In this occasional series I’m looking at some of the gaps in MindManager’s extensive feature set and describing a few “tricks”, or workarounds, to deal with them.
In MindManager Gaps and Tricks 2 I described how to import a table of websites from either Word or Excel using the Excel import facility in MindManager 22 which now recognises hyperlinks. The Excel Data Mapper at the core of this feature has been improved and offers the best option for importing Word tables, especially those with hyperlinks.
However, this still leaves open the question of how best to import non-tabular data in Word files containing hyperlinks as well as other topic and task attributes, such as research summaries with hyperlinks to relevant papers and publications, task lists and schedules, catalogues and interview transcripts. There is no equivalent in MindManager (MM) for the Excel Data Mapper, or any other way to control the import process for these documents. Instead, the import process relies on MindManager’s ability to recognise Word paragraph heading styles and to use these as the basis for the map hierarchy. Everything else, including hyperlinks, usually ends up being incorporated into topic notes.
How to import and map documents containing the equivalent of task or topic attributes is the topic of this post – or more accurately, how to do this since significant changes were made to the Word import and export facilities in MindManager 21 and 22. Previously I had posted instructions using undocumented features in earlier versions of MM, but at first I feared that this feature appeared to have been broken by the recent changes. Fortunately all was not lost; as a response on the MindManager Community Forum helpfully pointed out, only a minor tweak is required with these and subsequent versions to use this undocumented feature.
In this post I’ll draw on my previous descriptions of the process and outline how to make it work specifically with MM 21 and 22, and also identify which topic and task attributes and other information can be imported successfully as shown in the example below – and those that don’t work so well, or not at all. And a word of advice; to use this tip you will need a reasonable understanding of either MM21 or 22, as well as experience in using Word and in particular Word templates and paragraph styles. In addition, this process relies on undocumented MindManager features which may be changed or withdrawn at any time.
As with the instructions I provided in my earlier posts in relation to previous versions of MM, the first steps actually sending to Word the special paragraph styles that MM can create as part of the export process to Word.
The MM topic styles set up by the Word export process are based on the corresponding Word template styles. These styles all have the prefix “MM”, so we have, for example, “MM Topic 1″ and MM Topic 2” which match the corresponding Word styles “Heading 1” and “Heading 2”, and so on. In addition unique MM styles are set up for topic and task attributes like “”MM Start Date”, “MM Callout””, “MM Hyperlink”, etc. Once the styles are incorporated in a Word template they can be used to control much of what MM does with them when a document is exported the other way from Word to MM.
In previous versions of MM the creation of MM styles in Word documents was the only option available when exporting to Word, but starting with MM 21 and 22 the program can export using Word templates and styles directly without creating these special styles. In most cases this is an obvious improvement over the previous export process, but is not suitable for our purposes as we actually want the MM styles. Fortunately there is still a “Map style” option available for export which retains this facility, and which forms the basis for the process outlined below.
Please note that steps 1 to 4 need to be done only once
Step 1 – Create a dummy mind map: Create a dummy map in MM to export to Word with all the MM topic/task information you want to be able show in a map after you import a Word document. There are a couple of exceptions – you don’t need worry about using the MM Topic styles, provided you use Word heading styles in your documents. MindManager recognises these styles and turns the headings into topics at the appropriate level. Likewise, Normal text in Word documents will be automatically incorporated as topic notes.
However, you must include items such as task priorities and progress, as well as a hyperlink, image, callout and floating topic – you only need one of each, and the actual content isn’t important, though the hyperlink should be a real web address. Incidentally, if you are certain that all you will require is the ability to import hyperlinks so that they are located with the relevant topics in maps the MM Hyperlink style is pretty much the only item you will need, but I’d suggest exporting a wider range of MM styles to keep your options open.
Note that not all the topic and task attributes will work when you go to import a document in to MindManager, even if there is a corresponding MM style. In the table below (click on the image to access a PDF version) I’ve listed all the Word styles that I have found to work successfully on import (more on this in a moment).
When you have finished applying adding all the task attributes save the map.
Step 2 – Export the map to Word: Start the Word export process and work through the export dialogue selecting all the content options (apart from those under Additional Content, which you don’t need). You also don’t need to worry about content order or style, except for Template & Style. Here you must select Style based on Map Style – do not use a Word template. Then export the map to Word.
Step 3 – Create a special MindManager template in Word: Open the document you just exported in Word and use the style list to check that all the required MM styles – and in particular, MM Hyperlink – are visible. Then delete all text from the document and save this file as a Word template to use specifically for formatting documents to be sent to MM; the MM styles should now be visible in the template styles list. You can also can use Word’s style manager to import the MM styles into other Word templates.
Step 4 – Indent the MM topic/task attribute styles: Before saving the document you will need to indent all the MM styles relating to topic and task attributes as well as the styles for hyperlinks and callouts (but not the actual topic or topic note styles). This is the tweak I referred to earlier which is required to make the styles work properly in MM21 and 22 when you import a map.
The topic/task styles need to be indented relative to the topic styles. I haven’t been able to ascertain the exact level of indent required, and if you progressively indent headings you may have to ensure the MM styles are indented further each time as well relative to the heading. However, because I don’t indent headings, all I needed to do was indent all the MM styles by a flat 3 cm (2 cm would probably have sufficed). When this is done save the template.
Step 5: Create or edit a Word document for import to MindManager: You will need to either create a document using the MM template and styles set up in Part 1, or alternatively edit an existing document by applying this template and converting the styles as required. As noted earlier, MM recognises Word header styles and normal text so these styles don’t need conversion, but text which you want to become floating topics or callouts as well as those intended to become topic/task information will all need to be formatted with the relevant MM paragraph styles.
The table referred to earlier shows the formatting requirements and in some cases limitations relevant to each MM style (for example, note the specific format required for the Start and End Dates). Make sure that all items intended to be topic or task attributes and in particular hyperlinks are stand-alone paragraphs beneath the related headings, and in the case of hyperlinks ensure that these paragraphs are activated as Word hyperlinks before the MM Hyperlink style is applied.
Note also the special role of the MM TopicInfo style which is used to provide a group or property name for the following topic attribute. This is required for topic properties but is optional for text markers. With the former, the MM TopicInfo will provide a property name for the following paragraph if it is formatted with the MM Topic property style – this will always default to a text property regardless of whether the paragraph is text or a number.
With the latter, a marker group will be created using the name supplied by MM TopicInfo and the following paragraph formatted with the MM Text Marker style will be added to this group. If MM Topicinfo is not used the text marker will be added to the General Tags group.
When you have finished the process of formatting the document save it again.
Step 6: Import and check the Word document: Start MindManager and import the Word document you have created or edited, then review the resulting map. If any topic or task attributes are incorrectly located in the map (for example, they appear on a main or the central topic), there may be a problem with the level of indentation. If the issue is a one-off it may be that the specific item wasn’t indented properly for some reason in the document, but if several are affected check if the issue is with the level if indentation you set up in creating the template in steps 1 to 4. Once you make any changes required to the template you will have to run the import process again.
There are several topic and task attributes which are either too complicated to set up within a Word document or which can’t be imported at all. These include attachments, icons, relationships, comments, resource costs and total costs (the latter two are calculated within MM). With icons, for example, only those which MM already uses can be imported and their use requires specific arrangement of the MM TopicInfo and MM Icon styles. Similarly, relationships between topics can be imported in theory but in practice this is very difficult to do.
Please note also that there is a little bit of trial and error with the import process. It’s best to practice with a shorter more straight-forward document in stage 5 before trying something longer and more complex. And while it is technically possible to “round-trip” a document backwards and forwards between Word and MindManager there can be unexpected results, especially if the file is heavily edited at either end.