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Mind mapping with MindNode for the Mac

Vincent Danen recommends a couple of free mind-mapping applications, including MindMode, which is specifically for the Mac and also includes a premium version.

There has been great emphasis on enhanced productivity in the last few years, for business and personal means. Methodologies like Getting Things Done (GTD) have become very popular and a number of programs like OmniFocus and Things have been written to enhance productivity and make implementing the idea of GTD easy.

Another creative productivity mechanism that is becoming increasingly popular is called Mind Mapping. A mind map is a way to diagram thoughts -- words, tasks, and ideas in a linear way. Each mind map has a central idea or concept and then other ideas branch out from there, with subsequent branches from those ideas. It is a way to articulate thoughts and organize them into categories and by importance in a visual way that a traditional hierarchal TODO list cannot. It is also a fantastic way to brainstorm ideas.

While mind mapping has often been done on paper, with colors and line styles and pictures, software is available that can help create mind maps. One such tool is FreeMind, a java application that will run on the Mac, Linux, or Windows. It is open source and freely available.

Another tool written specifically for the Mac is MindNode that comes in three versions: the free and Pro version for OS X, and MindNode (touch) that works on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. MindNode Pro is fairly inexpensive ($25USD) and adds a number of neat features over the free version, but the free version is no slouch. It also interoperates with FreeMind and can export to the FreeMind format, as well as to PDF, graphic files such as PNG, to HTML, and more. So whether you want to share your mind map or move to another application, MindNode doesn't keep you locked in.

MindNode Pro gives you more ways to tweak and view your mind map, such as folding nodes, embedded hyperlinks, node reorganization, embedding files and images, and a full screen mode. It also enables Wi-Fi sharing with the MindNode (touch) program.

Because mind mapping is relatively simplistic, MindNode is a simplistic tool that doesn't offer a lot to get in the way or make it complex to use. When you open it, you're presented with a blank canvas and the main node. From there, you simply click and drag the "+" icon to create a new child node. Nodes can be dragged to be reorganized, and new child or sibling nodes are created by clicking the "+" icon next to the node you want a child from.

Each new child node from the main node will have a different color, which is customizable and changeable via the inspector. Each child node of that child will have lines of decreasing thickness, and you can customize the style of line as well (dotted, dashed, straight). You can also have more than one main node, so you can have multiple mind maps that may be somewhat related on the same canvas.

Screenshot courtesy of http://www.mindnode.com. Click to enlarge.

Mind mapping is a refreshingly different way to lay out ideas in a way that is easy to read and follow. It can make brainstorming easy, by logically following one idea to another, and can be used for any number of uses: planning a vacation, software development, charting personal or corporate goals, creating visual TODO lists, and more. MindNode itself is worth checking out, and if you want the added features that MindNode Pro provides, the cost is really quite reasonable. If you want to be able to use the same program on multiple platforms, FreeMind is a good choice as well.

About

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

5 comments
bob.roman
bob.roman

Vincent, Thank you so much for this information. I use xmind on my MAC for Mindmapping. Thank you for this information on Mindnote. I will tweet it out from tweeter to my mind mapping friends! Bob Roman http://twitter.com/BobRoman

Maarten
Maarten

Vincent, Thanks for the article. For sometime now I've been using FreeMind as my mindmapping tool of choice. I use mindmapping quite often to gather my thoughts for big projects, analyzing issues or the like. The main advantage of FreeMind is that it is available on multiple platforms, as I use a PC at work and a Mac at home. So it allows me to get my thoughts together on my private device while relaxing on the couch and then sending it to my work PC for use the next morning. Unfortunately it isn't available on the iPhone - perhaps I should make a recommendation on the iPhone forum ;-) Regards, Maarten.

JimKingston
JimKingston

Whilst broadly similar in principle, I have found concept mapping more flexible. For example, you don't need follow a hub and spoke model. The folk at The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition have some good tools to drive the process too. http://cmap.ihmc.us/

assistivetek
assistivetek

I have been using mind mapping software applications for years now, and find them to be indispensable for the work that I do brainstorming ideas, planning workshops, and for information management. I have been writing about these tools at my blog http://assistivetek.blogspot.com Regards Brian

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

I am an organization fanatic. I have downloaded and tried several freeware mind mapping applications. But like To Do List software, various Office Apps, and numerous text and HTML editors, I don't use them much to record my day-to-day thoughts, plans and inspirations. Plain old paper and pen are still closer to hand and easier to use. Those apps don't come into play until it is time to save my ideas in some sort of semi-formal way, or communicate ideas to others in learning or business environments. I like the idea of making a straight line between my mind and my computer. But so far, existing implementations of the idea fail with just too much mechanics in the way. Until the hardware/software computing system becomes as simple to use as pen and paper, I don't see giving up those as my first recourse for keeping informal notes.

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