There are literally hundreds of mind mapping programs available. When I wrote about the need for 21st century collaborators to consider the ways divergent and linear thinking interact when planning and executing strategy, and suggested mind mapping software as an apt strategic planning tool, I said you can always place map nodes in a line if you want to be linear. I hadn’t yet discovered that there are mind mapping tools that will attempt to do this for you. It was the purchase of SimpleMind! for my iPhone that alerted me to the uniqueness of FreeMind.
SimpleMind! for iOS has the ability to send the map you create by email in a number of useful formats, including FreeMind (*.mm). I must admit, I had installed FreeMind and opened it only once. All I saw was what looked to me like an immature open-source interface1. But I never bothered to uninstall it, so when I checked off one of everything and clicked the .mm file SimpleMind! sent me, I really didn’t know what to expect. While on the subway, using SimpleMind! on my iPhone I sketched out a map of what “student-centred” might look like in the context of teacher education. The PDF is identical to what SimpleMind! showed on my iPhone. Hover over it, or tap-hold, to see the FreeMind version.
What opened looked like an attempt to take my multi linked mind map and convert it to a more linear display. The places where it failed were, by no coincidence as it turns out, parts of my map where I already questioned my links, or felt unsure of relationships. Seeing the more linear map actually helped me revise and improve upon my original idea.
Unfortunately there are connections I drew between nodes in SimpleMind! that didn’t translate to FreeMind2. I think this supports my idea that maps capture relationships that may challenge simple lists, but also that linear thinking can aid the divergent thinker by supplying order and focus. Linear thinkers can lose sight of the centre; divergents sometimes forget where to begin.
- Earlier this month I discovered XMind, a well-developed open source mind-mapper I might describe as ‘Freemind on steroids.’ I’ve already found it very effective for planning and then creating a static list for management. I hope to find time to blog it soon.
- XMind handles the worst of these shortcomings by noting the linked nodes “See also:”