It’s part of my business. I’m constantly trying out new software for my own use and to recommend to clients. Most gets rejected — too buggy, not intuitive, steep learning curve, resource hog, too simple, too inclusive, etc. So the keepers are celebrities that I’m glad to know and want to introduce around.
MindMeister, an online tool for making mind maps, is a star in the pantheon of productivity tools, right up there with the to-do list and a scratchpad. It works in any browser, takes just minutes to learn, and makes clean, stylish mind maps that can be shared, exported, printed, etc.
I was introduced to mind mapping tools by Daphne Gray-Grant, whose writing I admire and whose advice on writing often pays rich dividends. Daphne likes mind mapping — also called clustering or webbing — because it organizes her thoughts and kick starts her writing. It helps her, she says, to overcome writers block.
I like it because it helps me think. Because we think in words, we can’t express our ideas without writing them down or talking them out. But it’s difficult to express a rich or complicated idea or develop a topic because few of us can write or talk fast enough. Mind mapping assists the process, and online mind mapping, adds two powerful components:
- a flexible, easily re-organized graphical presentation that can include a variety of visual elements — think colors, shapes, sizes, icons, symbols, and even pictures
- hyperlinks to sources, definitions, quotes, and notes, etc.
There’s a cornucopia of mind mapping tools available, some for download, some online, some ad-supported, some free, and others costing in the hundreds of dollars. This is not a review article so I won’t name names, but I’ve tried a half-dozen of the tools that others top-ranked in their reviews.
I think a productivity tool should be a tool, like a hammer, not a toy like an erector set. For me a mind mapping tool needs to be easy to grasp, easy to learn, but with sufficient options to express complicated, expansive and convoluted thoughts or topics. MindMeister hits the nail on the head.
Here’s a mind map I made for a talk to new board members of my housing co-op.
MindMeister has a free, single-user Basic edition with a limited number of maps and functions, and subscription editions starting at $4.99 per month. MindMeister may not be the mind mapping software for you, but if you haven’t explored mind mapping before this is definitely the one to try first.