Four Open Source Mind Mapping Apps to Keep You Focused

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 14, 2009

Mind mapping tools are among the unsung heroes of project management. They're often overlooked or underused because some people mistakenly believe the learning curve is too steep or the features are unnecessary. Most mind mapping software is easy to use, however, and the applications are a great way to keep track of projects, research, book notes, and brainstorming sessions.

Here are four open source mind mapping apps to help keep you focused on your projects and collaborate efficiently with others on your team.

XMind - When you want to get your thoughts organized before a planning session with the rest of your team, take a look at XMind. To start using this free app, simply open a blank whiteboard, double click anywhere on the screen, then start typing. Reorganize topics and thoughts with drag-and-drop, add attachments, and even grab a snapshot of your work. XMind even lets you drag search results onto your map right from Google. When you're ready to share your ideas with the world, embed the XMind map viewer right into your blog. If you're looking for private sharing options, however, you'll need to upgrade to XMind Pro for $49.00/year or $6.00/month.

FreeMind - Here's a free mind mapping app written in Java that can easily handle maps with as many as 22,000 nodes. FreeMind folds and unfolds maps and follows links with one click, and supports smart copying and pasting including HTML, plain text, and RTF. Easily import and export existing data to and from Mindjet Mind Manager or Microsoft Office and transfer maps to your mobile device with FreeMindPDA.

Compendium - Compendium Institute developed this nifty application to help provide a visual reference to manage the connection between information and ideas. Unlike some mind mapping apps, Compendium can assimilate data from your email, images, and any documents on your computer so you can "make sense of disparate material that would otherwise remain fragmented in different software applications." The project's creators have also developed concepts called Dialogue Mapping and Conversational Modeling to help improve the communication and progress of collaborative groups.

GanttProject - If your favorite feature of mind mapping software is the Gantt project management chart, then take a look at this free app. Use it to define project deadlines and milestones, assign tasks, track resource allocation, and more. Charts are saved as .PNGs and can be generated in HTML and PDF or exported to Microsoft Project. GanttProject doesn't have all the bells and whistles of other mind mapping software apps, but it does take some of their most important elements and puts them front and center for the user.