Mind Mapping and Mind Mapping Software

Mind mapping is one of the best ways for visual learners to organize their notes and data into a format that is easier for them to review and to learn. Mind mapping can be done by hand, or through the use of a computer program. Obviously, using a computer program gives you a cleaner and more legible mind map but it is up to you; or use a blend of both.

You can make a mind map while taking notes or you can take notes and then go back and create a mind map after the fact; it depends on how fast you can write while your teacher is giving a lecture.

If you are making notes from written material, just start off making the mind map directly from your text since you can create it at a more leisurely pace. Most students who use mind mapping find it easier to take notes during a lecture and then create their mind map later on, especially when using a computer program to create a mind map with.

What makes mind mapping such a useful tool for learning? Visual learners do not learn by reading, they learn more by seeing how things are associated and linked together, which is what a mind map does. It begins with a central concept and then it expands from there, all linking back to the central idea.

Mind mapping helps with memory and studying because of the way the information is organized, into a more visual format, visual learners are able to better understand the material and can see how it all relates to the main subject. Additionally, the act of creating the mind map itself helps with learning and retention. For tips about how to best study online, check out this post.

The Basics of Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is fairly easy to learn and they are easy to create. You will need paper and colored pencils or pens. You can mind map all in one color but by using different colors you can see at a glance which groups of information go together, without needing to read it all. Mind mapping is a very visual way to map out your information, and color is just another element that helps the effectiveness of mind mapping, also for online learning for an academic degree.

In the center of your page, write the main topic or central idea/central theme that you are learning about. Place a circle around the topic; this is now the center of your map. You will now draw branches out from the central topic, make each branch its own color. Write what each branch represents along the line. You will then continue to make off-shoot branches from the main branches, writing down more detailed notes about each topic, and you can make branches from those branches. As you get to the smaller branches, your information will be more detailed.

In order to save space, you can do several mind maps of the same theme. Do one with the central theme, then the branches and one set of sub-branches. Then take each main branch and do a separate mind map for each of those, allowing you to get more detail in, and have it still be legible. This method also can be used very well when you study online, for example for your GED diploma. Very effective and useful!

Here is an example of a basic mind map. If the topic is the solar system, you would write “solar system” in the middle of the page and circle it. You would then draw 8 branches from the central theme and label each branch as a planet. You would then draw lines from each of the 8 branches and then write facts about each of the planets. That gives you a basic mind map.

Free Mind Mapping Software

For a more organized mind map, many students prefer to use mind mapping software. There are several free mind mapping programs out there that easily rival the paid programs. Here are some of the best.

Free Mind

This Java-based program is one of the best free mind mapping programs out there. Users have a lot of variation and customization ability for their mind maps, allowing them to make extremely detailed mind maps that are exportable as either a picture image or a pdf. You can download Free Mind here: http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.


Another free program, this one is web-based so wherever you have a computer and an internet connection, you can access your mind maps. Mind42 features a simple user interface and a clean look to their maps. This program is fast and simple to learn. You can create a mind map and share it, making it easy to collaborate with others on your maps, perfect for group study or group projects to open doors to success. Sign up at http://mind42.com/popular.


This simple tool is a web program and creating new mind maps is a snap. With MindMeister, you can easily insert new branches with the insert key and you can change the color of each branch or node. Your maps are exportable as well. Access MindMeister at http://www.mindmeister.com/.


Xmind is another desktop program that is highly popular due to its functionality and ease of use. Mind maps can be created in a variety of styles so that there is a mind map style to suite everybody’s personal taste. Images and icons can be added for additional visual representation. XMind is free, but you can upgrade to a paid level, however, for students, the free design is all that they will need. Learn more at www.xmind.net.

Paid Mind Mapping Software

In addition to free programs, there are some paid programs for mind mapping as well.


Mindjet is a comprehensive program that lets you fully manage projects from start to finish and it includes tools for brainstorming and mind mapping. Mindjet is one of the top paid mind mapping programs out there, not just for students, but for companies as well. Very extensive mind maps can be created and customized and the program is easy to learn and simple to use. It costs around $15 per month to use Mindjet and you can find out more at http://www.mindjet.com/.

When it comes to giving yourself the upper hand for learning, also when studying for your MBA degree, mind mapping is a viable solution for many students. Mind mapping is easy to do and there are numerous programs out there that will help students be able to create their mind maps.