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Editing Maps with Microsoft Office Word 2007

If you haven’t noticed, not much new stuff has come out of the Mindjet Labs lately and that’s because we were working on something really cool.

Let me start out with some background:  As many of you may know, this Fall, Microsoft will be coming out with a new version of Microsoft Office.  It looks a bit different than Office and under the hood there is some really powerful technology; technology that can enable some very interesting solutions.  Working with Don Campbell, an evangelist with the Microsoft Office, and MindManager enthusiast, we came up with an idea for a solution that took advantage of some of that new technology to help our users share their maps.  Here is the foundation supplied by Microsoft Office Word 2007:

  • A new document format called Open Packaging Convention which uses industry standard zip files and XML instead of proprietary data formats.  MindManager has been doing something similar to this since 2003.
  • A new Ribbon User Interface that software developers can use to customize the Office applications.  What’s most interesting about this is that using the Open Packaging Convention, a definition of a ribbon user interface can be embedded as an XML file in an Office document.  The effect of this is that whenever a document with an embedded ribbon is opened, additional user interface elements are shown in the ribbon.
  • Other types of data from images to XSL transformations to VBA scripts can also be embedded in the Open Packaging Convention .docx or .docm (macro-enabled document) Word 2007 document.
  • A new concept in Word 2007 called content controls where you can bi-directionally link a part of a Word document, like a heading, to a specific part of another XML file within the word document package.
  • A freely redistributable library, that is part of the .Net 3.0 framework for writing these Open Packaging Convention files.  This library will ship as part of Vista.

Given all of these components, we had the opportunity to make something fantastic.  We often hear of business teams where one person is using MindManager and she wants to share the content of her maps with her colleagues so that her team members can edit the map and send it back to her.  In this scenario, the company has standardized on Word 2007 (in the near future) but the rest of the team does not have MindManager (yet).  How does this MindManager user send her map to a colleague who doesn’t have MindManager?  Using this new technology we could embed an entire MindManager map in a Word Document and do the following with it:

  1. Allow users to use Microsoft Office Word 2007 to edit the document.
  2. Allow users to view and modify the MindManager content, like icons, map markers, task planning information, attachments, and comments from within Word 2007.
  3. This is all done without installing anything else (like add-ins) on Word 2007 because all of the code to modify the internal MindManager Map is in VBA Macros in the .docm file.
  4. Create the .docm files without having Word 2007 on the system with MindManager.
  5. Essentially edit the MindManager map on a system without MindManager on it.  (I know this sounds like herasy to this audience but keep on reading).
  6. Because the MindManager map is embedded in the Word Document, merging the Word data back with the MindManager data is possible and doing a round-trip of the map back to MindManager is practical — without losing information.

Needless to say, we are very excited about the opportunities that these new Open Packaging Convention files can offer in terms of much more customizable and extensible integrations with Office applications.  If you are beta testing Microsoft Office Word 2007 and would like to try this out, send an email with your name, title, and company to us at  We would love your feedback. Here is some early feedback from an enthusiast:

“This is brilliant! I can already think of half a dozen projects I’ll immediately be able to put this to use in. Based on the what I’ve seen in the many months I have been working with the new Office beta, this is far and a way the best integration play from any third party. Bravo!”Marc Orchant

Happy editing,

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