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To Think About . . .
Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself. Tom Wilson
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Although I’m conscious of the limitations of Mind Maps, I’ve always kept a mind mapping program on my computer as a way of keeping a record of my developing thoughts on any subject which I want to think about over a long period of time. All three of my books started life in this way.

The program I’ve used up to now has been FreeMind, which contains all the basic functionality and has the great advantage of being a free program.

Lately though I’ve been trying out MindManager, which has a lot more bells and whistles but has the disadvantage of being quite expensive. I’m still undecided whether to buy the program, but I must say I do like a lot of its features and find it overall easier to use than FreeMind - at least once I got past the initial steep learning curve.

There’s one feature I particularly like and that is the Brainstorming function. This is brilliant for carrying out timed thinking sessions of the type I wrote about in my article Hard Thinking and elsewhere. They even include the timer!

The great advantage of doing this sort of session on a mind mapping program is that, when you’ve finished writing down your thoughts in random order, you can then order them, group them, prioritise them, edit them and extract tasks from them easily.

Reader Comments (15)

I like mindmapping, but never got on well with Freemind - I prefer more colours and pictures. You might like to try NovaMind and iMindMap. I like both but have currently settled on iMindMap as they have an upgrade offer on at the moment and prefer the look of the maps. They both have free trials.
July 28, 2008 at 11:05 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Cooke
For some reason I have never been able to gain much from Mind Maps. Instead I prefer bubble maps. GoalEnforcer is a type of bubble map application, but it also combines the multi-level aspects of a Mind Map. For some reason it seems to fit my style of thinking better than a Mind Map. It also include a Brainstorm function, can export/import to Freemind and Outlook. To me it seems more Goal/Project orientated than a Mind Map.

Here is the link
July 28, 2008 at 11:47 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Wynn

Thanks for the references. I'll have a look at them. Though I don't think I want to trial more than one application at a time!
July 28, 2008 at 12:22 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Steve

I am familiar with Goal Enforcer, but I've never been able to get on with it. I think that shows how very individual different people's responses are to these types of programs.

I think Mind Manager is flexible enough to be able to reproduce most of Goal Enforcer's functionality.
July 28, 2008 at 12:26 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I'd second the vote for as I like the look of the maps, the ease of use, the speed of development, the support and the fact that it runs on both Mac and Windows as fully native applications.
July 28, 2008 at 17:03 | Unregistered CommenterAndreas
Greetings from Mindjet,

Hi Marc. We saw your post and just wanted to check in from the Customer Advocacy department to see if you have any questions or needs we can support. We regularly work with bloggers to provide them with access to user groups, trainings, resources and special webinar invitations. Let us know and best of luck with your explorations.

Gaelen and Melinda
July 29, 2008 at 17:32 | Unregistered CommenterGaelen and Melinda
Thanks for a great site. I can't wait till your book becomes available again in the US so that I can order it.

I was intrigued by what you wrote about mind maps. I have been doing them by hand for years. I find them a useful way to organize material for public speaking.

A few years ago I tested MindManager, but decided against it. I used FreeMind for a few weeks, and again, stayed with my handwritten mind maps.

A year ago, I came upon the free software called Compendium.

I liked it a lot and used it steadily.

In the last month, I discovered something I like even more, called Cmap (also free).

What both Compendium and Cmap do, and what convinced me of their superiority to MindManager and FreeMind, was allow me to put labels on the lines that connect the keywords or nodes. I found that with this small addition, the maps that I could produce were much more able to represent accurately complex notions and, accordingly, much more useful.

And, lately, I have found that despite Compendium being an extraordinary tool, Cmap has even greater power to represent information in a way that can be apprehended intuitively.

As Marc has stated, these are useful tools for getting stuff down for writing projects. And of course, they are also useful for planning just about anything.

I like my tools to fade invisibly into the background. I don't want to spend a lot of time looking constantly for something that is newer, better, and shinier. But Cmap does not take to long to learn. You can get the basics in a couple of minutes. It's really worth playing with for 30 minutes.
July 31, 2008 at 1:27 | Unregistered Commentermoises
Hi, Moises

Thanks for the recommendations. I'll certainly look up Cmap which I haven't heard of before.

It's not quite correct to say that in MindManager you can't put labels on the lines that connect the keywords and nodes. You can't put labels on the actual structural lines of the mindmap, but you can insert what they call "relationship" lines between any two topics, wherever they are in the map. These relationship lines can have labels ("callouts") which will move with the lines. The callouts are basically topics themselves and can have all the annotations that an ordinary topic would have (including subtopics).

So for instance you could link two topics with a line labelled "Process" and have a note attached to the Process label which you could click to tell you what the process was.

Since topics can be "unconnected" you can have a completely free-form map, in which all the topics are linked with relationship lines only. I've just made one and it's no more difficult to do than the normal connected up Mind Map.
July 31, 2008 at 10:46 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Since I wrote the above I've had a look at some of the examples on the Cmap site

I don't think there's anything which couldn't be easily replicated in MindManager, including the ability to allow others to share and review.

Of course Cmap does have the considerable advantage of being free!
July 31, 2008 at 11:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks for enlightening me about MindManager. Sorry I mischaracterized it. It's been a few years since I looked at MindManager. Back then my perspective was heavily influenced by Tony Buzan, so I probably wasn't interested in the callouts on the relationship lines.

I know that MindManager is a powerful application that is widely used throughout the world. I am sure that you can't go wrong with it.
August 1, 2008 at 0:24 | Unregistered Commentermoises
Sometimes you want no lines. No lines is an option in MindManager or you can make the lines the same colour as the background,
September 13, 2008 at 20:59 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Wilcox
Thanks, Andrew.

Yes, MindManager is very flexible in this regard. You can in fact produce almost any effect you want one way or another.
September 14, 2008 at 14:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
It looks like I need to take another stab at MindManager. Thanks all for taking the time to correct me.

The DIT book finally arrived, more than a month after I ordered it. I am still in the middle of reading it. Yesterday was my first day trying a closed list and I am still using one today. As the man who leaped (that would be "leapt," for Mark) from the 100-story office tower said to himself as he passed the 98th floor, "So far, so good."
September 16, 2008 at 18:56 | Unregistered Commentermoises
Are you still using FreeMind or have moved to MindManager, Mark?

I've just found Thinking Space for Android on mobiles, that works well with FreeMind and MindManager on desktop synced via Dropbox.

June 12, 2011 at 12:18 | Registered Commentersabre23t

I'm not at present using any mind-mapping program and don't even have one on my current computer. I'm using Evernote for most of the things I used to use FreeMind and MindManager for.
June 12, 2011 at 13:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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