Review: MindView 5 makes mind maps first-class citizens in the Office ecosystem
At a Glance
Some alternate realities are exciting to imagine: What would have Apple looked like had Steve Jobs never made it back? And what sort of world would we live in had the Internet remained strictly for academia and the military? Others are less so: What if Microsoft built a mind-mapping tool into Office? Still, that's one I think I can answer: It would look just like Matchware's MindView 5 ($279, 30-day free trial).
Just like recent versions of Office, MindView 5 has a Ribbon instead of a traditional menu. The Ribbon is styled just like the one in Office 2013, but clicking File still pops open a menu rather than taking you to the clunky new Backstage view. Other than the Ribbon, MindView feels like an ordinary mind-mapping utility, with a core that's not much different from free ones such as Blumind. You create nodes and sub-nodes, drag them around to rearrange and nest them, and can add notes or linked information to each node.
One interesting MindView feature is that you can have more than one root node in your mind map. That's something even sophisticated tools like TheBrain don't let you do: Every node usually has to be the child of another node. Using multiple root nodes effectively does take a bit of getting used to.
Just like SimpleMind, MindView lets you easily theme your mind map with several ready-made styles. I didn't find the prepackaged styles to be visually impressive, mainly because the background stays white by default. But changing colors isn't the only way to restyle your mind map: MindView lets you quickly switch between three different layout styles and present your information as a traditional mind map, a top-down hierarchy, or a left-right structure.
Once you're done crafting your mind map, it's often time to present it to others. MindView has a Presentation Mode that removes the Ribbon, leaving your mind map in center-stage. It comes with large, easy-to-click buttons for moving through the nodes, making it easy to jump from node to node in a logical sequence.
Creating a mind map can also be a good way to brainstorm a writing outline, and MindView lets you export a mind map directly into Microsoft Word. The resulting file is well-structured, with an automatically generated table of contents based on your mind map. The hierarchy of the mind map is preserved, and you get sections and subsections according to the structure of the map. MindView also has an import feature, but it failed to interpret the simple outline I tried importing.
One area in which MindView is notably lacking is collaboration. Where online tools like MindMeister shine with concurrent editing and sophisticated History features, MindView feels more like a single-user tool–a bit like the difference between Microsoft Word and Google Docs.
In general, I wouldn't say MindView 5 is a very exciting tool, mainly because of the price tag. Before you spend $279 on a desktop mind-mapping utility, you would do well to try out the free options out there, and the subscription-based online products, too.
Note: The Download button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.