Map your ideas with Open Mind

Create easy mind maps with this flexible freeware.

Have you ever drawn a mind map? We bet you have. Mind maps are the kind of diagrams that business planners, mad scientists, and other innovative types scribble over blackboards and whiteboards, linking balloons and boxes with a variety of lines, arrows, and assorted scribblings. Ordinary people might draw one on a napkin while planning out their day. In any case, mind maps are one of the most flexible, useful, and intuitive planning techniques known. Open Mind is freeware for creating customized mind maps for any use you can think of. You can insert text, images, and even YouTube video links into map bubbles, though the video option requires an active Internet link, preferably broadband.

Open Mind opens with a plain field containing one balloon, a rounded-edge rectangle. We started by typing text into the bubble, which called up a chat-style text entry box that made it easy to enter and embed large sections of text into map objects. We right-clicked the map field and selected New Bubble. A drop-down menu on the toolbar let us choose from a variety of shapes for our new bubble, including triangles, circles, and many more. Open Mind makes it easy to change background, object, and line colors, and even change the thickness of the lines connecting objects on the map. There's a full-screen option but not much else in the way of extras: No bells and whistles, but everything you need to create a clear, colorful mind map of any process, idea, plan, schedule, relationship, or system you can think of. The program's Help file and FAQS include useful screenshots.

We quickly created some basic but easily expanded mind maps to try out Open Mind. We especially like the ability to embed video links to YouTube since so many companies and individuals use online videos for instructions, documentation, and additional information. The mind maps Open Mind creates can be saved, printed, and exported in a range of document types, too, making them great for meetings, classrooms, and even home use. If you don't think freeware can beat napkin scribbles, we recommend trying Open Mind.

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