Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mind Maps

I find so-called "mind-maps" and "concept-maps" useful in thinking about certain issues. Visualizing relationships between people, concepts, theories, or problems allows me to "see" things I otherwise might not have thought of. I have been using software to make mind maps for many years. Come to think of it, I never really used mind maps on paper. After trying out some other contenders, I began using MindManager when it was still shareware and called Mindman (in 1996, I think, but it may have been 1997 or 1995).

I am very skeptical about the pseudo-psychological concepts—like "right-brained thinking"—which seem to inform the thinking of many developers and advocates of mind mapping. There are also many who believe that mind maps are good tools for large-scale note-taking. I am not one of them. In fact, I think that the kind of visualization they allow of is best for small-scale projects.

Nor am I sure about the claims concerning the kind of "delinearized" thinking they are supposed to allow. In my opinion, linear thinking has always been difficult to achieve, and what people popularly refer to as "linear thinking" is not thinking at all

But, in spite of all my skepticism about some of the hype that goes with mind maps, I find these visualized outlines serve a definite purpose.

For large-scale visualizations other methods seem to be better. (More about that in a future post.)

I have not upgraded MindManager since version 2002, and I am not likely to do so in the future, since the price for the upgrade far outstrips its usefulness for me. Here is a mind map on Luhmann's card index I made some time ago:

Click on image to enlarge!

When I am done with a mind map, I usually save it as a jpg file and import it into ConnectedText.


evogel99 said...

I suggest you try FreeMind as your MindMapper. I long ago abandoned Mind Manager as far too corporate for my needs.

I am a huge fan of your blog. Through it I have found ConnectedText & 3Quarks.

Thank you!

MK said...

Thank you very much for the kind comments. I will try Freemind again. (It's just that I am so used to Mindmanager 2002.)

msv said...

As you said, mind maps are visual outlines because the line between nodes cannot explicitly mean much more than "is related to." I recently became familiar with the notion of concept maps through the work of the cognitive scientist Joseph Novak. Concept maps label assign meaningful labels to the linking lines, allowing them to become semantically rich and capable of representing sophisticated ontologies. The node-link-node structure in a concept map is the same structure used in the semantic web, making it easy to translate a concept map into a machine readable format like RDF.

I use a free tool called Cmap create concept maps on my computer (

Alessandro said...

After having built during 20 years circa a huge, complex directory structure storing every thing I do (work/personal/art stuff...)
I cannot help but feel that each folder represents a concept for me.

Do you know about any mindmap program which builds its network onto a pre-existing directory structure (and keep it uptodate after that)? Of course it would further allow refining it by additional connections set by the user which cannot be implemented in a simply hierarchical folder structure.
In my dreams, I would walk along the mindmap network, select a node and entering it I would see a document which I could edit describing its content,purpose,connections to other nodes,etc, and at the same time the folder files.
I dream about it since so much time that I will end up writing myself a program for it if I cannot find it!


MK said...

Freemind can do something like this. See Fremind: "FreeMind is not meant to be a directory browser though it can be used for that purpose - see "Modes" menu.

In any case, there is no reason why you should not be able to drag the folders into most any mind mapping program.

There are also programs that allow you to copy just the directory structure (without the files.

CAGS said...


I suggest you to try Freeplane a much more improved version of Freemind.

Freeplane | Download Freeplane software for free at

MK said...

... been there, done that ...

Alessandro said...

after writing my comment, I did exactly what I suggested.

I built a script ( that constantly monitors my folder structure, keeping uptodate a Zim wiki (

Works like a charm!