We’ve been busy here at Mindjet. In conjunction with the release of a new MindManager version and a new website, we added a new section to our website, the Mindjet Labs. It is where we experiment with ways of extending MindManager and show our results to our users and partners. On the Mindjet Labs, we have a little something for everyone, including research tools, tools for architectural professionals, tools for software developers and more. Most of the solutions are shown with source code for the tinkerers out there. The creation of the site is even cool because it is created entirely programmatically via a script and transformation (like a web export). We are busy preparing additional solutions to be released on the Mindjet Labs site. I would like to explain one of my favorite solutions that we put on there, the Research Accelerator:
If you have Microsoft Office 2003 applications on your system like Microsoft Office Word you may notice that there is a Research task pane. You can see it from Microsoft Word by selecting Tools…Research. In the task pane, you will see a drop-down list of internal and external research sources as well as a link to get additional research services on the Office Marketplace. Microsoft built this as an extensible framework that allows service providers to build web services that plug into this task pane so that users can research services like LexisNexis, Factiva, and Hoovers.
Because this research service plug-in system works on a publicly available protocol and SDK it was fairly easy to make MindManager 6 with its new extensible Task Pane API use the Microsoft Office research services as well.
The MindManager Research Accelerator
Our first experience with connecting MindManager to search and research services was a sample Smart Map Part in MindManager X5 Pro that searched the web using Google’s Beta Web API. We found that method of searching was not the most intuitive and you were left with a map that had topics representing search results that you were not interested in that you had to manually remove. We also found that the Microsoft Office research service was just the type of architecture that we were looking for:
- It has been publicly available since 2003.
- It is extensible.
- It is extensive enough to allow querying and requerying of data sources.
- I could handle searching almost any data source and could deal with large result sets.
- It would work well with MindManager Pro 6.
We built the MindManager Research Accelerator so that it would work as a client for the services that are installed in Microsoft Office as well as additional services that we built using the same protocol.
The Research Accelerator allows users to do research within MindManager, easily searching various sources for information. When using the Research Accelerator users are not losing their context by opening a separate application to use for search and research and then using copy and paste to bring the results back into MindManager.
What Services Come with the Research Accelerator?
In addition to any external sources that are available from Microsoft Office 2003 like MSN and Encarta and other sources that the user installs from Microsoft Office, we have added a number of research sources to the accelerator:
- Craig’s List
- Flickr Groups
- Flickr Photos
- Google Blog Search
- Google Web Search
- Technorati Cosmos
- Technorati Search
- Yahoo HotJobs
- Yahoo Image Search
- Yahoo Local Search
- Yahoo News Search
- Yahoo Web Search
Any number of additional sources can be created and added to the research accelerator either by creating web services that follow the guidelines published by Microsoft or by following our guidelines here. The great thing about building a research service is that you don’t need to know anything about MindManager development, (even though we can show you how to add MindManager-specific content to the results) and you can leverage your development efforts to make your research service available to the millions of Microsoft Office 2003 users.
What Other Kinds of Search or Research Services Could be Added to the Research Accelerator?
- Your Outlook Database
- Your CRM System
- Your corporate intranet knowledgebase or internet knowledgebase
- Your company’s research services.
Download it and try it out. It requires Mindjet MindManger Pro 6 or the MindManager 6 Trial. We want your feedback on it and anything else that you find in the Mindjet Labs. Post your comments on the Mindjet Labs blog or send an email to (labs at mindjet dot com).