clusters that will hopefully resemble the sprawling mess in your brain. But, unlike your mind, where smaller items can easily pop up and derail your thoughts, MindManager sub-items and nested trees can be hidden easily - focus on the main tops, focus on just one branch or focus on the whole lot, the mind map certainly is a useful tool for visualising the issues around any project rapidly.
Mind maps are certainly more robust than a napkin with doodles on, more helpful than a Word document with lots of tabbing and bullet points and less stressful than adding 50 items to your to-do list. But there's a lot more to MindManager than that.
Items and sub-items can be linked out to in all sorts of directions. You can attach a database, Word file, Outlook task or Excel spreadsheet to an item, and the latest version of MindManager lets you edit those files within a pane inside the program. Similarly, calendar items and hyperlinks are embeddable alongside an item in the map. With the latest version you can even embed external search engine results, which will update as the project develops. The result is that, as long as you're a user of Microsoft's suite of productivity software (rather than say, Google Calendar - although there are workarounds even then), then any mind map you create will immediately be linked to your work, and vice versa.
Drill down deep into MindManager and there's even more depth - for instance, linkable mind maps allow you to create a separate map from one item; if it becomes too complex, that still remains linked in both directions. And progress updates and milestones filter through the entire map. In other words, if you set a deadline on item A that's contingent on completing item B, if you complete item B late, the deadline on item A will shift automatically too. On top of that, you can now edit and create mind maps on your iPhone with a separate, but linked, app (£4.99).
Also new - and really the most key update, to the latest version of MindManager - is a much better export/share process. Now your mind maps can be sent out as interactive PDFs or Flash SWF files. Send as read-only to anyone else linked to a project, and they can see what's going on quickly - with click-to-view/hide sub-items. For £8+VAT a month per person, other project workers can also edit your mind maps, updating your version over the Internet via 'Mindjet Connect' (Mindjet Catalyst, even more expensive, lets you collaborate on mind maps in real time over the Internet).
Of course, on the kind of large, sprawling project MindManager is built for, around £10 per person per month soon adds up. And the cost of the main program itself is much higher than most of its rivals. So is it worth it?
MindManager's value depends on how complex the projects you tend to manage are, or how messy your mind is. If you're constantly missing detail or lagging behind due to lack of organisation, it could be invaluable - but there are cheaper, simpler alternatives to look at first. If you're in charge of a large, sprawling project and you need to be able to share milestones, key elements and data with coworkers, remote workers, managers etc. on all sides, MindManager could be invaluable.
But be warned, its depth will take some time to get used to and there are minor niggles (some of the file editing/sharing features don't work as well as they should). Using the free 30-day trial is strongly recommended.
From £187 (free 30 day trial)
ArtStudio for iPad
Originally available for iPhone, but improved for the iPad (and not just because it’s got a bigger screen), ArtStudio is a strongly-featured art package for the price. Lots of brushes and effects options let you draw or ‘paint’ freehand, or edit existing photos. Brush pressure’s simulated, you can even apply and mask your work in layers too and there’s basic tutorials for drawing novices. It’s not as fully featured as rival Sketchbook Pro – but it is under half the price, so unless you’re very serious about your art, ArtStudio wins out. And its user interface is much cleaner and better in use.
An absolutely accurate emulation of Korg’s near-legendary 1999 Electribe-r analogue drum machine/sequencer. The real machine will set you back around £100 on eBay and is up there with the Roland TR-909 as a dance music ‘classic’. The emulator costs a fraction of that, and is likely to be more reliable, but does take a bit of getting used to. Very welcome support for exporting your beats to CD-quality WAV files has been added since the 1.0 release and the old-school analogue knobs mean it’s easy for even dance music newbies.
£5.99 (introductory price)
Simply both the best and best-looking videogame on the iPad yet. As futuristic parkour courier Faith, you’ve got to run across city rooftops while kicking guns out of security goons’ hands. Action is handled via motion-recognised swipes on the corner of the screen – and it all works incredibly slickly. The feeling of flowing, rolling action and the beautifully stylised colour scheme is carried over brilliantly from the original console title.
The Elements: for UK & Ireland
The periodic table turned interactive – The Elements
takes Popular Science writer Theodore Gray’s book as its starting point, but turns it into a showcase for how eBooks should be done. Click on each element, represented by a rotating sample and you can drill down to facts, click online to get Wolfram Alpha-fed statistics and latest search results (the current market price for gold, for instance), and see sample objects of that element. You can even (with the right glasses) turn and examine elemental objects in 3D. There are also plenty of brilliant easter eggs hidden throughout the app – including Tom Lehrer’s ‘The Elements’ song.
The iPad version of the remote desktop management software is free between desktop versions. The iPad version has a hefty price tag, but worth it if you want to carry out tasks that only Windows or a desktop Mac can do. Accessing your PC or Mac is simple even over a 3G connection. Scrolling the mouse around with your finger is unusual on a touch screen, but you get used to it. You can’t drag stuff to your iPad - but email does the job.