Shape Shifting with MindManager

Filed Under Mindjet

Michael Deutch

August 14, 2009

Visually enhance and tranform your maps with custom topic shapes!

I’m excited for my own transformation. Today, I’m working in Mindjet’s office. All of next week, I’ll be Scuba diving in Curacao, a beautiful island off the coast of Venezuela. I’ll miss you all, I will!

Before I sign off the Mindjet Blog for a week, I wanted to share a couple of events that inspired me to create some new transformative, shape-shifting map templates.

The first event occurred during my men’s group meeting on Wednesday night. One of my friends was sharing a painful experience that he was having in his relationship with his girlfriend. When he asked for support, I demonstrated a mapping technique he could use to visually lay out his feelings to better understand himself and his relationship. He is still pretty new to mind mapping but was really excited to see that it wasn’t just a business productivity technique; he could use it to enrich his life and relationships.

Mapping is a powerful way to examine your belief system – beliefs about yourself, your team, company, market, or even your competition. It helps you reflect and put structure to your thinking. It reveals gaps and assumptions. It also triggers insights which can lead to incredible personal transformations and business innovations.

My next inspiration came simply from viewing a website that had some amazing images. Yes, I’m visually inspired!

When I fielded a request last night for some simpler templates, I decided to put the two together: a map for reflection plus some more visually appealing topic shapes.

Many of us start with the default map and never pay a lot of attention to the shapes or colors. This is a mistake.

Use the colors that you love or enjoy in your maps. Make them more inviting to you. Or, if you’re making a presentation to a customer, use their brand colors. Make the imagery speak to your audience.

Here’s a simple before and after snapshot of a map template:

Which do you prefer?

Without further ado…here are the two example templates for you to download and use:

SWOT Analysis Template

Download Free MindManager SWOT Analysis Template

PEST Analysis Template

Download Free MindManager PEST Analysis Template

Become a Shape Shifter

Creating your own topic shapes is easy.

I created the shapes for the templates above in PowerPoint. I added shapes onto a slide, adjusting the color and effects with PowerPoint’s formatting options. Then, I saved them as pictures (.PNG file) onto my desktop by selecting a shape and using the save option in PowerPoint’s right-click menu.

Next, in the Shape section of MindManager 8’s Library, I clicked ‘Add Shape…’ to upload the pictures into MindManager’s library. Once they were uploaded, I edited each shape’s margins and then applied them to my maps.

The only tricky step in the process is editing the topic shape’s content margins. Right-click on the topic shape’s thumbnail image and select the option ‘edit content margins’. In the window that opens, drag the black squares inwards to set the new content margins. This setting controls where and how a topic’s text appears inside the topic. Unfortunately, you’ll need to set it and apply it to see the results. It may take a few tries to perfect the settings.

Once you’ve created topic shapes and fine-tuned the content margins, create new map templates with these shapes to bring new life to your maps!

Future Before / After Snapshots & Analysis with Your Maps

I’d like to work with some of your maps if you’re open to having them published. We can walk through how I’d reorganize or improve them. It’ll be an organic process where everyone can discuss the pros and cons of different approaches to mapping.

I’m up for the challenge if you are! Leave a comment below if you’re interested and I’ll touch base with you after I return from my diving adventures. Have a great week!

About the Author: Michael Deutch is Mindjet’s Chief Evangelist, content contributor for the Mindjet Blog and the Mindjet Connections newsletter. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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17 Responses to “Shape Shifting with MindManager”

  1. Amit Sathe

    hi..i was wondering if it would be possible to insert 2 (or more) text areas in a shape in mindmanager 8…i have a need where I need to assign a numeric ID and other descriptors to a topic in mindmanager…wondering if there is a way to add more text areas…i was able to change to the shape i want, but it only shows me one text area

    • MichaelDeutch

      Hi Amit,
      There’s only one text box in the topic but you can either use text notes to add additional information or try using the text markers (e.g. in the marker pane, create a new text marker group and then use markers for the numeric IDs). Using the text markers might be useful for you, you can then filter on them too!

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  5. Steve Sisk

    Vector-based graphics (based on mathematical equations) eliminate the issues when scaling raster graphics. I believe I recall a tutorial using Microsoft Visio (a vector-based tool) to create shapes for import to MindManager. Inkscape is an open source vector graphics tool. Has anyone experimented with vector-based graphics?

  6. Michael Deutch


    Bors, I totally agree! I prefer to have topics the same size for easy scanning and/or cleaner presentations. I’ll forward your feedback to our design team.

  7. Bors

    It is incredibly frustrating not to be able to set hard limits on topic width. Some people like the organic look, but for complex maps having a more organized look makes reading and finding topics much faster. It is also much cleaner looking to have all topics of a size.

    • Derrick

      Bors: Did you ever find a way to set hard limits on topic width? I can’t seem to find anything or get a reply from Mindjet? Thanks.

  8. dw borro

    Great Tip!
    I am an avid, if not compulsive user of your program. I look for these tips daily. You really have filled my toolbox. Thanks!

  9. Michael Deutch

    Great advice Andrew! Yes, there can be some drawbacks with this approach. Odd shaped images can definitely grow larger than expected and controlling text wraps can give back some control.

  10. Andrew Wilcox

    Take care to use shapes that work well with widely varying proportions. The topic shape proportion is in proportion to the topic text length.

    For example a using a caterpillar image with “bug” for the topic text will be short and fat versus “Just waiting to hang myself up and turn into a butterfly” which will be long and thin (depending on where you put the line wrap: Shift-Enter or set the topic width).

  11. Andrew Wilcox

    Take care to use shapes that work well with widely varying proportions. The topic shape proportion is in proportion to the topic text length. rnrnFor example a using a caterpillar image with “bug” for the topic text will be short and fat versus “Just waiting to hang myself up and turn into a butterfly” which will be long and thin (depending on where you put the line wrap: Shift-Enter or set the topic width).


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