MindManager 2017 “sneak peeks” summarised: what we now know about the new version

Following on from the MindManager for Windows 2017 preview which I discussed in a recent post, Mindjet has just completed a series of five sneak peeks looking at some of the key features of the new version. These demonstrate a strong emphasis on extending Mindjet’s capabilities in relation to presentation, integration with other software and project management, but they also raise some tantalising questions about how far these new features actually will go. Here are the key links:

MindManager 2017 newtimeline feature. Source: Mindjet

MindManager 2017 new timeline feature. Source: Mindjet

I won’t go over the material in these sneak peeks in detail but I thought I’d provide a quick summary and offer some observations.

Continue reading

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Update: Good news on Google searching in MindManager

In my last post I described some work-arounds to cope with the recent and sudden demise of MindManager’s Google search map part, due to changes in the Google search API. The map part allowed users to undertake Google searches within MindManager (MM) and was particularly useful for researchers.

In light of Mindjet’s announcement that a replacement would not be available for at least another year I was trying to identify some alternative approaches – though none of the ones I suggested were as straightforward or effective as the original map part. Not being a programmer I also assumed that designing an add-in to replace it would be very complex.

Happily I was wrong. Nigel Goult from Olympic Limited took up the challenge and has created an add-in which effectively replicates the map part and adds some extra features. This is available in two flavours – as a stand-alone add-in called Google Search Plus and as part of the latest 2.3 version of MAP for MindManager – a handy collection of nearly 50 tools you can use with MM.

To quote the Olympic Limited website, “Google Search Plus for MindManager enables you to search Google and return search results directly into your active Map. There are also several user configurable options allowing you to tailor searches retrieve the results you are looking for.” According to the website these include:

  • Utilize existing Google search syntax
  • Select the number of search results to return (1-10)
  • Restrict search periods to filter out older results
  • Add search “snippets” and hyperlinks to the original page to Topic Text Notes
  • Opt to have search results returned as a Topic for each result or a collection of Hyperlinks on one Map Topic
  • Add a Text Label Map Marker containing the date the search results were returned to help find historic results from a  given day
  • See your Google Search API Quota balance before each search

You have to create and download a Google API Key and a Google Custom Search Engine Identifier before you first use either versions. This is a little tricky to do but the Olympic Limited site has detailed instructions and videos explaining the one-off process. There are some other minor limitations like a limit of 10 results per search and 100 searches a day, but these are minor issues.

If you do decide you want the web search facility it’s better value to go for the MAP add-in over the stand-alone one – even if you only use a handful of the other tools it’s well worth the extra.

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Web searching in MindManager without the Google search map part

Why was the Google map search part so useful…

For those of us who use MindManager (MM) for research purposes, the sudden demise of the program’s Google map search part has left a serious gap. It was also one of MM’s more under-recognised features so it probably needs a little explanation.

The part was a modest but very useful tool for seeking out and storing relevant web-based material within a mindmap. With the map part, users could create and save simple Google searches which could be saved in the map and run at any time. The results generated, including live links, also appeared in the map; they were regenerated whenever the search was run, but could also be saved permanently.

Google map search part example

Example of a search with the now defunct Google map search part

This meant that users could research the Internet without leaving the program, knowing that they could have access both to stored historic search results as well as current ones. These results could also be exported Word, Excel or other programs; indeed the ability to do this represented one of the easiest (and legal) ways in which Google search results could be scraped and tabulated.

The Google map search part had some major limitations. Essentially it ran the default basic Google search, with the only variables available to the user being the search text and the number of results to be generated. There was however one fairly obscure way the searches could be tailored, which was through the Google search syntax.

Through adding terms to the search text you could for example select specific date ranges – provided you could manage the obscure Julian calendar system which Google requires to be used in simple searches. I devised a method to do this using Excel in a way which also facilitated multiple and updateable searches within the limits of Google’s search API which I outlined in a (now redundant) earlier post.

… and what happened to it?

The “deprecation” and replacement of this search API caused MM’s Google search part to cease working abruptly around two months ago (making my post on its use redundant in the process), though Mindjet was slow to admit this.

It also appears that the company should have been aware that the API was going to be deprecated by Google well before the event. Mindjet has not conceded this but it has announced that it plans to completely rewrite the map part to comply with the new API. To the dismay of many users however the new version won’t make the upcoming MindManager 2017 upgrade and probably won’t be available for at least another year.

Since the map part won’t be returning any time soon I thought I’d look at possible workarounds for web searching from within MindManager. While I’ve discovered some useful techniques, none approaches the simplicity of the defunct map part in integrating searching and the saving of search results. This means that the process now has to be split into two key steps:

  1. setting up and saving searches.
  2. running the searches and saving the results.

Despite the obvious limitations some of these techniques which are described below do provide some worthwhile search functionality within MM. In addition I will look at some alternatives to storing and using multiple searches which don’t necessarily involve MM.

1. Creating and saving searches

As Bob Levy pointed out in the thread about the map search part, it is still possible to add a Google search to a MM mindmap as a topic link. Clicking on a search link saved this way displays the search results either in the MM browser or your computer’s default browser, depending on what option you have selected previously in MM.

There are a few approaches for doing this, all of which involve creating the search in Google then adding it to the relevant topic in MM.

Option 1: create basic searches in Google and save them in MindManager as links on topics

First, use Google’s basic search page to create your search. Highlight the search URL, copy it and switch to MM. Click on or create the topic to which you want to add the link (you don’t necessarily have to use the term being searched in the topic name but for future reference it’s a good idea to do so).

With this topic highlighted, either click on Link in the Topic Elements tab of the Home ribbon or right click the topic and choose Add Link. When the dialogue box appears paste the URL you copied earlier into the Link to field.

It is possible to add more than one link to a single topic but generally speaking sticking to a “one topic one link” rule makes it easier to keep track of saved searches. One exception may be if the same thing is being searched for using different names, for example, searches for “West Highland Terriers” and “Westies” could be linked to the same topic.

You can also tailor searches by adding parameters from the drop-down menus at the top of the Google basic search results screen. To do this run the search first but don’t copy the initial URL. Then select the parameters you want before running the search again and then copy the URL.

These parameters allow a significant degree of search customisation. For example, if you click on the Search tools menu you can also select the search country and whether or not you want to do a “verbatim” search for the exact search terms. Perhaps more importantly you can set the time and date range relative to the time you are running the search (ie, the past hour, 24 hours, week, etc). This relativity will be maintained when the search is run in the future from the link in the MM mindmap.

Option 2: create advanced searches in Google with parameters

The second option is similar to the first, the only difference being that you start with Google’s advanced search page: https://www.google.com/advanced_search . This opens up even more opportunities to tailor the search and you need to run the search only once before copying its URL to MM. As with the basic search, if a relative date range is set in the last update field this will be maintained in searches on future dates.

There is one small disadvantage of this approach is that the resulting URL is considerably longer than the equivalent generated by using the basic search. This is presumably because a code is generated for each search parameter even if it is left empty.

Option 3: create either basic or advanced searches in Google and store them in MindManager notes

In theory MM topic notes also offer the potential to store one or more copied Google search links generated by either a basic or advanced search. Unfortunately copying and pasting a link URL directly into the topic notes does not make the URL live automatically, unlike Word where simply hitting return or adding a space at the end of a link achieves this.

Several steps are involved if you want the search link URL to appear and also to be a live link. First the URL (or some text representing the URL) has to be added to the topic note, highlighted and then the link icon pressed. When the Add link dialogue box appears the copied URL has to be pasted into the Link to field.

2. Running searches and saving the results

If you run a search within a mindmap created with any of the above methods you should end up with a webpage of relevant links displayed either in the MM built-in browser or your default browser. From there you can go to specific URLS that appear in the search results and process them within MM in the same way that you would deal with the links on any other web page.

If however you want to store the search results themselves either individually or collectively within the map there are a number of options.

Option 1: copy individual links as required from the browser and paste as individual topics, links or in topic notes

Copying individual links and pasting them into the map is the simplest option but there are some limitations. For example, if a link URL is pasted into the map as a topic it won’t be “live”. This is because MM topic text cannot contain live links; the URL has to be added using the Add link option.

Copying an individual link URL extracted from the search results and pasting it into the topic notes will however become “live” provided you copy the embedded text and not just the link URL. You need to click the URL and select Copy rather than Copy shortcut before switching to the relevant Topic Notes and pasting the link (if you select Copy shortcut you will get the complete URL field contents but these won’t be live when the text is pasted). Also if you copy and paste the link with some of the surrounding text it will be embedded and will therefore be live when pasted in the topic notes.

Option 2: highlight some or all the links and text on the search results page and copy and paste into topic notes as a basis for later research

You can also extend the process described in option one by copying several search results and URLs from the search page at the same time and pasting this material into topic notes.

The easiest way to do this is to go to the last link on the search page (or if you want a selection smaller than the full page the last link in the section you want). Highlight up to the first link URL on the page (or in the desired section). Doing it this way rather than starting at the top seems to avoid accidentally highlighting the entire page, including material you don’t want.

Copy the selection, switch back to MM and paste it into the topic notes. While the formatting won’t look the same as the original search results page and any images will be lost, the text including the embedded URLs should all appear and these URLs should be live links. If you need to copy more than just the results shown on the first page of search results, repeat the operation for the next and subsequent pages. The results may need some editing to remove extraneous lines of text.

An example of Google search run in MindManager with results saved from the browser to a Topic Note

An example of Google search run in MindManager with results saved from the browser to a Topic Note

Option 3: paste the search results into a Word document or Excel spreadsheet

One variation on option 2 is to paste the results into a linked or attached Word document instead of the topic notes. While this isn’t as convenient as pasting the results into the topic notes it has the advantage that Word has a much more comprehensive set of tools for editing the results text. For example you can easily select and delete the non-URL text or conversely extract the URLs to copy and paste them onto another Word document or back into the map as topic notes.

Similarly you can paste the selection into a spreadsheet in Excel which has similar tools for editing the results. These can be used for example to create a table just of the URLs. Obviously the search results can also be pasted into other programs. I may have a more detailed look at some of these methods in a future post.

Alternatives to using MindManager to save Google searches and search results

Even though the workarounds described above mean that MindManager is still a useful tool for online research, there is no denying that these techniques don’t approach the ease of use of the discontinued Google search map part.

For some users that may be reason enough to look for simpler alternatives for storing Google searches and/or search results which don’t rely on MM or which can be linked from a mindmap but run largely independently of MM. Some of these are discussed below.

Option 1: set up and save Google searches as favourites in a browser

The simplest alternative is often overlooked – just as with any other web page you can store a Google search for reuse as a favourite in your web browser. Simply set up the search and follow your browser’s instructions for saving the search page as a favourite.

Some browsers will also let you create folders to structure your saved favourites, so you could save all the searches for a specific topic in one place. Again, depending on the browser you use the location of these folders may be accessible as links from other programs including MM.

Option 2: use Google Alerts

Another simple alternative is to use Google Alerts as a basis for research. Each alert is essentially a basic Google search which is stored on the Google website; it then sends the user the search results on a regular basis. This has the advantage that you can receive the results anywhere and they are not tied to a particular computer, program or file.

The alerts which can be set up on this page are easily added to, modified or deleted and while customisation is somewhat more limited than in either a basic or advanced Google search, you can select source type, language and region as well as the alert frequency. You can set this frequency to be either immediately, once a day or once a week.

The alert results can be copied from the emails and stored using one of the options described earlier regarding the saving of standard Google search results. If you want to store the results in MM the emails can also be sent directly to the active map if you are using Outlook; there will be a live link to the source email and its contents will appear as a topic note, though unfortunately the URLs within the pasted material will not be live.

Option 3: set up and save searches in Word, Excel or third-party software

As with any other web page, the URL for a Google search can be copied and pasted directly into a Word or Excel document where it will form a live link. You could use this approach to manually construct a table of Google searches in either program – and like option 1 this can be done completely independently of MM, though these documents could be linked or added to a map.

Again consistent with the approaches described earlier the search results can be saved to the same or another document in Word, Excel or another program. If you have saved the search URLs as a table it is tempting to do likewise with the results URLs though this is difficult to do automatically, in part because Google frowns on attempts to scrape its search results. The results page can however be copied and edited in either program using the methods described earlier to form a table.

What can we do to get the search part back?

Although some aspects of these alternatives such as the ability to tailor searches offer some advantages none match the simplicity and ease of use of the Google search map part. Unfortunately as I previously noted the current plans are for the part to be returned in a future version which is probably a year away.

There may however be a small opportunity to change this. MindManager has just been purchased by Corel whose CEO Patrick Nichols has called for ideas on how to improve the product. I urge interested users to take up that offer by offering feedback on Nichol’s article and also on the Mindjet community forum about the importance and usefulness of the humble Google search map part and calling for it to be reinstated as soon as possible.

Summary: searching MindManager without the Google search map part

Summary: searching MindManager without the Google search map part

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Mindjet releases preview of MindManager 2017

The following is a copy of post that I recently made on the MindManager Forum regarding the features of the next version of MindManager 2017, to be released later this year.

Mindjet have just released a “preview” of MindManager 2017 due to be released in September this year which highlights the following features (my comments in brackets):

  • HTML5 export of interactive maps which can be opened in most browsers (presumably an expanded and updated version of the current very basic web export facility);
MM17 1

Example screen shot of MindManager 2017 (source: Mindjet)

  • Export map content to “over 700 leading cloud apps” like Slack, Box, OneNote, Google Docs, and Gmail through Zapier (as I understood that this is already available through MindManager Enterprise, I assume this means this facility is being extended to the standard version. I assume this will address the current lack of OneNote integration which a number of users have been seeking);
  • The ability to transfer Gmail items and send content and status updates into maps as topics using Zapier (fortunately, it appears from the screenshots that MM can still communicate directly with Outlook);
  • New horizontal and vertical timeline templates which can be filtered (this is a feature which users have called for several years and which is increasingly available on competing products);
MM17 2

Example screen shot of MindManager 2017 (source: Mindjet)

  • A critical path view in Gantt charts (again, a feature which users have long called for);
  • “Simplified flowchart creation” with new tools including a “fly-out topic shape selector”, right-angle relationship lines and new calendar display options;
  • “Simplified file management” with a unified look covering file storage on the desktop, in SharePoint or in the cloud (Box is the only cloud service specifically mentioned, however);
  • A technology guarantee that if you purchase either the English or German current version of MindManager after 15 July 2017 you will receive MM 2016 for Windows and MM 10 for Mac now and MM 2017 for Windows when it becomes available (by implication this statement indicates that there will not be a new Mac version any time soon).

Some of these features are interesting and/or useful, especially if the assumption that the Zapier export availability is being extended to the standard version is correct. However, a number of features which users have long sought to have improved or incorporated in MM appear not to have been addressed in this version, if the preview is a comprehensive guide.

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The Ins and Outs of MindManager Word Importing – Part C: Task Lists

This is the third in a series about importing Word documents into MindManager (MM), relying in part on the program’s ability to recognise its own Word formatting to recognise specialised fields. In the first part I covered how to import paragraph-based documents while using the heading structure to generate the topic hierarchy of the resulting mind map, while in part B I discussed table and spreadsheet importing from Word and Excel. In this part I’m applying on some of the techniques to import a more specialised table type – task lists.

Some people might have noticed that I discussed this in a previous post a little while ago. I’m revisiting this topic partly because I was asked to post a simpler version of that article but also because I have simplified the technique based on my experiences with non-task-related tables. The most important aspect has been my “discovery” as outlined in part B of this series that converting a table in Word to text arranged as headings and paragraphs prior to importing seems to provide more consistent results than importing directly.

The instructions outlined below are based on those I describe in the previous post. I’ll be relying on some of the techniques outlined in the appendices in part B so it’s therefore a good idea to read this post first. In particular you will need to have imported all of MindManager’s Word styles into Word (see part B of Appendix 2) and set up a template incorporating these styles. You will also need to have installed the Word macro to remove formatting from blank cells (part A of Appendix 3). If you have hyperlinks it’s also a good idea to install the macro to ensure that all the hyperlinks are “live” before the table is imported from Word (part B of Appendix 3).

In addition you will definitely need Excel as well as Word. I’m using MM version 16 and Word and Excel 2010, but these techniques should work with all recent versions of MM and Word/Excel (though I can’t guarantee this). This approach should also work with tables exported to Word or Excel from other programs; this is very useful for importing from task management and mindmapping programs which can’t talk to MM directly.

I’m starting off with a hypothetical task list for “Anne” and “James” who are throwing a party. Anne, being a methodical soul, has arranged the tasks as a hierarchical grouped table with columns for tasks, task priority, progress (shown as percentages), start and due dates and resources. She’s assigned a category to some tasks and also added few comments as shown in the table:

Party table 11.  Structure the table correctly

Copy the table to a new blank document created with the template containing the MM paragraph styles (see my earlier comment), then structure the table in a similar way to the example above. The cells in the first column will become the main topics with the first level of subtopics forming the second column and so on. As long as the sequence of these columns reflects the task hierarchy correctly and they come before the task-related columns, it seems that the latter can be arranged in any order.

2.  Sort the table and remove duplicate cell contents

First sort the table based on the initial columns that will form the topic hierarchy; ie, the first column is the basis for the primary sort, the second column for the next sort level, etc. This process should group all identical cells in these columns.

You then need to remove all duplicates in these groups, leaving the entry first cell in each group. There are several ways to do this; with a small table like this example you can simply do it manually. For larger tables you can search for the duplicated entries and replace with them blanks. For a very large table you might consider using Excel’s pivot table feature to remove the duplicates before returning to Word (see Appendix 1 in the previous post) – especially as you will need to export the table to Excel anyway (see the next step).

3. Copy the table to Excel and format the date columns

The main reason you have to involve Excel in the task import process is because MM uses a very specific internal date format involving the use of square brackets – and while it never displays dates this way it seems that any imported dates have to be formatted the same way to be recognised.

This is difficult to create in Word but is fairly straight-forward to do in Excel. First, copy the table and paste it in an empty Excel spreadsheet, where it will look something like this if you didn’t remove the duplicates in step 2 (the specific formatting of the date columns doesn’t matter too much at this stage, so long as Excel can recognise the entries as dates).

Party table 2

Now highlight the two date columns. Click on the drop-down field in the Numbers tab on the Home ribbon, select More Number Formats from the drop-down list and then select Custom in the resulting dialogue box. In the Type field enter the following (including all the quotation marks):

“[“yyyy,mm,dd”]”

As a result the dates should be converted to look like this: [2016,05,07] and the table should look something like the following:

Party table 3

As I noted in the first step, at this point you can also use Excel’s pivot table feature to remove the duplicates before returning to Word (see Appendix 1), in which case the resulting table will look like this:

Party table 4

Note: There are a couple of problems with using the pivot table feature to strip out duplicate cells. The first is that the text “(blank)” is inserted in some of the blank cells; this can be removed easily enough in Word. The second is that the table is sorted alphabetically starting with the first column; this has to be fixed by sorting manually in the table in Word or by rearranging topics in the map after the table is imported to MM.

4. Apply the appropriate Word styles to the table

With the exception of the Comments column which should be formatted with the Normal style, the rest of the columns are formatted with the MM styles imported from Word. If they have been installed correctly on the template you’re using the Word Styles list should look something like this:

MM Word Styles List

The following table summarises how the inbuilt Word and the MM Word Styles from this list should be applied, based on the column labels used in this table:

Heading      Style to use

  • Type                Heading 1 (or MM Topic 1)
  • Task                Heading 2 (or MM Topic 2)
  • Sub-Task       Heading 3 (or MM Topic 3)*
  • Priority          MM Priority
  • Progress        MM Percent Complete
  • Start               MM Start Date
  • Due                 MM End Date
  • Resource       MM Resource
  • Category        MM Text Marker
  • Comments    Normal
  • Hyperlink      MM Hyperlink**

* You can go down to five levels of heading
**   The hyperlinks should be made “live” first

In addition you also need to ensure that all the Word Heading style formatting is removed completely from all the blank cells in which duplicate text was deleted. You can do this either manually by selecting these cells and applying the Normal style or by running the macro I supplied in Part B (see macro A in Appendix 3). Formatting the columns first and then removing the formatting specifically from the blank cells may seem a roundabout way of doing things but I think it works better, especially if you use the macro.

The table should now look like this (again the actual formatting will depend on the appearance of the styles in the template you are using):

Party table 6

5. Convert the table to text

As I said earlier this is the additional step which seems to make the process more reliable. As I noted in the previous post on importing non-task tables, MM finds it difficult to establish the correct hierarchy and even to import all columns when a table is sent directly from Word without conversion to text.

The problem is even more acute for task tables as there appears to be an issue with establishing the end of each task without a paragraph return. In my previous post I split the table into individual single-row mini-tables separated by a paragraph return but turning the table into text is a much simpler as Word automatically inserts the returns at the end of each item.

Highlight the whole table except for the header row. Click on the Table Tools – Layout tab then select Convert to Text in the Data section of the ribbon. When the dialogue box appears, select Separate text with Paragraphs. You should end up with the table contents converted to a set of formatted, usually single-lined paragraphs, like this segment:

Party table as text 1

6. Send the converted text to MindManager

As with the flat table example, switch back to MM and open the map you wish to send the table contents to (or create the map if you haven’t done so already). Make sure you have chosen a growth layout option that best suits your table.

Return to Word, highlight the converted text and press the Send to MindManager button to send it to MM. The resulting map should look like this, with all task information displayed correctly using an org-chart layout(I’ve shown this without task roll-up but this can be applied):

Party Map 1

7. Comments

As I noted in the previous post on importing task lists, there specific parameters for some elements of the task information:

  • Task Name: this can be any combination of numbers and letters.
  • Priority: needs to be an integer between 1 to 9.
  • Percent complete: needs to be a whole number between 1 and 100 (with or without the % symbol).
  • Start Date and Due(End) Date: as discussed above, needs to be in the format [yyyy,mm,dd].
  • Resource: can be any combination of letters and numbers.

One element which is missing is duration, which turns out to be redundant for importing purposes. As long as both the start and due dates are provided, MM is capable of calculating duration on the fly as the table is imported (but not vice versa).

 

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The Ins and Outs of MindManager Word Importing – Part B: tables

This is the second in a series about importing Word documents into MindManager (MM). In the first part I looked at the options for importing paragraph-based documents and retaining the heading structure in the topic hierarchy of the resulting mind map. In this part I’ll discuss how to import various types of tables from Word and also Excel.

This is something I first looked at in a post five years ago which in turn drew on the work of Andrew Wilcox who discovered that just as in a document structured with paragraphs, a Word table to which Word heading styles have been applied will develop an appropriate topic hierarchy when imported to MM – though there are some catches. In a more recent post I also looked at the use of Excel pivot tables to assist in the importing process.

In this post I’ll try to bring together and update these different approaches and also introduce some other ideas – including a surprisingly simple one which makes table importing a lot easier.

The main table types

Tables and spreadsheets can be structured in so many different ways but unfortunately while their layout may appear logical to readers they usually provide very few clues for MM to latch on to establish up a topic hierarchy which reflects this logic. This post explains how to overcome this problem but first you need to understand which broad type of Word table or Excel spreadsheet you are dealing with:

1.       Simple “flat” table with ungrouped rows: Effectively this is an ungrouped simple list such as, for example, a list of attendees at a function or an organisation membership, typically with the person’s name in the first column. The resulting maps are comparatively flat; the first column forms the main topics, each with only one branch containing a cascading set of subtopics representing the other information. Additional material may be contained in the topic notes.

2.       Hierarchical table with grouped rows: These more complex tables are often sorted and grouped by organisation or department (for example, in the case of contact lists) or by type, location or other category (in the case of product catalogues or similar tables). These groupings usually make up the first columns of the table. These groupings can be represented graphically through a map hierarchy with the first column forming the main topics which will have multiple branches. Again, additional material may be contained in the topic notes.

3.       Indented outline table (or Excel pivot table): These are a special type of hierarchical table in which every cell appears in indented columns and on a separate row. They are more commonly found in spreadsheets. They are also one way that tables can be imported without using Word heading styles, particularly from Excel, though this approach has some limitations. I’ll discuss these later, as well as the ways in which pivot tables themselves can be used to assist in the importing of other table types (see Appendix 1).

It’s also important to note at this point that almost all the processes described in this post (particularly for importing the first two table types) are undertaken within Word and in some cases Excel rather than MM, so it helps to be reasonably familiar with these programs as well as with MM. This brings us to versions; I’m using MM version 16 and Word and Excel 2010.

These techniques should work with all recent versions of MM and Word/Excel but the capabilities and compatibilities of these programs change over time so I can’t guarantee that they will. They should also work with tables exported to Word or Excel from other programs which can’t talk to MM directly.

Suggested preliminary one-off steps

While they are not strictly essential, there are a couple of things you can do in Word to make the process of transferring a table to MM a lot easier, especially when dealing with larger and more complex grouped tables,. These preliminary steps are:

  • Incorporating MM Word styles into Word (see Appendix 2); and
  • Installing macros to remove formatting from blank cells in the table and make hyperlinks “live” (see Appendix 3).

The appendices describe the one-off steps required to install these features. The instructions below for importing tables outline how these features are used once you have installed them.

Table Importing 1: simple “flat” tables with ungrouped rows

I’ve set up the following hypothetical table for the staff of an equally hypothetical company, sorted by the names of the mythical employees. The other fields are the staff positions, their branches, notes for each employee and a hyperlink (for these I’ve used actual websites but the techniques work equally well with email links):

Flat table 1

There are four main steps to import a “flat” table like this:

1.       Structure the table correctly

Copy the table to a new blank document created with the template containing the MM paragraph styles (assuming you are going to import specialised fields – see the preliminary steps section above), then structure the table in a similar way to the example above. The cells in the first column will become the main topics, the second will form the first level of subtopics and so on.

2.       Apply the appropriate Word styles to the table

Using the above example, highlight the first column (Name) and apply the Word Heading 1 style, then apply the Heading 2 and 3 styles to the Position and Branch columns respectively (if the styles have outline numbering you should remove this or use styles without numbering).

Check that the Notes column is formatted with the Normal style. If you wish to export linked URLs or emails, check that all these hyperlinks in the link column are “live”. If they are not either make them live manually of use a macro to do this (see macro B in Appendix 3). Then highlight this column and apply the MM Hyperlink style (see Appendix 2). The table should look something like this (the specific formatting will depend on the template you use):

Flat table 2

3.       Convert the table to text

This is my simple “new” idea. Tables can be sent directly from Word to MM, especially simple tables like this, but the process isn’t always reliable and it doesn’t take much to throw it out. Converting the table to text arranged as headings and paragraphs seems to provide a much more consistent result.

Highlight the whole table except for the header row. Click on the Table Tools – Layout tab then select Convert to Text in the Data section of the ribbon. When the dialogue box appears, select Separate text with Paragraphs. You should end up with the table contents converted to a set of formatted, usually single-lined paragraphs.

4.       Send the converted text to MindManager

Switch back to MM and open the map you wish to send the table contents to (or create the map if you haven’t done so already). Make sure you have chosen a growth layout option that best suits your table. Return to Word, highlight the converted text and press the Send to MindManager button to send it to MM. The resulting map should look like this, with topic notes and hyperlinks displayed correctly:

Flat table 3

Table Importing 2: hierarchical tables with grouped rows

Obviously these tables are going to be more of a challenge. As an example I’ve taken the same hypothetical table I used earlier but changed the column order so that the Branch and Position columns come first. These and the Name columns are also sorted in alphabetical order so that the entries are grouped:

Hierarchical table 1

The steps to send a Word table like this to MM are more complex but broadly similar to those for the flat table export:

1.       Structure the table correctly

As with the flat table, copy the table to a new blank document created with the template containing the MM paragraph styles (see the preliminary steps section above), then structure the table in a similar way to the example above. The cells in the first column will become the main topics with the cells in the other columns arranged hierarchically underneath.

2.       Sort the table and remove duplicate cell contents

This is a key additional step for hierarchical tables. First sort the table based on the initial columns that will form the topic hierarchy; ie, the first column is the basis for the primary sort, the second column for the next sort level, etc. This process should group all identical cells in these columns.

You then need to remove all duplicates in these groups, leaving the first cell in each group. There are several ways to do this; with a small table like this example you can simply do it manually. For larger tables you can search for the duplicated entries and replace with them blanks. For a very large table you might consider exporting it to Excel to use that program’s pivot table feature to remove the duplicates before returning to Word (see Appendix 1).

3.       Apply the appropriate Word styles to the table

Then, as with the flat table highlight the first column (Name) and apply the Word Heading 1 style, then apply the Heading 2 and 3 styles to the Position and Branch columns respectively (if the styles have outline numbering you should remove this or use styles without numbering).

Check that the Notes column is formatted with the Normal style. If you wish to export linked URLs or emails, check that all these hyperlinks in the link column are “live”. If they are not either make them live manually or use a macro to do this (see macro B in Appendix 3). Then highlight this column and apply the MM Hyperlink style (see Appendix 2).

In addition you also need to ensure that all the Word Heading style formatting is removed completely from the blank cells from which duplicate text was deleted. You can do this either manually by selecting these cells and applying the Normal style or by running the relevant macro (see macro A in Appendix 3). Formatting the columns first and then removing the formatting specifically from the blank cells may seem a roundabout way of doing things but I think it works better, especially if you use the macro.

The table should look like this (again the actual formatting will depend on the appearance of the styles in the template you are using):

Hierarchical table 3A

4.       Convert the table to text

As I noted with the flat table this is my simple “new” idea, but it is even more relevant to these types of tables as MM can struggle sometime to establish the correct hierarchy and even to import all columns when a table is sent directly from Word without conversion to text.

Highlight the whole table except for the header row. Click on the Table Tools – Layout tab then select Convert to Text in the Data section of the ribbon. When the dialogue box appears, select Separate text with Paragraphs. You should end up with the table contents converted to a set of formatted, usually single-lined paragraphs, like this segment:

Hierarchical table 2A

5.       Send the converted text to MindManager

As with the flat table example, switch back to MM and open the map you wish to send the table contents to (or create the map if you haven’t done so already). Make sure you have chosen a growth layout option that best suits your table. Return to Word, highlight the converted text and press the Send to MindManager button to send it to MM. The resulting map should look like this, with topic notes and hyperlinks displayed correctly (using an org-chart layout):

Hierarchical table 4

 

Table importing 3: Indented outline tables (or Excel pivot tables)

These are more commonly found in spreadsheets (often in the form of pivot tables) but also can be used in Word tables as in the following example fragment:

Outline table 1

These tables have the small advantage that you don’t need to format the various fields. You also don’t need to use the Send to MM button or MM import; instead you can simply copy and paste these tables from either Word or Excel to MM. There is one significant downside however. It is not possible to import either notes as topic notes or website URLs and emails as live links. In both cases the fields are imported as topics.

As noted earlier however, Excel’s pivot table feature can also be used to create properly-structured hierarchical tables, as described in Appendix 1.

Comments

Apart from hyperlinks, other specialised fields which can be imported include priority (a single digit number formatted with the MM Priority style), resources/staff codes (MM Resource) and categories (MM Text Marker). In fact most – though not all – task-related fields can be imported this way once MM heading and paragraph styles are imported into the Word. I’ll deal with these in more detail in my next post where I’ll revisit importing tables of tasks, but the following should provide some ideas:

Special table example 1

Special table example 2

There are some limitations with these approaches but they are relatively minor. It appears you can have only one hyperlink per topic and if you have any merged cells it’s best to unmerge them when structuring the table. Adding comments or hyperlinks to higher level topics is tricky but can be done. I may come back to this in a future post, after my next one on task tables.

Appendix 1: Using Excel pivot tables to assist in importing large data sets

In an earlier post I outlined how to use Excel’s pivot table feature to import large directory-style tables with hierarchical data (in either Excel or Word) into maps which are essentially the indented outline tables discussed in the previous section.

This approach works but I’ve modified it to create a properly-constructed hierarchical indented table with all duplicates removed which can be imported to MM using the second method described above.

1. If the table is in Word, copy and paste it to Excel. Then arrange the columns in descending hierarchical order, left to right. In this example the highest level is branch, followed by section. Then sort the rows in the same hierarchical order.

2. While this method can handle unsorted data, sorting makes it easier to check that the cells to be grouped are identical, which is essential to form the hierarchy required for the map. First ensure that there are no blank cells or inconsistent spacing and then check everything is spelt and punctuated consistently. The table should now look like this in Excel:

Execel table 1

3. Highlight the table. In the Insert tab on the ribbon, go to Tables and click on the button to create a pivot table, either on this worksheet or another one, using your table as the source.

4. When the PivoTable Table Field List appears tick all the fields to add to the pivot table as row labels in the order that they appear in the first table. The pivot table should now appear, along with the Pivotable ribbon.

5. Highlight the pivotable, click on PivoTable options on the ribbon and then again on Options. When the PivoTable Options dialogue box appears, click on the Totals and Filters tab and untick the boxes under Grand Totals. The pivotable should look like this:

6. Click on the first entry in the first field (in this case, “East Branch”); the Active Field tab on the PivoTable Tools ribbon should now displaying the relevant field (in this case, “Branch”). Click on Field Settings and when the dialogue box appears, click on the Subtotals and Filters tab and select None under Subtotals. Then go to the Layout and Print tab, select Show item labels in tablular form.

7. Repeat the previous step for the first entry in each of the other fields. The pivotable should now be a table with hierarchical columns with all duplicates removed, which looks like the following. This can be copied to Word where you can then start with step three in the second method outlined in the previous section (Hierarchical tables with grouped rows):

Execel table 2

Appendix 2: Importing MM Word styles

The method for importing MM’s version of Word styles was discussed in the first part in this series. Basically it involves exporting a topic or task from MM to Word to ensure these styles are available for use in Word.

Unless you are importing tables of tasks (which I’ll revisit in the next part of this series) the only style you really need is the MM Hyperlink style, but as I suggest in that post it’s useful to look at importing all the MM styles – there is only a little extra work involved and it means that you have the styles available for use in importing tasks (more on that in a separate post) or the other features I mentioned in the Comments earlier.

This is of course assuming you want to import website URLs and/or email addresses as live links or the other specialised fields; if not, you can skip this step entirely.

Appendix 3: Installing macros to help with table formatting:

A.      Macro to remove formatting from blank cells

One important task particularly when importing hierarchical tables is that you need to clear all formatting from blank cells in the table, especially in the initial columns where the cells which contain text will form the main topics and primary subtopics.

This can be done manually but the following macro (which as I’m a lousy macro writer I have “borrowed” and modified) will speed up this process. Please note that the cells must be genuinely completely empty for this to work and that running this macro will clear the formatting from all empty cells in all tables in the document.

Sub ClearCells()

Dim i As Long, j As Long, k As Long

 With ActiveDocument

 For i = 1 To .Tables.Count

 With .Tables(i)

 For j = 1 To .Rows.Count

 With .Rows(j)

 For k = 1 To .Cells.Count

 With .Cells(k)

 If Len(.Range) < 3 Then

 .Select

 Selection.ClearFormatting

 End If

 End With

 Next k

 End With

 Next j

 End With

 Next i

 End With

End Sub

B.      Macro to make hyperlinks “live”

This is another macro I borrowed and modified to simplify another aspect of the importing process. If you wish to import hyperlinks and show them as icons on the topics to which they are attached they need not only to have the MM hyperlink style applied but before that to be made “live” as hyperlinks in Word.

This usually happens automatically when the hyperlink is immediately followed by a space or paragraph return, especially in normal text. Depending on the formatting applied the hyperlink will change colour or be underlined to show that it is live.

In a table however it is possible for hyperlinks not to be activated in this way, especially if they are imported to Word from another source. As with the removal of formatting from blank cells this can be done manually, but adding a space or paragraph return to every hyperlink in a table with a lot of entries is both boring and time consuming.

Please note also that this macro will make all hyperlinks in the document live whether or not they are in the table you are sending to MM.

Sub URL2Hyperlink()

Dim f1 As Boolean, f2 As Boolean, f3 As Boolean

  Dim f4 As Boolean, f5 As Boolean, f6 As Boolean

  Dim f7 As Boolean, f8 As Boolean, f9 As Boolean

  Dim f10 As Boolean

  With Options

    ‘ Save current AutoFormat settings

    f1 = .AutoFormatApplyHeadings

    f2 = .AutoFormatApplyLists

    f3 = .AutoFormatApplyBulletedLists

    f4 = .AutoFormatApplyOtherParas

    f5 = .AutoFormatReplaceQuotes

    f6 = .AutoFormatReplaceSymbols

    f7 = .AutoFormatReplaceOrdinals

    f8 = .AutoFormatReplaceFractions

    f9 = .AutoFormatReplacePlainTextEmphasis

    f10 = .AutoFormatReplaceHyperlinks

    ‘ Only convert URLs

    .AutoFormatApplyHeadings = False

    .AutoFormatApplyLists = False

    .AutoFormatApplyBulletedLists = False

    .AutoFormatApplyOtherParas = False

    .AutoFormatReplaceQuotes = False

    .AutoFormatReplaceSymbols = False

    .AutoFormatReplaceOrdinals = False

    .AutoFormatReplaceFractions = False

    .AutoFormatReplacePlainTextEmphasis = False

    .AutoFormatReplaceHyperlinks = True

    ‘ Perform AutoFormat

    ActiveDocument.Content.AutoFormat

    ‘ Restore original AutoFormat settings

    .AutoFormatApplyHeadings = f1

    .AutoFormatApplyLists = f2

    .AutoFormatApplyBulletedLists = f3

    .AutoFormatApplyOtherParas = f4

    .AutoFormatReplaceQuotes = f5

    .AutoFormatReplaceSymbols = f6

    .AutoFormatReplaceOrdinals = f7

    .AutoFormatReplaceFractions = f8

    .AutoFormatReplacePlainTextEmphasis = f9

    .AutoFormatReplaceHyperlinks = f10

  End With

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The ins and outs of MindManager Word importing – part A: standard Word documents

Background

In my last post I discussed in detail a process I have developed to import a task list from Word into MindManager (MM). This process uses a unique feature of MM – when it sends a document the other way to Word, it applies its own versions of the Word’s formatting style as found in the Word template the user nominates for the export process. These include the equivalent of Word heading styles, but also some quite specialised ones as well.

One response I received commented that the post was hard to follow because I spent a lot of time explaining the background context on top of describing a fairly complex process. It was suggested that I perhaps could write another post, or series of posts, concentrating on and clarifying the steps involved.

Around the same time I responded to a question on the MM forum on how to import Word documents with hyperlinks appearing in the topics. This isn’t possible, but documents can be imported so that standalone hyperlinks display correctly in MM – ie, as hyperlink icons next to the topics by again using MM’s Word style formatting. I indicated that I would write the process up in more detail on this blog.

I’ve decided to combine these ideas into a series of three or four posts on using MM Word styles to assist in importing a range of Word documents. In this first post I’ll deal with importing “conventional” Word documents, in the second I’ll cover importing Word tables (updating some older articles I wrote coving this) and in last one or two I’ll revisit my recent post on the more complex task of importing task lists.

Importing from Word documents – the “normal” options

In this first article I’m discussing how to import a conventional Word document with headings, sub-headings and normal body text, but no tables. Please note also that I’m using Word 2010 and MindManager 16; different versions of Word and MM may yield different results.

You can import just about any such document from Word to MM but the question is how to get its heading structure to be reflected in the topic hierarchy of the resulting map. Unless the Word document is formatted correctly, everything in the map is likely to be flattened to the same MM topic level. This includes any text you might have wanted to appear in the topic notes – this text and any stand-alone hyperlinks will also appear as MM topics instead and the hyperlinks will not be clickable.

I’ll come to the various importing techniques in a moment but I’ll deal with formatting first. Only two approaches seem to work consistently as a basis for importing:

  • Formatting as an outline, using spaces as indents. This isn’t really recommended as an approach, unless you are dealing with an outline document that is not available in any other format, for example as the output from another program. For this to work sub-paragraphs should be indented using at least two spaces (and not tabs or indents) for each indent level; or
  • Formatting using Word template-based heading and other styles. This in most cases is the best option – and in any case is the best approach to the consistent formatting any Word document. The paragraph styles are derived from the Word template on which the document is based; the templates usually have a hierarchy of headings as well as a “Normal” and other non-heading styles.

As for importing there are three alternative approaches which interact with these two formatting options, resulting in varying degrees of success in creating a topic structure which reflects the Word document paragraph hierarchy, as follows:

  • Copying and pasting. This will provide a topic hierarchy only when you are transferring a Word document formatted as an outline and not with Word heading styles. The major limitation is that everything in the Word document will become map topics, including anything you might have wanted to appear as topic notes text. The same will happen to standalone hyperlinks.
  • Sending part of a document from Word with MM button. This works with Word documents formatted with heading styles and will result in the heading hierarchy being reflected in the resulting map’s topic hierarchy. Any body text formatted with the Normal style will appear as topic notes, but any hyperlinks will end up being incorporated in topic notes as well.
  • In MM, import from Word (whole document). This works in a similar way to using the MM button – and has the same limitation in relation to hyperlinks. With this method the document title forms the central topic of the resulting map.

In summary, formatting a document with Word heading styles and either using the MM send button in Word or importing such a document from the MM end provide the best results. Both approaches however won’t display stand-alone hyperlinks properly in the resulting MM maps.

Using MM Word styles to improve the import process

As I said at the beginning, MM’s unusual approach to exporting maps means that it creates its own versions of the Word styles which are sent to Word along with the exported document. Once these styles are in MM they can be used to format Word documents; MM can then read these styles and apply the relevant formatting when a Word document is sent the other way.

At this stage we’re using this feature to fix only the hyperlink issue, but I’ll be looking at how other MM styles can be used in future. It’s therefore probably useful to consider including other styles in the first step below:

  • Set up a dummy map with all MM features you want, including the hyperlink style. At this stage consider adding other attributes, especially those relating to tasks.
  • Save this map and export to Word, ticking all the Export task attributes in the dialogue Export options, along with Export options – except the Export overview map, Insert Table of Contents and Skip Topics tick boxes, as shown below:

MM Word export options

  • Open the document in Word and check that all the MM styles are visible, as shown below:

MM styles in Word v2

  • Save the exported document as a Word template, giving it a distinctive name.

Set up a Word document to send to MindManager

You can now set up the Word document you want to export to MM with the following steps:

  • Create a document using the MM template, or apply this template to an existing document.
  • Use Word paragraph styles to create and format the document. In the main you don’t need to apply the MM styles. You can use the default Word ones that should still be in the template – as we saw earlier, with MM does a pretty good job of importing these.
  • Make sure that the paragraphs intended to go into Topic Notes are formatted with the Normal paragraph style, though you can still use any font formatting.
  • Also make sure that any free-standing hyperlinks are stand-alone paragraphs with no more than one per heading, and that they appear either above or below the paragraphs intended to the heading’s topic notes.  Edit: ensure that these paragraphs are activated as Word hyperlinks before the next step is applied. This usually happens when you press the paragraph return key.
  • Apply the MM Hyperlink style to each of these hyperlinks.
  • Save the document then either send it to Word with the MM button on the ribbon or import from within MM. Check the document has been converted successfully into a map.

As can be seen from these steps, the main limitation is that you can import only one hyperlink attached to each topic. MM can incorporate more than one hyperlink per topic, so this appears to a limitation of the import process.

The following table summarises what you can and can’t do with the various approaches to importing Word documents into MindManager. In the next post in this series I’ll explore how to use this technique to import more complex Word tables.

Summary of MM Word import options v2

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