Mind Mapping: FreeMind/FreePlane

by JL Beeken on 8-21-2010

I don’t want to leave you with a shortage of options for organization, so I had another look at FreeMind (or FreePlane) mind mapping and I love it. I installed the newer version of FreeMind and it’s solved some of the problems I was having with the older one.

FreePlane Mind MappingSo I threw a few of my to-do’s in there and this is the mind map in reduced size. I started out making a map for each of my 11 categories, but found there’s no way to open them all at once. That’s too slow so I copied and pasted them all into one map called MY LIFE.

Here’s a way to get around that. If I export the main branches of MY LIFE one at a time, they create new mind maps under new tabs. On the MY LIFE map are arrows going to the other tabs. And on the other mind maps are arrows going back to the MY LIFE map. In this way it’s possible to open all the mind maps by opening only one. It’s way easier than browsing.

As usual, this software also has more options than I could ever learn in a lifetime, so just getting to the basics:

Enter add sibling node
Ins add child node
Alt+Shift+Enter add new previous sibling
Ctrl+Up move node up
Ctrl+Down move node down
Ctrl+Left node left
Ctrl+Right node right
Alt+Up zoom in
Alt+Down zoom out
Alt+Home expand
Alt+End collapse
F2 edit node
Ctrl+F find
Ctrl +Shift+F search and replace
Alt+Shift+F node color
Ctrl+T show calendar
Alt+Shift+A branch as new map

and many more. If you don’t like them, they’re all changeable.

It really is like your mind. You can shut all the other doors and focus on one thing or you can try to look at everything and be overwhelmed. If you spend about 5 minutes learning a few shortcut keys you’ll be ready to go. An hour and you’ll be flying.

At the bottom of the screen is a Notes box (much improved from the previous version) so if you need to add notes to a node, it’s simple to do and will put a notes icon on the node to remind you it’s there.

It also has all kinds of export options. You can print your maps, too, although unless it’s a very small map it would need to be taped together.

I grew up with pen and paper so no matter what I try I’m always most comfortable if I have paper to scrawl on that I can look at from anywhere. But, nowadays I’d have to rent space to house all the paper I could generate from my computer.

Time moves on and certainly there are advantages to computers since my mind hasn’t gotten any quieter. I remember, back 40 or 50 years, re-writing and re-writing my poems or stories or rants trying to get a perfect copy. By the time I got to the 8th or 10th version I’d be so sick of looking at whatever it was I’d rip it up.

If you can’t organize the chaos of your thoughts with FreePlane, there is no hope.

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