MindMapping: 3 Simple Idea Mapping Software for Mac

Jeffry Thurana 25-06-2009

As a writer, I often stuck on a topic. Getting ideas is one thing, turning the ideas into a “readable and understandable” piece of work is another. I found that one of the best ways to expand and organize ideas is by mindmapping.


For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, here’s the quick description of ‘mindmap‘ quoted from Wikipedia:

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

Basically, here’s what happen in the process of mindmapping: you start with a main topic or idea as the center of focus, then expand the ideas with related points through branches – or children as some people prefer to call them. Each of these children could also be expanded to grand children, great grand children, and so on. If the main idea is too general, you can pick one of the children to focus on.

Personally, I think nothing beats a large piece of paper and several color pencils for mindmapping, but there’s also nothing wrong about doing the process on your Mac. Especially if you have large monitor, and unreadable handwriting :-)

Here are three free, simple idea mapping software for Mac.

1. Personal Brain

This could be used not only for mindmapping but also for other uses such as visual bookmark manager, web site planning and site navigation, and also event planning.


To draw mindmaps using Personal Brain, you write the main idea as the starting point. Expanding the diagram could be done easily just by clicking on one of the points and drag a new child out of it.

For those who want to learn more about the app, the developer site provide users with a Learning Zone and Tutorials. This app is also available for Windows and Linux.

The free version limits users to view only three generations of a map at one time. The ability to attach files is also reserved for the Core and Pro version. To get the complete list of what each version can do, you can see the features comparison between the versions. While this app has many powerful features, I think the price to go beyond the free version is a bit too ‘much’.



2. FreeMind

FreeMind is open source, simple idea mapping software written in Java, so you can use it in any computer which supports Java. I think the interface is not too intuitive and takes time to get used to.

I spent quite a moment sweeping through the main window trying to figure out how to start a mindmap diagram. Maybe it would be better if the “New” button is not so difficult to find. On the left pane, you can find so many icons without any explanation of their functions (I found out later that they are some kind of tags to mark the children).

If you don’t mind the appearance, and willing to spend time learning it, this app is actually very usable. You can even create several maps within one window. The new map will be opened in the new tab.

Then, if you feel like sharing your thoughts and ideas, you can submit your mindmaps in the developer’s wiki-style gallery.



3. MindNode

MindNode is a very easy to use mindmapping application. It features a very simple interface for quickly creating mind maps. Among the three, this one is the simplest. The interface is also the most Mac-ish.

The default starting page already contains a field to fill in the main idea and instruction to drag to create a new node (child). You can also adjust the position of each node easily.



If you want to have more bells and whistles, such as the ability to create cross-connections and use the full screen mode, you can upgrade to the Pro version. To know the difference between the free and the pro version, read the full comparison list. For me, the free version is good enough. There are also video tutorials available on the site.

MindNode is only available for Mac.


What’s Left On The Mind
It’s worth mentioning that I started the list with five examples of simple idea mapping software, and had to eliminated two because I simply can not give the apps a try. One is XMind, which refused to work because of Java error. The other one is Consideo Modeller which couldn’t be opened at all.

It’s possible that the error is at my side. I couldn’t be sure about that. But I felt it’s impossible to review any software without being able to try it first, isn’t it?

To list some alternatives, give Ekpenso, and Text2MindMap Text2MindMap: Convert your Ideas into Mindmaps Read More a try. Also, don’t miss out on the 6 Excellent Brainstorming and Mindmapping Sites 6 Excellent Brainstorming and Mindmapping Sites Read More by Kaly.

Finally, if you have any thoughts, opinions, and experiences on the Mindmapping process and applications, speak up using the comment below.

Related topics: Mindmapping, Planning Tool.

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  1. BigTex
    August 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I have found Inspiration to be a productive mind mapping software. It enables you to create your map in either outline or diagram mode and conveniently switch between the two views. One feature that's especially useful is the "RapidFire" tool that enables you to quickly connect related ideas while working in the diagram mode and immediately see the line-connected relations shown on the screen. There's a 30-day free trial available for both Mac and Windows. While Inspiration costs about $80, it's a great value. I've used several map mapping software packages. This one is really good. See

  2. Guilh1
    July 3, 2009 at 8:12 am

    I am using Xmind for several months now on both Windows and OSX with no problem.
    +1 for Xmind

  3. Geo
    June 29, 2009 at 2:26 am

    I've no issue with xMind, neither on Mac (10.5.7), neither on Linux (Debian unstable).

    It works flawlessly and it's visually great !

    June 28, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Jeff - You are not alone facing the issue with XMind. I even thought it would be a nice alternative before I tried it but it turned out (even after reinstalling the app many times) that it fails to even launch with that weird Java error. I wonder if they put out such an app without even testing it.

  5. Markus Müller
    June 26, 2009 at 6:04 am

    Dear Jeffry.
    Thank you for mentioning my application MindNode in your blog entry!

  6. Simon Robic
    June 26, 2009 at 4:08 am

    To me, MindManager is the best mindmapping tool, even if it's not free.

    • Guest
      June 27, 2009 at 9:09 am

      Simon - have you ever tried iMindMap?

      I wonder what your opinion would be...

  7. edwardthay
    June 26, 2009 at 3:57 am

    To be frankly speaking, spellcheck/grammar is not so important. The content is much important than others.

    • MH
      August 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

      Oh, I disagree totally. Spellcheck/grammar indicate thinking processes.

  8. Geo
    June 26, 2009 at 3:54 am


    You should have talked about xMind, a great free mindmapping app that works on OS X !

      June 28, 2009 at 9:13 pm

      Sure, IF it works on XMind! Couldn't get it to even launch on OSX Leopard 10.5.7

  9. spellcheckisfriend
    June 25, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    As a writer, we know that spelling and grammar are just as important as making the actual point. I highly advise spellcheck/grammar check before posting.