Tony Buzan's new mind mapping software program, iMindMap, is now available for download. This is a beta version, with the commercial version scheduled to ship some time in the near future. I downloaded and installed it, and it's pretty impressive.
As you might expect, iMindMap adheres closely to Tony's rules of mind mapping - and I mean that in a good way. Creating maps is a unique, almost organic process. You first create a central topic, which has a red dot in the middle of it. Drag away from that dot, and a curved map branch springs to life. Begin typing, and a little window automatically pops up to capture your branch label. It's all very intuitive. You can easily add notes and hyperlinks to branches, although there's very little visual feedback to indicate that a branch has such content (unless you mouse over it). iMindMap is also compatible with Tablet PCs and "smart" whiteboards, which makes it even more akin to creating a hand-drawn, traditional mind map.
The program's developers thoughtfully included some toggle (on/off) icons in iMindMap's toolbar, which makes it easy to select between automatic and free-hand branch shaping, text placement on branches (stretch to the length of the branch or position it near the end of each one), and branch auto-coloring. Very nice!
Editing your map is just as easy. Drag a selection point on a branch, and it instantly reshapes itself. Double-click on a branch, and a text box pops up, enabling you to edit the branch label. You can adjust the thickness and color of branches. You can add images to any branch; the program, when launched will contain a sizeable library of images and symbols that you can use to embellish your maps. I didn't see any evidence of them in this beta 1 version.
While you're creating your diagram in map view, a text view is maintaining an outline version of it in parallel. A presentation view is also available, which grays out the toolbars to minimize visual distractions. You can also use the F-11 key to display only your map, ideal for presenting it to others. I didn't see any option to expand or collapse sub-branches, though...
All things considered, this is a fine first effort from the Buzan organization. iMindMap provides a solid feature set, without any quirky behavior - quite an accomplishment! I can't wait to see what the full version will offer. No pricing is mentioned on the website. A free trial/beta version is available for download (the website says it's a 30-day evaluation, but the program only says 21 days - a minor point).
If you're interested in checking out iMindMap, be sure to explore the product's website. It contains a 4-5 minute video of Tony Buzan, who explains the thinking behind this project. There's also an extensive set of iMindMap video tutorials coming soon. Kudos to Tony and his crew for creating a highly functional, easy-to-use mind mapping program!