Jan 04 2009

Xmind – First impressions about this new OS Mind Mapping initiative

I recently discovered XMind,  a mind mapping software, formerly commercial and now branched into two versions: Open Source (published on sourceforge) and Professional (commercial).
I tried both the two versions of this software, however I'm interested in understanding if the Open Source version can actually replace Freemind, the mind mapping software I'm using in my everyday life.

In this post I write about my really first impressions about XMind. I don't touch deeply every functionality and every aspect involved in this project (see the website for a complete description of the software and a comparison matrix for the two versions), in this post I'm only highlighting the features I consider necessary in the choice of a good mind mapping solution.

At the first use of XMind I was immediately impressed about the GUI. The GUI is really modern and nice, nodes are animated, colors are well chosen, elements in the GUI react really fast at the user input and the node dragging is really smooth so the user experience is really intense and pleasant.
I liked a lot the hi-res markers (icons) useful to remember and highlight nodes meaning, and the map styles (structure) one can apply to the map: fishbone, map, org char, spreadsheet, this can make the map apparence different from the classical  "tree view" form.
I also appreciate the sheets, making the application a good box in which effectively opening more than one map and clearly see which map is the current and which are in background.

Unfortunately I didn't find a way to propagate markers hierarchically from a node up to the root. I use this feature in freemind and I consider this functionality really useful in order to immediately identify important area of the map.

Of course, XMind provide also all the main features needed in a mind mapping tool, like:

  • Cut/Paste for nodes
  • Creation of outlines
  • attachment of notes and files to nodes
  • creation of link (relation) between nodes
  • creation of clouds or boundaries around nodes

This functionalities are deeply integrate with the advanced GUI, so the resulting sight is really impressive.

In the PRO version there some other interesting features, enabling a more professional use of this tool, like:

  • project management and "Todo" primitives with a simple gantt chart
  • presentation tools
  • various export filters

Around XMind there is also a nice and good looking website that is the base for an active community sharing mind maps.  I don't evaluate aspects related to sharing maps because at the moment I'm not interested and sensible to this topics. In any case I was impressed by the clear and good looking website and the excellent integration between XMind pc client and the web community.

In a mind mapping tools I best appreciate features related to "project management" and "getting things done" (see my previous posts in the "mind mapping" section), unfortunately these features are only provided by the professional (non free) version. This is the main reason because don't plan to switch to XMind now, even if XMind has outstanding functionality in terms of usability, look and feel.

I'm interesting about the road of the OS version compared to the PRO version,  in the past I appreciated similar approaches, I'm thinking, for example, to the Interbase/Firebird initiative started by Borland.

IMHO the OS version is an excellent starting point, it isn't common that the OS community can gather a so rich gift, I hope that now the OS community will notice this product and concur in short to the development of the product (at the date of this post the OS project on sourceforge counts only one developer) in order to ensure long and productive life even to the OS version of  XMind.

I will follow the Xmind project with great interest.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Xmind – First impressions about this new OS Mind Mapping initiative”

  1. Richon 27 Feb 2009 at %I:%M %p

    Thanks for this write-up. I, too, am looking for mind mapping software, having considered Freemind, but now will look at XMind.

  2. bradon 21 Nov 2009 at %I:%M %p

    I’m writing now min Nov 2009. Can you update your impressions of XMind? I have been a FreeMind user for about 3 years. I’m just now tinkering with XMind, but I don’t see yet how to move individual nodes (topics) from one side of central topic to the other. Right now, the map structures appear very rigid. Can’t seem to find out how to build these things with any flexibility.

  3. adminon 21 Nov 2009 at %I:%M %p

    Hi Brad,
    I used Xmind for a while but my every-day work is based on freemind. I found Xmind really nice, good-looking, appropriate to public presentations but not so lightweight as freemind.
    Is common that during the day I’m using 3 or 4 maps in parallel and I cannot consume all the resources of my notebook with mind mapping software.
    My “ToDo” map contains 6900 nodes and once I imported it in Xmind, my netbook said me “hey guy! I’m not server …” :-)

    I will take a look to the last release of Xmind and write a new post about it.
    Stay in touch.