Free Mind Mapping Software

mind-map.jpgMind mapping is an extremely useful technique for note-taking, brainstorming and learning. In the past I often tried to use mind-mapping but the neat-freak in me was never satisfied with the messy maps I would create. However, now there is an alternative to scribbling out mind maps on paper with the availability FreeMind, a great piece of free, cross-platform mind mapping software, allowing even the most artistically-challenged to create neat, functional mind-maps.

picture-8.pngUnlike conventional note-taking, where the subject matter is written out linearly, mind mapping involves representing a subject as a diagram, starting with a central node that represents the overall topic, then adding labeled branches and sub-branches to represent sub-topics and pieces of information. For example, you could draw a mind map of the project you are working on, drawing branches to sub-projects right down to the individual project tasks.

Mind mapping is frequently hyped as a superior note-taking method for learning and recall, allegedly more suited to the way the brain functions than linear note-taking. Research has shown that a group of students using mind-mapping had 10-15% improved ability to recall information compared to a group using conventional note-taking [1], although other research indicates that concentrating more on the subject matter gives better than any switch in note-taking could! [2]. Nevertheless, mind mapping is a great way to arrange large amounts of information in an easily readable and creative format, providing a good base for note-taking, brainstorming and learning.

FreeMind provides a user-friendly interface for drawing mind maps. As well as the basic ability to easily construct branches and nodes, Free Mind also allows you to:

  • Decorate nodes with built-in icons, colors and different fonts
  • Add fully functional HTML links to nodes
  • Easily re-arrange the map with smart drag-n-drop facility
  • Export functional maps to HTML

Since it is written in Javascript, FreeMind will work on any platform, as long as you have installed javascript. FreeMind can be downloaded here, and extensive support documentation is available here. Alternative free mind mapping software includes Thinkgraph, VYM – View Your Mind and Kdissert.

Useful information on mind-mapping:

  1. Farrand, P.; Hussain, F.; Hennessy, E. (2002). “The efficacy of the mind map study technique“. Medical Education 36 (5): 426-431.
  2. Pressley, M., VanEtten, S., Yokoi, L., Freebern, G., & VanMeter, P. (1998). “The metacognition of college studentship: A grounded theory approach”. In: D. J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, & A. C. Graesser (Eds.), Metacognition in Theory and Practice (pp. 347-367). Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum
  3. Wikipedia entry on mind maps


  1. Vic Gee on January 7, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    FreeMind is great – I use it amongst others – but it’s work looking at all the free web-based ones as well. I’ve just pulled together in one place the details of all of these, over at

    This shows what’s free (and how much the subscriptions are for the others), what can import and export MindManager and FreeMind maps and, of course, where to find them.

    The most significant thing about these is that they let you collaborate with others when making a mindmap. Often we don’t need that, but when we do it’s really useful.

    The master list of mind mapping &
    information management software

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