Mind mapping makes a great start to any major project or task. You can do it by yourself or with friends.
Run brainstorming sessions and enter the ideas straight into a mind map. Walt Disney designed and built Disneyland in record time by starting with a mind map on paper. You can make the process quicker by typing direct into a computer based map.
The map file can be sent to other groups for comments and additions. If you use a free open source mind mapping application, everyone in your organisation and all associated organisations can look at your map and contribute direct to your map.
Walk Disney used a mind mapping approach to design Disneyland in the 1950s. Disneyland was designed and built in record time. Walt Disney also used storyboarding, a linear approach from the movie industry, to fill out details.
Tony Buzan registered Mind Maps and similar terms in America in the 1970s, sells consulting, lots of books, the iMindMap application, and is sometimes credited with inventing mind mapping. He certainly promoted the approach and probably invented the idea.
Concept mapping and other terms are used in USA because of the registering of the mind map term. Some of the other terms also cover specific approaches used in some professions. There are lots of useful brainstorming and work-shopping approaches that may include the production of a map style document plus lots of approaches where the ideas are recorded in completely different ways.
Post-it notes were launched worldwide in the 1980s and produced mind mapping approaches there were previously done by pinning notes to boards. Post-it notes made the technique possible in locations situations where you cannot stick pins in the wall.
Almost all the paper based approaches are quicker to generate ideas if everyone is in the same room. The electronic approaches let you create a shared map during a teleconference.
Open source mind mapping applications
FreeMind was the best choice two years ago. Now there are a few other good products to look at. FreeMind is written in Java which lets you run FreeMind on almost any operating system but, being Java, there will be things that are wrong or inconsistent across each computer. Java is horrible at processing images and at printing, things that should not create problems because you can save maps as images for display on your Web site.
FreeMind saves mind maps in an XML format and other open source applications read the FreeMind format files. You can export to OpenOffice, as HTML, and in other formats. FreeMind is the best place to start experimenting with software generated mind maps.
You will find the maps are not well balanced then, somewhere, you will find the attributes and settings that create a better balance in large maps. Practice producing a large map before you need it because it takes a while to find all the nice features to record and present the information in the best possible way. You do not want to interrupt a brainstorming session to look up the documentation.
FreePlane is a nice looking variation on FreeMind. In 2009 a FreeMind developer split from FreeMind and produced FreePlane as an alternative development of FreeMind. Try FreeMind and FreePlane side by side then add a comment to this page. (Remember to register to make comments.)
GanttProject is a tool you would use when your brainstorming session has to end up as a Gantt chart. You brainstorm items straight into a chart then work out timing and dependencies later. I prefer to brainstorm onto a mind map then add time consuming items to a Gantt chart later because a lot of the items in your mind map will not translate to time related action items.
Pimki is a Web based personal information manager that can output to charts. If you prefer To Do lists to mind maps then Pimki could be your choice. Unfortunately Pimki requires Ruby instead of PHP and your existing Web site most likely uses PHP.
SciPlore MindMapping is FreeMind plus references. Researchers who want to brainstorm then add lots of specific references might prefer SciPlore MindMapping to FreeMind.
VUE looks great in the examples with each node of a mind map showing images. From what i see of it in use, it just does not have the features of FreeMind that help you brainstorm.
VYM (View Your mind) has one real advantage. The home page for VYM is an export of a map created in VYM. You see exactly what a VYM map looks like as HTML. VYM is still behind some of the other applications when you want to export to something other than HTML.
WikkaWiki is a wiki with support for mind maps. You can link to FreeMind maps or copy and paste from FreeMind into the wiki pages. The developers plan to add a facility to capture data in the wiki and feed it out to mind maps. You could use a brainstorming session to create a map of a topic then enter information about the topic in wiki pages and link from the wiki pages to the map then use the map as an index of the topic or as a checklist for the items you need to cover.
XMind is compatible with FreeMind and has a commercial upgrade named XMind Pro. XMind Pro has some really nice presentation features. You could have teams brainstorming in FreeMind and have one XMind Pro to make the results pretty.
The only advantage of proprietary mind mapping programs is integration with Microsoft Office.
iMindMap is endorsed by Tony buzan at www.thinkbuzan.com. The basic product appears to make prettier maps than some other products. One endorsement displayed at www.thinkbuzan.com says the maps look better because they look
organic. iMindMap is available in lots of packages with other software and books.
Mind Mapper is a popular professional example used by people with Microsoft Office. Years ago Mind Mapper was ahead of all the open source applications in the area of organising charts for readability. Recently I used one of the open source applications and was able to produce screen displays exactly how I wanted them. The open source application fell behind when I tried to print a chart.
XMind Pro has some really nice presentation features and costs US$49 per year. Your company could use FreeMind or XMind for brainstoming then use one copy of XMind Pro to make presentations look professional and pretty before presenting to a prospective customer or a board.
Try one of the free open source mind mapping programs today.