Mind Mate: Taking Notes with rich text support

(for background on Mind Mate, click here)

Today, I released a new version (0.4) of Mind Mate on GitHub. The chief improvement is the rich text editing capabilities for notes as demonstrated below.

When the focus is inside Note Editor, the ribbon switches to following Contextual tab.

If the cursor is inside a table, ‘Table Tools’ contextual tab becomes available.

So, following are now supported in Note editor:

  • Bold, Italic, Underline and Strikethrough
  • Subscript and Superscript
  • Text Color and Highlight
  • Font Family and Size
  • Bullets and Numbered Lists
  • Text Alignment and Indent / Outdent
  • Headings
  • Clear Formatting
  • Insert Table
  • Table Tools
    • Insert Row (above, below)
    • Insert Column (left, right)
    • Delete Row, Column or Table
    • Move Row (up, down)
    • Move Column (left, right)

Mind Mate: Mind Mapping on Windows 7 and 8

(for background on Mind Mate, click here)

I have been developing Mind Mate on Windows 10 machine, so wasn’t sure how it is going to behave on earlier versions of OS. Today, I tested it on Windows 7 and 8 using VMs made available by Microsoft.

Mind Mate worked perfectly on Windows 8 but encountered few issues on Windows 7 related to Windows Ribbon Control. These issues are:

– Images in PNG format are not displayed in the ribbon. Seems like Ribbon control on Win7 only supports BMP, that too generated in a certain version of BMP specification. I found that only PixelFormer knows how to generate the right BMP file for Windows 7 Ribbon control.

– Controls don’t layout properly after initial launch, it requires resizing the main window once, then it starts working fine.

– Non true type fonts are not supported.

These issues are resolved in the new Build. Download it from here and give it a go.

Developed Mind Mapping software–codenamed ‘Mind Mate’

Mind Map is a graphical way of representing concepts and ideas. It starts with the main idea at the center with branches going into details.

Personally, I use it for all my notes taking, to-do lists, managing project information etc. Probably it goes beyond what normal usage of the term Mind Map implies but I found many people using Mind Mapping software in the same way. The appeal of Mind Mapping software, in the regard, is the ability to handle the depth of information. Due to outlining you focus on the level of information you want, dig deeper into a topic or zoom out to the headlines with ease.

FreeMind and XMind are the most popular software out there. Personally, I prefer FreeMind as it is more suitable to the usage style I described above. XMind is more focused towards presentation, rather than daily usage for notes taking. Unfortunately, FreeMind is a not being developed very actively.

Since last couple of years, I have been developing my own Mind Mapping software on Github. It started just as a pastime and somehow I managed to put in some hours week after week. It has been a fun ride and a very good learning experience. I switched to it for my daily use for a few months now. Today I prepared an installer for MindMate to make it more accessible. Please download it and give it a short. I will wait for your feedback.

It would be my pleasure if you are interested in contributing to the project in any role. It could be as a developer, document writer, tester or just providing feedback as a user.

Download Windows Installer or Portable Zip from here: MindMate

(MindMate only supports Windows 10 for now, will test and build it for earlier version soon. MindMate works fine on Windows 10, 8 and  7)

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.

Tool Open Source / Free Platform Supported Clients Images Support Keyboard Support Rich Text Support
FreeMind Open Source Java Desktop Limited
(hyperlink only)
Excellent Yes
XMind Open Source Java Desktop Yes Good Yes
Freeplane Open Source Java Desktop Limited Excellent Yes
WiseMapping Open Source SaaS, Java, Spring Web No Good (Similar to FreeMind) No
bubbl.us Limited free version (3 maps only) SaaS Web No Below Average No
MindMeister Limited free version (3 maps only) Web, SaaS Web, iOS, Android Limited Excellent (Similar to FreeMind) Supports in Notes window but not inside maps.
Blumind Free .Net Windows No Good No
mind42 Free SaaS Web Limited Ok No
spiderscribe Limited free version (3 maps only) SaaS Web Limited Below Average No
Mindomo Limited free version (3 maps only) SaaS Web Good (Doesn’t support pasting) Excellent Limited
MindMup Open Source SaaS Web Limited Very Good Limited

Table continued with more details:

Tool Scrolling Interface Collaboration Drawing Technology Comments
FreeMind Very seamless Simple and efficient Yes Java
XMind Good Advanced No Java
Freeplane Very seamless Simple and efficient No Java Swing It is a fork of FreeMind
WiseMapping Good (map doesn’t scroll while navigating through keyboard) Simple and Slick Yes SVG
bubbl.us Good Clean and Simple No Flash
MindMeister Very seamless Pleasing and Slick Yes (User can chat also) SVG for links and shapes. DIVs for nodes Has unique features like ‘History View’, ‘Create Slide Show’
Blumind Good (Canvas is not drag-able) Clean and Simple No .Net
mind42 Very seamless Easy to use Yes dojo js library
spiderscribe OK OK Yes Flash Doesn’t auto-format node’s position and link
Mindomo Very Seamless Robust and Slick Yes Flash Interaction with clipboard works as opposed to other HTML based products
MindMup Very Seamless Simple and Slick Yes HTML Canvas Doesn’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/)

Fundamentals of Designing

Microsoft has developed an amazing e-learning website called .toolbox for creating Silverlight applications using Expression Studio. The site focuses on design aspects rather than development. Being a developer, I am always intrigued by design tools like Flash, Blend and Photoshop and want to improve my design skills.  So I have started going through the tutorials on .toolbox, they are very high quality and fun to follow.

I finished the introductory lecture on design fundamentals by Robby Ingebretsen. Following are my notes in a mind map format.

Design Principles

Here is the mind map file for above image which can be opened in FreeMind. After downloading the file, you will have to change the extension to .mm for viewing it in FreeMind.