Health in mind and body is a standout theme of this month's software reviews.
The latest version of Mind Manager adds automatic Gantt charts to diagram tasks in your maps, and reinforces its integration with that other embattled category leader, Microsoft Office.
MindManager is perhaps the most powerful mind-mapping program available, but the upgrades in this version are somewhat less than compelling. The Gantt map functionality works smoothly and should be a boon to serious project managers, but many of the other additions are of limited value.
Much of what Mindjet touts about MindManager 9 is its integration with Office. For instance, if you're a fan of Office's ribbon interface, you'll feel right at home in MindManager, which mimics much of that interface, including the redesigned File menu area found in Office 2010.
You can also suck email messages, tasks, appointments, and contacts directly from Outlook into MindManager, which is powerful and impressive. You can also choose preprogrammed queries, like Today's Tasks or New Contacts, or you can build your own query to acquire custom data.
It all works fairly seamlessly, but ultimately it's difficult to imagine how it might become essential to everyday life. Most of the content in Outlook, like email messages and appointments, makes sense to view in Outlook, not in a mind map. The one exception is tasks. Mind maps can be great for managing a to-do list; but even though MindManager syncs data with Outlook, most users would surely want to manage their tasks in one program or the other, not in both simultaneously.
Heavy-duty project managers who already rely on mind mapping will appreciate this upgrade. But if you don't care about Gantt charts and you already use an earlier version of MindManager,you probably don't need this upgrade.
If you're new to the field of mind mapping, you won't find a program with more functionality or elegance than MindManager. But you can certainly find one that's cheaper. I recommend trying one of those first before committing to Mindjet's price tag.
Mobile phones are great, and so is the ability to make and take calls almost anywhere, but there are times when you don't want to be available to everyone – and you don't want to have to look at your phone every time it rings, just in case it is someone you cannot ignore.
If you have a smartphone, one way to achieve this is a selective call-blocker, which allows some calls and rejects others. An example of just such an app is Maziphone: this runs on Android'phones and looks to see if the incoming call is from a permitted number – you can choose a list of these from your phonebook – and if not, it declines the call.
You can set it either to reply with a pre-set text message, or simply let the declined call go to voicemail. If you choose the first option you may want to turn your voicemail off, otherwise the caller will get both.
There are caveats with this kind of thing, of course. Even if your contract includes a number of text messages each month, the texts may cost you money – if you are roaming, say, or if the call is from abroad. In addition, a texted response may not work if the call is from a landline, although many phone companies do now have a text-to-voice service that calls up and reads out a text sent to your landline.
And be warned: declining a call will not save you money while roaming, even if you don t send a text in response – the call is still delivered to your handset, so you will still be charged for receiving it.
If you want to block callers even more selectively, there are more expensive call-filtering apps around that let you subscribe to online lists of nuisance numbers – telemarketers, for example. Most are aimed at the US market, though, and Maziphone does a basic job more cheaply.
PDF factory pro
It is rarely a problem these days to create a paperless document via PDF, the portable document format invented by Adobe that is now an open standard for exchanging electronic documents. Some word processors include an export-to-PDF option as standard, or you can use one of the many printer drivers that generate a PDF file instead of paper. Most computers and smartphones can then display the file, typically using the free version of Adobe Reader.
The nuisance comes when someone emails you a form – in any format – and asks you to fill it in. You could print the document to paper, then fill it in and post or scan it, or if it is a fillable PDF form you may be able to complete and save it using Adobe Reader. But what if the form is a scanned image or a Word document, say?
This is where pdfFactory Pro comes in – as well as being a very capable PDF printer, it can also edit the resulting PDF files. It is also quite a bit cheaper than other PDF editors, such as the full version of Adobe Acrobat.
The idea is that you generate a PDF of the document you were sent, type in your entries using any font on your computer, paste in a scanned signature or initials, and then email the resulting edited PDF file to wherever it needs to go. Importantly, you can secure the file against further amendment and lock your scanned signature from being copied.
The program, which runs on all the recent versions of Windows, also includes a series of other features useful for creating professional-looking PDFs from word processed documents. These include the ability to add page numbering or a pre-stored letterhead or watermark during the print-to-PDF process.
You can also delete or reorder pages, and concatenate several documents into one PDF. Other PDF editing features include bookmark generation, and highlighting or redacting (blacking-out) selected text. It can also print multiple pages per sheet to save paper, or collate and reorientate pages to print the PDF as a booklet.
If pdfFactory Pro seems a bit expensive, you can do some of what it does using open-source software or shareware, although it will not be nearly as well integrated. It is also worth noting that the UK distributor of pdfFactory Pro offers significant discounts for educational customers, to just 12 a copy.
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Signs and Symptoms
People are still arguing over whether mobile phones contribute to cancer, but one thing is certain: they can now help fight it. This new app from the charity Cancer Research UK could save lives by enabling earlier diagnoses – and the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance of successful treatment. Given that the statistics suggest 40 per cent of us will get cancer at some point in our lives, that is not to be sniffed at.
It is part of a burgeoning industry in health-related mobile phone apps: as with the web a few years ago, it seems that we are quite happy now to use our mobiles to research things that we are too shy to ask our doctors about. A lot are US-based and focused, of course, but even the much-praised NHS Direct helpline is also available as an app now.
Still, if it turns one belated 'It's probably nothing, Doctor, but I noticed...' into a life-saving early diagnosis, it should be worth all the incidental added hypochondria.
Available for Android and iPhone, and also accessible via your web browser on CRUK's website, the Cancer Signs app is a fairly chunky 11MB download; fortunately, on Android it will install to the SD-card if your device supports this.
It lets you move around an on-screen body, choosing different areas of the body to see what signs and symptoms in that area could suggest cancer. It then offers information on what might lie behind them, plus hints and tips on what warning signs to look for and how. Requesting further information takes you to the CRUK website.
As an app it worked well on a phone, even if the user interface does still need a bit of work – it did not adapt properly to the different screen size of an Android tablet, for example, so some hotspot targets were misplaced. It is also hard to see why it requires 11MB of download – it contains embedded videos, as does the online version, but they are online so viewing them requires a network connection.
Be that as it may, 11MB of data download is a minuscule price to pay for something that could save a life. And like the charity's world-leading research, the app was entirely funded by donations, so while it is free to download, do please consider making use of the Donate function that is also built in. *