Pocket Mindmap offers an impressive array of features, functionality

Pocket Mindmap breaks new ground by providing a highly functional and easy-to-use mindmapping tool for the Windows Pocket PC operating system.

Pocket Mindmap breaks new ground by providing a highly functional and easy-to-use mindmapping tool for the Windows Pocket PC operating system. Despite the small computer platform it runs on, Pocket Mindmap boasts a surprising set of features and functionality that rival many desktop mindmapping programs.

Pocket Mindmap’s simple but well-designed user interface makes excellent use of the diminutive PDA screen. The mindmap window is clean and uncluttered; a toolbar at bottom of the screen provide fast access to the program’s many features. Pocket Mindmap makes excellent use of tap-and-hold commands (similar to a right mouse click in Windows desktop operating systems) to display context sensitive menus.

Pocket Mindmap is surprisingly easy and intuitive to use. Even if you haven’t used a mindmapping or visual diagramming program before, you can learn Pocket Mindmap’s basic functions and be productive with it in a matter of minutes.

How it works

Like any mindmap, you start out with a single topic in the center of the program’s workspace. From there, you add subtopics to the map, which are connected to the “parent” topic by straight or curved lines. Any “child” topic can be dragged and dropped to another location within your diagram. You can also switch to an outline view, which translates the hierarchy of topics and subtopics from your mindmap into an indented outline.

The properties of each topic of your mindmap can be customized in numerous ways. To set properties for a topic, you double-click it. A dialog box appears, with tabs for general settings, text (attached notes), format (text formatting properties for the selected topic), symbols (colorful icons that you can use to dress up your mindmap), task settings and other options. Pocket Mindmap also offers a complete range of hyperlink options for topics: You can create links to other topics within your current map, to other Mindmap documents, to other types of documents and to URLs.

Navigating the workspace

Mindmaps are organic in nature, sprawling outward from a central topic in all directions. That means that they often don’t fit into vertically-oriented PDA screens. Fortunately, Pocket Mindmap incorporates several well-designed and useful map navigation features.

First, by tapping and holding the stylus on the background of your map and then dragging it, you can move the work area on the screen. You can also use the Pocket PC’s integrated “mouse pad” (between the function buttons below the PDA’s screen) to move up, down, right and left in small increments. In addition, you can use a “center” command to center the currently selected topic on the screen.

In addition, an “eagle’s view” enables you to easily move from one section of a large mindmap to another part of it — very important in this PDA environment, where you can only see part of your mindmap at a time.

Tasks add versatility

Pocket Mindmap’s task feature makes it easy to create a to-do list on your PDA. Task settings include start date, due date, priority and check boxes to mark tasks as private and as completed. From the outline view, you can export any topics designated as tasks to the to-do list in Pocket Outlook. This feature is especially valuable if you’re using Pocket Mindmap to create a project plan with multiple tasks.

Exporting your map

You can export a mindmap as a bitmap image or as an HTML file that is compatible with Microsoft Word 97. Recently, Pocket Mindmap’s developers added the capability to share maps with several desktop mindmapping programs, including MindManager and Ygnius. This is accomplished using a desktop program called PMMpartner, which is still in beta testing as of this writing.

Documentation could be improved

I only have 2 minor complaints about this otherwise excellent mindmapping program. Both could easily be corrected by improved documentation. First, while playing around with the program on my own, I couldn’t figure out how to export a map to Microsoft Word. Once I went to the Pocket Mindmap Web site, I learned that you must be in outline view to use this function.

Secondly, although the online documentation is very thorough and well written, it is composed of numerous hyperlinked Web pages. This required me to print out each page to create a paper-based user manual. The Pocket Mindmap Web site contains a getting started guide in a .lit (Microsoft Reader) format, so I downloaded it and transferred it to my iPaq. But when I tried to view it using the Reader program on my iPaq, I got an error message stating that it was not a valid file type. Ideally, Pocket Mindmap’s developers should centralize all of the program’s documentation in a set of PDF files – which can easily be viewed on a desktop PC, on the PDA or printed out for offline viewing.

I need to emphasize, however, that these were only minor inconveniences; they don’t mar what is a very well-designed and easy-to-use mindmapping program.

A trial version of Pocket Mindmap can be downloaded from the developer’s Web site; it can also be purchased online for $42 – a worthwhile investment if you’re looking for a way to develop mindmaps on your Windows-powered PDA.