I’m quite a visually-driven person and I really like using mind maps to sketch out ideas, take notes and plan things. My daily notebook used to be full of ‘em. In order to make them more useful (and legible) for other people, I started using some mind mapping software a few years back. My favourite to date is mindmeister by a country mile.
Its a SaaS tool, which means there’s no software to install – just a few details to set up an account and you’re started straight away.
It’s intuitive and and easy to use, opening up with a large blank canvas. You start by making your central node, and then add branches as you need them. There’s everything you’d expect from a mind mapping tool…
- lots of styling options
- expand/collapse feature for big branches
- auto-placing for optimum layout
- embed icons, links, images, notes
- export your map to a pdf
The fact that it’s SaaS also means…
- mind maps stored online – you can access them from any computer connected to the internet
- you can invite others to view or collaborate on your maps
- mind maps can easily be embedded in a web page
There’s a iphone and ipad app for mindmeister, which, as a regular commuter, I love. It means I get to make use of journey time to do a bit of work without the faff of getting the laptop out.
I’ve use mind maps for loads of things, but my favourite is taking notes during meetings, with can then be shared with everyone else for instant minutes. I used to spend lots of time bothering about getting minutes neatly typed up, in numbered paragraphs with action points. I’m much less bothered about the format these days. By sending out the link to the mind map at the end of the meeting, folks can immediately review whilst things are fresh in the mind (and no-one misses the colour-highlighted action points). The only downside I’ve found is we’re all used to people taking notes on paper during a meeting, but someone tapping at a computer seemed a bit rude, like they weren’t really paying attention. I try to link the computer to a big screen during the meeting so folks can see what notes are being made – that seems to work quite well.