In this the third in an occasional series of articles on MindManager shortcuts I’m describing how to use conditional formatting as a more user-friendly alternative to power filters. Many of these posts are based on solutions I’ve suggested in response to questions on the Mindjet community forum. In part 1 I described how to select topics by level, while in the last post I explored options to set up and use “secret” markers.
Update: When I was responding to some thoughtful comments on the original post I realised that I had forgotten to highlight the most important advantage of Conditional Formatting over the Power Filter: its much better handling of the distinction between filtering topics that match all the query criteria and filtering topics that match any of the search criteria. I have therefore rewritten and expanded this post with some examples. The table has been updated as well.
MindManager’s Power Filter is quite a powerful facility, giving users the ability to set up queries based on almost every aspect of a map. Multiple queries can also be created, saved and applied cumulatively, while the ability to fade filtered topics as well as to show and hide them is a great recent addition. However, power filters can be tricky to use and the feature’s interface does not make it easy to set up complex queries.
A prime example is the way in which the Power Filter handles the choice between “Any Element” – when you are looking for topics that meet any of the criteria, and “All Elements” –when you want to show only the topics that meet all criteria. You see these choices only on some tabs: the Markers tab in the Power Filters dialogue box where there is an Any marker/All marker choice, on the Text and Other Elements tab where the options are Any element/All elements and on the Properties tab where the choice is Any property/All properties.
However, these Any/All options apply only to the items within each tab. For example, if on the Markers tab you can select, for example, Priority 1 and another marker such as, say, a green flag and then choose either Any marker or All markers, the query will return the results you expect. On the other hand, if you select Priority 1 from the Markers tab and a Due date of today from the Task Info tab, the resulting query will show all tasks that suit either criteria, regardless of the Any marker/All markers setting.
The only way to get an “All Elements” query involving multiple tabs is to create a separate query for the criteria on each relevant tab – for example, one for Priority 1 on the Markers tab and another for Due date today on the Task Info tab – and then apply these queries cumulatively. To do this you have to create each query and save it separately, clearing the Power Filter afterwards each time. When you have finished you have to apply these queries in the appropriate order. This should result in all the queries acting together as a de facto All Element filter – in theory anyway – but this is a time-consuming, cumbersome and confusing process.
In MindManager 2018 Corel have added (or to be more precise, revived) a great feature – Conditional Formatting. This enables users to set up the automatic formatting of topics using rules based on topic content, topic properties, task information and/or other attributes. In a previous post I described the dialogue box approach which is used to set up and manage these rules, thus simplifying a complex and powerful feature. This is much easier to use than power filtering, especially when seeking to impose complex criteria (see my earlier post for a basic guide).
In fact, Conditional Formatting can be used as a form of Power Filter. It handles the creation of an equivalent to the “All Elements” query much more elegantly through its rules. Each rule can have multiple triggers involving disparate topic elements as criteria – markers, due date, number of sub-topics, topic properties, etc. When setting the triggers each rule has an “Any/All conditions are met” selection which applies across all these criteria. This means you can easily set up “Priority 1 AND Due Today”, or “Priority 1 OR Due Today” and the query will show the correct results, highlighting the relevant topics using whatever attributes you prefer. The following examples based on a simple rule demonstrates this.
If you do need to show or hide topics selectively rather than just changing their appearance it is quite easy to use conditional formatting in conjunction with power filtering. First, set up and apply one or more rules under conditional formatting and ensure that topic fill colour is the effect applied to topics which match the criteria (this is the only topic formatting that conditional formatting applies that can be used to trigger a power filter). Then set up and apply a query based on this fill colour and only these topics will appear. If you wish you can then set up further queries to further refine your selection.
The following table compares the features of the Power Filter with Conditional Formatting. While there are a few attributes that conditional formatting can’t access such as Past Due and At Risk tasks, there are others where conditional formatting offers a wider range of options. For example, it is easier to set up date and numeric ranges as a basis for selection using conditional formatting. Hopefully these feature sets will be made more consistent in future versions of MM 2018 – and ideally the conditional formatting rules-based approach will be extended to power filtering (click here or on the table to download a PDF version).
Table has been updated.