Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Xmind: better mind mapping

Because of our love of mind mapping, the XMind team came together from different parts of China to create XMind. On April 1st, 2007, we released the first English version of XMind in Beijing.

To make a better productivity tool, we have a few principles that we adhere to:

• XMind must be very easy to use.
• XMind should increase user productivity with a fun to use interface and powerful functionality.
• XMind should be accessible so that more people can benefit from mind mapping.

Easy-to-use ≠ Simple

Every good tool must be easy to use. But this does not mean simple. In fact, some look-simple tools are not easy to use. Easy-to-use is a design concept that gives people a certain feeling while using a tool. For example, XMind allows users to create a subtopic with the Tab key. The result is that people can easily mind map with a shortcut keystroke that makes sense. Some users have described this feature as Enter spreads your ideas, and Tab digs one idea. It greatly enhances usability.

The need to focus is very important for building a mind map, especially a big one. Drilldown provides a perfect solution. Selecting a topic and clicking F6 brings you into a branch level, where you can focus on the topic for that branch and its associated subtopics.

Navigation is easy too. We can choose to see all topics in a classic style outline viewer or via the diagrammatic Overview viewer. Outline view shows the entire map content in a traditional linear way, which sometimes helps in digesting the map concepts. BTW, we can directly edit topic content in this viewer. Overview view offers us the flexibility to see and navigate through content on the map. Left-clicking the mouse allows us to move any part of the map into the center. Scrolling the mouse wheel allows us to quickly zoom in or out on the map.

Presentation is an easy task in XMind because of the Presentation Mode. No matter which topic we are on, clicking F5 will bring us into this special mode. All topics are hidden except the Central Topic, which is at the center and highlighted. Now, by hitting the space key in succession, each main topic is revealed one by one, centered and highlighted instead of the central topic.

In fact, we can pick out more. All of these features, while powerful, were designed with ease of use in mind.

Increasing User Productivity with XMind

When we decided to enter the mind mapping software market, we wanted to provide functionality that was not only easy to use, but fun to use and productivity-enhancing. We didn’t find a mind mapping tool in the market that provided all of these aspects, so we took on this challenge with XMind.

Since releasing XMind, we’ve received lots of positive feedback about the user interface, that it’s pleasing to the eye. We believe having an attractive interface makes work tasks more fun and greatly enhances productivity.

We’ve also received many accolades for our Multiple Sheets functionality within the main view. Similar to how a spreadsheet workbook allows you to have multiple sheets within that file; we can create multiple sheets within a single XMind file. Searching, finding and navigating content is much easier this way. Instead of having to open and close various files, or follow links and navigate away from a starting point, users can easily click between different sheet tabs for maximum efficiency in perusing various map content.

Other functionality for finding and sharing content within XMind makes it an essential productivity tool.

If we want to find something in a single map, normally Find and Replace (Ctrl+F) will be good enough. When we have many opened maps, with some having multiple sheets within them, Powerful Search view will be a great assistant. In this viewer, we can search any content in all opened workbooks. The search results are listed as a tree with a clean looking format. We can get to the content we need to find quickly and efficiently.

XMind can export map content to other file formats such as Image, PDF (Map), PDF (Document) , HTML, etc., for fast sharing.

XMind also offers another free sharing solution, XMind Share. Suppose you’re a teacher and a mind mapper. You want to share some special class content with your students in a non-public way. Just open the map in XMind and sign-in with your XMind Account (free to set up on www.xmind.net). Click the Upload button on the toolbar, select Unlisted in the privacy controls, and upload the map to XMind Share. This map will be assigned a unique URL, which you can provide to your students so that they can go and read the map online or download it to their own computers. Note that people without the URL will not be able to get to your map and it won’t be searchable in Google.

Making XMind and Mind Mapping Accessible to the World

When we started XMind four years ago, we had the vision of exposing as many people as possible to the power of mind mapping. We believe that XMind Open Source is a great way to achieve this vision.

This open source version of XMind has many features which meet most peoples’ basic mind mapping requirements. More importantly, it incorporates all of the design rules mentioned above, namely easy to use, fun to use, and productivity-enhancing.

Along with XMind Open Source, we also offer XMind Pro, which has more advanced business features such as Presentation mode, Audio notes, TaskInfo view, and Gantt chart viewer. XMind Pro is subscription-based software with a very reasonable entry–level fee.

Remaining true to our principles has gotten some results that we are really proud of. Earlier this year, XMind surpassed the half a million user mark, and our user base continues to grow exponentially as more and more people discover the power of XMind.

Finally, we want to say a big Thank You to all of XMind users who have sent feedback via email or left messages via Twitter, Facebook, and our user forums, or just support us quietly. No matter whether its praise, suggestions, or criticism, your support provides the fuel for the XMind Team to keep working hard and make XMind better and better.

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