Brainstorm by Mapping Your Mind

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #385

I’ve always been a linear thinker, beginning almost all projects with an outline detailing the process from start to finish. But lately, I’ve become enthralled by a less-linear brainstorming technology called “mind-mapping.”

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Wikipedia defines a mind map as “a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is hierarchical and shows relationships among pieces of the whole. It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those major ideas.”

Generic mind-mapping examples.
Generic examples of mind-mapping.

Wikipedia goes on to say that software can extend the concept of mind-mapping by allowing individuals to map more than thoughts and ideas by integrating information from their computers or the Internet.

Finally, according to at least one study, mind-mapping can improve learning and study efficiency up to 15% over ordinary notetaking.

How it Works

Here’s a simplistic description of how mind-mapping works: Begin by creating a central topic, from which you’ll connect “nodes,” each with a different thought or idea. When you’ve added all of your thoughts as nodes, you can then add lines, arrows, and labels connecting nodes to each other.

One of the best features of mind-mapping is that it’s a hierarchical (like an outline). So, just as an outline can have unlimited subtopics, and those subtopics can have unlimited subtopics, and so on, any node can have unlimited sub-nodes. But, unlike an outline, you can create relationships between different topics and sub-topics by connecting them with lines, arrows, and labels.

The magical part is that it’s all very visual. You can colorize nodes and annotations; you can arrange nodes onscreen any way you like, and you can hide or show subtopics (and their subtopics) at will so you can focus on a particular aspect of your map.

As I mentioned, I’m a linear thinker and have always used outlines for my brainstorming, so wrapping my head around mind mapping hasn’t been easy. But I’m fascinated by the concept, so I’ve been testing four different mind-mapping apps for macOS.

Available by subscription or traditional purchase

Two of the apps I’m testing are subscription-only—XMind 2020 from XMind Ltd. ($59.99 a year or $39.99 for 6 months), and MindNode from IdeasOnCanvas GmbH ($19.99 a year or $2.49 a month). The other two are traditional one-time purchases— iThoughtsX from toketaWare ($49.99), and MindManager for Mac 13 from Mindjet ($349).

All four have trial versions available, so feel free to check out mind mapping if you’re so inclined before next week when I deliver the thrilling conclusion.

Be safe until then.

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