Mind Mapping Software Tips

Do you want to get started making mind maps? There are several mind mapping software programs on the market, both free and commercial, so how do you choose? Which platform do you pick and which program is the best? Before you select your preferred mind mapping software it is important to understand your needs, objectives and costs/benefits. Here are a few software tips that you might find useful.

Free Mind Mapping Software

There are many free mind mapping tools such as FreeMind that are a good option if you want to make basic mind maps. Some free web-based tools also allow users to store maps on the internet for sharing and collaboration with others. Working online may prove a little cumbersome in that it is dependent on your internet connection and some features, shortcuts and habits will be different from traditional desktop software.

Storing mind maps containing confidential or sensitive information online could cause some security issues that conflict with company policies. Beware that some cloud solutions lure you in with free basic versions but charge on a monthly basis for the advanced features you may need. Monthly fees accumulate, so you should compare these fees to buying a desktop application outright.

There are many IPAD and Tablet PC solutions available but they are yet to reach the standard of desktop applications when it comes to creating the basic mind map. As far as overviewing the map is concerned, the small screen size is a problem even for average sized maps – which is basically the whole point! Typing fast and creating new branches to capture ideas in a brainstorming session requires practice.

Again, consider your needs and objectives. Some IPAD solutions make a bridge to desktop applications allowing users to open mind maps created on a desktop, which is useful for presentation purposes. Beware that some IPAD mind mapping tools are simply wrapped online versions and not true IPAD solutions, with the result that some IPAD functions and shortcuts may not work as expected.

Commercial Mind Mapping Software

If you are planning to use mind mapping in a corporate environment as a productivity tool, it is important to consider what the program lets you do with the mind map once you've created it. For instance, can you convert your mind map to an outline in Word? Professional desktop applications typically integrate with MS Office which enables you to continue working with your ideas in other documents without re-entering data. Test the Office integration properly before selecting your tool as there tends to be a big difference in quality.

Does the software offer several views, such as Top-Down, Left-Right, Fishbone, Timeline, Outline, Gantt charts, etc.? How complex and useful is each view? Can you transfer information between such views without losing information?

Many mind mapping software users rely on mind maps to plan projects at different levels, from simple "to-do lists" or work breakdown structures to complete Gantt charts. Professional mind mapping software tools such as MindView allow you to add task information to the map and contain a built-in Gantt chart view.

Here is a useful check list when evaluating mind mapping software:

  • Ease of use
  • Look and feel
  • Variety of templates available
  • Number of different layouts (Mind Map, Top-Down, Left-Right, Outline, Timeline, Gantt chart, etc.)
  • Integration with MS Office (import/export to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Project)
  • Sharing of files with attachments
  • Handling of task information and project management rules
  • Collaboration options including shared workspace and multiuser editing

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