MindMeister updates include Cross-Connections

Sample map created with MindMeister plus interface
Image via Wikipedia

I’m a big fan of mind mapping.  For years I used MindJet’s MindManager application, but I’ve since migrated to the cloud based MindMeisterMindMeister is not as robust as MindManager, but it allows for collaborative brainstorming without client-side software.  Over the last year or so, MindMeister has grown in capabilities, including offline mind mapping (through Google Gears), but lacked one critical element of useful mind mapping, cross connections.  The latest release now incorporates that critical function, in addition to other features:

MindMeister News – Mind Mapping on Steroids

Graphical cross-connections

You can now add graphical cross-connection between your ideas in your mind maps, which will be displayed as green arrows. This feature is still beta, so please be kind. We’ll add more functionality here in future, such as control points and formatting.

MindManager is still more robust than MindMeister, but the later is quickly catching up. Mindjet has also begun to offer an online solution, but I haven’t had the time to review it. Quite frankly, MindMeister does the job for me.

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Mindomo: Yet another online Mind Mapping tool (from Europe)

I’m not sure what it is with the Europeans, but they seem to be obsessed with Mind Mapping. I just wrote about MindMeister, an excellent online mind mapping tool that is in private beta at the moment (I’ve still got invites available if you’re interested). Along comes Mindomo to up the ante. Thanks to Nick Duffill, a principal at Gyronix – Mind Mapping and Productivity Consultants – to pointing this one out on his blog.

As Nick points out, this online application is simply stunning for it’s ‘desktop like’ interaction and flexibility. You have the ability to assign task information (due date, start date, task assignment, etc.), associated graphics (both default graphics, and importable ones), and change the layout of the map, just like MindManager.

Similar to nearly all online applications today, Mindomo’s abilities from a collaboration level also shine. Nick’s gone as far as to explain the Wiki-like qualities that collaboration may enable with Mindomo.

Mindomo can import MindManager files just like MindMeister, but just like MindMeister, some formatting features are lost. I’ve just started to play around with Mindomo, but can already tell that this is one heck of an online application.

There is a standard ‘free’ edition, and three other options. This one is definitely worth checking out.

MindMeister takes mind mapping online

Just a couple of days ago I wrote about a new online brainstorming tool called bubbl.us. That application seemed a little too simple and off the standard mind mapping approach to be of much use to many. A commenter left a note about an online mind mapping application that was closer to traditional tools, known as MindMeister. I signed up for access to the private beta, and was approved within a few minutes. The online tool is still in that private beta stage, but I can tell you that it looks spot on when compared to traditional mind mapping tools.

Mind maps generated inside MindMeister are easy to setup and manage. Maneuvering inside MindMeister is similar to FreeMind and MindManager, although keyboard shortcuts aren’t as intuitive (or similar) to either offline application. Dragging nodes around is identical to offline applications. In fact, it’s easy to forget that MindMeister is an online application. There is version control, allowing you to revert back in a fairly granular fashion.

Like nearly all online applications today, one of the core features of MindMeister is to enable collaboration on maps. A map can be shared in a true collaborative environment or as view only. Another powerful feature of MindMeister is the ability to import FreeMind or MindManager files. This feature alone makes MindMeister incredibly useful. In the private beta, text formating, icons, and fancy layouts of maps are lost during the import process, but all text nodes are retained. Exporting, at the moment, is not as evolved as the application only lets you export as a graphic file or as a bulleted text file in RTF format.

MindMeister is in early stage beta, so I’m sure there will be many improvements along the way. The developers are looking to offer a standard and premium version of the tool at some point, as the ‘my account’ page indicates. Most of the premium features of MindMesiter are available in this beta phase. Overall I’ve been very impressed with the way it handles and feels, and can’t wait to see this application evolve into a full blown mind mapping tool.

Mindmapping with FreeMind

I love the concept of mindmapping. I’ve used Mindjet’s MindManager for several years now, and have found it useful for a wide array of situations. MindManager has become a core part of my collaborative presentation technique when I work with prospects, colleagues, and customers. I’ve also used MindManager extensively on my TabletPC in Ink mode where it serves as a superb note taking platform. Mindjet’s tight integration to Microsoft’s inking Framework is second to none. That integration extends deep into the entire Microsoft Office Suite making MindManager a compelling solution in the business world, albeit a very expensive one.

When I first starting looking at mindmapping as a way to visualize concepts, I had stumbled upon a free alternative on SourceForge called FreeMind. It was nice at the time, however it lacked the ease of use and grace of Mindjet’s solution. FreeMind is developed in Java, essentially making it platform agnostic. That early version of FreeMind reflected this generic pedigree, lacking many of the features that I’ve come to expect in a real office application. I followed FreeMind’s development for a while, but eventually lost interest, choosing the easier to use MindManager. Recently, however, I ventured back to FreeMind and was pleasantly surprised on how much it had evolved from that early stage product.

Clean and effective

The new FreeMind, currently at beta 0.9.0 beta 8, is a wonderfully built application that has evolved substantially, and should be considered a real, viable alternative for mindmapping. I’ve started to use FreeMind for personal mindmaps, while sticking to MindManager for work related purposes. What I’ve found is that the core concept of mindmapping feels, and works, nearly identically in both applications. MindManager’s integrations into Microsoft Office certainly make it more powerful, but I’m using those integrations less and less, as I move toward an Office 2.0 approach to working. There is one other, huge, positive that FreeMind offers which MindManager simply cannot deliver., that is portability.

Mindmapping on a stick

FreeMind is light enough to fit onto a USB Flash Drive, so I can literally take FreeMind and my mindmaps with me anywhere I go. While this isn’t truly an Office 2.0 solution, it is certainly more portable than a single license instance of MindManager. Portability is becoming increasingly important for me, as I begin to rely less and less on a single computer to be productive.

My use of FreeMind will continue to increase, I believe this year, as I begin to diverge from platform dependency, but more importantly, return to a simplified approach to generating mindmaps. I’m finding the lack of bells and whistles to be a strength of FreeMind, since I can focus on the visual outcome of a map and not how to intertwine it into all sorts of external files. If you are looking for a solid mindmapping tool, you should really consider FreeMind.