Free and Open Source Mind Mapping tools

Free and Open Source Mind Mapping tools

There are a lot of free and open source mind mapping tools available on the internet. In terms of functionality, some free ones come very close to what is being offered by commercial vendors. My personal favorites are FreeMind and XMind. FreeMind is the best in performance and usability, with less focus on making the software look pretty. The support for images is a bit primitive in FreeMind. On the other hand, XMind has a more modern UI and has a better support for working with images.

Both FreeMind and XMind are desktop-based. If you want something web-based which is accessible from tablets, there are sites offering that too.

Key features of these tools are summarized in the table below.

ToolOpen Source / FreePlatformSupported ClientsImages SupportKeyboard SupportRich Text Support
FreeMindOpen SourceJavaDesktopLimited
(hyperlink only)
ExcellentYes
XMindOpen SourceJavaDesktopYesGoodYes
FreeplaneOpen SourceJavaDesktopLimitedExcellentYes
WiseMappingOpen SourceSaaS, Java, SpringWebNoGood (Similar to FreeMind)No
bubbl.usLimited free version (3 maps only)SaaSWebNoBelow AverageNo
MindMeisterLimited free version (3 maps only)Web, SaaSWeb, iOS, AndroidLimitedExcellent (Similar to FreeMind)Supports in Notes window but not inside maps.
BlumindFree.NetWindowsNoGoodNo
mind42FreeSaaSWebLimitedOkNo
spiderscribeLimited free version (3 maps only)SaaSWebLimitedBelow AverageNo
MindomoLimited free version (3 maps only)SaaSWebGood (Doesn’t support pasting)ExcellentLimited
MindMupOpen SourceSaaSWebLimitedVery GoodLimited

Table continued with more details:

ToolScrollingInterfaceCollaborationDrawing TechnologyComments
FreeMindVery seamlessSimple and efficientYesJava
XMindGoodAdvancedNoJava
FreeplaneVery seamlessSimple and efficientNoJava SwingIt is a fork of FreeMind
WiseMappingGood (map doesn’t scroll while navigating through keyboard)Simple and SlickYesSVG
bubbl.usGoodClean and SimpleNoFlash
MindMeisterVery seamlessPleasing and SlickYes (User can chat also)SVG for links and shapes. DIVs for nodesHas unique features like ‘History View’, ‘Create Slide Show’
BlumindGood (Canvas is not drag-able)Clean and SimpleNo.Net
mind42Very seamlessEasy to useYesdojo js library
spiderscribeOKOKYesFlashDoesn’t auto-format node’s position and link
MindomoVery SeamlessRobust and SlickYesFlashInteraction with clipboard works as opposed to other HTML based products
MindMupVery SeamlessSimple and SlickYesHTML CanvasDoesn’t support icons on nodes.

Screen Shots and Some Comments

 

FreeMind

It is the best tool for heavy users. Can support very large maps. Also has advanced features like attributes, map filtering, task, reminders, scripting etc.

It has an excellent keyboard support where all the functionality is available with convenient shortcuts. Folding and unfolding with space bar is particularly handy.

Scrolling is very seamless as the canvas is drag-able using mouse. On using keyboard, the map auto-scrolls as we navigate through the nodes.

File:FreeMind-computer-knowledge-080.png

XMind

XMind has a more polished interface and better support for images than FreeMind. But lags in performance and ease of use.

Some of the interesting features of XMind are:

  • ability to represent Mind Maps in various different forms like Fish Bone diagram, Spread Sheet, Organogram etc..
  • drill down feature where any node can be viewed as main starting node, hiding away the rest of the map. This is very helpful in working with larger maps.
  • paid version has additional features like tasks, Gantt chart etc.

MindMeister

 

image

MindMeister has a few unique features like the ability to conveniently create slideshows. Another more interesting one is the rewind and playback feature which shows how mind map grew or changed over time. This feature is called History View.

image

MindMeister’s Rich Text Editor:

image

Blumind

 

WiseMapping

 

image

mind42

 

SpiderScribe

 

image

Mindomo

 

image

MindMup

 

image

Bubbl.us

 

image

Other Map Mapping Tools

RecallPlus

I tried evaluating RecallPlus on Windows 7 but it crashed a lot, not allowing me to create any maps. According to their website, it works on Windows XP and earlier versions.

The focus of RecallPlus is to assist student in learning by using techniques like flashcards.

It is a commercial software with feature limited free version.

VYM (View My Mind)

VYM is only supported on Linux platform (http://sourceforge.net/projects/vym/).

BeautifulMind.io

Basic cloud based tool with limited usability (http://beautifulmind.io/).

Commercial Mind Mapping Tools

Following are top commercial tools which are not covered in the above section:

  1. MindManager (http://www.mindjet.com/)
  2. iMapMind (http://www.thinkbuzan.com)
  3. TheBrain (http://www.thebrain.com/)

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