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Online Mindmapping Tools

by on June 7, 2012

I simply love mindmapping. Free your mind is my motto when creating my mindmaps. To free my mind, mindmapping tools need to be fast, allow easy modification and I must have a good way to persist the mindmap for example by an export function.

The first tool I used many years was FreeMind – which perfectly fits my motto. It’s a Java based programming with a very intuitive user interface which means to me especially that it is easy to create, edit and navigate through the map using just the keyboard. And, well, it’s free.

Two paid installed programs I used in the past where The Brain and Mindjet Mindmanager. The first one has a very interesting approach of hiding nodes which are far away from the node in your focus. The second one already passed some of my stress tests by creating more than 500 nodes in a short time with several linking etc.

But nowadays I am a fan of online tools. Zero installation, available everywhere and automatically updated to possibly new features.

Today I will go to do a quick evaluation of some available online tools for mindmapping. My starting point are two good overviews of tools:

Mindmeister

Let’s start with Mindmeister. Actually it is my favorite online tool up to now for mindmapping. I actually only started this research as the limitation for free usage is rather high. Some keywords:

  • Free Usage limited to three mindmaps.
  • Paid packages start at 4.99 EUR/Month (6.22 USD/Month)
  • Extremely easy to start dropping in your thoughts.
  • Easy reordering of nodes via drag & drop.
  • Automatic layout is great.
  • Sufficient styling options – also via icons at nodes.
  • Many export options like FreeMind, PDF, Image, …
  • Easy login/registration through OpenID.
  • Collaboration and Sharing possible.

SpiderScribe

From one of the mindmapping lists SpiderScribe sounds promising to me. So let’s have a look:

  • Free Usage with unlimited maps… but they need to be public.
  • Free Usage allows 3 private maps.
  • Paid packages start at 4,01 EUR/Month (5.00 USD/Month)
  • Not possible to use without a mouse.
  • Layout of nodes needs to be done manually.
  • Collaboration and Sharing possible.

Actually for me it’s too slow as I don’t have the time to do the layout manually. So skipping further evaluation.

Spicynodes

Next on the list is Spicynodes.

  • Free with unlimited maps. No collaboration, restricted styling options.
  • Paid packages start at 19.24 EUR/Month (24.00 USD/Month)
  • Hide/show nodes which resembles The Brain.
  • Editing as tree.

Here I stop already. For some it might be great that you can only edit a tree. And perhaps it’s an advantage that like some Wiki Markup you can just enter your map as plain text – but it does not help me just to dump my brain into a map. Actually, the resulting maps are really nice to browse. So if you have your map and want to make it look nice – this tool might be an option.

Bubbl.us

A typical Web 2.0 name: Bubbl.us. Nice just from the start: You can try it even without signing in.

  • Bad keyboard interactions – if I press Enter it should end my thought – but here it just starts a new line.
  • Automatic layout easily leads to nodes covering other nodes.
  • Export only as image.

Automatic layout fail and keyboard interactions fail. This is where I stop.

Wisemapping

Next on the list is Wisemapping.

  • Demo without the need to log in.
  • Easy to edit and navigate.
  • But: Auto-Layout soon leads to nodes covering other nodes.

So, sorry, that’s a fail. If I mindmap I don’t want to take care on layout.

Mind42.com

Well, for developers like me Mind42.com already gets one plus for the introduction – if you know what’s the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything you’ll know what I mean.

  • Completely free.
  • Sign in requires own account. No OpenID support.
  • Bad: I managed to create a password which made the user sign up fail. I only say: Escape Failure!
  • Editing via keyboard feels ok. Although I don’t like using Tab and Shift+Tab for node creation. (Tab = Child Node, Shift+Tab = Sibling Node).
  • Undo possible with Ctrl+Z.
  • Auto-Layout is sufficient.
  • Collaboration and Sharing possible.
  • Export options like PDF, Images, FreeMind, Mindjet Mindmanager.
  • Easy reordering of nodes with drag & drop. It even feels a little better than Mindmeister.
  • Look & Feel: Well, could be better.

Conclusion

During this short evaluation three candidates caught my eye:

  • Mindmeister – for me the best in terms of usability and features. But for a price…
  • Mind42.com – as it is completely free, it’s really a good alternative to Mindmeister. The UI and the resulting map don’t look that nice though.
  • Spicynodes – if you want to have an easy map you can easily browse and which actually also looks nice for complex topics this might be a good choice. But bad for fast mindmapping.

But what about my next mindmap I will draw? I think I will stick to Mindmeister for now dropping old maps again and again – and again and again evaluating if I should purchase a license.

Do you have other alternatives which I should evaluate?

From → Tips & Tricks

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