There are advantages of doing mind-maps on the computer instead of using whiteboards or pencil and paper. It’s easier to keep structured, you never run out of room and it’s possible to link images and other objects.
While there are loads of proprietary software out there just for mind-mapping (MindManager, SmartDraw to name a few) there are few open-source or free alternatives. FreeMind is perhaps the most well known alternative.
The software is written in JAVA, which means excellent portability across platforms. FreeMind runs in any Java environment but most notable Windows, Linux and MAC OS. FreeMind is released under the GNU Public License (GPL).
My first experience with FreeMind was very confusing, the program interface actually resembles a 90s version of Micrografx Graph (those were the days). After a couple of minutes the interface feels less awkward and three days later it almost feels like a part of you.
Click the yellow light-bulb to add sub-topics to your main subject, FreeMind dubs it ”Child Note”.To change the text of something just click it and write. Out to the left there are a bunch of icons that can be used in connection with each note. For example if you want to set priorities use the stylish 1-5 icons. However I don’t get why there is a Linux penguin but not a plus-sign in there.
In FreeMind you can also create links to other objects (websites, files you name it) and insert pictures. A more powerful feature is the planning tools that aren’t directly visible, such as the calendar where you can set reminders. FreeMind can generate a schedule of all the events and reminders, which actually makes it possible to create plans directly from a mind-map.
FreeMind has a pretty active community behind it supporting the software and adding plug-ins. For example it’s possible to download a plug-in that connects FreeMind to MS Project, any project manager’s dream. There are also plug-ins that interacts with content management systems, such as Drupal or MediaWiki.
The program also has excellent export features; you can export as PDF (not even Microsoft Visio 2007 has that functionality built-in), PNG, SVG among other formats. It’s even possible to create HTML mind-maps, which makes FreeMind a great tool for web or Intranet use.
At first glance FreeMind doesn’t look like much, but it really has great functionality and features in there. The graphics are a bit dated, but it doesn’t matter because FreeMind is good at what it was originally designed to do.