Update: Unfortunately, in compiling and discussing the upgraded aspects of Power Filters and SmartRules in MindManager 2019 I left out one of the most important – the ability of SmartRules to write topic properties. This article which was originally posted in November 2018 and the accompanying table comparing the Power Filters and SmartRules feature sets have both been updated to recognise this.
This feature is significant not only because it provides a way to write topic properties linked to other features such as tags and icons, but also because this allows MindManager formulas to be applied to these linked properties. In addition, the linking of Smart Rules to topic properties provides an indirect way of manipulating MindManager formulas to create the equivalent of Boolean conditional If-Then-Else statements, a facility lacking in the formulas themselves. I’ll explore these options in a future post.
I noted a year ago in reviewing MindManager 2018 that the range of graphic elements brought to the program since its purchase in 2016 reflected Corel’s design heritage and suggested that there could be more to come.
Corel’s makeover has continued with the release of MindManager 2019, which confirms the direction the company is taking with MindManager, adding graphical features and new ways to present information. I’ll describe some of the additional changes in MM2019 over the next few posts, starting with SmartRules.
SmartRules is a substantial development of Conditional Formatting which was introduced only a year ago in MM2018. The feature wasn’t that new even then – as I noted in my review of MM2018, it was really a reintroduction of the old Power Markers add-in which had largely disappeared when Mindjet acquired it several years earlier. Rebranded as Conditional Formatting, Power Markers was revived with an easy-to-use interface.
SmartRules retains the same rules-based format as its predecessor to trigger format and other changes to topics based on certain criteria. The user sets up rules based on triggers, the conditions under which these triggers are applied, and the resulting effects to be applied to the relevant topics. The trigger can be just about any aspect of a topic, including task information, the number of attachments, links or subtopics and even attributes like icons, properties, resources and tags – not to mention text in topic names. You can also set a wide range of conditions, i.e., “Contains or “Does Not Contain”, for example, or “Is Greater Than or Equal To” or “Is Before”, etc, depending on the nature of the trigger attribute.
Added triggers in MM2019 include At Risk and several positional attributes – whether the topic is part of a task roll-up branch, whether it belongs to a specified branch or its location relative to a “Smart Shape” such as swim lanes, funnels or tables (more on these in a later post).
The choice of effects available in the previous Conditional Formatting version for topics meeting the trigger conditions was already very broad, including topic-related formatting such as shape, fill colour and line colour as well as font-related options including font size, italic, underline, strikethrough, colour and bold. In SmartRules these have been greatly expanded to include attributes such as icons, resources and tags, as well as task priority and progress.
This marks the biggest change to Conditional Formatting. It’s a very useful feature, but aspects of its implementation are a little disconcerting in that rule effects can be applied to the same rule’s trigger. For example, you can change all priority 1 topics to priority 2 with a rule – and back again, with another rule. It would be helpful to have a warning when this occurs.
In other changes there is now an option to allow rules to be applied only to selected topics as well as too all of them. Rules can be manually overridden to allow alternative effects to be applied. As in MM2018, multiple triggers and multiple effects can also be added and once the rule is set up it can be saved to a library from which it can be added to other maps.
As I noted in my article on MM2018, Conditional Formatting/SmartRules gives users different ways to view the information in their maps. For example, you can see easily which tasks are due next week – or the week after that – without having to filter the map. Users can also set up rules to highlight topics containing specific text, tags or icons, and even combine the two. Now in MM2019 users can add or alter a variety of task-related information.
In a post in my MindManager Shortcuts series in May this year I described how Conditional Formatting can be used as a form of Power Filter and in fact offers some advantages, a situation which continues to apply to SmartRules. This is because unlike queries, rules can have multiple triggers with disparate topic elements set as conditions – markers, due date, number of sub-topics, topic properties, etc – and these triggers also have an “Any/All conditions are met” selection which applies across all these criteria.
I also described how Conditional Formatting can also be used as a form of front end to Power Filters, by using rules to apply formatting effects which can then be filtered on. SmartRules expands this approach; previously the only effects that rules could apply which were recognised by Power Filters were fill colours and font colours. This has now been extended to include tags and icons as well as the task attributes mentioned earlier (I won’t repeat the process for using SmartRules in this way as it hasn’t changed much from my previous detailed description relating to Conditional Formatting).
As noted in the updated introduction, SmartRules can now write topic properties. This provides a way to write topic properties linked to other features such as tags and icons. For example a topic property can be created for each tag in a tag group with a rule which adds a value to this rule if and only if the tag is present. This allows MindManager formulas to be applied to these linked properties, so, for example, the occurrence of each tag on subtopics can be counted in the central topic. In addition, the linking of Smart Rules to topic properties provides an indirect way of manipulating MindManager formulas to create the equivalent of Boolean conditional If-Then-Else statements, a facility lacking in the formulas themselves.
Using SmartRules in these ways highlights how its feature set has been expanded inMM2019 with additional trigger conditions and effects while the Power Filters facility has remained largely unchanged. This is shown in the updated comparison table below, which summarises the key aspects of both facilities (click here or on the table to access the downloadable version).
The transformation of Conditional Formatting into SmartRules has added some great features, but Corel should consider upgrading Power Filters to match the SmartRules feature set. It should also look at two key features both facilities are still missing – the ability to select topics based on text contained in topic notes and also – and very simply – to select topics based just on their level in the map hierarchy. Many users would regard these as just as important as the extra triggers added in the SmartRules upgrade.