iMandalArt coming to an iPad near you

I confess to being a productivity app junkie on my handheld devices, which now include a 3G iPad, an iTouch, and a Blackberry Tour. Not that this makes me much more productive, if I’m totally honest with myself, although I do know with utter certainty all of the tasks that are clamoring for attention on any given day. But, with prices generally ranging from free to a few bucks, I can experiment without running up the kind of tab that I might if I wanted to test full-feature versions on a laptop.

My favorite for work-related projects is Things, which just meshes nicely with the way I think about and compartmentalize, well, things. I have it on my Mac, iPad, and iTouch, and they mutually sync — did I say it is my favorite? Whereas for home and personal tasks, which tend to be much more scattered and less project-based, I have gravitated to the simple Stickies on my Mac. Amazingly, there was no easy way to get those onto the handhelds… until I found SyncStickies [apparently defunct as of July 2012]. It is pricey at $7.99 and still a work in progress — for example, at the moment it only goes from Mac to iPad, not the reverse, and I can only be sure it has synced by opening individual entries on the iPad to see if they have updated — but they are all there, properly color-coded and with whatever wacko symbols I might be using in a particular note.

I also have some free-form stuff:

  • iThoughtsHD, which will display MindManager maps from my Mac. I am still trying to get comfortable with it for direct work on my iPad, where it seems a bit cumbersome, but I gave up even trying with the tiny screen of the iTouch;
  • Penultimate, which is a superb note-taker and sketchpad, especially with the Boxwave capacitive stylus; and
  • Stickyboard, a free-form sketchpad and sticky-note app.

    And then there is iMandalArt. Its basic structure is a three-by-three grid, expandable around the central cell, and then around each peripheral cell, and then around each of those, and so on. Metaphorically, it is a bit like zooming in on a fractal tic tac toe grid, but one filled with successively-narrowed ideas and words, instead of Xs and Os, and not at all game-like. To an accomplished user, this probably sounds naive at best, since I am sure I don’t yet get it. So here are some links to other places that may give you a clearer picture:

  • iTunes Preview Page, with screenshots and a few customer reviews.
  • User Interface Explorations, a candid blog commentary by another user whose struggles sound very similar to mine. As he says toward the end, “If you still don’t know what iMandalArt is then welcome to the club.”
  • User review at CreativeApplications, by ‘Filip’ who seemingly does get it and mentions that the Mac-based version has been in use in Japan since 1995.
  • Cognitive Interface for Idea Processor, a paper by six Japanese researchers who looked at how MandalArt might be used with an eye-motion sensor system. Serious HCI stuff.

    The good news is that I can run the iPhone/iTouch version of iMandalArt on my iPad, although at 2X scale it starts to pixellate a bit. The better news, based on a reply from Kenzo Yamaguchi of HMDT Co., Ltd., to my email query, is that a full iPad version is under development (see photo). I’m looking forward to exploring it more fully.



    UPDATE November 21, 2010: There is now a video hint of what iMandalArt HD will look like (below). The pace is very fast; the whole thing is only 20 seconds long; and the titles and in-app text are in Japanese, so I had to watch several times, but the flavor of it — and the changes from the iPhone/iTouch version — are intriguing. Spectacular use of all that extra screen space!


    I’m feeling a reversion to childhood, thinking that Christmas morning will never arrive.

    SECOND UPDATE February 6, 2011: Rather than trying to reach an intuitive understanding through an organizational perspective, you might want to consider the aesthetics of iMandalArt.

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