Freeplane is a free tool for brainstorming, organizing a process into a hierarchy, and creating mindmaps.
This app is for people who have ideas that need to be sorted before they can be presented, or for groups that have overlapping or even conflicting opinions that need to be placed graphically where they can be remembered and understood.
This software eliminates the need to focus on where to place ideas physically in a mindmap, allowing users to concentrate on the content of the ideas rather than the mechanical manipulation of them. Users don’t need any knowledge of programming to use this tool.
The mind maps are not static. They go far beyond the simple mind maps some organizations use to brainstorm. The elements have complex relationships that can shift, and views can be changed to focus on a particular aspect of the maps.
By using the add-on called RoAn Presentation, you can turn the mindmap into a presentation. These presentations work much like PowerPoint. You can zoom, as well as show the mind map growing as additional ideas are projected. This eliminates much of the clicking during a presentation.
The Freeplane site offers tutorials (presented as mindmaps), and you will probably need them. The learning curve for this tool is relatively steep, especially when it comes to inserting images and files. However, once the nuances are mastered, the mapping is quick.
You can export Freeplane mindmaps using HTML, Java Applet, and Flash. This can be useful for sharing with other brainstormers.
Compared to mind mapping tools such as 3DTopicscape, Labyrinth, and Hypergraph, Freeplane has a much more straightforward interface. The closest regarding simplicity is Mindnode, whereas a tool such as Inspiration gets complicated (and hard to understand) quickly.
The Bottom Line
For those who prefer a simple, clean look and traditionally-structured diagrams, Freeplane will deliver. This could be a good one to start with for those new to mind mapping tools.