Software Review: MindNode Pro - Map Your Mind!

I am a huge fan of mind maps. They're useful for any kind of planning and brainstorming and are a great inspirational tool. Unfortunately, drawing them by hand quickly becomes unmanageable for larger sessions and is impossible to re-organize once drawn. I've looked high and low for a mind-mapping application that was as easy to use as a notepad and pen but with the power of a computer to organize and scale with ease.

A mind map is defined by Wikipedia as:

A diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

They can be incredibly useful and I have used them to jumpstart my creativity on many a project or task. I've tried several programs both free and paid apps. A great many of them were wonderful pieces of software with oodles of features and lots of extra functionality. Which was my biggest problem with them. Mind mapping software needs to be fast, easy to use and simple.

This is where MindNode Pro shines. This application provides an ephemeral mix of simplicity with intuition and allows you a seamless pathway from your brain to map. The app is available in a free (props to the developers for providing a powerful free version) and a pro version ($19.95). While the free version is powerful and very capable the value that comes with the pro version far outweighs the coinage you'll lay out to get it. A glance at this feature comparison chart should convince you.

My favorite thing about this app is the way the keyboard is used to navigate, create / edit, and move nodes on your map. Upon creating a new file, an initial node is created. Type the name of the idea / project you're mapping and you're ready to go. Hit Tab to create a new node and type away. Hitting enter commits your changes and a combination of enter or tab will allow you to create children or sibling nodes with ease and grace.

The pro version also allows you the ability to close and open any node on your map. This lets you create huge, highly detailed maps and keep everything organized and easy to follow. There are keyboard shortcuts to make showing and hiding these nodes a breeze.

Fullscreen mode is another huge bonus when working with large maps. I love the ability to hold space and drag the map to navigate to sections that are off-screen. You can also zoom in and out of your map to inspect branches anywhere at anytime.

With a ton of export formats (PNG, TIFF, PDF, HTML, RTF, OPML, FreeMind) you can share your mind maps with anyone easily. Since the free version can also open pro versions (with limitation) your friends and colleagues can even open your maps, edit or add to them, and collaborate on ideas with you. I like to use the Dropbox service to work on project plans with employees no matter where they are.

If you want a simple yet effective way to plan your ideas MindNode Pro is a piece of software you shouldn't be without. I use it during all of my company's planning / creative sessions and even use it to plan vacations with my girlfriend! Try it now and see for yourself.

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