Mind Manager: Mac Mind Mapping Software for Pros

For years, the mind mapping software market has been perceptually dominated by FreeMind. I say perceptually, because it seems more people have been recommending it than actually using it. Despite its ubiquity on free software alternatives lists, FreeMind is an awkward fit in the OS X environment. It’s cross platform, which often means “looks sub par everywhere”. It’s Java based, so performance is unpredictable.

And, most importantly, it’s not MindManager.

MindManager was never born as a FreeMind alternative. It’s existed on Windows since 1994, and on OS X since 2006. This is mind mapping with a totally native interface, and a novel idea for system integration. Let’s see how it performs.

Initial Use

MindManager is an application based strongly on templates, giving the user a multitude to choose from upon starting the program. There’s a template for meetings, one for decision making, one for resume writing, one for to-do lists, weekly planners and writing projects. I chose the blank template, and started mapping.

Template Chooser

Template Chooser

The project window is notably spartan – in this case meaning “stock standard”. Icons dot the toolbar with varying degrees of visual consistency, and a floating inspector box, easily my least favourite part of Windows ports from companies such as Microsoft, hovers to the side.

However uninspired the interface appears, it’s at least unobtrusive:

The Main UI

The Main UI

Easy and Intuitive – Mostly

Once the central node is named, adding topics is as easy as clicking and renaming. Subtopics aren’t quite as simple to manipulate, requiring a haul of your mouse cursor to the toolbar.

It’s hardly an elegant system, especially if you find yourself getting intricate with your sub levels, but it’s not a UI disaster.



Templates for Every Scenario, And Then Some

If you’re looking for something more focused than the blank canvas approach, MindManager’s templates may be of use to you. There’s 16 templates built in, but most seem like a superfluous use of the mind map format.

Take the “meeting” template. There are subtopics for the time, place, and agenda – but I can’t fathom what advantages are gained over formatting this information in a simple text document, or as part of normal meeting minutes. Especially since adding new subtopics is so annoying.

A Meeting Map

A Meeting Map

iCal Integration

Mind Manager also boasts a novel idea of one way iCal integration. iCal events can be added into the MindManager document as dynamically linked subtopics using the “smart calendar topic” option. It works well, picking up this week’s events by default.

New subtopics can created as calendar events, but there’s no obvious way of converting existing subtopics to a calendar event. I question the necessity of this feature as a whole, since I can’t see myself using MindManager as a life planning tool – but it’s a welcome piece of functionality to have.

iCal Integration

iCal Integration

Export Options

Finally, the strength of an application like this lies in it’s exporting capabilities. MindManager provides a multitude of options, and you’re fairly spoilt for choice in this department. Static options such as a PDF, or the usual image formats, are available as you’d expect.

The SWF export creates an interactive Flash file, but it would have been great to see support for SVG as well.

Export Options

Export Options

Despite these niceties, I began finding some aspects of the software that took a while to come to terms with.

A Focus On Presentation, Not Brainstorming

Mind mapping software is ideally unobtrusive, providing a funnel for your thoughts to travel through, and hopefully exit in a logical fashion.

Mind Manager’s system is different. Upon selecting a template, all options and routes are mapped out, thus making a mind map feels less like an unstructured thought process and more like a ticking boxes on a government form.

This format has it’s advantages and disadvantages, and I had to be sure I wasn’t just disliking it because it was different. In the resume section, for example, including all the feasible sections would no doubt be a boon to first time job applicants unsure of where to start.

But it makes me wonder, who is this marketed to? The power user? Someone who needs a reminder checklist for their upcoming holiday?

Useful for forgetful travellers, but do we want to be mothered by a productivity application?

Useful for forgetful travellers, but do we want to be mothered by a productivity application?

Of course, these templates are just there to act as an example. You’re not forced to use them, but I can’t help feeling restricted when I do.


As I worked my way through MindManager, I started to see it as something as useful application to have in my productivity workflow, or at the very least, something I could rely on when I needed it. Then I remembered the price. $249.

MindManager is certainly a powerful application, but I can’t see myself paying that much for mind mapping. Then again, perhaps I’m not their market. Businesses may find the meeting planning tools indispensable.

Ultimately, whether the MindManager premium is worth it to you depends exactly on how often you’ll be launching the program on a daily basis.


If you’re out to create mind maps on a regular basis, and need a powerful, dedicated utility, Mind Manager does that very well – despite my odd niggling complaint.

MindManager is designed both for the novice user and the productivity guru, despite being priced out the range of most novice mind map creators.


MindManager 8 for Mac is a visual productivity tool that enables you to organize, manage, and communicate ideas and information to solve problems, drive innovation, and make consistent progress toward your goals.



Add Yours
  • I am using MM on Windows so not sure if this translates to the Mac edition but i create and move subtopics around with the keyboard.
    Insert key inserts a new subtopic under the current selected.
    Copy/cut and paste works to move nodes and branches around.

    • It’s very similar on the Mac. Since there isn’t an insert key, you can use CTRL + Enter to insert new subtopics. The Enter key will add new sibling topics.

      Also, to move topics around you can drag and drop too!


  • Aside from the price, it just seems like a lot of app. When I want to map something out, I want to just do it, not wade through a bunch of menus. I’ve been using MindNode Pro for about a year since reading about it here on Snow Leopard & iOS and I’m very pleased.
    It opens I go to work. It exports to iPhone and back, looks great, and has a very mac-like feel to it. And it’s only $24.99 for the pro version and $5.99 for the touch version. The basic

  • i stopped using mind manager because the maps look generic. it is hard to get any visual cues in there (photos, drawings or directly drawing in it)
    the mac version also has no support for wacom tablets.

  • I use mind mapping every day and looked at all the software before discovering XMind (http://www.xmind.net/). The free version has all the features you need and it looks and functions great.

  • I *really* urge those who are interested in mind-mapping software for Mac to take a look att Mindnode (http://www.mindnode.com/), which has good functionality (standard version is free, pro has extra features and does not cost too much), and looks gorgeous. Many mind-map clients for Mac (and Windows) simply look dated and are set at a hefty price. Again, take a look at Mindnode, and I assure you (given initial interest in mind-map applications) that you will be impressed. Please note that I am not in any way affiliated with the application or it’s developer, but I am pleased with it and am happy to spread the word.

    • I’d also recommend MindNode for those who are just trying to get a feel. $249 is sort of in the OMFGRUSERIOUS price range for mind-mapping software.

      Added bonus; I find MindNode incredibly useful for visualizing SQL databases :D

  • MyMind is my concept mapping tool of choice. Simple, powerful, and not $249.

  • We use inspiration 8, its aimed at children but works perfectly for business!


  • Have you looked at The Brain (or its personal cousin, PersonalBrain)? Nice interface, easy to use, quite intuitive, can handle multiple media types, etc.

  • OmniGraffle might lack things like iCal integration but it’s certainly worthy. For one thing, it’s not Java.

  • I am surprised no-one has mentioned NovaMind; now on version 4 for the Mac with version 5 due out very soon. It is very visual – a very important aspect of mind mapping – and has presentation capabilities, much better at getting your message across than a boring Power Point presentation. Personally, I am not too interested in the task management capabilities as there are other programs that can the job better. However NovaMind does this well and you can export the data to other more advanced project management programs.

  • I got MindManager 7 when it was about $100 and love it, use it every day. And as per previous comments here, the keyboard is the way to go for adding topics.

    The price hike to V8 seems quite steep though, considering it doesn’t have much additional functionality.

  • I use Mindnode Pro. It just does straightforward mapping, with no integration to other applications, but that’s all I need. A simple app also means a simple interface, and it looks attractive too. All that for 10% of the price of Mind Manager.

    I think Mindnode also has an iPhone app.

  • Another vote goes for MindNode for Mac. I have tried many mind mapping programs and I have been using mind maps for the past 6 years. MindNode does simple and beautiful maps which are visually appealing and memorable. MindManger is way to industrial and bulky. MindNode is one of the closest programs to real paper and creativity. I personally use MindNode Pro on mac and my iPhone.

    It is so good that I began to switch from Evernote bulky notes to elegant and simple MindNode maps.