How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word
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The 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.

Are you still paying for Microsoft Word Yes, Get Microsoft Word for Free: Here Is How Yes, Get Microsoft Word for Free: Here Is How Don't want to pay for the full Microsoft Word experience? Don't worry, here are some ways how you can use Microsoft Word for free. Read More ? You may be eligible for a free copy!

Why Mind Maps Work

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 Turn Your Brainstorm Into a Mind Map for Maximum Insight Turn Your Brainstorm Into a Mind Map for Maximum Insight Recording your brainstorm in a mind map could help you gain deeper insights. And it's easy. We show you how to combine both strategies for research, planning, and innovating. Read More . 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 “visuals” — words connected to graphical elements that makes it easy for us to take in large amount of data.

How to Create a Mind Map

There are specialized applications for creating mind map 8 Free Mind Map Tools & How to Best Use Them 8 Free Mind Map Tools & How to Best Use Them For an office worker, a mind map can be a solo brainstorming tool or a collaborative idea collection. In the right hands, a simple mind map can help make better decisions. Read More s. But the simplest tool could be a paper and some pens. The next simplest when you don’t have software installed could be to create a mind map in Microsoft Word. But first…

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.

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word MindMapGif 670x270

Simple Mind Maps in Microsoft Word Using Illustration Tools

Creating a mind map in Word is easy with basic shapes and flowcharts How to Create Flowcharts With Microsoft Word The Easy Way How to Create Flowcharts With Microsoft Word The Easy Way Want to learn how to make a flowchart in Word? It's easy with the right technique. This introductory article explains how. Read More . Extended by other illustration tools like Callouts, Lines, Clip Art, and a pinch of creativity; Microsoft Word can effectively become a mind mapping tool.

Go Into Landscape Mode

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

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word Word 2016 Orientation 670x220

Open Illustrations > Shapes

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.

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word Word 2016 Insert Shapes 670x191

You can use simple shapes like ovals or rounded rectangles to represent the central ideas. You can easily label all shapes with a Text Box. Stretch out and connect lines and arrows to represent relationships. As all other elements, you can copy and paste shapes, thus helping to put down the main ideas rapidly as nodes and sub-nodes.

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word Word 2016 Shapes

Start Drawing

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.

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word Word 2016 Drawing Tools

Format Your Shapes

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

How to Build a Mind Map in Microsoft Word Word 2016 Format Shape

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


Label Shapes and Lines

You can label shapes and lines with text to define the relationships. However, in earlier versions, Microsoft Word limits text orientation to vertical or horizontal. In Word 2016, go to Insert > Text > Text Box and insert a Simple Text Box, which you can subsequently rotate to your preferred angle.

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.


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 Microsoft 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

Microsoft Word as a Mind Mapping Tool

Microsoft Word (and even Microsoft 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.

Microsoft Word is not a dedicated tool for mind maps. Mind mapping tools like FreeMind have greater flexibility. Just to cite one feature, it’s not possible to collapse and open the branch nodes in Microsoft Word. But, the crux of the matter is that Microsoft Word can make mind maps and we have shown you how to make one.

Ready for another Word tutorial? How about learning to create an attractive cover page for your Word document How to Make a Cover Page in Microsoft Word How to Make a Cover Page in Microsoft Word A strong cover page design is a great way to stylize your document. We show you how to make your own cover page in Microsoft Word. Read More ?

Explore more about: Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Word, Mindmapping.

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  1. Jane Jacobs
    January 19, 2018 at 7:54 am

    I think Edraw MindMasater is the easiest tool to build up a mind map on Microsoft Word.
    This software supports to exports documents into MS Office file formats, such as Word, PPT, Visio and Excel. Users can create the mind map they like with Edraw MindMaster, and then export the map to .DOCX format and open it in Word as vector document. Cool!

  2. Vicky
    March 24, 2017 at 4:26 am

    This is great thank you simple and just what I was looking to do, I don't want to download another package for one assignment :-)

    • Saikat Basu
      March 27, 2017 at 7:56 am

      Precisely my point. We can get more out of our regular tools for sporadic tasks.

  3. dave tribbett
    March 25, 2010 at 5:46 am

    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.
    Another, very cool interactive map of science is here:

  4. Saikat
    March 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    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 :)

  5. Dan
    March 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    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:

  6. Riyad
    March 4, 2010 at 5:19 am

    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
      March 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm

      Hi Riyad,

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

      • Riyad
        March 12, 2010 at 4:56 am

        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
          March 12, 2010 at 11:03 am

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

  7. Michael
    February 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    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
      February 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      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.

  8. Dave
    February 25, 2010 at 7:34 am

    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.

  9. nakliye
    February 25, 2010 at 3:14 am


  10. Marc Couture
    February 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    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
      February 24, 2010 at 10:01 pm

      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
      March 1, 2010 at 5:22 am

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

  11. Roland Grey
    February 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm

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

  12. Roland Grey
    February 24, 2010 at 10:07 pm

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