The riddle of mobile mapping

I’m puzzled.

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.

Mobile mind mapping
click for full-size image

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.  

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New MindMeister / Google Docs tie up

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.


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