MindMeister: Online Mind Mapping

by JL Beeken on 6-24-2012

MindMeisterMindMeister is online mind mapping software. You can set up a free account and keep up to three mind maps. What I’m about to explain only takes one.

Back at the beginning of the year, I was promoting the idea of keeping a mind map as a desktop background. I’ve been doing that ever since. Make a mind map of your goals and to-do’s, take a screenshot of it, save it your desktop, right-click and choose it as your desktop background.

Desktop Mind Map

As the mind map changes, take another screenshot and refresh the desktop view.

It works well. It keeps my lists right in front of my face and focused. The theory is to have the bigger picture to review and then pick a few things to work on today. And try to keep those choices balanced around the whole wheel of life.

Since the waterfall of life keeps pouring more down on me, I’d prefer to be able to edit the mind map directly on the desktop. Alas, desktop backgrounds are not that fancy. So I added desktop post-its to the idea to make it even faster. And it works. I’m not complaining.

MindMeister Online

MindMeister is an alternate way of doing this. This is online mind mapping so I signed up for a free account, imported my desktop mind map (which took 2 seconds) and started testing the efficiency of working this way.

Right away I was slowed down by the bother of having to log in to it. The simple fix for this was to change my Firefox options.

1. “Remember passwords for sites”. This actually pops up a box every time you log into a different site for the first time and asks you for confirmation of this, so you’re not automatically stuck with it keeping the password for every site if you don’t want to.

2. On the login to MindMeister itself it asked me if I wanted to Stay Signed In, to which I replied Yes.

Then I discovered a new option in the lastest version of Firefox called ‘Pin as App Tab’. When you have a tab open, just right-click and choose that. It creates little buttons for each site you want pinned.

Pin App to Tab, Firefox

Each time you open Firefox the buttons will reappear. I even found the buttons survive a reboot of my computer. Depending how viciously you delete your web history and how often, you may have to log in again. In the case of G+ I had to keep their cookies or they’d keep logging me out.

So, that solves the issue of the time it takes to open MindMeister. No time at all if your browser is already open, which mine is most of the day.

Inside MindMeister

By default, MindMeister gives you a demo version mind map that you can delete when you’re done looking at it. You’ve got room on a free account for 2 other maps (3 if you delete this one) so you can go ahead and start creating your own.

Demo Mind Map, MindMeister

If you already have mind maps or lists, the import feature is very simple and works with other mind map formats as well as plain text files. As an experiment, I imported my Genealogy Research Toolbox mind map which is quite large and it only took a few seconds.

If you’d like to get an idea how people use mind mapping, you can view a collection of public ones at MindMeister’s Public Library.

It’s also possible to share maps with any number of other people and collaborate on them or not. This is very similar to the Dropbox interface where you type in the email address(es) of the people you want to share with and they receive an invitation to your map.

Collaboration, MindMeister

The collaboration option here could be really interesting in the genealogy community. The mind boggles. Brainstorming, collaborative resources, collaborative how-to’s …

You can add notes and icons, links to URLs. (Files kept in G-Drive, for instance, so they’re accessible on all devices.) Any kind of check lists or templates you use regularly. You can also add time reminders or just link to your online calendar app if you use one.

You can publish your maps and embed them on web pages or get a public link that you can share in emails, on web pages, social sites, etc. Or just keep them private. Use them as a way to structure your plans and ideas and don’t share them with anyone.

MindMeister integrates with various mobile devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android.

You can also export maps in a wide variety of formats if you use other mind mapping software. This is good for backups.

There are, of course, differences in options between the free and paid accounts. I signed up for a Basic account which is free and I was able to export to .mm which works in FreePlane and FreeMind. As with everything else a backup option is critical.

A Personal account with unlimited mind maps and 6 export options is $4.99/month with Pro and Business beyond that.

So, go sign up to MindMeister, pin it to your tabs and let it change your life.

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