Another thing I learnt at the Speed Reading course I took recently was the use of Mind Maps to help study and prepare notes.
The presenter showed off ActionOutline as their preferred tool to brainstorm and plan. I had already been using OneNote to do a similiar thing but OneNote is too bulky to have running in the background (and lacks any vector line drawing) and ActionOutline was too simple (I feel I could hobble together something similiar in VS2005 in a short space of time – FreeOutline anyone?).
FreeMind is the middle ground, it allows you to quickly create notes and text. You can embed html, text and images and you can export your maps as html & svg so others can access them. It has calendaring attached to notes (like ActionOutline) and you can attach icons to those items. You can also import from a variety of sources, handy if you’re migrating from another mindmapping tool.
There are so many features so go and try it out. Best of all it’s an open source project (ie IT’S FREE AND WILL STAY THAT WAY – I’ll bloody develop the thing if the existing developers get bought out 😉 ) It also runs on Windows, Linux and Mac so you’ve got no excuse.
It’s still a very young product (only up to version 0.8~). There can be some clumsiness in getting it to run initially. The documentation (yes, its a mindmap too), is easy to navigate and search, but obviously still needs a little more work
Here are some tips that can help you get accustomed to the product:
- The start menu shortcut (and corresponding .exe file) would not start the product for me in Windows. There is an included freemind.bat file in the program directory (C:Program FilesFreeMind) that will launch it for you. You can change the start menu shortcut to use freemind.bat instead of freemind.exe.
- It’s a java app. (suprisingly fast UI though!) You need Java 1.4 or up installed AND your java.exe for that version needs to be in your PATH variable. Some users have multiple versions of Java installed on their machines (some programs like Oracle database include an older version not compatible with FreeMind). See here for more info on setting this up.
- When you add nodes to the root node, they take turns at appearing on the right side or left side. If you want to move a child from one side of the root to the other, drag the node over the top of the root node. The node will be highlighted and you can drop it on the left or right side to dictate what side you want that branch on (the highlighting on the root node will reflect the choice you are about to make)
- You can use Anti-Aliased text if you have version 1.5 of Java installed. Edit the Freemind.bat file and place a -Dswing.aatext=true before the last parameter. It’s not too flash though.