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.