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Anyone with experiences on mindmap software? I've used Freemind and iMindmap for a while.

What are do you consider strong and weak points of the mindmap programs?

Freemind is as the name already suggests free but doens't look that good, in terms of look and feel. I think a mindmap program should look like you really want to use it and inspire you. A strong point is the format that Freemind uses to save the maps to. A lot of other mindmap tools support exporting to the Freemind format.

iMindmap is an awesome product but, when you want to use all the features is a quite expensive option. It has nice looking icons and a huge library of images. Also, iMindmap uses a lot of memory.

Up till know, the best option -to me- is just using paper. Only weak spot of using paper is that you have to carry it around.

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What do you mean by "FreeMind doesn't look that good"? The user interface or the resulting Mindmaps? You should describe more specifically which features you absolutely need or would like to use. –  Martin Oct 5 '11 at 10:15
I don't think this question is very well scoped at the moment. Are you asking for pros/cons of using mind map software? Or are you asking for an overview of the different available software. If it's the second one, then this is a good place to start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Chris Quenelle Oct 5 '11 at 15:52
I don't get why you don't like freemind. I like how you can enter things quickly onces you learn only 2-3 keyboard commands. –  0x6d64 May 6 '13 at 7:28

8 Answers 8

VUE is an interesting solution. It has a good mind mapping interface, but it can also be used to create presentations.

It isn't tree-based (no forced central point), which is sometimes nice. You can add images or hyperlinks or other things. It is more free-form, almost like a flow-charting program. You can do "Format -> Arrange -> (Circle, Tree, Ripple Out...) if it starts getting messy.

Check out example mind-maps here: http://vue.tufts.edu/gallery/index.cfm

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+1: VUE user here as well. Love this software. –  Penguin_Knight May 6 '13 at 13:23
Hello. Does VUE export projects to interactive standalone files so they can be opened without VUE? –  Boris_yo Jul 24 '14 at 11:08

You should try XMind - it has very powerful free version, it's in active development and has great UI.

XMind screenshot

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could you elaborate on the pros and cons of Xmind? –  Roel Nov 15 '11 at 13:58
Wow, Xmind is excellent! Very smooth and easy to use where Freemind is functional but clunky (eg you can't resize pictures in Freemind as far as I could tell) –  Matthew Lock Apr 4 '14 at 0:24
Hello. Does Xmind export projects to interactive standalone files so they can be opened without Xmind? –  Boris_yo Jul 24 '14 at 11:07

In one of my previous assignments, we looked at mindmap software specifically for integration into a larger application. We chose VYM (View Your Mind). It's not the most polished software, but it has a couple of really good points from a development point-of-view.

  1. It's GPL'ed, so you can do what you want with it within the GPL.
  2. It's based on Qt, which we were already heavily-invested in.
  3. This came after we made the decision--it was relatively easy to convert the software to run as a dynamic library rather than a stand-alone application.

Given all three reasons, we were able to tightly integrate our software with it, using Qt's signals-and-slots architecture.

So, if you're interested in programming and mindmaps, VYM is a great choice.

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I'm using FreePlane which is a fork of FreeMind with very powerful additional features and a very active developer community.

However, if you did not like the optical result of FreeMind, I'm not sure if it will be that much different.

Anyway, it should be worth a look!

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Shortcomings of most Mind Mapping Software

  1. lack of non-linear associations
    • Consider the issue of shared dll's swelling to inhabit massive amounts of space in the winsxs directory. Many copies of the same files eat up space but you need certain files in multiple directories. Thus we have symbolic links. Mind maps need such capacity. Currently they tend to rely on tags, labels, priority colors etc. Each of which miss the point of the visual representation of information to some degree. I would not want to be without tags etc but on their own they are curiously insufficient for filtering data in a map.
  2. unable to create weighted associations
    • The ability to assign value or importance to items in ways other than their hierarchical position is not a common trait of mind maps. Obviously you are able to style your paths and nodes in order to represent the strength or meaning of a connection but this has no backend value so to speak. I would love having behind the scenes properties applicable to elements in maps. One of which would certainly be weight.
  3. impossible to make multiple associations bidirectional
    • This is somewhat the same as #1. i will make two maps in two different programs in order to demonstrate. my gripe.

As an exo-brain repository 2d mind maps are insufficient

3d mind mapping software.

The Brain

3d TopicScape

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Can you explain why you think 2d mind maps are insufficient. As a standalone statement it doesn't provide much value. Also, can you explain your 3 points a little further. –  Rory Alsop May 6 '13 at 7:25
Why limit yourself to 3 directions? ;-) –  manuelhe Apr 4 '14 at 0:29

You should check out Mindomo.com. I don't quite understand the pricing at Imindmap, but it looks "old-ish", comparing to Mindomo.

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Can you elaborate on why you like this tool? –  Jeanne Boyarsky Oct 5 '11 at 23:14
Well, besides working with Mindomo, I love the interface. Really easy to use, intuitive creation and I didn't encounter any bugs while I was creating. –  Daniel Oct 6 '11 at 14:53
Thanks. In the future, try to put more pros/cons in the original answer. "I like a tool" isn't very objective. –  Jeanne Boyarsky Oct 7 '11 at 0:35
Thank you for the tip Jeanne :) –  Daniel Oct 10 '11 at 11:57
@daniel the pricing model won't hold me back if the software is good. Why is it more intuitive than, for example imindmap or any other mindmap software? –  Roel Nov 15 '11 at 14:02

The advantage with mind mapping over thins like to do lists is that it helps you brainstorm and come up with new ideas and notice associations. I find that when I start mind mapping it suddenly helps my creative juices start flowing.

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I find mind maps make excellent todo lists as tasks can be grouped, sub tasked, moved and deleted in a visual way and easily shows how different activities are linked together. I use iThoughts on the iPad (using Freemind .mm files sync'd through DropBox so I can also use a desktop application if I wish)

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I empty my head onto a mindmap and use it to compartmentalise my thoughts, leaving me usually with only a couple of actionable tasks and the stress of hanging onto the rest is gone as is it's jotted down else where. Paper mind maps achieve the destress feeling, but can be frustrating as you can't reorder and add parents to ideas / tasks in order to group them.

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