The Search for Good & Free Mind Mapping Tools
Mind mapping our thoughts can play a critical role in shaping our personal or business success. For webmasters & bloggers, mind mapping our content structure or online marketing strategies is a useful method to provide top-level clarity and summary of what matters to us most. On this article, I’ll share mind mapping applications that I have reviewed personally. All of them are free, with a couple of them offering premium plans.
*Mind mapping applications that are on trial-basis, paid products, or running purely on paid plans will not be discussed on this post. Probably I’ll write on this separately in the future.
XMind is one of the most popular desktop software when it comes to mind mapping solutions. It’s packed with features and most of the functions can be done via drag and drop. What I liked about XMind are the templates that comes with it. Using the templates, you can quickly create organization charts, fishbone flow charts, to-do lists, and the standard mind maps.
On the free version, other than the standard mind mapping functionality, you can get to insert media/attachments, hyperlinks, images and notes. And if you need to further categorize or “decorate” your mindmaps, you can use emoticons, prioritize your tasks, indicate the tasks progression, date markers, and many more.
There are many formats that you can export as. However on the free version you are limited to only HTML, Image, or the standard Mind Map format – which is not too bad. If you require more features (including more export options) and have the budget, take a look at their Plus (US $79) and Pro (US $99) versions.
Available on: Windows, Mac & Linux
Coggle is a free web-app that allows you to create unlimited mind maps, and comes with features that are handy for most users. The mind mapping application guides you along by giving you hints when you create your diagram. For those who often work without an optical device (mouse), you will be pleased to know there are keyboard shortcuts that allows you to create your diagram quickly.
Other than the standard mind mapping functions, here’s what you can do on the free plan:
- bold and italics text in the bubble,
- insert links and images,
- download as PDF or image,
- insert hyperlinks,
- and what I like most – the ability to add in other users to collaborate on the mind map.
However, to be honest, Coggle may not be practical for everyone. The reason is because the diagrams that we created will be made public. If you are working on sensitive or confidential stuff, you need to sign up for Coggle plans to make these mindmaps private. If you have no concerns about sharing your mind maps in public, this web-browser tool is really awesome.
One of the features that stand out when I reviewed MindMeister was the ability to insert videos from the Web. The web-based application allows you to insert a video from YouTube, Vimeo, or Dailymotion. For a free plan, I am pretty impressed by this feature since this is not being offered in many products (even paid ones). The key functions that it provides are:
- setting boundaries for your bubbles
- styling your text
- creating relationships between bubbles
- using of images (limited to MindMeister’s library, or web image only)
- include hyperlinks
- collaborate with your team
Mindmaps can be exported as MindMeister format, PDF and image formats.
FreeMind is a free software written using Java, and works on almost all platforms. Installing the software is easy since installers are created for Windows, Linux and Macintosh OS X. To download, visit the link at sourceforge here. Then look for your OS type, and click on the link to initiate the download.
The application is a very strong contender even if you pit it against a paid product. In terms of interface, it may not be that polished compared to other alternatives. BUT when it comes to functionality and functions WOW!
Key features include:
- adding images,
- inserting hyperlinks,
- make your node blink (yes, that’s right),
- many formatting and styling options,
- encrypting your mindmaps,
- and if your mind map gets too big or wordy, you can search using keywords.
For export options, you get to choose from image, PDF, HTML, Java Applet, Flash, and many more.
The first impression that I had when launching MindMaple was it’s interface resemblance to Microsoft office. So if you are a frequent user of Microsoft products, probably learning how to use the application won’t take you too long. What I liked about the desktop application is the ease when it comes to integrating task details & documents to a particular node. Users who are using the software for projects purposes benefits as it gives them clarity on what needs to be done at every stage of the project
Key functions include:
- task scheduling (indicate the degree of completion with markers)
- wide range of formating and styling options
- insert hyperlinks
- attaching images
- set tasks (start & due dates, priority, duration, etc)
- creating boundaries
- relationships between nodes
On the free plan, the application offers several formats to export (e.g. image, Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, HTML & text). As a side note, PDF is only available on the PRO version.
MindMaple is available on Windows, Mac and iOS.
The web-based mind mapping tool is available in both free and paid versions. To stay relevant to this post, here’s what you can do with the free version:
- Create up to 3 mind maps.
- Export as image or HTML only.
- Email support available.
- Sharing of mind maps.
Creating a mind map is pretty straightforward. Just place the cursor over the bubble, and there will be a small tooltip providing you the options to create a sibling or child branch, change the color of the bubble, increase/decrease size of text, or to delete the bubble. As a free tool, bubbl.us is limited in it’s features. However it may appeal to users whose intention is only to create basic mind maps that can be share easily to the intended audience.
Mind mapping is a activity that can boost our productivity and helps us to achieve our goals with clarity. Here are more suggestions on how you can extend the use to:
- Business activities (e.g. presentation, discussions & project planning).
- Education purposes (note taking & projects).
- Personal use (e.g. travel plans, schedules & finances).
There is probably no such thing as the best mind mapping tool. It really depends on your needs. For example, if you are not able to get connected to the Internet regularly, then a web-based mind mapping tool is not going to be practical. However if you are working on different PCs or platforms most of the time, a web-app tool may be your best choice. Other factors for consideration includes the price, functionality, ease of easy, export options/formats, etc.
In your case, which is your most preferred mind mapping solution?
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