Mac20Q Podcast 106 All about MindMapping on the Mac

Using Mind Mapping software on your mac.

I have some mind mapping software to give away to a lucky Mac20Q listener. Seeing as many of you will be scratching your head at this time, thinking something along the lines of ” What the bloody hell is mind mapping when it is at home?”

So let me tell you about what it is and then I will tell you how you can win a copy of some excellent mind mapping software. Mind mapping can be used for a variety of things including shopping lists, project management, an aide to learning, brainstorming or blue skying if you want to be fancy for any number of types of creative or business based projects


People’s usual experience with mind mapping is amazement at how fertile their minds become when working in this kind of environment. There is plenty of medical and psychological evidence to support the usefulness of mind mapping—for some people. It goes back to the left brain/right brain debate. If you tend to rely on intuition, think holistically, and in terms of patterns, images, and colours—behavioural scientists consider you “right-brained.” If you are logic, sequential, rational, look at the parts instead of the whole, and prefer written words to images, you’re left- brained. But none of us are either one or the other: We think with both sides of our brain. The problem for many of us is that the tools we use are designed by… well, by software designers—those left-brainers. And that kind of interface can be hard for right-brainers to work in.

I have been into the idea of using mind mapping for some time now ever since I read the Tony Buzan books about the subject some years ago. there was the original BBC TV series Use Your Head presented by Tony Buzan (the man generally acknowledged as the father of the technique).

All down to my background as a teacher and me looking for ways to promote effective learning both for myself and also for my students. Lately I have been looking again at mind mapping because I am learning to do programming for the iOS devices and also for the Mac and I wanted something to help me get the information in my head.

That is a hard enough task, I find I need to use all my learning senses to remember things and keep them remembered. You know the senses of hearing information as well as seeing it on a page and more importantly for me is the doing things and a bit of repetition thrown in here and there. Using mindmapping on the Mac is a way of seeing the information that for me makes it easier to remember. I see pictures in my head better than I see lists of text based items.

Basically you are making a picture using a minimum of words with branches containing ideas spreading out of a central concept and you can have links between branches too. Then you can put notes in there and pictures and all the things that will for you spark off those brain cells in between your ears and have you remember the subject matter you are trying to cram.

Mind Mapping on the iPad.

I use iThoughts HD for pure mind mapping but I also like the note taking and mind mapping your get with MagicalPad.


Good practice with a Mind Map

What you do is to make a mind map using single words that cover the important concepts. These words are there to remind you of the underlying information. Then you can go deeper and mind map into a specific topic with detail. making the maps colourful and with images on the mind map too makes it all more memorable.

What you can do then to revise the information and see how much you have remembered . What you do is to re create the mind map from memory and see how much has stuck to the grey matter. All part of the process of moving items from short term memory into long term memory and increasing your understanding of the subject you are learning.

MindMapping on the Mac works and used as one effective tool in the whole learning process can help you progress faster with the subject matter. Thats some the basic theory of mind mapping and leads us to how we make the mind maps. Well you could get out some paper and coloured pencils and draw them long hand. The physical tactile process is a good thing to do and even a good thing for us computer nerds to do despite us having ways to make mind maps with our Macs. – It’s the kinetic part of the learning process.

But there are advantages to using a computer to make your mind maps. You get an whole image of the Mind Map that looks good and is easy to read and memorise. It is perhaps quicker to make a mind map with a computer because you can drag and drop images in quickly changing something is super rapid whether it is moving either a small part of the MM image or a whole branch of the diagram You can of course print these out so that you look them while pinned to a wall or a cork board. You can also export them out to various formats – PDF’s, web pages, OPML documents, which are the lingua franc of outlining tools such as omni Outliner. So – there’s a lot of advantages for us computer nerds.

Different Apps for Mind Mapping on the Mac

mindmapping on the mac

You have the choice of iMindMap, mindnode, ConceptDraw, Freemind, MindMeister, Mind Manager and others. Some are Cross platform and some specific to a platform. I have downloaded free mind mapping software, I have been given the licence key to expensive mind mapping software and tried out other trial versions of various price ranges and this is what I think of what I have seen so far.

There is iMindMap which is good in terms of facilities but not so good in terms of quality of the software. I was given a licence to the Ultimate version because I tried it out and didn’t buy and was asked to answer a questionnaire about it in exchange for a licence. I have tried using this for my learning programming and it should be the best of the bunch seeing as Tony Buzan is accredited as being the inventor of mindmapping and has a number of books on the subject memory skills and courses about mind mapping – so you can become an accredited trainer of mindmapping through Tony Buzan’s mindmapping business.

I like the look of the mind maps iMindMap creates and that you can add notes to a branch. When you mouse over the icon for the note you see a popup of the note. The speed mapping works well and is a good implementation of the mindmapping concept in producing mind maps. The iMindMap software for the Mac though is let down though by the fact it is easy to see that it has been programmed by a non Mac person.
It does look better than the FreeMind mind mapping software which is open source but has very obvious flaws – not least of which is that the menu is not where we expect to see it. It has been put at the top of the app window – Microsoft Windows style and I kept looking where the menu should have been at the top of the screen and not finding it. Very annoying. I also think that the software needs more work to get rid of a memory leak. The longer you have it running the more sluggish it gets. After a while a restart is required to get it working right again.

A plus is that there is an iPhone version and an iPad version, a minus is that I had wasn’t able to move mind maps from the Mac to the iPhone version. The software does seem a bit costly compared to some other solutions I will mention although there are other mind mapping softwares that are around the same price or even more expensive. 25 Euro for the iPad version. 149 pounds for the ultimate desktop version. There is a more basic version for 49 pounds.Maybe in a future version it will be a good piece of Mac software. I think though – It does need some work still to justify the price.

Mind Mapping with Freemind

I mentioned Freemind and it is Free – It does have that open source look about it though and if you are getting into this type of learning and you are short of cash it might suit you well.
Freemind seems more keyboard oriented and although I have not used it much I miss being able to move nodes around easily with my mouse. the look of the mind map is not that pretty and how a mind map looks is important. The image it conveys or projects into your head is what does much of the work of making you remember and learn better.

Then again there is the Mindnode standard version which is free also. It allows basic mind mapping and looks a bit better than the FreeMind app. Mind node has a cleaner more mac like interface and also important is that there is an iPad touch version that you can share mind maps with. I have found it easy to send MM to and to be able to get mind maps from iOS devices.

Allison Sheridan @Podfeet uses Mindnode on the iPad and says on her podcast that she will even sometimes make a note on the iPad in Mindnode while sitting at a red stop traffic light
I can only imagine the disgruntled drivers behind her beeping when the lights turn green and she is still sitting there putting new branches into the mind map.

MindMapping on the Mac

With MindnodePro you can go full screen and it is really easy to create a new node just by dragging away from the central idea to start with – then from whatever node. There is a rounded rectangle next to the node with a plus sign in it and you just click on it drag away to where you want the new node to reside. There is an inspector which you get to = from a button on the toolbar – you can change the background colour and the colour of the node – or say whether you want a filled node or not. Decreasing branch thickness is possible by clicking a checkbox. Not decreasing per branch as in iMindMap – that is getting smaller in the gap between one node and another but each link going further out from the centre getting thinner.

Media button on the toolbar

In Mindnode there is a Media button on the toolbar and you get access to images sounds and movies on your system. If you drop an image on the MM in a space you will get another central idea. If you drop it on a node already there it glues itself to the node – wherever you put the pictures you are able to resize them if you wish. You can also resize the text in a node so that you can give an idea more prominence that way too.

Sometimes you will want to create a connection from one node to another – just select your starting point and hit the connection button on the tool bar, click on where you want to connect to and then once connected there is a dot in the middle of the line that lets you curve the line in a bezier fashion in the inspector you can then put end points on the line – a small selection of arrows and ends – A nice wee trick is where you can fold and unfold branches allowing you to focus more clearly on a section if you want to. You can do this in other mind mapping softwares too. Inserting a node in between 2 you have already created is possible and also you can detach nodes as you like.

Something I found that was not quite right – I did a copy using CMd C of a branch with 3 child branches – when I pasted on to a second MM it came in as one node with 4 bullet points in it.
Not what I was expecting. I have emailed the developer and asked about the possibility to have notes that can be added and he tells me that it has been asked for many times and it is something that he plans to put into the application – not sure when that will be though.

The export options are pretty good though you can send out as an image PNG TIFF as a PDF OPML Html RTF or in text format. Can even send out as a FreeMind document. How cool is all of that. I see that the Mind Node Touch app is universal so that it is on my iPhone as well as on my iPad. I found it easy to send the document I was working with on to the iPhone app and the only thing is that the pictures didn’t survive the trip. Only the text part of the mm arrived on the Mindnode touch.

On the Mac

I keep expecting to be able to zoom in using a 2 finger gesture on the magic mouse but seems you have to zoom using the zoom chooser bottom left corner of the app. You have the zoom in percentages below and also above 100% then you have fit to selection- very useful and also fit map also useful.

On the whole I like MindNode Pro and I can recommend it.
I have bought it for myself = both the touch version for the iPad and the phone – and the desktop version.


Other ramblings

Keynote on the iPad

My wife is getting on well with the iPad and showing presentations despite a couple of moments of worry.
One worry was that when we tried it out she didn’t notice that you have to have the slide show on Play before the picture goes to the projector. Which can be good if you want to keep your students from seeing the slide show until you are ready. So there she was with a blue screen of nothing and thinking it was broken
A phone call was needed to get things moving again.

Next thing is that when you have a pile of presentations on the iPad for 3 different classes but with similar looking titles it can be difficult to be sure you have the correct slide show. She is asking for folders to be able to tuck these Keynotes away into discreet places. That is not going to happen. Wanting folders is a PC way of looking at things we are used to throwing our files into one place then using spotlight to find what we need as Mac Users. I did try looking for a keynote that had been imported on the iPad and it didn’t work anyway though.
What would be good if if there are no folders then to have tagging for these files to help the search and something better than scrolling through the front slides of each keynote. I suggested that she should have better naming conventions so she could see which one was which easier – That will still be a good idea even though I think I have got a work around. There are three classes so I think we should have a different colour for each
The first slide of a presentation should be in that colour. Then there should be the Name of the file & properly named. Also there is a sequence to these presentations So I think a Number should be included on that front slide too. We have to set that up yet – I will let you know how I get on.

Getting comfortable with the iPad

As for me and the iPad I am getting more comfortable with it. Comfortable as in instead of sitting at my desk using it alongside my iMac and MacBook I am sprawled on the sofa with my feet up and using the iPad.
I can even watch a bit of TV at the same time sometimes. Much better than taking the MacBook to the sofa.

Quick Office for the iPad

I downloaded the Application Quick Office for the iPad but found when I got the app that there were 2 separate apps and I had the iPhone app which I didn’t want at all. Quick Office couldn’t help me and advised that I send an email to Apple to get a refund. I did that and was nervous about it. Thinking that it would be difficult. There was a promise on the Apple site to reply back within 24 hours and they did. I will be getting a refund. They had made a mistake about the amount but I sent a reply to point that out and I expect they will deal with it without any hassle. Phew!

My son was here visiting for a week and I got no podcasting done while he was here so there has been some delay with getting this episode out – but it is full steam ahead now.

ZumoCast and ZumoDrive

Just installing Zumocast which does a similar job to AirVideo it seems – I will have more details for that in the next show.

Using Onyx for Mac Maintenance

Another job I have to do is to do a repair on the startup drive. A great tool for the Mac User is Onyx – a free app. I ran it yesterday and it did a couple of checks on start up and I recommended that I run a repair on the start up drive. To do this I have to boot off the DVD install disk and use DiskUtility to run a repair. Has to be done that way rather than run the disk utility I have installed on the running operating system. The need for a repair has probably come about from problems I had with the electric supply dying a few times last week following a storm. I really must buy a UPS.

Here is a quick keyboard tip for new Mac users

When you want to do a forward delete on your MacBook and you have only a backspace key to use then hold down the function key and the backspace will forward delete for you. That is the key marked Fn

I have downloaded the 4.2 beta for the iPad and I have to decide whether to put it on the iPad. I know someone that has done this and I think I will interrogate him before I do it to see if there are things I should watch out for.
I have the 4.2 for the 3G iPhone also – decisions decisions. BTW You can only get these 4.2’s if you are in the developer program.

Quick Office for the iPad

Quick Office for the iPad as well as for email. I have been with Mobile Me and enjoyed the ease of it for keeping everything in Sync across all my Mac devices. But in the interest of saving money I have decided to try using Google. The email with Google has been fine – no problems, so using the contacts and calendar should be OK too. Setting up was a bit difficult though. I kept searching through google and getting one set up instructions that suggested using Google Apps – but you have to get accepted on that and I think it costs money also, then another load of instructions. I got the email set up but did nothing for the other things.

In the end I got the right details – by luck I think, and the way is to set up on my devices using Microsoft exchange option – who’d a thunk it? Once I did that and managed to get the syncs going in the right direction so I didn’t have duplicates of everything it is all working. I had to do a merge of dupes a couple of times during the messing about. On the Mac it was easy – just had to check a box and give my Google details to be syncing. One thing I don’t have covered as was covered in mobile me is syncing of keychains. I will have to look into that.