I’ve reviewed a number of mindmapping software programs before, but I always stop using them because I can’t intuitively figure out how to use them with without some training. Then I discovered a free mindmapping software that changed all of that.
FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. For those unfamiliar with the term, a mind map is a diagram that shows the relationship of one part of an project or idea to its other components.
Even though it’s identified as “mind mapping” software, I’m finding is highly useful as a productivity/organizational tool. Essentially, it allows you to arrange things in a tree structure, and the visual/spatial layout helps me. I recently used it to plan an upcoming teleclass, and I now keep my weekly to do list on it, as well as a mindmap of my business. What I love about it is that I can “brain dump” all of my thoughts and ideas here. Because one of its key features is “folding,” I can quickly open and close nodes of parts of the map that I’m not using, which helps me increase my focus, yet those nodes are there for reference when I’m ready to tackle that task or project.
You can link to external web pages and to files and folders on your hard drive, link to other mindmaps you have created in the program, as well as mind map the contents of a folder on your computer. There are also encrypted nodes, and there are plugins for calendar features, and etcetera. You can have large nodes with lots of text, use HTML formatting in nodes, or export the whole thing as a web page or an image file.
It’s very easy to use and easy to add nodes and move things around and format them. It also keeps the mindmap formatting simple, but allows for detailed formatting with just a little more effort. This is a key aspect of the program for me, as I wanted to be able to finish my mindmap with basic preferences and formatting without having to constantly fiddle with the settings to make everything look the way I wanted it to. If I want to go back later and add more detailed formatting, I can easily do so. After a day or two of use, I felt pretty comfortable with most of the features. It comes with help documentation that is itself a mind map, which helps in exploring how you can do things.
FreeMind is free to download for both Windows and Mac computers, and there’s a lite version for use on iPhone and iPad.
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