Check it out!
The overview of browser-based apps on mind-mapping.org was made years ago. This was back in the days when this type of web app was first gaining traction. Then, the idea that we could just open a browser on a Windows PC or Mac, no matter which, and start mapping or making a diagram was new and exciting.
Now, this is routine, and many of those listed have since died but many more have appeared, some of them well worth a look. So the overview has been totally rebuilt and brought up to date.
There are four pages: The visual above giving a quick overview of what’s free and what is available on subscription, a quick summary, a detailed look at prices, and an indication of import and export capabilities with files formats used by MindManager and FreeMind. In the grids, I’ve highlighted in green the ones that you can use with little or no restriction for free.
These range from easy-to-use and good for a quick thinking session, to extensive and valuable for a sophisticated task. Some are box-oriented and business-like, others organic and creative. Even the free ones are not toys – you can get things done with them.
If you find any errors, please let me know. There’s an email link in the right-hand column.
I’ve just finished a sweeping look at the Apple iTunes App Store and Google Play, searching for mind mapping apps … this with the aim of making a total re-write of the article in the Mindmapwiki about ‘Mind mapping on the Run’.
I found 62 such apps … sixty two!
But before I get to the numbers, let’s look at what’s behind mobile mapping tools.
Many apps can make use of a variety of cloud storage services, can import from other tools and can export files that desktop mapping apps can read. A lot work on phones as well as tablets. I use an iPhone, which I don’t find to be a good space for working with mind maps, but there are plenty of phones with bigger screens which will be less cramped. And given the rumors, even iPhone users should have a bigger screen for a better mobile mapping experience soon. I prefer a 24-inch monitor and a desktop with a proper file system, but when out of the office that is just not an option. On iPads and tablets the experience is much better.
All that I looked at (bar one: Prezi) can make mind maps. Most are designed for that specifically, a few have other types of map in their sights but can be bent to a mind mapper’s needs. Some of the 62 are very original explorations of how mind maps can be made and used on a tablet or phone. And some are solid, usable reproductions of desktop or browser-based apps that can exchange files with those apps. A few, very few, I wouldn’t want to waste iPad memory on they are so ugly – to my taste, but we all have different tastes so I won’t name them.
But the riddle for me is … why 62? The riddle isn’t limited to mobile apps but that’s where most of the action has been recently. It’s easy to see why established mapping tool publishers would want to stake out a position on mobile platforms. And some have broken new ground presenting an original twist, but so many are ‘me too’ designs. Do none of the developers look at the opposition before deciding to launch yet another tool into a crowded marketplace?
This now brings the number of still-available mind mapping tools in the Mind-Mapping.Org database to 143. (It has many more historical tools and software for making other kinds of knowledge maps as well as outlines.)
Oh well, never mind, all the more choice for users to draw from, especially at the low prices commanded by nearly all mobile apps. Many are free, $1 – $10 is the typical range, and a couple cost more than $10.
Before you head over to the new entry in the Mindmapwiki to see if there’s anything that would suit you better that whatever you are using now, consider one final option.
MindMeister can now take a bulleted, indented list from a Google Doc and, from within the document, make a mind map of the list and embed it.
I grabbed part of a contents list from a handy PDF file, pasted it into a Google Doc, added bullets and indented it. Then, picking MindMeister from the Add-ons menu, I selected “Insert as a mind map”, and I got this:
The text I grabbed means it would need some work as a mind map – editing the original list, shortening the lines, getting rid of the numbers before making the map. But I can see this being useful. There are limitations – no way to change the appearance or layout; the odd sequence of first-level nodes; no access to the map outside the document (other than as an image); but it is a good start. I’ve seen many request for mind maps in Google docs over the years in newsgroups and Twitter, and it’s good that one of the most (if not the most) popular browser-based mappers is there now. It is very fast and convenient.
You don’t need to sign up for a MindMeister account to use this, just in any Google Doc, go to:
Add-ons > Get add-ons… > and put MindMeister in the Search add-ons box.
More about it at the MindMeister blog.
Have you seen Biggerplate’s Annual Report on the state of mind mapping as 2014 commences?
It’s a fine piece of work consolidating the views of 715 mind mappers from around the world, collected over several months. The folks at Biggerplate made a serious and persistent effort to get the word out and the result is a goldmine for people like me who find mapping so useful that they take every opportunity to evangelize it.
Anyone offering help on mapping topics across social media will have had the impression that mentions and questions have increased over the last 12 months. Biggerplate’s membership figures provide objective evidence that this apparent growth is really happening.
The age range analysis on page 8 supports my belief that the positioning of mind mapping primarily as a technique for students is not optimal. While responses to an opt-in survey do not indicate numbers actually engaged in mind mapping, they do indicate how the level of interest in the subject is spread across the age ranges and a mere 1% under the age of 20 is a very thin slice. Mind mapping is widely taught in schools in the UK, USA (though there, mixed with concept mapping), Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, mainly through the direct or indirect efforts of Tony Buzan, I would judge. I suspect that Canada, the Netherlands and France also teach it in schools, but am less sure about that.
It seems that going from using mind maps for learning in school, to using them for planning and idea gathering is a move that many never make. Here’s a student’s tweet I spotted: “I’m using a mind map to plan????? I’ve never even considered this before but in all honesty I like it” … and that’s the most important transition in any mindmapper’s life, I’d say, but too many students never make it. Instead, a common reaction among university students is “A mind map? Am I still in grade school?”
The gender mix shown on page 9 mystifies me, and it would seem, everyone else as well.
Liam, has anyone tried to analyze the gender mix of those submitting maps to Biggerplate, and those attending Biggerplate Unplugged? That would provide two additional data points and a reality check.
On page 15 we can see the strong survival of hand-drawn maps in a digital world, which shows that many mappers still enjoy the physical process. Some go out of their way to produce attractive, engaging visual designs – others just want to capture fleeting thoughts without having to struggle with technology. But the degree of overlap with software use shows that most of us use both approaches.
Keen mind mappers will use mapping for almost anything and we only work in groups some of the time, so I would expect solo use to dominate, but expectation is just a guess – now we have the solid data set out on page 20.
The word-cloud on page 22 has no mention of ‘learning‘ or ‘studying‘, further supporting the point made above about the age range. The proportions may have been skewed downward by the self-selected sample of respondents to the survey, but this is a convincing corroboration.
The second word-cloud on page 22 is a powerful snapshot of what mind mapping is about. The wisdom of crowds and the wisdom of (word) clouds!
The overall preference for software, both trialled and identified as favorite (pages 28 and 29), is for tools that make mind maps in the boxes-and-lines style, while the words-on-the-line Buzan-style map is represented, amongst those making it to the chart, only by Buzan’s own iMindMap.*
The dominance of Mindjet’s MindManager in trials reflects its very early establishment on the market (as Mind Man) around 19 years ago and its continued development and power. Despite that, iMindMap has pulled into a powerful second place in just over seven years.
So there we have it, the state of mind mapping at the start of 2014, and a benchmark to help us reflect on progress this time next year.
* iMindMap can make boxes, it’s true, and box & line mapping tools can make somewhat-organic maps — the map above was made with Xmind — but these are not the default uses of the tools.
If you’ve seen How I lost my $50,000 Twitter username and read how @jb was targeted you’ll know how much more vulnerable to attack we are than we might have thought. There are some useful tips that those who lost out wrote about in those articles, so I thought I’d pull them together them in a MindMeister mindmap that anyone can contribute to. This way, we can all harden up our online identities and assets. I’ve added some ideas I picked up when my blog was hacked a couple of years ago, as well.
Argument maps, belief networks, debate maps, decision diagrams … all are ways of setting out the logical development of a line of thinking, discussion or deliberation where the aim is to reach a conclusion in a complex set of circumstances. Where a topic is under discussion among several people, or even where an individual is making a decision alone, a formal and visual approach can help in making an agreed position clear.
Austhink (now owned by Critical Thinking Skills BV) have long had desktop versions of their argument mapping tools, Rationale and bCisive. These have been in the database at Mind-Mapping.Org for more than eight years. Late in 2013 they released online versions of these two products: Rationale in September and bCisive in November. As these are tools for discussion and argument, having an online option is a useful and significant advance.
Rationale is a tool aimed at anyone wanting to improve their critical thinking skills, and is presented primarily as an academic tool, though it could also be seen as a tool that would help in legal argument. bCisive targets business decision making and has many capabilities related to evaluation, review, documenting and implementation of decisions.
In use, Rationale is different from mind mapping products, but is not difficult to use, with a drag and drop approach. Arguments are laid out with ‘supports’, ‘opposes’ and ‘rebuts’ elements so that the users can see all points raised in support of or against a contention. When an ‘opposes’ item links to another ‘opposes’ item above it, Rationale automatically changes the lower one to ‘rebuts’ (see on the right):
There is a collection of images that can be used to highlight visually and in words the basis for each element of the argument. For example, ‘expert opinion’, ‘law’, ‘statistic’, ‘web’, ‘media’, ‘assertion’, ‘common belief’, and more.
Here is an argument map I made with Rationale:
An advantage of mapping out an argument is that it can take the heat out of the conversation in the early stages. That is, we can take the approach of “We’re just trying to record all views here, let’s make sure we have everything down before we start arguing.”
bCisive, being intended for business use, is less about argument or debate, and more concerned with evaluating the pros and cons of a proposal. The principal of operation is similar, and again it is easy to use.
Here is a map I made with bCisive:
Again, one of the Text Panel tools can make a text-based outline (see on the right):
For now, neither of these online tools allow simultaneous collaborative work, but the developers are working on that, as well as on a tablet version. Also in the works is the ability to embed maps in web pages.
If you go to the Master List main page and in the ‘Refine software list’ tab at the top right select ‘argument maps’, ‘belief networks’, ‘debate maps’, ‘decision diagrams’, you will see seven entries in addition to the two above, namely Argunet, MindDecider, Netica, Cohere, Debategraph, Flying Logic and GeNIe. On my future-additions list are nine more: Araucaria, Argumentative, Carneades, Copeit, Deliberatorium, iLogos, jCollam, PIRIKA, Riyarchy, Theorymaps, Truthmapping and Wrangle. It’s quite a crowded field! Now some of these are not strictly comparable … GeNIe and jCollam are oriented towards developers, Netica is for Bayesian networks, and some look more like student projects than mature products.
Right now if I had to choose for business use, I would be looking at Rationale and bCisive.
Mohiomap, the web app that maps out your Evernote notebooks, has an update. I reviewed this in September.
Now it has a new kind of in-map search function (Ctrl+f) to highlight matches in notebook or note names. This is in contrast with the search box at the top of the Mohiomap page, which effectively builds a new, temporary map from the search results.
There are improvements in the user interface as well: hovering, and graph behavior.
Here’s a collection of process modeling tools that haven’t appeared on Mind-Mapping.Org before. As well as helping you make process diagrams, most offer simulation or analysis of processes, and some can make flowcharts and organization charts as well.
They range in price from free (a very capable simulation tool supported by the National Science Foundation and Google) to nearly US$2,000.
All Clear produces functional diagrams from text instead of the user manipulating the diagram directly. Although billed as flowchart software, it can also make organization charts and process maps and includes a process analyzer.
Its price is US$349.
Bizag Process Modeler is a component of the heavy-duty Bizagi BPM Suite but is available free as a stand-alone unit. It is designed around swimlanes. The price for the full suite is not stated at the site. Bizag Process Modeler can be used alone to produce business process diagrams and if you purchase the suite, you can turn your process maps into running process applications.
The BPM Suite is an enterprise product that supports business rules, forms designer, workflow, work portal, and analytics.
Insight Maker is a substantial browser-based tool, used for visually modeling processes, simulating them and presenting the result graphically. It is supported by the National Science Foundation and Google Inc. and is free.
It is strongly geared towards continuous process simulation and is probably not the best choice if you are primarily concerned with documenting business process where you want to show decision points and movement between departments, for which I’ve always preferred swimlanes.
iThink is business process simulation software built based on systems thinking.
Its price is US$1,899.
Like Bizag, Synthis Process Modeler includes the conventional and useful swimlane layout.
Documents, forms, web pages and third-party systems relevant to each step in the process can be dropped into the diagram to make embedded links. It is priced at US$269.
Vensim is a tool for modeling business processes visually. It has four versions, PLE, PLE Plus, Professional and DSS, offering increasing degrees of capability with increasing price. It can simulate processes and report results graphically.
Per user: PLE $50; PLE Plus $169; Professional $1195; DSS $1995.
Finally, and not strictly a stand-alone tool but an extension to ConceptDraw Pro, providing libraries based on the BPMN 2.0 standard.
You will need ConceptDraw Pro for this, of course. The price is US$199, and for that you will be able to make many other diagram types as well.
So there it is, a collection of tools for enterprise architects, business and systems analysts.
Xmind have just announced the release of Xmind 2013.
For all the new stuff in detail, see below. I hope to post a review of the new features soon.