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11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services

11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services

Mind mapping is a way of taking notes, capturing ideas, exploring concepts and breaking down information into a more readily understood format. It’s a place where visual representations and written representations of things merge to create something that is more natural to the mind; it works with and represents the way we think, where as paragraph-based text is not representative of the thought process at all.

There are a million and one uses for mind mapping. You can use it to study for a big exam. You can use it brainstorm new article ideas, or flesh out what needs to be covered in the business plan for a new venture. You can organize a big move of house; heck, I’ve seen people use the mind map format for their daily to-do lists (each to their own, eh?).

There are huge advantages to creating your mind maps with paper and pen. In fact, though I’ve tried many different mind mapping programs over the years, pen and paper remains my favorite way of creating them. Some would say that it is a part of the process. That said, there are distinct advantages in using software and sometimes you need to decide what the best tool for the job is on a case by case basis. For when that time comes, here are 11 free mind mapping applications and web services.

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Freemind is one of the most popular free mind mapping applications out there, and that’s mainly because it’s in Java and thus cross-platform (and because it’s a great app, of course). This software implements some of the major features that digital task lists have over paper task lists: retractable and expandable branches and hyperlinking between different branches make it easier to organize and easier to connect ideas.

bubble.us is a free web-based mind mapping application. You can sign up for an account in order to save your mind maps, but better still, they don’t force you to get an account to start creating. The interface could use some work to make it a truly usable application.

Semantik is a KDE Linux application for creating mind maps, though they can be viewed in different formats, such as a linear tree view with retractable and expandable branches.

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MindMeister is another web app with varying account options; there’s a free account, and several commercial options. It has a fairly nice design and interface in comparison with many other mind mapping web apps that are available.

RecallPlus is commercial software with a lighter free edition. It combines the process of mind mapping with flash card memorization techniques, and is aimed at students who wish to take notes and then test themselves using them. RecallPlus is a Windows application.

Mindomo is another mind mapping web app with both a free account option and a commercial one. It allows you to share your mind maps with others, and also embed them into your web pages.

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Mind42 is a totally free mind mapping web app and it is one of my favorites. The interface is a good one, and it has some excellent features such as easy navigation for large mind maps with zoom and birdview (and branch hiding, but that’s pretty standard these days), and the ability to attach notes and images to branches, which isn’t always allowed in “pure” mind mapping software. You can also link branches to other sites and see a preview when you rollover the link, which I think is probably the only appropriate use of those preview rollovers anywhere on the net.

Labyrinth is a very simple and basic mind mapping application for Linux and Windows.

Vym (View Your Mind) is an application for Mac OS X and various Linux distributions. There seems to be a Windows port, but it is accompanied by bug reports.

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WiseMapping is another web app for mind mapping which requires no browser plug-ins at all, which is fantastic when you don’t know which computers you’ll be using in a given day. You can share, export and publish your mind maps from the app and there is no commercial account option; everything is free and unlimited.

PersonalBrain is a cross-platform application. It’s a commercial application, but a lighter free edition is on offer. I thought the integration of a calendar with events that you can add was a particularly cool addition and means you can brainstorm in not just the conceptual realm but cross over into the earlier stages of planning as well.

Mind mapping is one of those areas where it has always been hard to find a good native OS X application. It always surprises me when I find more Linux options than OS X options! I tend to go for the web apps, but Freemind in particular is good for any user on any popular platform. If I were to suggest one particular web app, I’d suggest Mind42. While I’ve used the Windows and Linux apps before, I can’t give a strong recommendation as I’ve not used any for the long-term.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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