Aug 132011

ubu-mindmapFrom Wikipedia: “A mind map is 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 to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.

The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, and are classified into groupings, branches, or areas, with the goal of representing semantic or other connections between portions of information. Mind maps may also aid recall of existing memories.”

And, naturally, on Linux we have a lot of choice between some open software to make our mind map.



This is perhaps one of the most famous software in this category, FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping software written in Java. The developer are proud that the operation and navigation of FreeMind is faster than that of MindManager because of one-click “fold / unfold” and “follow link” operations.

You can create nodes with child and sibling nodes and add icons, clouds, notes and custom formatting for better presentation. The nodes can be expanded or collapsed, or interactively linked to local files, other maps, online resources and more. You can also insert encrypted nodes or create encrypted maps for sesitive projects. The finished maps can be exported to HTML, clickable XHTML, Open Office document, image file and other formats.

It can be used for many purposes: to organize a large amount of information, structuring the content, summarizing the articles, organizing projects, creating the diagram of the general ideas, create support for memory, etc.. FreeMind works with nodes that are indexed or related to suit your needs. The information can be compressed or expanded in each node and appearance of the resulting file is totally configurable. You can use different colors, icons, lines, etc., it is also possible, using a Java applet, to publish your own maps online.


  • Folding of branches
  • Exports to HTML, XHTML, PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF, Flash
  • Icons on nodes
  • Clouds around branches
  • Graphical links connecting nodes
  • Search restricted to single branches
  • Web and file hyperlinks from nodes


XMind is an open source brainstorming and mind mapping software tool developed by XMind Ltd. As of version 3.2.0, that is a freeware version of a full program, with a few advanced paid features, but not available until a paid upgrade is made. The program is intended to assist users in capturing ideas, organizing various charts, and share them with collaboration. It supports mind maps, Ishikawa diagrams (also called fishbone diagrams or cause-and-effect diagrams), tree diagrams, organization charts, and spreadsheets. It can be used for knowledge management, meeting minutes, task management, and GTD. XMind can read FreeMind files.

XMind is dual licensed under 2 open source licenses: the Eclipse Public License v1.0 (EPL) and the GNU Lesser General Public License v3 (LGPL).

XMIND Pro can export the mind maps into Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PDF and Mindjet MindManager documents.



Freeplane is a free, open source software application for creating mind maps, and electronic outlines. Written in Java, Freeplane is supported on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and is licensed under the GNU GPL. In July 2009, Freeplane was launched as a fork of the FreeMind project.

Freeplane maintains file format compatibility with FreeMind.

 Why fork?

There was much discussion and reflection before the decision was made to fork a project as popular as FreeMind. There were two main areas where no internal agreement could be reached after years of discussion:

Software Architecture

Freeplane’s code has been refactored considerably to create a highly modular, clear and logical design, to ease entrance into development and to provide a solid foundation for long term development.  At the moment  Freeplane offers an exciting opportunity for developers to help create a lean and extensible open source framework for mind mapping.

Development Process

(i) release cycle

It was felt that the FreeMind release cycle was too slow, and that this was holding the project back. Freeplane aims for regular releases, this will probably mean a stable release every six months.

(ii) community driven development

It was felt that the current FreeMind set up was not doing enough both to promote and integrate community contributions. Freeplane aims to create a contribution friendly climate. We hope to ensure that contributions do not go to waste.



Compendium is a computer program and social science tool that facilitates the mapping and management of ideas and arguments. The software provides a visual environment that allows people to structure and record collaboration as they work through “wicked problems”. The software is currently released by the not-for-profit Compendium Institute.

Compendium source code was fully released under LGPL licence on 13 January 2009

Some of its main features include:

  • Drag and drop documents/websites onto a map
  • Complete freedom to arrange icons
  • Keyword tagging
  • Ability to Create ‘Dialogue Maps’ to display links to everyone’s ideas in group projects
  • Learning pathways sharing


VYM (View Your Mind)

VYM (View Your Mind) is a tool to generate and manipulate maps which show your thoughts. Such maps can help you to improve your creativity and effectively. You can use them for time management, to organize tasks, to get an overview over complex contexts, to sort your ideas etc.
VYM is not another drawing software, but a tool to store and modify information in an intuitive way. For example you can reorder parts of the map by pressing a key or add various information like a complete email by a simple mouse click.

This software was made having in mind simplicity. The graphic elements (icons and emoticons) available in VYM are not so many as in FreeMind. That is not necessary a weak spot, because many prefer to use their own  graphical elements, it gives you freedom and that is, finally, a more personalized mind map
Some Features:

  • import of Freemind maps
  • function to export from tomboy to vym
  • export to CSV spreadsheet
  • copy from past steps in history to current one
  • autosave
  • simple Editor for scripts
  • syntax highlighting for editor
  • export of map to HTML or XML
  • fast one-click navigation


Labyrinth is a lightweight mind-mapping tool, written in Python using Gtk and Cairo to do the drawing. It is intended to be as light and intuitive as possible, but still provide a wide range of powerful features.

Labyrinth is really easy to use. When you start it up, you’ll see a tiny, blank rectangular window. There are three buttons in the toolbar (New, Open and Delete), but the first time you use it, only the New button is able to be clicked. Your only options at this point are to create a new mind map, quit the program or – via the menu system – import a mind map you’ve already worked on.

Labyrinth has less options than other programs but if you need to do a quick mind map without too many options this can be your software, it’s also actively developed and new features are added in every release.

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  5 Responses to “6 ways to map your mind with Linux”

  1. Great Review Riccardo, I did not know about these software pieces.

    I’ll give some of them a try.

    It seems great to organize your ideas before a big project.

  2. There’s another good app to use for mindmaps called Visual Understanding Environment.
    have a good day

  3. Una nota aggiuntiva su Xmind: anche nella versione gratuita permette di importare le mappe prodotte con MindManager e Freemind… funzionalità particolarmente utile in contesti nei quali devono essere utilizzati vari applicativi per produrre mappe mentali, mappe concettuali o solution map.
    Nella versione a pagamento è inoltre possibile esportare come Gantt, prezioso strumento per la gestione dei progetti.

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