Enter mind mapping. I've spent a considerable amount of time this past week evaluating various mind mapping software on OS X. The candidates were MindJet MindManager 7, Inspiration, FreeMind, and XMind
Here's a summary of my impressions:
- Old MacOS9 look and feel
- Costs $$$$ -- but why should I pay that for a something that feels so outdated?
- Crashed twice and felt somewhat unwieldy for very large corporate or engineering projects
- Very very nice outline mode handy for cut and paste right into a doc or email.
- Might consider the Kidspiration for the youngins
- $$$ but the newer MM8 is only available on Windows
- Frequently crashed (due to evaluation? Doubt it)
- Overview mode was annoying with no automatic way of expanding every node in the tree
- Nice interface and keyboard shortcuts
- Good documentation
- Supports floating nodes
- Worked quite well -- felt productive from the start.
- OpenSource. This is the product I wanted to like the most being a fan of the opensource community.
- Full export
- Cloud functionality mimics XMind boundaries.
- Text mode is somewhat clumsy -- how does one delete the text icon when there is no longer any text without deleting the node itself?? This is precisely the sort of information I don't want to waste time digging around for.
- Documented key-mappings for Mac didn't always match reality
- Overview mode?
- Annoying options menu -- especially choosing default colors
- No floating nodes and difficult to place nodes where you want them (they're always snapping back to the way FreeMind wants it)
- Somewhat primitive look and feel
- I took some time before I felt truly productive with this product
- Some components OpenSource
- Extremely polished, friendly interface
- Good documentation
- Floating nodes
- Intuitive -- felt productive almost at once.
- Easy to both add and delete notes using function+F4
- Compact legend of key-bindings instantly accessible via ↑⌘L
- Optional tri-pane window featuring outline view and properties
- Cool Boundary and Summary functions
- Nice auto-styling like multi-branch coloring and line tapering
- Flexible node styling such as rounded, rectangle, callout, fishhead
- Useful templates
- Can't export to PDF in the free version
Ranking: 1) XMind, 2) FreeMind, 3) MindManager, 4) Inspiration.
XMind just wins hands-down in $$$, ease of use, form, and function. I would even consider purchasing the yearly subscription for some advanced features (Gantt charting) @ $49 a bargain.
Freemind is nice, too, but not as polished, full-featured, or easy to use as XMind. As mentioned before, I like opensource community projects, but in the end I need to get work done.
Shortly after XMind was made available at no cost, one of the FreeMind developers initiated a thread on the FreeMind mailing list asking whether or not it was worthwhile to continue that project (see here). Obviously the answer should be yes -- why crumple in the face of competition? Reading through the thread, however, I noticed a lot of commentors stated that while XMind is good, it's also slow whereas Freemind is lean and fast and, as such, Freemind is more suitable for quick off-the-cuff mapping. While it is true that Freemind is a bit spryer I feel this is negligable -- at least on a modern desktop.