mind mapping

What is this about?

This is the first in a two part series on Mind Mapping.

1. Mind Mapping tools Part 1: Overview of available tools

2. Mind Mapping tools Part 2: Closer look at XMind.


What is Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a way of organising your thoughts by drawing connections between them. It started on paper but today, there are countless tools for creating mind maps on pretty much any computer platform.

Here’s an overview of this post in a mind map.


Why Mind Mapping

why mind map

You may have noticed that I often use Mind Maps to accompany my Tech Thursdays. Mind Maps have been used to help people with dyslexia because:

  • They are a different way of organising thoughts
  • They also use fewer words
  • Drawing connections and placing words in space also makes it easier to remember
  • Some people can see connections between thoughts better than reading long texts
  • Making mind maps can engage multiple senses including vision and touch


Uses of Mind Mapping

use mind mapping

Mind Maps can be used for a lot of reasons. I’ve used mind maps to outline many of these Tech Thursday articles. They can be used for many useful purposes.

  • Taking notes during meetings or while studying
  • Outline texts such as essays or even whole books
  • Plan projects and activities
  • Brainstorm ideas individually or in a group
  • Share plans and ideas with others


Typical features of Mind Mapping software

mind mapping software

Mind Mapping is great when drawing by hand. But Mind Mapping software has many features that can make it even more powerful. This is what you should expect to look for in good Mind Mapping software.

  • Draw mind maps quickly and easily – most quickly using keyboard shortcuts – like TAB, ENTER and Arrow Keys
  • Attach pictures and icons to different parts of your mind maps
  • Colour different parts of your mind maps in different ways
  • Export the mind map into different formats including PDF, PowerPoint and Microsoft Word. Some of these are only in available in premium versions.
  • Make presentations instead of using a PowerPoint
  • Integrate your mind maps with other software such as calendars
  • Share your mind maps or collaborate on mind maps (this is typically only available with online services)


Free Mind Mapping Tools

free tools

You can get started with Mind Mapping now for free. All the essential features you look for in a mind map are available in free software.

  • XMind (my preferred application) is a full and user friendly mind mapping application. It is completely free but you can pay some money for extra features.
  • FreeMind is the standard among free and Open Source mind mapping software. It is light weight but with few graphical features; also works on MacOS and Linux.
  • FreePlane is similar to FreeMind but has more graphical options.


Online Mind Mapping tools

online tools

Online mapping tools have several great advantages:

  • Make it easy to share mind maps – for example by embedding them in pages like YouTube.
  • Let multiple people to collaborate on a single mind map at once.
  • Don’t require a download.

There are many online tools that focus on mind mapping. They all have a free option but most will ask you to pay if you use them regularly. Here is just a short list of those I’ve looked at.

  • Coggle.it offers unlimited mind maps for free. A paid plan for organisations adds collaboration features.
  • MindMeister is the most popular but only offers 3 mind maps for free.
  • Bubbl.us is popular in education but also only has 3 free mind maps with limited features.
  • Mindomo is focused on education and universities. It seems more expensive than others but offers 3 free maps.


Commercial Mind Mapping Software

commercial software

There are many commercial applications you can choose from. Some of them are quite affordable while others only make sense in the business environment costing even several hundred pounds. The most common features not found in free software are export formats, project planning and integration.

  • XMind Plus/Pro are paid versions of the free XMind with additional export and integration features.
  • Inspiration (Kidspiration) Popular in UK schools, including children’s version.
  • iMindMap Developed by the early populariser of Mind Mapping. Popular with some of my colleagues.
  • MindGenius Focused on business features with higher pricing.
  • MindView Focused on business features with higher pricing.
  • MindJet Focused on business features with higher pricing.


Mind Mapping Apps for Phones and Tablets

mind mapping apps


Tablets seem like the perfect medium for creating mind maps because of their touch facility. I’ve tried several apps but never found them very useful because it takes so long to enter text. But others may have different experiences. Here are some options.


Next time

Next time we will look in detail at XMind. The Mind Mapping tool I use all the time. It will change your life!

Your questions

Do you have a question you’d like to see answered here? Ask it here!

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Word version of this document: 


Note: Watch this video before you download and install any free software.

Dominik Lukes - Education and Technology Specialist