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MindMeister: A Sturdy Mind Mapper With a Route to the Cloud

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 23, 2010 5:00 AM PT

MindMeister: A Sturdy Mind Mapper With a Route to the Cloud

MindMeister, an app from MeisterLabs, is available for US$7.99 at the App Store.

(click image to enlarge)

Mind mapping is one of those kinds of applications that fits the iPad like a velvet glove. The tablet's combination of tactile response and large, high-resolution display closely emulates the analog experience of making a map with paper and pencil -- only the results are more legible.

One of the most prominent mind-mapping programs available for a variety of computing platforms is MindMeister, which has recently extended its reach by creating a version for the iPad. While there are mind-mappers for the iPad with more visual verve, none have more versatility than MindMeister's offering for the tablet.

MindMaps can be used for all sorts of organizational projects. The technique works well for unstructured projects -- brainstorming or a personal essay, for instance -- as well as more structured endeavors, such as identifying the start-to-finish steps in a project or managing and assigning tasks for one.

In their simplest form, mind maps resemble trees. The have a central idea, which is the trunk. Connected to the trunk are branches called "nodes." The nodes can have their own branches, and those branches more nodes. As you might imagine, node proliferation can make an unholy mess of a map, so judicious use of branching is recommended.

Quick Start

Kicking off a map in MindMeister is a piece of cake. From the My Maps screen, where all the maps created with the program are displayed, you tap a plus key and a box for your central idea appears, along with the iPad keyboard.

After clearing the keyboard from the screen, you can add a node by tapping any blank area on the screen or poking the plus icon on the program's title bar at the top of the display.

Poking an empty area will connect the new node to the central idea. However, nodes can be connected to other nodes by simply dragging and dropping them on each other. If you select a node by tapping it, then poking the add icon will automatically add the new node to the selected node.

As is typical with an iPad app, "pinching" can be used to zoom in and out on a map. Dragging a finger on the map moves it around the screen. Double tapping a node allows you to edit it. Tapping a node and poking the trash icon deletes the node.

Connecting With the Cloud

Nodes can be spruced up in a number of ways with tools located on the title bar. You can change the color of text in the nodes, pick font styles (bold or italic) and sizes (three styles available) and add icons to them.

Now that the iPad has some age under its belt, it's becoming apparent that an important component to a productivity app is to have a solid connection to "the cloud." While emailing what's created on the iPad is valuable, having the capability to synchronize versions of a creation between the iPad and an online location, and the ability to work on files created in the iPad with a Web-based app adds immeasurable value to the productivity of a program for the tablet.

MindMeister has those kinds of connections. You can work on your mind maps on your iPad or online at the MindMeister website (basic accounts can be opened for free). Changes to maps can be synchronized between online and tablet versions, too. In addition, maps can be shared with others through that old standby email. If you don't want your shared maps altered, you can send them as read-only files.

MindMeister has done an excellent job of bringing its popular mind mapping software to the iPad. At $7.99, MindMeister is more expensive than your typical app, but with the productivity that can be gained through the software's online features, it's definitely worth the extra money you pay for it.

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What do you think of today's voice recognition technology?
It's great -- the tech has improved vastly in recent years.
It's the wave of the future, but quality is still hit or miss.
I like it for texting, especially when I'm driving.
I only use it when I have to, like with IVR systems.
I avoid using it, because most voice systems are still terrible.
It's an unnecessary frill that I can easily live without.