MindRaider Means to Map Your Mind--But May Drive You Out of It Instead

MindRaider is one of those programs which looks like a nifty idea--until you start trying to use it. Wrapped in a poorly documented, counter-intuitive, and jargon-filled interface, this mindmapping program is hindered by sluggish performance even on a recent, high-end system.

The idea behind MindRaider is to extend the traditional outliner to use the concepts of the "Semantic web", a multi-directional linking of ideas. In theory, you can link notes, documents, and Web links together with meta-information tags and build a model of relationships between ideas and resources which is superior to linear or top-down models. In practice, at least as far as MindRaider is concerned, I couldn't get much done. The documentation included with MindRaider is not only sparse, it is painfully outdated, referring to version 0.56 of a program that it is currently at 7.6. A significant amount of what is there is dedicated more to discussing the theory behind it and the standards and protocols it uses than to providing a step-by-step "How do I make use of this? Why is it better than a normal outliner?" guide. Reading the testimonials, the intended, and happy, audience is one already hip-deep in the information theory upon which MindRaider is built; if you're not, figuring out how to get the most out of this program is a struggle.

When a slider control is labeled, without explanation, "Hyperbolic" (and seems to have no visual effect), you know you're deep in "If you don't understand it, it isn't meant for you" land. Which is a pity, because my limited attempts to get it to do something useful tells me that there's more than a few good ideas here, buried under impenetrable jargon. I can very much see the use of something a lot like this, if it underwent a major interface and documentation overhaul.

Also hampering my use was the program's slow response. Navigating through even a moderately large outline was extremely slow, resulting in my sometimes wondering if a control was non-responsive or disabled. The outline seems to rearrange itself almost at random; I am sure there are fixed and useful rules about how nodes place themselves on the screen, but they are not intuitive and I was constantly losing information I had just previously read or edited.

MindRaider is free and open source, and is actively supported and developed. Those who want to make use of it (or who are reading this review and thinking I'm an idiot for not "getting it") should download it and try it out.

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