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Author Topic: Mind mapping software  (Read 1765 times)
Vurbal
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« on: December 28, 2013, 02:39:05 PM »

For the last several months I've been experimenting with mind mapping software to organize my thoughts. If you're not familiar with mind mapping, it's essentially a philosophy of organizing ideas in a (theoretically) more organic way. Where traditional ways of organizing information are essentially still based on a flat file (technically flat piece of paper) model, mind mapping is a lot like a relational database approach. You have individual ideas, simple or complex (1 to 1, 1 to many, many to many) relationships between them, and the maps themselves which are visual representations of both ideas and relationships - like a report generated from a database.

Until now I've focused entirely on organizing the tangled mass of information my autistic brain spews out endlessly. It makes my internal problem solving process almost a collaboration in and of itself. Additionally the data/report paradigm saves me a lot of time I used to spend endlessly reorganizing information as my understanding of it develops.

Now that I almost sorta know what I'm doing, and what I'd like to do, it seems like a good time to start a discussion here to share thoughts about the available software and mind mapping in general. There is quite a bit of commercial software which I haven't even looked at and probably never will. Since I do intend to experiment with using it collaboratively, any software potential collaborators might need to buy seems counterproductive.

In the free (and open source) world the primary programs are Freemind and a fork (which I use) called Freeplane. I don't actually remember why I picked Freeplane over Freemind so maybe somebody else has some insight into the differences. Originally I used XMind, the free version of a commercial, closed source competitor. It's more polished, and perhaps a better starting point to get started because you don't have to invest much effort. OTOH the $79 price tag for XMind Plus and $99 (or $79 annually) for XMind Pro are too steep for my purposes.

Freeplane is nice on its own, and it also has a number of add-ons, some of which are designed to customize it for particular workflow concepts like IBIS and GTD. I'm just now getting around to looking at add-ons so I'll try to post more when I have. I should probably post a mini-review of Freeplane at some point. Given how easily my train of thought is derailed, don't hold your breath on that.

What I dislike about both Freeplane and XMind is they're Java-based. It's not a deal breaker or anything. I would have to have Java installed for another program anyway so it's not like I wouldn't already have it installed. However, unlike that other program, I'm pretty sure Freemind development began recently enough that there were lots of other (IMO better) choices for cross platform compatibility - which admittedly may not have anything to do with the choice of Java.

Anyway I'm interested in seeing what mind mapping software other people use or have tried. What I'd really like to find is something good that's not Java-based. Now that I want to use it collaboratively I suspect the Java requirement probably limits the potential. A lot of people really dislike Java and a not insignificant number flat out refuse to install it on their computers.
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sword
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« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2013, 04:41:18 PM »

I have been trying Freemind and Freeplane for about six months. I prefer Freeplane. I like the SVG export ability in Freemind. When I installed them both under Linux Mint_14-64 Mate/Gnome it made using Freeplane impossible, Freemind took over and .mm files only opened in Freemind. On separate usb sticks or DVD-RWs they are fine. My difficulty was that I was stuck with an early version of both Freemind and Freeplane and not able to update without some risk, from what I might mess up. I have been trying to find more recent Mint versions or other 'live' Linux DVDs as they come out but without success. My difficulty is with how I download and burn the newer Mint versions, not with Freemind or Freeplane.
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« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2013, 04:46:38 PM »

I've been using Xmind for a couple of months now, putting up with the reliance on Java, for its features and price. My absolute favourite mind-mapping piece of kit is iMindMap, v7 of which was released recently. It creates the most beautiful maps I've ever seen, and is authored by Tony Buzan, the man often credited with the idea of mindmaps in the first place.

The price, however, puts me off at the moment.

I would love a simple programme that created beautiful maps, available from multiple devices and that didn't cost the earth. I wish...  cheesy
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barney
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« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2013, 08:30:45 PM »

I used The Brain for a couple of years - the free version.  Played with X-Mind and Freemind, both of which are currently installed.  Also currently playing with MindVisualizer, which also has a portable version.  Don't recall if the others have portability.

The Brain ($200+ USD) was great for tracking projects I was working on then.  Freemind is convenient for relatively quick data organization, but I dislike the Java requirements.  Haven't tried Freeplane yet - just found out about it here - but it's probably worth a shot.  MindVisualizer is fair, but it's expensive ($79.00 US$), and I don't recall how long the trial lasts.

The mind maps have been much better for me than outliners when building - and especially revising/revamping - Web sites.  Also quite helpful when debugging what little coding I do.  Biggest problem I have with them is making them too big, trying to record every little thing for a project.

As it stands right now, MindVisualizer will probably end up the choice because of the portability, but haven't explored that avenue as yet.

[edit]My error, XMind has the portable edition[/edit]


Mind, this is on a Win7 Ultimate box, so may not be useful on other OSes.  I'd still like to see something that could run on Android, Linux, & Win w/o using Java - and licensed per user, not per machine - but that's prolly a pipe dream with the pipe smoked out and no refill available  undecided.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2013, 09:51:36 PM by barney » Logged

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Perry Mowbray
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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2013, 12:48:33 AM »

Also Compendium which is IBIS based.

I use The Brain extensively at work: found nothing better for project / information management (not a great mind mapper, as in brain-stormer, as such)
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Vurbal
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« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2013, 01:52:55 AM »

Also Compendium which is IBIS based.

I use The Brain extensively at work: found nothing better for project / information management (not a great mind mapper, as in brain-stormer, as such)

I installed CompendiumNG a few months back and honestly couldn't figure out how to do anything useful - possibly needed to follow some instructions or something. It was such a non-experience I forgot until I read your post.
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
Vurbal
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2013, 02:24:20 AM »

So I just looked at The Brain's webpage and it looks interesting at first glance but then I ran into one of the Pro version's features which happens to be one of my pet peeves. For collaboration (TeamBrain) you have to go through their server for no real reason other than probably making sure they control it. That's the sort of thing that usually guarantees I won't be giving the company any money. OTOH the free version seems worth consideration.

MindVisualizer looks similar to XMind at first glance - once again based on their website - although most of its features are in the free version of XMind. Actually after playing around with Freeplane some more today I'm considering switching back to XMind because it just seems like a much nicer experience. Also I seem to recall XMind doing better with many to many relationships. It might just be a lack of skill with Freeplane but that sort of embodies what I don't like about it.

Which reminds me of one other thing that some (maybe most) of the mind mapping software I've read about seems to get horribly wrong. Aside from a handful of superior offerings it seems like there's a tendency to focus on the visual layout as the structure of the data rather than just a representation of it. Doing it that way you're back to the old flat sheet of paper constraints and the result isn't a lot better than a list or outline.
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2013, 07:52:17 AM »

...Doing it that way you're back to the old flat sheet of paper constraints and the result isn't a lot better than a list or outline.

I just peeked at this stuff a couple of weeks ago. Vurbal your note here is a lot like what I took away.

As far as "Mapping" goes, I came into the discussion comparing it to my tog dog entry, the Tree Databases and one in partuicular.

The maps are rather pretty visually to be sure. But it looked like they broke down after more than some 50 items. A lot of space was wasted trying to find space for the circles not to overlap, and contain a readable label.

For the "knowledge sets" I do, it's all about the dependent nodes, much like the old comments about Subroutines and maybe one "goto" that you bought from Vannah White (US Game Show Wheel of Fortune joke) that's like an emergency bail out.

So for example if I were to index authors from issues of a magazine, you can index the stories by author name, and (use the goto) for a second sort by issue date when printed. But beyond that the point don't intersect much.

Same with tax law studies; I made a tree with the forms *in the order of the dependent information* - so for example doing returns on paper, it doesn't help you to try to finish the Capital Gains Tax worksheet that only kicks in on the back of the return, if you're still debating your small business points of interest on the front page. Using the "Goto", of course it's useful to also have the list of forms in form order number.

And that's it.

There isn't a wild spaghetti pasta mesh of lines all around the data. And instead of little circles, the node labels are just text.

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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2013, 07:54:14 AM »

The one use I would have wanted a map program (but couldn't find one ultra simple enough - coding snack!?) was just to capture all the web pages I visit and auto produce a tree with some nodes being annotations in between. It's fun to see the linkages when you go web surfing.

Fun tip - watch episodes of MacGyver with today's web resources. So then your tree would capture stuff like this:

Oil well fires/Needs High Explosives/create a shockwave/pushes fuel & oxygen away
Started by Myron M. Kinley/ Red Adair became most famous/
Uses of Water:
     gas turbine blast water mist at the fire/still used to clean turbines
     High-powered water sprays/Keep the fighters safely below critical temps
Recent advances in tech/Purple K dry Chemical/

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« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2013, 10:36:08 AM »

Last time I tried to map my mind every program I tried hung with a "Re-calculating route..." message.  Grin
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Vurbal
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2013, 12:25:47 PM »

Last time I tried to map my mind every program I tried hung with a "Re-calculating route..." message.  Grin

I can't even get that far. The origin point keeps moving and eventually the software runs out of memory updating it.  ohmy
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
Vurbal
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2013, 01:17:03 PM »

@TaoPhoenix

That's a good point WRT traditional databases vs mind maps. For your typical non-technical person a mind mapping interface would probably be more useful for the types of datasets you're talking about. The alternative would probably be something like an unwieldy spreadsheet. OTOH it's certainly not an optimal solution.

Where mind mapping really shines IMO is more freeform data organization and analysis. I'll have to throw together some examples to explain what I mean by that. I can say that a lot of the power is in navigating data directly (in the mapping software) rather than through a report. Even if you could represent more than 3 dimensions in physical space you would lose the nuances of the complex relationships.

Quote
The one use I would have wanted a map program (but couldn't find one ultra simple enough - coding snack!?) was just to capture all the web pages I visit and auto produce a tree with some nodes being annotations in between. It's fun to see the linkages when you go web surfing.

Thinking back to the website mapping feature I played with in the last pre-Microsoft version of Visio makes me think Dia could do that pretty easily by processing your browser history with a Python script. That's just a barely educated guess since I've only tried out Dia in passing and it was several years ago.
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
Vurbal
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2013, 02:34:50 PM »

I ran across another interesting option today called VUE. It's Java-based, open source, and developed by Tufts University. It's mostly education oriented so that's apparently what the default setup is geared toward.

What makes it really intriguing for me, though, is a focus on interacting with web-based repositories.
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2013, 06:31:59 AM »

I ran across another interesting option today called VUE.

I think it's worth distinguishing between mind map applications on the one hand (Freeplane etc.), and concept mapping apps on the other (VUE etc.), although there is some overlap. The former are essentially hierarchical outliners (though laid out horizontally), where the process of development is hierarchical, flowing from a single, general central idea to many more specific sub-ideas.

Concept mappers on the other hand don't impose hierarchical thinking, rather, they let you connect any node to any other node in any particular order.

A third category might be programs that let you visualise the connected structure of your ideas that are implicit in your notes database. E.g. the Navigator tool in ConnectedText.

I'm not suggesting that one category of these tools is better than the other. They serve different purposes. The main thing to decide is what status do you want to give to the conceptual tool of hierarchical ranking in the development of your ideas. Sometimes hierarchical thinking is helpful, at other times it's unhelpful. So it's more about choosing the right tool for the right job every time.

Another interesting concept mapper is Cmap Tools (though I prefer to use VUE). There is also Scapple, which integrates with Scrivener. For mind mapping, I use Freeplane, as I like its minimalistic approach, plus it's very easy to assign shortcuts to particular operations.

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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2013, 02:56:43 AM »

One (1) of the things I like about Xmind is demonstrated in the samples that come with it.  Takes a bit of brain toil, but I can pretty much create an outline tree, an org chart, a programming/planning chart/map, whatever.  I could do a lot of that in The Brain, but that prohibitive price kinda got in the way - Xmind is marginally affordable.  (And, apart from the price, do I really want a software that requires weekly videos to learn?)

All in all, XMind pretty much fills my bill.  Understandably, it's not for everyone, but then, what software is  undecided?
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Vurbal
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2014, 08:56:43 PM »

I ran across another interesting option today called VUE.

I think it's worth distinguishing between mind map applications on the one hand (Freeplane etc.), and concept mapping apps on the other (VUE etc.), although there is some overlap. The former are essentially hierarchical outliners (though laid out horizontally), where the process of development is hierarchical, flowing from a single, general central idea to many more specific sub-ideas.

Concept mappers on the other hand don't impose hierarchical thinking, rather, they let you connect any node to any other node in any particular order.

A third category might be programs that let you visualise the connected structure of your ideas that are implicit in your notes database. E.g. the Navigator tool in ConnectedText.

I'm not suggesting that one category of these tools is better than the other. They serve different purposes. The main thing to decide is what status do you want to give to the conceptual tool of hierarchical ranking in the development of your ideas. Sometimes hierarchical thinking is helpful, at other times it's unhelpful. So it's more about choosing the right tool for the right job every time.

Another interesting concept mapper is Cmap Tools (though I prefer to use VUE). There is also Scapple, which integrates with Scrivener. For mind mapping, I use Freeplane, as I like its minimalistic approach, plus it's very easy to assign shortcuts to particular operations.


First off I want to thank you for posting this because it really helped me organize my own thoughts on the whole topic of visual mapping. I almost certainly would have gotten to the same place eventually. Because of my particular (and peculiar) set of neurological under and over functioning, though, it helps to have someone else question my conclusions to point me in the right direction.

Your definitions, unlike most of what I've found around the net, are spot on in terms of the traditional definitions of mind map and concept map. However IMO they are also outdated and inaccurate, perhaps even irrelevant, in the context of computer modeling. I'm explicitly excluding the use of programs which are basically nothing more than custom image editors here.

The distinction exists primarily because of the limitations of meatspace. In the physical world the surface you're creating a mind map on has 2 dimensions and a limited size. What you are really creating is not a model of ideas and relationships. It's a view of those things. On a computer you can create an n-dimensional model which is much closer to what's in your head and then view it from whatever perspective you choose.

That's not to say there aren't still specific scenarios where there's a bright line between those 2 approaches. There absolutely are. If your goal is to produce a single 2 dimensional representation of your idea(s) it's just as significant as ever and that's just cherry picking the most obvious example. However as a universal distinction it's completely arbitrary when the model is divorced from the display as it is in any good mind mapping program.

To put it another way, when your model is inherently 2-dimensional it will almost always be clearer if the relationships are as well. In a good mind mapping program it's just one of a multitude of factors which may or may not be significant.
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Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
- Groucho Marx

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.
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« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2014, 06:01:12 PM »

Your definitions, unlike most of what I've found around the net, are spot on in terms of the traditional definitions of mind map and concept map. However IMO they are also outdated and inaccurate, perhaps even irrelevant, in the context of computer modeling.

It seems to me that you're taking the term "mind mapping" a lot more literally than I do. To me it was always just a metaphorical term, I never thought they were for "mapping one's mind." Mind maps and concept maps for me are tools for either analysing and developing ideas or for organising them for further presentation (i.e. outlines). They are for messing with stuff on (virtual) paper, rather than building a representation of my mind.

Quote
On a computer you can create an n-dimensional model which is much closer to what's in your head and then view it from whatever perspective you choose.

That sounds to me like a very different use case from just analysing, developing or organising ideas. It sounds more like a scientific project (psychology?) to map what's happening in someone's mind. I'm not entirely convinced that such a thing is possible. It would presume that things are fully formed in the mind, and one just needs to use some kind of a tool to capture them. I suspect that ideas are not fully formed in the mind and they emerge exactly when one starts to interact with tools. So the tool is not just recording what's already there but it takes part in the development of those ideas.

Having said that, one could certainly try to build multi-dimensional models of one's understanding of a feature of reality. I was also looking for such a tool to analyse some of my empirical research data in this forum thread:
http://www.outlinersoftwa.../3805/0/fast-3d-modelling
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« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2014, 08:45:28 AM »

Such discussions would be more fruitful, weren't it for people who steal ideas in one forum and present them as their own in other ones.
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« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2014, 01:08:10 PM »

Such discussions would be more fruitful, weren't it for people who steal ideas in one forum and present them as their own in other ones.

Umm...

The discussions that take place at DoCo generally are quite fruitful thanks to people (mostly) parking their egos at the front door and generally not competing to see who's the smartest - or claiming ideas as their "own." What's being said is considered far more valuable, by this forum's participants, than establishing who said it "first."

Just sayin...  smiley
« Last Edit: February 12, 2014, 01:13:38 PM by 40hz » Logged

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