If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s brainstorming. Sometimes I would rather come up with a bunch of new ideas than actually work on existing one! Since I do most of my brainstorming on the computer, it makes sense that I’d seek out software that makes it easier. I use OneNote a lot, and lately, I’ve started using MindMeister too.
MindMeister is an online mind mapping application that I’ll talk about in a moment. First, what’s mind mapping? From Wikipedia:
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.
It’s basically a way of visualizing ideas and concepts in a non-linear way. A list can only take you so far. Once you get used to the idea of creating a mind map, it can become very addictive!
One of the most popular mind mapping software packages is MindManager from MindJet. I played with a trial version a while ago, and I really liked it. I especially liked that it worked with ink on my tablet – that’s very neat! Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap ($99 for “Lite” and $349 for “Pro”). As much as I might enjoy it, brainstorming isn’t my primary gig, so that’s a bit pricey.
So I started looking for alternatives, and came across MindMeister. From their about page:
MindMeister brings the concept of mind mapping to the web, using its facilities for real-time collaboration to allow truly global brainstorming sessions.
Users can create, manage and share mind maps online and access them anytime, from anywhere. In brainstorming mode, fellow MindMeisters from around the world (or just in different rooms) can simultaneously work on the same mind map – and see each other’s changes as they happen.
Right away I liked the look of it (sorta Web 2.0 I guess) and decided to give it a try. I was surprised to find that mind mapping can work so well on the web! MindMeister doesn’t contain all of the whizbang features that MindManager does, but I think it includes just enough to make it really usable. Some of my favorite things about MindMeister:
- It works in Opera! This despite a warning telling me I may notice weird things because I am not using IE or Firefox. Exceeding expectations is a good way to get me using your product.
- All I need is a browser. The one major negative about MindManager is that you need to install it on every computer you want to use it on. I have three computers that I use regularly, so having my mind maps on the web is really handy.
- You can export to other formats. Notably MindManager’s MMAP (with a premium account) and PDF.
Currently I’m using the free account, which gives you up to 6 mind maps and most of the other features. A premium account is just $49.90 per year, and adds unlimited mind maps, SSL encryption, exporting to MMAP, and the ability to work on maps offline.
I’m going to continue using MindMeister for a while, but I might give their competition a try too. Currently they look like the online app to beat. There’s a good list of mind mapping software at Wikipedia.
Have you used MindMeister or any other mind mapping software? Any suggestions?