Mind Mapping Tools: Online Guide To Web-Based MindMap Drawing Services
Mind mapping tools are an effective way to collaborate, brainstorm, visualize and plan ideas either on your own or with other people. If you still use tons of sticky notes to organize your thoughts, in this online guide I have collected and reviewed the best web-based mindmap drawing services out there.
Photo credit: Robin Good
A mindmap is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.
mindmaps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. (Source: Wikipedia)
Tony Buzan, who has first evangelized this unconventional way of visualizing ideas, claims that mindmaps utilize the full range of left and right human cortical skills, balance the brain and tap into the alleged 99% of your unused mental potential, as well as intuition.
Though a lot of scientists suggest that such claims may be just marketing hype, my own experience is that mind mapping works great when it comes to visualize my thoughts or brainstorm ideas with my virtual team.
In fact, the real advantage I see about mind mapping is the ease to visualize ideas in a virtually unlimited space, while giving very precise text labels to ideas, tasks, projects and to the relationships between them. These two basic characteristics, with the ability to watch and edit the same map in real-time with others, creates a truly effective and memorable way of collaborating productively.
Here below let me share with you just some examples, taken out of my own experience, of how mindmaps contribute to simplify my work:
- When I need to prepare a tool guide on a specific topic, I use a mindmap to collect all the tools that will be part of that guide, without worrying to create a specific order. I just add tools randomly as they come to my head.
- As you probably know, I offer anyone the opportunity to engage in a one-to-one relationship with me during an internship period here at MasterNewMedia. The internship is essentially a training period where I teach all I have learned while becoming a professional online publisher. Each step during the internship requires specific goals to achieve and precise skills to acquire, but since these steps are not necessarily reached in a linear path, I use a mindmap to display and check which goals have been reached first and what is still left to do.
- I have recently been involved in an interesting experiment. I asked my readers to add any online collaboration tool they use or know to a specific mindmap that I would publicly share. Visualizing such an extended list of tools would be impossible in a normal document. So, I built the Best Online Collaboration Tools 2009 map, which you can easily consult and where new tools are added daily.
Now that I have briefly introduced you to mindmaps, let me point out clearly some of the main advantages of web-based mind mapping tools compared to a desktop mind mapping solution:
- Access mindmaps regardless of which computer you are using.
- Collaborate in real-time with other people at a distance.
- Publish mindmaps on the web to share your ideas.
- Engage readers in collaborative brainstorming sessions.
If you want to test these mind mapping tools for yourself, I have prepared two comparative tables as well as a set of mini-reviews of all the web-based mind mapping tools on the market.
Here the criteria I personally selected to prepare the tables and write each review:
- Real-time collaboration: The number of concurrent users who can work in real-time to a mindmap
- Publishing: mindmap sharing on web pages, either using a widget, simple HTML code or other options
- Public / private option: Access restriction to allow only selected users to collaborate on a mindmap
- Customization: Support for font styles, notes, images, attachments and hyperlinks to personalize the style and appearance of a mindmap
- Text chat: Integrated text-chat feature to collaborate in real-time with other people
- Accessibility: Availability of mobile and offline versions to access your mindmaps when you are not connected
- Import / export formats: Supported file types to import existing mindmaps created using another mind mapping tool. Also, all export options to save your mindmap: other compatible mind mapping tools, documents or image file formats
- History: Chronological history of all the revisions made to a mindmap either by you or a collaborator. Ability to revert the mindmap to any previous version or edit..
- Free features: Other options available at a free level
- Pro features: Advanced options available only to premium paid accounts
Web-Based MindMap Drawing Services Comparative Tables
Mind Mapping Tools: Web-Based MindMap Drawing Services
- MindManager ***DEAD
MindManager is the web-based counterpart of the Mindmanager mind mapping desktop software. MindManager Web is priced at €120 and a 30-day free trial is available. The mindmaps you create can be shared with up to 9 collaborators who see real-time changes as you edit. An integrated web-conferencing feature also allows you to voice-chat with your teammates, and if you are on a Windows machine you can even text-chat with other users. You can either create public or private mindmaps, but you cannot share your maps publicly on the web. MindManager Web lets you customize the appearance of your mindmaps by using different font styles and formatting options. You can also insert notes, hyperlinks, attachments, images and draw colored lines to connect nodes. MindManager Web supports import and export of your mindmaps from / to Mindomo, Mind42, Comapping and WiseMapping. The service is also accessible through Windows Mobile smartphones using PocketMind software (€49). For offline editing, you must purchase the stand-alone MindManager suite. Revision history is supported. Flash is required to use MindManager Web.
MindMeister is a collaborative web-based mind mapping solution you can use for free with restricted capabilities or full-featured for 30 days. The service allows you to create a mindmap that can be shared with other users who see real-time changes as they are made by other collaborators. Your mindmap can either be public or private. If you set a mindmap for public access, you can also embed it on a web page by pasting the relevant HTML code. MindMeister allows you to apply different styles to your map by editing size, color and formatting of your text. You can also add images, hyperlinks, notes, and icons. When you are working on a map, all changes are stored for future revision and you can go back at any time to undo all changes made. Using MindMeister you can also add text to your maps using SMS, e-mail, desktop / web widgets and a Firefox / IE add-on. You can import your maps from MindManager, FreeMind and TXT files. You can also export your finished map to RTF, PDF, JPG, GIF and PNG file formats, as well as MindManager and Freemind files (Premium users only). Text-chat is not supported. With a free account you can draw up to three mindmaps, have basic import / export capabilities and share your work with others. To work with unlimited users you have to purchase a Premium plan (starting from $4/month). Premium plans also let you access advanced import / export features, work offline, add file attachments to your maps and secure your data. All maps created with a Premium plan are ads-free.
Mindomo offers both a software and a web-based mind mapping tool. You can create both public and private maps. Public maps can be embedded on any web page by copying and pasting the relevant HTML code or sent via e-mail. To customize your map you can use different font styles and colors. You can also add hyperlinks, icons, images, videos, and use lines to connect different nodes of your map. If you have already drawn a mindmap using another mind mapping tool like MindManager or FreeMind, you can import your existing map inside Mindomo. You can also export your mindmaps to TXT, RTF, PDF, JPG, GIF or PNG file formats. Text-chat and revision history are not supported. With a free account you can create up to seven private mindmaps and have unlimited public maps. To have unlimited private maps you must switch to the Premium account, priced at $6/month. Mindomo Premium account also lets you get rid of ads, protect your maps with secure encryption and use the spell-checking feature. Flash is required to use Mindomo.
Bubbl.us is a free mind mapping tool that allows you to create mindmaps right inside your browser. Bubbl.us maps can be shared with unlimited users, but you cannot create fully public mindmaps. To customize the appearance of your mindmap, you can only change the background color of the bubbles (the elements that contain text), but you cannot modify the style of the text. Adding icons, attachments, hyperlinks and images to your bubbles is not supported either. Bubbl.us lets you publish your mindmap by pasting a small piece of HTML code inside your web pages. You can also export your finished map as JPG or PNG images or send it via e-mail. No text-chat and revision history are available. You cannot work on your map in offline mode or access your mindmap via mobile. Flash is required to use Bubbl.us.
Mind42 is a free web service that allows you to create mindmaps that can be shared with unlimited collaborators. You have different options to style your mindmap: you can change the font type, the color of the font and also add notes, images, hyperlinks, icons and attachments. When your mindmap is completed, you can embed your map on a web page by pasting the relevant HTML code or export the map to MindManager or to a RTF file. Importing an existing map made with another mind mapping tool is not allowed. Using the Birdview mode you can see a small preview of your entire map if the whole map does not fit inside your browser window and the portion of the map you are working on is also highlighted. Text-chat functionality is not built inside the service, but Mind42 provides quick access to use your Skype and Gtalk accounts to communicate with your teammates. You cannot choose to create public and private maps: all maps are private. Offline working mode and revision history are not available.
WiseMapping is a free web-based mind mapping tool. You can build as many mindmaps as you want and share them with unlimited co-workers. To personalize your maps you can add icons, hyperlinks, and notes but not images. You can also add colors to the nodes of your map and change the appearance of your text (font type, color, size). Maps can be either private or public and your public maps can also be published on the web. Just grab a small piece of HTML code and embed the hyperlinked image of your map inside any web page. To export your map you can choose among SVG, PDF, MMAP (MindManager), JPG and PNG file formats. To see a previous version of your map, check the revision history for any modification you and your collaborators have done and, optionally, revert the map to a previous state. No text chat available. WiseMapping does not provide offline access to your mindmaps.
Comapping is a paid web-based mind mapping solution you can test for a trial period. The service has different price levels starting at $15/six months for a single license. Using Comapping you can work with up to 20 collaborators who see changes in real-time as you modify a shared map. You can also use text-chat to communicate and brainstorm ideas with collaborators. Your maps can either be public or private. Public maps can also be published on the web using a widget. To style your mindmap you can use different font colors and styles. You can even use icons and attachments, but not add images or notes. Comapping also allows you to hold presentations using your mindmap. A server version is also available upon request. You can import your maps from MindManager (MMAP) and export to MMAPP, RTF and HTML file formats. Revision history is not supported. Comapping works offline by downloading to your computer a small application based on Adobe AIR.
DropMind is a free web-based mind mapping tool that you can use to build and share your mindmaps with up to two collaborators. You see real-time changes made by collaborators and you can also text-chat any other user working on your mindmap using Gtalk. To customize your map you can add hyperlinks, icons, notes and style your text by changing font type, color and size. Any time a collaborator modifies the mindmap, all changes are stored for future revision and you can always revert your map to a previous state. Dropmindmaps are private by default, but you can publish them to let other DropMind users check your work. You can import your existing maps from MindManager and Freemind, but also from RTF and DOC files. Exporting a map is not supported. Premium access (starting at $15/3 months) allows you to have unlimited concurrent users, hold presentations, export map as RTF, DOC, PDF, HTML and image files, add images and attachments, and also work offline on your own desktop. Microsoft Silverlight is required to use DropMind.
MAPMYself (former Mapul) is a free mind mapping tool that works right inside your browser. With MAPMYself you cannot share your maps with other collaborators for real-time editing. You have several customization options to style your map: you can change the appearance of the nodes, and also the font, color, and size of your text. You can even add images, icons and notes and hand-write the text of your nodes. MAPMYself mindmaps can be all publicly shared on the web. Export formats supported include PNG, DOCX and MindManager (MMAP) file formats. The Presentation mode allows you to hold a presentation using your mindmap. MAPMYself can also work offline. Revision history is not supported.
Glinkr is an open-source web-based mind mapping tool. Glinkr does not allow you to share your maps with other users, but you can embed your map inside a web page using a widget. You have limited customization options for the nodes of your map: you can change the background colors of the nodes or add attachments, hyperlinks and descriptions, but not else. Maps can be imported into Glinkr from GIF, JPG, PNL and HTML files, but cannot be exported. No offline mode nor revision history are supported.
Robin Good -
Originally prepared by Robin Good and Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on August 10th, 2009 as "Mind Mapping Tools: Online Guide To Web-Based MindMap Drawing Services".
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