Gather your thoughts with virtual mind maps that combine text and images. Freemind has everything you need
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With FreeMind, you quickly and easily create mind maps using a combination of text and images. It's open source, and totally free.
You can use Freemind to record the findings of a meeting or create structured learning aids. The finished mind maps can then be saved as HTML, XHTML or PDF and be sent via email or published online.
Why you need Freemind
FreeMind is a brilliantly simple mind-mapping tool that can be used to plan just about anything – from a novel to a dream holiday. You can even use it to create a database or manage a major project.
At its most basic, Freemind uses the familiar system of points (or nodes, as they're known in FreeMind) branching out from a central topic, with further nodes splitting off each of these. However, FreeMind really comes into its own with its click-and-drag interface for quick editing, plus HTML support that makes sharing and navigating your maps a piece of cake.
The basics of FreeMind are simple, but it's surprisingly powerful when you delve a little deeper. Branches shift automatically to ensure your nodes are presented in a logical order, or you can also move them manually if you prefer.
You can also organize your map by editing nodes in batches, and collapse branches quickly with a single click. Nodes can be copied and pasted, and moved by clicking and dragging – all while preserving their formatting.
FreeMind supports HTML links so you can easily add references to online material, and you can export your maps in HTML format too. FreeMind also lets you link to files elsewhere on your PC, which is very useful for planning a novel, essay, or other longform writing.
FreeMind includes DES encryption, which can be applied to the whole map or individual branches, and an automatic backup function to protect your map from accidental data loss while you're working.
If all that isn't enough, you can expand FreeMind further with plugins. These include an excellent time-management add-on that lets you add reminders to nodes – ideal for large projects that need to be split into multiple tasks.
How to use Freemind
Road trips take a lot of organization - as well as planning the major waypoints on your journey, you also need to consider driving times, places to stay, activities, what to bring and (perhaps most importantly) how to allocate your budget.
Rather than writing everything out as a series of disconnected lists, creating a mindmap or spider diagram will help you think laterally, link ideas and get a lot of information in a small space. Superb free mindmapping software FreeMind will help you get everything on one page, without the hassle of pens and paper.
1. Create new nodes
Every mindmap in FreeMind begins as a blank page, with a single central label. Each label that branches off this one is called a node, and these are arranged in a hierarchy: parent, sibling and child. You can add new child nodes by tapping 'Insert' and create new sibling nodes by tapping 'Enter'.
Start by listing the places you're planning to visit on your trip as child nodes from the central point, then create child nodes for each location for activities and places you're interested in. You can then use Freemind's options to prioritize the activities for each location. You could also create nodes between locations showing how long it'll take to drive from one to the other, and add costs to each activity.
2. Collapse branches
Things might start to look confusing as your map grows, but FreeMind lets you temporarily collapse branches by clicking a parent node. Double-click the node to expand it again. You can also make things clearer by applying formatting - putting each node inside a bubble, applying colors or attaching icons from the menu on the left. Hold Shift and left-click to format nodes as a batch.
3. Organize nodes and branches
Now create a new child node for the essentials that you need to pack, and any preparation required to get them ready. Once you've completed each of these tasks, you can mark with with a tick, chosen from the menu on the left.
If you decide to reorganise your list, Freemind lets you move nodes between branches, and even move branches to a more logical place by dragging and dropping. Other nodes will shift to make room. If two nodes are very similar, select both and link them via FreeMind's Tools menu.
4. Add links
You might also find it useful to make a list of background reading before you embark on your trip. Add a hyperlink using the Insert menu, then type a descriptive label for it. These could be links to maps, tourist information guides, hotel booking sites or anything else you think will come in handy.
You can link to files on your PC in the same way - though you'll need to save your mindmap first. The MM file format can only be opened by FreeMind, so if you're planning to share your map consider installing PDF24 Creator, which can convert it to PDF format via FreeMind's Print menu.
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