About four years ago, I discovered an iOS app called iMandalArt that offered a distinctive way to think about goal setting and task accomplishment. It was based on what I subsequently learned is the Lotus Blossom technique, often described as a form of brainstorming or mind mapping.
When I wrote my first blog post about the app, iMandalArt coming to an iPad near you, my perspective was largely shaped by a bunch of popular productivity apps, for example, Things. Let’s call it a seeing-the-world-through-GTD-colored-glasses outlook. I knew that iMandalArt was somehow different, but I confessed that I was pretty sure I didn’t “get it.”
Six months later, I had an “Ah, ha!” moment, based on my experience with the iPad version, iMandalArt HD, and recounted in The aesthetics of iMandalArt. The hidden “decoder ring” of understanding was those last three letters, “Art.” As I wrote back then, the app is not called iMandalList, but iMandalArt. Now, I prefer to think of it as the nonlinear, Getting-Things-Done lovechild of an artist and a topologist, rather than an engineer and an accountant.
For a detailed explication, there is an extensive series of posts on Flexible Focus by William Reed, who describes the technique with an “Alice through the looking glass” metaphor. He also discusses briefly the alternative app, MandalaChart for iPad.
Alas, on August 31, 2013, an announcement appeared on the MandalArt Facebook page that neither iMandalArt for iPhone nor the HD version for iPad would be updated for iOS 7. Reading between the lines of the embedded Bing translation from Japanese to English, it is clear that there was some kind of legal or other disagreement between the creative and development parties involved. Subsequently, the MandalArt website shrank almost to non-existence, though there was the hint that some new product might eventually appear. So I put the URL for the MandalArt home page into Changes Meter, the marvelous little app that compares page content over time, and waited for something to happen.
There were a couple of little tweaks to page content in the next year, but nothing that showed any substantive change when I checked the text on Google Translate. Then, two days ago, there was another alert, and when I went to the page, Bingo!, there at the bottom was the little white-on-black App Store download button. It was in Japanese, but the white Apple logo was unmistakable!
I wasn’t about to change my App Store “allegiance” to Japan, even for this app, so I went to iTunes and searched for MandalArt. Miraculously, it was there, though the Screenshots and Description (provided by the seller, Hiro Art Directions, Inc., also the owner of the aforementioned Facebook page) were in Japanese. The one weird exception was the line for Language at the end of the Information list — it was simply empty! (Two days later, the app has finally also appeared on itunes.apple.com.)
Probably needless to say, I downloaded the new MandalArt app and installed it on both my iPhone and iPad. The first visible change is quite major — instead of being greeted by a centered 3×3 grid, there are small, portrait-orientation boxes that contain micro-sized thumbnails of grids. So if the earlier versions had a down-the-rabbit-hole sense of zooming in, this version starts zoomed out. Given some of the other stylistic and design differences, I’m still figuring out the operational details, in particular trying to see what some of the new bottom-of-screen icons do. I won’t say much more at this point, because (naturally) all of the text is in Japanese. It’s bad enough that I may be misleading myself, but I don’t want to inflict that on anyone else.
Instead, I will offer here an English translation of sorts of the Description section from the iTunes page for the app. My starting point was an app aggregator and review site, FileDir, that had already captured the Japanese text from the iTunes page for the new app. That meant I could just grab it directly without some kind of folderol with iTunes, which doesn’t allow (me, at least, to do) text captures. Then off to Google Translate. And finally some editing of the nominal English translation, trying to apply what I knew about the approach from using the earlier apps, especially iMandalArt HD.
In what follows, please be advised that (1) I know no written Japanese at all (and about three spoken words); (2) I applied my best (or in a couple cases wild-ass) guesses of what the text meant to say; and (3) this was a fairly long breadcrumb trail of sites and manipulations, so something could have gone south. Here is what I thought made the most sense in context (or several contexts):
When you are having trouble describing your idea, try it in MandalArt.
If you want to put together a schedule for the week, do it in MandalArt.
If you want to think of breakfast menus, think in MandalArt.
MandalArt is a thinking tool that lets you write what you want to think about in the center of the nine cells, and then lets you write associated ideas in the surrounding cells.
MandalArt, derived from a HyperCard version that appeared in 1995, has continued to expand on a variety of platforms of the digital world, with its innovative hierarchical structure. MandalArt will continue to evolve in the future. Please stay tuned!
–The main functions:
• Creating a mandala with text and graphics;
• Editing of the mandala using touch-pointing and drag-and-drop operation;
• Saving or transferring the resulting OPML file; and
• Sending an image of the mandala to Facebook or Twitter, or by e-mail
— The Premium functions:
• Add unlimited templates in the Premium version (Two in the free version)
• Add unlimited cells in the Premium version (Five in the free version)
• Share the MandalArt file by email or AirDrop (Premium only)
• Share the contents of the MandalArt file as bulleted text (Premium only)
MandalArt is available free of charge. When you upgrade to MandalArt Premium, you can use the more powerful features (see above). Please choose from the following two subscription terms:
• MandalArt Premium – 1 month – $0.99
• MandalArt Premium -1 year – $5.99
MandalArt Premium subscriptions are managed in iCloud. Before you purchase the app for your iPhone or iPad, please go to your device’s Settings > iCloud and be sure that Documents & Data is “On.”
If you actually read Japanese and see some egregious errors, please point them out. Far more importantly, if you (same person) bought the app, please let me know what the instructions say. In particular, what exactly is it that one can buy for $0.99 per month or $5.99 per year with an In-App Purchase?…