As part of an occasional “series within a series” I’ll be looking at shortcuts to help manage MindManager’s relationships with other programs.
With a few significant exceptions MindManager (MM) does not provide a wealth of ways to exchange information with other software, but depending on the program involved there may be other import and export options provided by add-ins or which involve third-party programs.
I’ll examine four potential scenarios for MM’s relationship with each program, looking at whether any of the following options are available and which approach works best in terms of import and export, as well as any downsides. The options are:
- A built-in approach (either within MM itself or something it adds to the source or destination program).
- Simple copy and paste.
- Third-party or another external program.
- Direct two-way sync between MM and the other program.
In relation to the last option I won’t be considering Zapier at this stage. Zapier provides a wide range of options for establishing automated workflows between applications, including MindManager. Zapier’s premise is therefore somewhat different to the relationships I’ll be discussing here and it deserves a series of posts in its own right.
I’ll begin with the Microsoft suite of programs, partly because of their obvious significance but also because many other programs which do not have a direct import/export relationship with MM can open and write MS files.
In this first part I’ll examine MM’s relationship with Word. MM has always had the ability to work closely with MS Word, for obvious reasons; the ability to import a Word document to create a map and also to export a map to a Word document have always been key features. As a result of this relationship there are a number of alternative approaches for both importing and exporting Word files.
Importing from MS Word
Built-in import: YES. MM has two ways to import Word documents. The most reliable is MM’s import command on the File menu. This will import the Word file in its entirety. Provided you have used Word’s inbuilt heading style structure to format your document’s headings this should be reflected in the resulting map, with the document title becoming the central topic, text formatted as Heading 1 becoming main topics and so on down through the heading hierarchy. Body text formatted with the normal style in Word should appear in the map as topic notes.
The second approach is to use MM’s own add-in within Word, which allows users to highlight a section of a Word document and send it to a MM map. In theory this should behave the same wat as the direct import; in my experience however, it can become a bit hit and miss, with sections including headings sometimes being converted into topic notes and body text sometimes not appearing at all.
Copy-and-paste import: YES, with qualifications. Part or all of a document can simply be copied and pasted into a map but it will be pasted “flat”; ie, headings, sub-headings and body text paragraphs will appear as main topics in the map.
Third-party import: NO.
Exporting to MS Word
Built-in export: YES. MM has a specific export command on the file menu. Clicking on this takes you to a dialogue box with tabs covering an extensive range of options including numbering, selection of task elements to export, as well as the ability to choose the Word template to be applied and the Word heading styles within the template that will be applied to each topic level within the map. Unless otherwise specified, topic notes will become body text in the Word document.
This works well but there are several caveats. Only the whole map can be exported; there is no way to leave specific topics or sections out of the export, nor to apply more than one heading level to each topic level. In addition, topic elements are exported as a table under each exported topic, which may or may not be a suitable format.
More significantly, while the headings in the exported document look like the template default styles, they have in fact formatted with MM’s own styles which can cause considerable confusion especially if heading numbering is involved. This can be rectified by using Word’s style manager to replace the MM-styled headings with the equivalent Word styles, but this can be time-consuming.
Copy-and-paste export: YES, with qualifications. This produces a simple list in Word, with topics rendered as paragraphs, indented according to their level in the map and formatted with the same text attributes as the original topics. Topic notes and other attributes are not exported.
Third-party export: YES. The Olympic Limited add-in WordX2 provides a powerful and more flexible alternative to MM’s inbuilt export facility. Like the MM Word export WordX2 utilises a user-selectable Word template and styles. However, it applies the Word styles directly so avoids the editing issues of MM’s own export. Another advantage is that topic levels and even individual topics can be included or excluded, and different styles can be applied to topics at the same level.
The list of exportable topic elements is similar to that of MM’s export feature, though text tags are omitted, as are all but basic topic properties. These elements are also exported as a table, which can be configured.
A second alternative is provided by another Olympic Limited add-in, MAP. One of MAP’s features is Image Export, which allows the user to export MM slides as images within a Word document.
Dynamic 2-way sync: NO
There does not appear to be any facility to “round-trip” documents between MM and Word.
I have written a number of guides for importing from Word to MM covering the processes in more detail including for example, on how to import tables and how to deal with the MM style issue when MM’s export facility is used.