Mind Mapping Resources and Wrap-up

Two weeks ago, we kicked this series off with an introduction to mind mapping. There we learned what mind maps are and how to make a simple one. Last week, I took the series one step further and showed you how you could apply mind maps to various aspects of a single project from brainstorming phase to project wrap up. Today, I'm going to get to the fun part that I'm sure all of you have been waiting for. The books and applications (online and desktop) that can help make your mind maps appear polished and professional. I'll give you my thoughts on each item listed here and hopefully help you form an opinion on what techniques you want to try. Of course, you may just want to stick with paper and pen... and that's fine too. I know that depending on where I am at, I sometimes want to use an computer based application for my maps; while others, I want to use my moleskine and pen set.

There's quite a few books on mapping out in the stores (and on amazon.com) these days. I decided to purchase two books while researching this topic:

Mapping Inner Space, by Nancy Marguiles. I love this book. It's very straight forward and a really quick read. Theory and discussion are written on the left pages, while the right side contains full size, wonderfully hand drawn, mind maps featuring some topic or style or technique that is discussed next to it. The book is broken down contextually by chapters. First it teaches readers the basics, then it gets into a few good uses for maps, then it teaches you how to build a personal symbology (which is another topic I may write about on another day). The rest of the book discusses techniques and uses for mapping in educational environments, adult's personal life and professional businesses. It also has an extensive bibliography and resource listing.

The Mind Map Book, by Tony Buzan. This is "the book" by the man who started the buzz on mind mapping. To be honest, I found the book a bit dry and stiff; there was a lot of cerebral talk about how the brain works first and then it goes into expanded mind mapping techniques. The pictures aren't as pretty as the Mapping Inner Space book either but they do get the point across. I know that Doug will probably think I'm scandalous as I know he loves this book and raves about it. Which was partially why I purchased it in the first place.

Now for the fun stuff: the applications. First off, I need to remind you all that I'm a Mac devotee and most of my bias is towards Apple's OS. That said, I asked faithful reader dazzer67 (who is also interested in mind mapping) to send me a list of applications on the PC that he's used/knows about so, I'll list those here as well. Lifehacker and many other sites in my RSS feed have been great at keeping me up-to-date on the shiny and slick web 2.0 applications. As such, I reviewed two of the recent ones, just to get a taste for what is out there. For more information and a nifty chart comparison, check this page out. Sara, this is your mind mapping site link to heaven. It's got a whole slew of applications (more than my mind could deal with) and a lot of articles describing how mind mapping boosts certain aspects of life. I'm pretty sure that this site has a mind mapping program for anyone.

I had three main factors in mind while I was looking at all the various applications. These are: ease of use and speedy entry, colors/graphics/features, and print capabilities. When I go to make a mind map I want to be able to enter the information in fast and furious. I need the application to be able to keep up with the ideas my brain tends to churn out. So speed and ease of use become very important. Secondly, I love applications that allow me to use a pre-existing graphic or include the ability to have lots of pretty colors. Color codes help us remember information better. Finally, I need a good application that allows me to print out my maps onto standard paper (or larger). Yes, I know that some of you are probably going, "why bother with a web app if you just recommend paper." Well, to be honest... computers are fun and shiny and they make great tools. Also, for those of us who have inner editors who criticize drawings, going digital may help remove the stigma of brainstorming and allow those fingers to fly fast and furious across the keyboard.

Desktop Applications
MindManager 6 :: http://www.mindjet.com/us/
This seems to be the big desktop application for Mind Mapping. Many sites have links to downloadable mind maps in this format, so it'd seem that this is sorta the "industry standard" of desktop applications. It's cross compatible, and does weigh in with a "hefty" price tag (it does offer a trial download to get you hooked). I've seen it in the stores (apple stores even) and was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy to play around with. So, the verdict, it's fun and very user friendly and jam packed with features that make it worth the price. For those intimidated by the blank screen, MindManager even comes with a small selection of maps that helps destroy any creative block. It covers the whole mapping process from creation to reorganization to review. Using the resume template, I quickly made a map of my career. And very soon I plan on using this software to make some personal meaning maps on each tarot card. Maybe I'll even use this app to start outlining my articles. Ooh, the possibilities. MindJet's website is also a great resource with many templates, sample maps (in MindManager's format) and a monthly newsletter.

OmniGraffle :: http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnigraffle/
OmniGraffle is like the MS Visio for OS X. It allows you to make all sorts of visual diagrams; including mapping. It comes preloaded with all sorts of shapes and connectors and has a huge following of devoted fans which OMNI supports and empowers to create their own project templates and shapes. And yes, you guessed it, there's even there's a template for Mind Maps. Just search for mind map and your browser will take you to the template.

Concept Draw Mind Map :: www.conceptdraw.com
This application was recommended by dazzer67. It's one of the few applications he's used to make maps. It is a version of Concept Draw that is aimed at Mind Mapping, to state the obvious, however this is where he feel it isn't as good as the other two listed. It's 'drawing' roots give it limited export options, although this is changing as the version number increases.

Freemind :: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page#Download_and_install
This is the other application that dazzer67 recommended. This one is open-source and written in Java. Now, I tend to stay away from some Java apps as they're usually bulky or clunky. However, he says it is very easy to use and creates nice, quick and simple mind maps. He rates this one pretty high, as it comes 2nd to MindManager (which he has an earlier version of). However, it is 'free' and so comes with this distinct advantage. For those taking tentative steps into software mapping, you can really go wrong with this.

Web Applications
I'm just going to briefly cover the two web-based apps that I played around with in this article. I know of at least 2 other programs online that cater to the mapping market. For more information on features and a great comparison listing of the current crop of web based mapping programs, check this site out.

Bubbl.us http://bubbl.us
I love this little application. It truly represents the spirit of mindmapping in that you create fast and furious maps that sprawl out across the page. You start by adding a word in a bubble. Then you press enter, for more bubbles and more words, and so on and so on. You can also use the mouse to quickly move back to a bubble and down with a new branch. Within 5 minutes of using this little application I had about 75 ideas connecting around the central theme of "The Fool". The program allows you to keep unlimited bubbles, when you register. However, the app does come with two quirks: flash wonkiness and sub-par printing support. The app runs a bit unstable. Sometimes you'll find the bubbles don't stick to where you place them and they jump to random spots obscuring the whole picture. I found it easier to rely on the key commands than use the mouse. Currently, the printing capabilities are also limited. It's not very good at handling wide or large mind maps and I found that no matter what I did to try and get the map to print, there was always a part of the map that refused to print; despite what the preview said it would. I believe that the designers of this app do say that they're working on improving printing, so let's hope they get it working so it's all shiny. Despite these quirks, I still love this app and would continue using it for the speed of being able to brainstorm lots of ideas in a short amount of time.

MindMeister http://mindmeister.com/
The latest mind mapping application to show up, this one requires you to sign up for the private beta. All you need to do is fill out the form to receive their newsletter and then you'll get a personal invite to use the system. I had high hopes for this web app. Really, I did. It had a lot of features, looked easy to use and allowed you to export to MindManager format. I was really hoping this would be the online version of the MindJet application. However, I discovered that it took longer for me to input my ideas than anything. First I had to tell it what node or child, then click on the new spot to enter data and then if I wanted a branch I needed to click on it, etc. There's no real inline help and I got frustrated within 10 minutes because I could not enter as much information as I wanted to as fast as I could. I even had issues trying to paste images I wanted to use for the central theme. I'll keep my eye on this one and hope they work out the kinks when they go public.

Whew. I know that when I started digging for apps online and off, I didn't realize just how popular and widespread mind mapping was. But, as you can see... there's a lot of different tools out there; and I'm sure there's an application with your name on it to satisfy your preferred mapping style. In any case, I know that having played with mapping for the past month has renewed some interest in it and given me the courage to attempt to incorporate it and some of the applications, like MindManager and Bubbl.us into my regular toolset along with my moleskine.

[Additional Mind Mapping Articles in this series:]
An Intro to Mind Maps
Mind Mapping a Project from Start to Finish

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Openmind and Mindomo

Here's two more, an application, that looks good, and an online version.

Openmind 2
From Matchware. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks really nice. Better graphics than Mind Manager, and a couple of neat features, like being able to produce timelines. This also has all the export functions (word, ppt, excel etc) that is so useful in Mind Manager.

New online mapping place. Unfortunately non-paying users only get to make and save 7 maps. Fast, pretty and fun. It has beautiful icons and interface. Exports to graphics files (png, jpg and gif)

Thanks for a great site!

- Jens Poder

Mapping on Linux

If anyone here is a Linux user, try VYM. It's open source and incredibly easy to use.

VYM on Windows

Searching "vym windows" on google, got me this link

Here's yet another one


We use this at school with the students. I have a SMARTBoard so we love how we can touch the screen and drag and drop things when we want to re-organize our thoughts. It is easy to learn and I like how easy it is to switch between outline view and mindmap view. I have also used it for meetings with other teachers when we need to make group plans.

They also have a kids version (K-5) http://www.inspiration.com/productinfo/kidspiration/index.cf...
if you want to start teaching your child about how to mindmap.

I am currently learning how to use their newest program--InspireData. I am an art teacher, and numbers just don't work for me. But this program is helping me to learn--probably because it is aimed at middle school to high school students. I had always wanted to learn Microsoft Access to set up a lesson plan database but it was too confusing for my poor brain. Now that I am learning in a simpler format, I think I can make the leap back to Access later on.


Mind map forms

As a teacher, I have several hard copies of mind map forms. Mostly they are used for graphic organizing of ideas through brainstorming or organizing pre-existing material for study. I'm a paper/pencil type although I do love computers. However, I am faster at doing spontaneous things manually. I think a google search would reveal lots of great format samples. I have had very good success at finding things by typing in "pdf" after an entry. For example, try putting "mind map pdf" into google (with or without the quotation marks) to see what turns up. I have found some extraordinary things this way. Adding pdf to a search reveals lots of pre-existing documents in a great printable layout without adds and all the gooble-dy-gook you usually get. I figure why reinvent the wheel?

Tip on adding "PDF" to search

Thanks for the tip. I'll have to give that a try.


You're welcome! There are some great links to GTD that way also!

Used with DevonTHINK

I'm in the process of setting up DevonTHINK as my main research tool (currently on the low end of the learning curve!) and in one of the video tutorials they show how to import a mindmap to DT and convert it to an outline-ish framework to start setting up folders. The mindmapper they're using is NovaMind.

I haven't used NovaMind, but the folks at Devon seem like a bunch of smartypants and they like it, so I thought I'd mention it again here.

Thanks for the interesting series, innowen!


uncanny timing


You've got uncanny timing. I am on the NovaMind site as we speak. Looking at the Screenwriter's version of their application. I'm wondering how that could be adapted for use in just writing normal novels (the potential to use mind maps for NaNoWriMo is too great) or stories. :)

The price also seems to be more reasonable than MindManager. So who knows, I may download a demo and give it a whirl.

Thanks for replying and adding your thoughts. And thanks to everyone else for adding your suggestions to this post! Mind Mapping definitely seems to be a big thing and there's more and more to see and uncover with tools daily. (As I'm learning).


Thank you

Thank you for giving bubbl.us a spin!

There are indeed many issues we have yet to address, and we appreciate any comments and especially criticism. There are always bugs and we're constantly working to improve.

We're excited to say that our goal in the next few months is to provide fully collaborative environment and allow real time, "chat room" style collaboration between groups of people.

Again, thanks for trying us out, we will always stay free on the web.




Thank you for creating this great piece of software. I spent the better part of today using it to collaboratively develop a presentation with our retail team.

& Innowen,

I was slow to adopt this method into my own planning. However, it took only an hour of tinkering to realize the benefit of this sort of visualization. Once the project was shared with other content creators, the value of the whiteboard tripled. Thank you for this great series of articles.


ex. potential retail workshop

Ryan, Wow... now THAT's one


Wow... now THAT's one awesome mind map (not to mention a great idea for a fun seminar *drool*). I'm glad you tried this version of visual planning and had fun with it. I'm amazed at all the ideas you came up with in an hour for that workshop.

I'm glad you enjoyed the series and found out how mind mapping can be useful to your company. I know that at my dayjob, we're getting into more and more 3x5 index card stories (agile programming) techniques and brainstorming for new products and features to apps.

As for me, I'm finding all sorts of fun things to use mapping for...


MyMind is where MyMoney is

I am a huge fan of MyMind and it's free. Actually, I can't think of many apps that could even replace it, simply because it has the ability to add images and it has that steller clean and simple Mac interface.


And also......

Forget to mention that it also has one other unique feature. You can add columns to your mind map.


While not *strictly* for mind mapping(tm), Tinderbox gets lots of leverage from the visual brainstorming and spatial hypertext tools that inspired orthodox MM while working with much larger webs of ideas.


One of the nice things about Tinderbox is that you can make documents quickly and yet also evolve them over time to be rich and smart -- for example, if you find yourself making lots of notes about Tasks, you can teach Tinderbox to paint urgent tasks bright red, or to automatically timestamp the date with you completed and filed a task.

If you like the excellent Straker book on Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes and have a tech bent, you might also enjoy my new book on The Tinderbox Way:


How could you not mention NovaMind?

I'm astounded that as a Mac person that you didn't mention NovaMind. It has been the top Mind Mapping application on Mac for the last 5 years, and it still (in my IMHO) the best one out there by far - and now they have an excellent Windows version too.

HeadCase Mind Mapping for Windows

HeadCase is another Microsoft Windows Mind Mapping tool. Capable of creating real mind maps rather than the spider-grams that some programmers of other tools pretend are mind maps. I've used HC occasionally; I'm a UNIX (Linux and Mac OS X) user so don't have regularly access to a WIndows machine. It would be the only reason for me buying a Windows box.

Check out the examples on the author's web site at http://www.loanedgenius.com/

[I've no connection with the product other than as a user.]

"The Brain" Mindmapper

I am surprised no one came across this one. It has been around a long time, and was probably one of the earliest ones released.


Very nice product with a variety of uses.

Check it out!


Mapping My Job


Browsing around the blogosphere today I ran across an idea: Mind-map your job.

Ran across another idea: If you want a job that makes you happy, you have to figure out what makes you happy, then incorporate that somehow into your job.

I remembered the idea that floated around here somewhere about mind-mapping your resume, which sounded cool too, just on general principles.

So I started to map out my job and rapidly became unhappy with my paper-and-pen because I ran out of space. So I went hunting for a bit of software to help me finish the idea I'd started.

I looked briefly at all the tools on innowen's list (the ones for windows anyway) and some others. I decided to download this one: CmapTools. It looked simple and reasonably un-ugly.

After fiddling around with it for an hour, I can say I really like the structure it imposes. It encourages me to think in nouns and verbs (though that's not the only way to do it and the tool isn't going to cry shame on you if you don't do it that way) and to simplify my level of detail to keep the picture from getting out of control. I do have a tendency to include too much sometimes. :)

I might just decide to use it to update my resume. It's been too long since I messed with my resume anyway. Can't get all complacent, no job lasts forever.

Anyway, the CmapTools software seems to run well on my Windows XP machine using the default options. I don't really have any fancy formatting desires, but it has more than I require, certainly.

Cool exercise--the idea of mapping my job gave me a chance to take a tool for a test drive with a practical application already to hand.


whistle while you work

Interesting you bring this up. I'm in the middle of reading a book called "Whistle While You Work" about finding meaning in your life from work. I'm only a couple chapters in, but it is a fairly short book. It comes at this from two angles: your current job and your ideal job.

The slogan they use to sum it up "If you can't get out of it, get into it!" If you feel stuck at your job, figure out what you really like about it and try to do more of that. Although if you really hate your job, start looking for one that does fit you.

The part I just finished reading has a list of 52 "Calling Cards" things you may feel called to do with your life. They recommend narrowing it down to the Top 5 and then try to figure out which one is most important and then find a career that matches up with it.

I'm in the awkward situation of liking working with computers and helping people but hating doing tech support. That rather narrows down the options, doesn't it? I also like constantly learning new things. As a web developer for a large university library, I'd say I'm almost where I should be. Just gotta find some way to get more of the "helping people" thing going on.

More on topic with the mind-mapping thing: I've been thinking of trying a mind-mapping application to map out the logical layout of our website. It is big enough every piece of software to generate site maps I've tried chokes on it, or tries to map every single file. We need more of a map of "chunks" of the site. Ideally I'd want to be able to share this map with co-workers and collaborate on building and updating it. Something like bubbl.us looks ideal, if it supports collaboration. I'll have to double check to see if it does.



Hey Owen. Really great job on speaking about mind mapping. It really helped me get some personal things in order. But I got to say that the link you posted in your article has about one of the most huge mind-mapping software collection.

Atlas of Experience

One might also consider taking a look at "Atlas of the World of Experience"

It's not in print anymore, but it's still available.

[linkified by ygor]