FreeMind – Open Source Mind Mapping Tool I Can’t Live Without

One of the biggest strengths I have is to take a concept, and articulate it down to a specific product with a plan. The whiteboard has been one of the main tools in our office since first starting Livio in my wife’s office at our home. For the past few years I’ve switched from the whiteboard to the mind map and I realized I haven’t posted a blog about it!

What I get from brainstorming:

  1. Throw up ideas on the wall to see what sticks – Anything goes. Typically for me, the bad ideas lead to the good ones. This is my creative side (thanks Mom and Dad). :-)
  2. Connect one idea to another – Typically ideas include the voice of customer (VOC) or consumer benefits. Ideas also include specific technology partners or products. Brainstorming allows me to start grouping or including multiple ideas into multiple groups.
  3. Provide objective variables on any idea – The transition between an idea, and moving the idea to a specification through evaluation. Too many companies focus on the feasibility or profitability first. This is the most important step in the process: transition. It’s how I cut and focus from ideas to next steps. Most people and companies fail in this step.
  4. Visual reference of what’s important through colors, bolding, shapes, underlining. (Basically being able to see the whole picture)

Killer features of FreeMind software: areas where mind mapping (with FreeMind software) adds value over the whiteboard:

  1. Export to Word – with FreeMind software, if you click on the master node (top node) of your mind map and copy, then paste into word, the formatting works perfectly to an outline! Not sure who made that happen, but it’s awesome
  2. Export to BIG PDF – There are plenty of export options through the freeware, including HTML, java, flash, etc. My favorite is making a big PDF. When I send files to partners, I love sending the word file and a big PDF. Reading the outline in word is nice, but then seeing it visually makes a huge impact.
  3. Keystrokes – The nice thing about a whiteboard is you can put up anything on a blank canvas. With FreeMind, using tabs and the function key with arrows, it’s very fast to make edits, copy/paste, and move things around.
  4. Icons – having built in icons and number icons is just as good as using colored markers on the whiteboard. I really like using the 1/2/3 icons for priorities or grouping. I also like using the question mark, stop sign, idea sign, and caution sign. It’s very fast to visually look at an overall idea or problem in a mind map and quickly identify areas, which need more work. They even have traffic lights for you corporate cube folks that love the red/yellow/green status in your “synergy” meetings to review TPS reports.

What I’d like to see in future versions:

  1. Spell check support
  2. Ability to connect separate nodes to each other (web mapping)

Oh yea… and it’s freeware for all platforms: Download right now HERE