Mindjet, the most successful vendor of mind mapping software (their Windows and Mac versions have both shown strong growth over the last few years, despite professional-level price tags) has finally joined the online mind mapping market as well. Their new Mindjet Connect site offers an online collaboration home for users of their software, plus a new web version (produced in Flash) that allows you to create and share mind maps without owning the desktop version.
I went through the signup process for a free trial account and took it for a spin with the web version, which is still marked as a beta product – indeed, the whole of Connect appears to be in beta, though you can still buy a subscription. The user interface of MindManager Web is reminiscent of many an online office product (though more attractive visually than most), with a workspace manager that lets you create multiple workspaces and manage documents and users. You can, in fact, upload any document you like to Mindjet Connect, letting it serve as a file-sharing area for your online activities – anything other than a mind map is simply opened in an external browser window, or downloaded, depending on its type.The Workspace Manager also allows you to manage which users have access to which workspaces (once you have access to a workspace, you automatically have access to every document in that workspace). You can add members to a workspace from the Flash interface, but to actually add users to your account you must use the separate Mindjet Connect web interface; this process seems needlessly complex. Indeed, the whole signup and account management process feels quite heavyweight, and you must supply a good deal of information to create even a trial account. This will serve to discourage casual tire-kickers, and possibly even some potential customers.
The mind map editing interface itself works well and smoothly, and allows simultaneous editing by multiple users. One nice feature is automatic notifications; if someone edits a node that’s open on your screen, you’ll see a little tip with that information. You can also hover over any node to see who created it and who last modified it. In addition to attractively-styled topics and subtopics, MindManager Web supports callouts, attachments, hyperlinks, images, and notes; it has a respectable subset of the capabilities of the desktop versions (though it lacks many of the advanced features of the desktop client). Unfortunately you cannot export or print mind maps from the web interface, which limits its utility if you’re not completely committed to online use.
Mindjet is also promoting chat and instant meeting functionality in connect, but they’re not available in the current MindManager Web release, so I didn’t try them. The pricing for the product is tiered, starting at $8.99 per user per month for Mindjet Connect Standard (with the web client, workspaces, map editing, and chat) and moving up to $22.49 per user per month for Mindjet Connect Pro (which includes integration with Microsoft products, instant meetings, offline mapping, and version control).
Given its pricing, Mindjet Connect is most likely to appeal to organizations that already have an investment in Mindjet’s desktop software. Once they finish rolling out the collaboration functionality, it may also have a niche in distributed web-only teams. Pure web workers who don’t need the integration with MindManager may find a web-only product such as MindMeister a better fit.