Annotation and Archiving with Mind-Mapping Software

Do mind-maps bug you?  Does unstructured brainstorming, especially in a group of “right-brained” people, make you edge toward the door?  Do you roll your eyes when the flip-chart paper comes out?   Do clouds and wiggly lines make you long for binary trees or tidy org-charts where left, right, up and down have a clear meaning?  Ok, maybe it’s just me 🙂

I’ve never been attracted to mind-maps.  By the time I’m thinking of something, it already has a structure (linear,  iterative, spiral,  hierarchical, or whatever) in my mind.  The admonishment to let go of structure and just “freestyle,” with little clouds all over the place, doesn’t make me feel free: it makes me feel stifled.  If I get to a point where my structure isn’t helping me anymore, I’ll make a new one, but I don’t find any improvement in the flow of “creative juices” if I ignore the patterns that are knocking on the door of my brain.  So mind-mapping software never struck me as a fun thing to do on a Friday night.

But one day I was reading a post by Maria Andersen about games, play, and learning.  She linked to a library of resources in various formats.  She stored it as a mind-map.  I realized that mind-mapping software had potential beyond staff-meeting brainstorms.  It was a place where media in incompatible formats could be organized by theme.

I experimented with a bunch of free packages, as well as Inspiration, a proprietary package that my campus uses.  I’m sticking with Mindomo for ease of use, wide-ranging features, and cloud-based editing (even though the help forum leaves lots to be desired).  An open-source package called VUE was my favourite, but I found it too unstable for my purposes.

If you’re curious, here’s my collection of favourite resources on the theme of Learning and Teaching.  If you click through, you can hover over the tiny icons to see the details.

I experimented a bit with Evernote, but I preferred having a visual organization than a folder-based organization.  I didn’t pursue it much, since this is working well, so it’s likely that I’m missing some of the strengths of Evernote (integration with other software, for example).

Here’s what this mind-map-hater found to like about mind-map software:

  • I can organize media by theme instead of by format
  • Resources are self-documenting (via hyperlink or text note)
  • The notes field is huge (haven’t found the limit yet) so I can remind myself why I liked that bookmark, where the best part of the video is, etc.
  • It makes a decent presentation tool
  • A map is easily published to the web for others to read and/or collaborate on
  • It exposes an RSS feed
  • It incorporates task scheduling, tracks percent completion, and can be exported to MS Project
  • The whole thing is searchable


  1. Mylene,
    This mindmap is awesome. I’ve added this to my bookmarks to explore more deeply over the summer, and think how I might do something similar for physics resources.

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