Mind mapping does not require you to buy a mind mapping application. You can perfectly draw mind maps in a diagramming program, but the odds are that you will spend more time thinking about drawing the map than about the reason why you are drawing the map. So, a mind mapping application is not a luxury. NovaMind is an impressive mind mapping application that helps you with the thinking process because you don’t have to think about the drawing process.
I compared NovaMind to OmniGraffle Pro and ConceptDraw’s mind mapping version, and found NovaMind to be superior to both for drawing mind maps. NovaMind has three modes: Free Layout mode, Assisted mode and Controlled mode. Assisted mode is the easiest mode as the program automatically maintains spacing between the branches. Mind maps are re-arranged by just dragging branches. Free layout mode is the mode that resembles OmniGraffle Pro the most: you can drag around the canvas as desired. Controlled mode arranges everything around the Mind Map title. Everything is controlled by settings on the program’s control panel.
With a diagramming program like OmniGraffle Pro, you are drawing everything yourself, including the layout on the page (although you can have the program auto-arrange everything). With NovaMind, you start your thinking process by filling in thoughts in rectangles or on branches. In NovaMind 2, you can have flexible branches, images with text placed wherever you like, and an outliner that is more powerful than Omni-Outliner because it is tightly integrated with the main mind map application.
New: Flexi Branches
One of the rules of Mind Mapping is that your lines should be “organic” and flowing. The Flexi Branches support this. A Flexi Branch can be made to look like a smooth flowing curve you draw with the pen in Adobe Illustrator. Only, the Flexi Branch in NovaMind is easier as it contains small “handles” that you pull and stretch until you are happy with the result.
Text on a Flexi Branch flows with every movement of the handles, so that you always get the best possible positioning. Of course, when you make a Flexi Branch too short or make the curves too narrow, the automatic text position algorithm will not be able to compensate, and an ugly-looking branch may result. You can very easily correct this problem by stretching the branch more. You can also have rounded corners on rectangle branches, and you can have an image on any branch shape. Text can be positioned above, below or centered across the image. The images are clipped to the branch shape, making clean elegant mind maps.
What I liked best about NovaMind is that it doesn’t make you think about drawing and laying out your thoughts. You can just start by clicking the branch buttons and enter text quickly. Afterwards, you can improve the looks of your mind map, or you can set up your environment so you start with an elegant mind map layout each time you use the program. Shapes are easily changed into something else, colors can be fixed, but you can also have rainbow colors—the color then dynamically changes according to the location of the branch on the canvas.
Converting from mind mapping on paper to screen
I normally, never use mind maps, used as I am to write everything on paper. It’s not that I’m too stubborn to learn new ways of brainstorming, but I have always found that idea-generation programs were too clumsy. I felt the same way about calendars until iCal came along. Now I feel the same about mind mapping with NovaMind. It does support and strengthen the idea creation process, and it does so in ways that you can customize to your liking without sitting in your way or forcing you to first think about the creation process on-screen.
What I know to be very good is the printing support and the export capabilities of NovaMind. Printing a mind map is painless with the excellent interface. The import and export options of NovaMind are equally impressive: you can import from plain text files, from OmniOutline, OPML (Outline Processing Markup Language). Exporting is possible to JPEG, TIFF, PNG, RTF, plain text and Keynote.
I was very impressed by NovaMind. In my opinion, it is an essential application for mind mappers, and far more efficient than a diagramming program or its competitors.
Erik Vlietinck started as an IT-journalist, specialized in cross-media publishing. Today, he also writes technical papers, manuals, and marketing material for large and medium-sized IT companies. He is the publisher of IT-Enquirer.com, a web site dedicated to hardware and applications supporting the publishing process.