Put down what is in the mind with Mind Maps

Are you a content creator? Are you a designer, architect or a hobbyist who generally scribbles down ideas? Have you ever felt you get a sudden concept in your mind, and ponder over it and later only to be totally forgotten? You are not alone, there are many out there with you trying to recollect our own throughts at a later point of time.

It has been said for years that pencil and paper are the best friends of engineers, scientists and authors. While I completely agree to pencil and paper as the first responders and often most helpful, there are multiple tools currently available as replacements. And with the advent of ever growing technology and seamless integration between multiple devices, these are growing popular day by day. And perhaps the most usable out of those - a mind map.

Mind maps are nothing really software. It is an age old practice of systematically capturing thoughts by scribbling the concepts over a plain paper as nodes and drawing connectors and links between them. Any scribble can be a valid mind map, provided it conveys a concept or an idea to atleast the one who has scribbled it. However, with the advent of software systems, mind maps are getting more and more standardized and with all the features at hand, much more usable. Lets see a few frequently used mind map tools:
  1. Xmind- Xmind is perhaps the most popular brainstorming and mind mapping application. It provides a rich set of features for easily capturing, styling and sharing mind maps. It is also free and open source, with a paid subscription available for Pro features. Xmind is an eclipse application built around the legenedary IDE Eclipse.
    However, recent rumours suggest XMind going completely subscription based and discontiuing the free version. However, the official repository for Xmind 8, their latest free version is still active and can be accessed here.
  2. Freemind- Freemind is another very popular mind mapping tool. It is a Java application and feature rich. Although the looks are slightly sluggish, that is completely compesated by the functional feature set Freemind has to offer.
  3. Freeplane- Freeplane is another popular and powerful tool for capturing mind maps and a redesigned version of Freemind. Again a Java based application, Freeplane is known for its portable nature.
Out of the tools specified, the one I generally use is XMind. It’s easy to use features and being free makes it my favorite. XMind currently provides seamless integration across devices through a wide variety of means. It allows direct storage and fetching from iCloud on apple devices and that makes it handy for me to start something on my iPhone on the go and then imrpove on that later from the Mac. Xmind also supports native support for Mac finder preview which enables a sneek peek into the map without even opening XMind, and even printing or sharing it right away. It also supports integration with Evernote in case where the map has to be synced across my other accounts as well.

In XMind, a basic central node is called a Center Topic. A center topic could have multiple sub topics circling around it. Each sub topic can again act as a parent for further sub topics. Apart from these structurally organized topics, XMind also supports floating topics, which may not fall under the direct hierarchy of the center topic. The hierarchical relationship between the non-floating topics are automatically captured through edges. Additional mappings or mappings from/to floating topics can be captured through additional relationships. Also, boundaries can be defined to include one or more topics of the same level (hierarchy) to represent a commonality. XMind also supports a host of additional markups like comments, notes, attachments and summaries.

XMind offers a wide variety of customizations as well. By default, it supports multiple pre-defined color schemes, named Themes. Apart from the pre-defined themes, one can change almost all visual aspects of all the elements by separately customizing the styles.

These mind maps have tremendously helped me organize my thoughts. When it comes to big or sometimes huge concepts, it often helped me bring further clarity for myself, by later finding and establishing relationships between the topics which was otherwise unforseen. Clearly, mind maps were a late found perfect maid for me, which now is almost hard to live without. Be sure to try mind maps of your choice and let me know if this article has helped.