How To Build a Mind Map In Microsoft Word

Ads by Google

MindmapIt is said that an average person has 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts in a day. Of course, a genius might have more than you and I, but the figure mentioned was the hypothetical traffic that goes on in our brain. Our thoughts rarely go from Point A to Point B in a straight line. More likely, they flit about like a firefly caught in a jar.

This is where a tool like a Mind Map comes in use. A mind map is not a case sheet for a psychologist but simply a diagram that helps to connect related ideas or concepts around a central thought.

Try it out if you haven’t before”¦it is a great idea-capturing device to bring some order to the chaos that’s our brain.


By putting down ideas or thoughts on a mind map, the brain is encouraged to think from every aspect. A mind map also encourages brainstorming. It forces the brain to think in terms of relationships between ideas rather than forcing everything into hierarchies or lists. The bottom line about mindmapping is that it’s all about “Ëśvisuals’ — words connected to graphical elements that makes it easy for us to take in large amount of data.

There are specialized applications for creating mind maps. But the simplest tool could be a paper and some pens. The second simplest when you don’t have software installed could be to create a mind map in MS Word. But first”¦

Ads by Google

Simple Rules For Effective Mind Maps

  • Think of the central idea and write it down in the middle.
  • Think of related ideas and place them radially around the central idea. Connect all ideas with meaningful relationships. Use lines, colored lines, shapes, pictures, etc. to graphically describe ideas and relationships.
  • Leave lots of space between ideas because new filler ideas and relationships will come in as the mind map grows.
  • Go with the flow.

Simple Mind Maps in MS Word Using Illustration Tools

Creating a mind map in Word is easy with basic shapes and flowcharts. Extended by other illustration tools like Callouts, Lines and Clip Art and a pinch of creativity; MS Word can effectively become a mind mapping tool. Let’s look at the tools we can use to construct a mind map.

The landscape mode gives the most horizontal area to work with. In a New Word Document, select Page Layout ““ Orientation ““ Landscape. If you want to finally print it, select the right Size in the Page Setup group.

mind map in word

Most of the tools we can use lie in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab.

Click on Shapes which has all basic building blocks for a mind map. Simple shapes like ovals or rounded rectangles can be used to represent the central ideas. All shapes can be easily labeled with Text Box. Lines and arrows can be stretched out and connected to represent relationships. Shapes as all other elements can be copied and pasted, thus helping to put down the main ideas rapidly as nodes and sub-nodes.

mind map in word

All elements can of course, be elaborated using the full range of the Drawing Tools. Drawing the first shape brings up the contextual Drawing Tools tab. The best thing is that a mouse-over on any tool gives us a live preview of how the diagram is turning out.

mind map in word

To change the properties of the shape, right click on the selected shape and select Format AutoShape from the context menu.

MS-Word-DrawingTools2

Any options for Lines connects all the nodes and sub-nodes. Lines are also AutoShapes and their look or angles of rotation can be similarly changed from Format AutoShape or from the Ribbon (double click on the shape to bring up the Format tab).

MS-Word-DrawingTools3

Shapes and lines can be labeled with text to define the relationships. However, MS Word limits text orientation to vertical or horizontal. Text cannot be rotated to an angle as in PowerPoint, just yet. (Though, in MS Word 2010, one can). Callouts can be used to mark out extra data.

Mind maps can be illustrated with images from the Clip Art gallery or from an image on the hard drive. While inserting images, use the corner handles to define the size of the image.

MS-Word-DrawingTools4

Creating a mind map in Word can be extended by adding hyperlinks to external sources. Though, a workaround to add notes or attachments within the MS Word file is not there.

Here is a mind map that explains the various elements of what else, but a”¦mind map!

mind map in word

The Last Word on MS Word as a Mind Mapping Tool

MS Word (and even MS PowerPoint) is useful as a rapid tool for building a mind map. It’s better than a pen and paper, because you can easily update it by adding or rearranging the topics. You can copy it to the other Office programs and if need be, even print it out. Presenting it with PowerPoint or email sharing are added options.

MS Word is not a dedicated tool for mind maps. Tools like FreeMind have greater flexibility. Just to cite one feature, it’s not possible to collapse and open the branch nodes in MS Word.

But MS Word can make mind maps. Are you open to the idea? Let us know.

Ads by Google

19 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Roland Grey

Great article, never thought of using word in this way. For those that want a great dedicated tool, I can recommend mind42.com. Online and a great tool.
Roland

Reply

Roland Grey

Great article, never thought of using word in this way. For those that want a great dedicated tool, I can recommend mind42.com. Online and a great tool.
Roland

Reply

Marc Couture

As an avid mindmapper, I would not recommend using a tool such as Word to create maps, if only to avoid constantly interrupting the creative process with Word’s kludgey drawing tool implementation. Moving ideas around, connecting ideas together, adding supporting links and supporting documentation, all are simply too time consuming if not using a dedicated software package like Mindmanager, Freemind or other similar tools.

Saikat

I agree. But there have been instances where I found myself without a web access and no mind mapping software installed. MS Word and PowerPoint helped me out to create a ‘professional’ looking one and present it, instead of presenting a list of points. MS Word is a bit of a Jack of all trades, master of none, in that regard :)

TheGrammarFreak

Freemind. Word is no good for mindmaps, it just takes too long. Freemind is free, and full of keyboard shortcuts to make it quick.

Reply

nakliye

VERY NÄ°CES ARTÄ°CLE.

Reply

Dave

This is a wonderful article, thanks for including it. I got to the office today thinking, “I need to make a mind map for a presentation in a couple days.” Good timing!

Anyway, I wanted to add a recommendation. Start by adding a “New Drawing Canvas.” (Insert -> Shapes -> New Drawing Canvas) It makes moving pictures and objects around SO much easier.

Reply

Michael

Never thought about doing it this way – used expensive, dedicated tools for a while but now I use XMind exclusively. It is free and very powerful. If you really want to exercise the full power of mind mapping use a tool made for it.

Marc Couture

Xmind is a great tool. There is also a “portable” version available that you can use on a USB key, avoiding the Internet access or installation problems noted in the article.

Reply

Riyad

I tried this out on my Office 03 (waiting for office2010). I dunno how different it would be on 2007 but it take up alot of time. Linking up boxes over and over seem quite tedious. And I can’t set a default text size other than 12. Cons aside, its more legible and changeable than my handdrawn mind maps. just time consiming.
ANYONE KNOW A GOOD FREE MINDMAPPING APPLICATION FOR WINDOWS? the few I looked at require payment for a full featured version.Ta

Saikat

Hi Riyad,

Try Freemind. It is free and very easy to learn.

Riyad

Thanks saikat
I tried out freemind, and the free version of xmind and found the latter a little easier (eg tab instead of insert for child node, multiple charts per workbook). the main disadvantage with xmind-free is you cant drag nodes to wherever you want.
I didn’t know there was mind mapping software. it sure beats my paper scrabbles that are hard to decipher. Thanks for introducing this stuff.

Saikat

Check out the online ones too. There are lots of them. You might find some of them easier to use.

Reply

Dan

If Tony Buzman found out you were trying to use Word for mind mapping, he’d probably shoot you in the face. Seriously, talk about the wrong tool for the job!

Unless you prefer putting forks in your eyeballs, try Freemind: http://freemind.sourceforge.ne

Reply

Dan

If Tony Buzman found out you were trying to use Word for mind mapping, he’d probably shoot you in the face. Seriously, talk about the wrong tool for the job!

Unless you prefer putting forks in your eyeballs, try Freemind: http://freemind.sourceforge.net

Reply

Saikat

Hi Dan,
I did mention – “the simplest tool could be a paper and some pens. The second simplest when you don’t have software installed”

MS Word is an emergency life buoy for a lot of things when you don’t have specialized software and no net connection at hand. That was the point of the post. Personally, I have used it and PowerPoint in the corporate scene to illustrate an idea rapidly.

Yes, Freemind is the app if you are looking for the software. There are a host of online tools too. We have covered a lot of them.

As for Tony Buzan, I would love to meet him even at the cost of my extermination :)

Reply

dave tribbett

Below is a post that represents some very cool maps of the internet, science and complexity. These are more than maps, they are works of art.
http://tastethecloud.com/content/cool-maps-science-internet-and-complexity
Another, very cool interactive map of science is here: http://tastethecloud.com/content/map-science

Reply

dave tribbett

Below is a post that represents some very cool maps of the internet, science and complexity. These are more than maps, they are works of art.
http://tastethecloud.com/conte
Another, very cool interactive map of science is here: http://tastethecloud.com/conte

Your comment