Mind mapping is a useful way to organize your thoughts and process flow with visual diagrams. When done correctly, it can easily handle massive projects and allow you to better distribute tasks among your team members, while still keeping tags on everything. Freeplane is one of the best free open source mind mapping software. It is also compatible with several platforms, so you can use it on Windows, macOS or Linux. Let’s see how you can use Freeplane to create mind maps.
To get started, download Freeplane from its official page on SourceForge. Extract it and find the installer for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
- For Windows users, run the .exe file.
- Linux and Mac users can run the .sh file or the .jar file directly.
If you are using an Ubuntu compatible distribution, install Freeplane by searching for it in the Software Center, then by clicking on the large, user-friendly “Install” button.
Alternatively, if you prefer the terminal, use:
Your first mind map
When you run Freeplane for the first time, it creates a new blank mind map. Before that, however, it will ask you to select a model for its appearance.
After clicking “OK”, you will see the main interface of Freeplane, with most of its window occupied by your new mind map. At its center will be your starting point and the title of your mind map.
Double-click on this default title “New Mind Map” to modify it. Change it as you wish.
Subjects, sub-themes and nodes
With your main subject / central point selected, press Enter on your keyboard to add a new subject. You can directly change its name or press Enter again to add other topics at the same level.
If you do not enter names for the new topics you add, you can either double-click them as you did for the central topic, or move around your mind map using the cursor keys. hurry F2 on any highlighted entry to rename it.
hurry Insert on your keyboard to insert a sub-theme into the highlighted one. All editable entries on your mind map that connect to others are called “nodes”.
Although Freeplane moves things around trying to keep everything clean, you can also do it manually by clicking directly to the left of any entry (on the ellipse that will appear), then dragging it where you want.
If your mind map becomes too large and convoluted, you can reduce some knots. Hover over a node and a small circle with a “-” icon will appear. Click on it and all the sub-nodes will be hidden until you click on the “+” icon which replaced it.
Connections, notes and reminders
Although your mind map has nodes inside nodes, some of them can also be linked outside of their inherited hierarchy. To connect them to visually show this relationship, select the first one, then while holding Ctrl, click on the second. Right click and choose “Connect” from the menu that appears.
You can change the placement of this connection by clicking on its curve and dragging it.
To keep everything clean, avoid using long names for your nodes. Instead, if you need to add more details, right click on it and choose “Edit note in dialog”.
Enter a note describing what it is “in the simple text editor that appears.
To add a visual touch to your knots, note the hidden pane on the left. Click on the arrow pointing to the right to enlarge it. Then, with a node selected, choose the icon you want to appear next to it.
There is another hidden pane on the right where you will find many more options that will allow you to change the appearance of each element of your mind map. For example, you can even change the shape of a node by activating “Modify” under “Knot shape” then choosing a shape from the drop-down menu, changing its margin, etc.
The “Calendar” tab in this pane will also allow you to configure reminders for each node, allowing you to use Freeplane as a real task manager.
Finally, you can save your card in “File -> Save card as …” to come back to it later. If you collaborate with others, however, you can send them your mind map in a visible format without having to install this mind mapping software themselves. Choose “File -> Export map …” and your preferred format from the drop-down menu.
If for some reason you don’t like Freeplane as mind mapping software, you can try using Google Drawings to create mind maps, although it’s not optimal for that use.
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