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Free Your Mind with XMind

Free Your Mind with XMind

Free Your Mind with XMind

    Mind-mapping is a popular tool for brainstorming ideas, outlining projects, and organizing information. While some people feel most comfortable mind-mapping with pencils or pens and paper, others enjoy the ease and accessibility of software-based mind-mapping, and there are a variety of tools designed to help make, share, and store mind-maps on your computer. Some, like MindManager and iMindMap are powerful, enterprise-level programs, with price tags to match; free programs like FreeMind don’t have the same features, but for daily use by individuals, they are quite powerful and capable tools. There are even a range on online mind-mapping tools like bubbl.us and Mind42.

    My new favorite mind-mapping tool is XMind, a free, open-source mind-mapping program with a useful (though limited) online component. XMind is incredibly easy to use, allowing you to make and share good-looking mind-maps (and flowcharts, outlines, org charts, and other visual representations of textual data) with a minimum of fuss.

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    Features

    XMind Logo

      XMind is a free download for Windows, Mac, or Linux computers. It is quite intuitive to use — for standard mind-maps, simply select a node, hit “Enter” to create a sibling node (one at the same “level”) or “Tab” to create a “child” node (one under whatever level you’re currently at). When you create a new node, just start typing to create a label, hit “Enter” when you’re done, and hit “Enter” or “Tab” to continue with a new node. If you want to edit or change the label on any node, just double-click it.

      A sidebar panel contains a hierarchical representation of your mind-map, for quick navigation, and below that formatting options to change both the appearance (font, colors, etc.) and the structure of your mind-map — you can switch “on-the-fly” from a standard bubble-map to an org-chart, fishbone chart, outline, or several other pre-configured layouts.

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      XMind is drag-and-drop enabled, too, so you can move nodes around in relation to each other. A set of limited drawing tools allows you to create secondary connections between items, or group them together.

      Nodes take more than just labels. You can attach external files, embed images, insert hyperlinks, and attach notes, all from the right-click menu or the standard menu bars.

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        Exporting and Sharing

        Once your mind=map is done, you can export it in a number of formats: images (bmp, jpeg, gif, and png are all supported), HTML, or text are available, as well as XMind’s own formats.

        XMind also includes an online web-based component where you can post your mind-maps for public viewing and sharing. Users can download any of the mind-maps in the public repository and import them into their own install of XMind. You can also embed mind-maps into your website.

        Unfortunately, private sharing is unavailable in the free version; if you want to use XMind to collaborate on sensitive topics, you will need to use the Pro version.

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        Pro features

        Other features lacking from XMind’s free version but available with a paid upgrade include new views — such as GANTT charts and a GTD todo item feature; a presentation view allowing users to show mind-maps in full-screen; the ability to record audio notes (useful for recording a lecture while mind-mapping your notes — notes are time-tied to the recording itself); and more export formats including PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and MindManager.

        The Pro version is not particularly affordable, unfortunately. In fact, the developers have chosen to license XMind Pro with a subscription model, which is quite unfortunate. To upgrade, expect to shell out $6.00 a month, or $49 a year. I realize that users are getting ongoing access to the web features, but I would much rather see a one-time fee for what is primarily a traditional, desktop-based piece of software.

        I’m also surprised to see that, with so many online mind-mapping apps out there, XMind has not make it possible to create, edit, and clone mind-maps using the online interface. The upload, share, download, and edit model now is hardly an effective way to collaborate — it would be easier just to email the files back and forth, and just as unsatisfactory. Hopefully XMind will continue to develop the online component to add true live collaboration in the near future.

        Conclusion

        Despite some small faults (which are really external to the program itself), XMind is a fine mind-mapping program. For individual users who don’t need to work collaboratively, XMind has all the features you should need, with a very low learning curve. It’s effective and even fun to use — and that’s key, because mind-mapping is all about transforming work into creative play in order to unleash your inner creativity. Longtime readers of this site know I have a somewhat conflicted relationship with mind-mapping, but with XMind, I was able to start producing really useful mind-maps in a matter of minutes.

        I highly recommend you try it out for yourself: XMind.

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        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        The Gentle Art of Saying No

        No!

        It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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        But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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        What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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        But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

        1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
        2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
        3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
        4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
        5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
        6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
        7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
        8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
        9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
        10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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