Today I think I met the software equivalent of my new best friend.
Between work stuff and personal stuff I do a lot of writing. Product literature, articles, blog posts, powerpoint presentations – you name it. Before I really start the writing part, I try to create an outline to organize my thoughts and keep my content in some kind of sane order. But here’s my problem – I tend to be a non-linear thinker. No matter how much room I leave in my initial outline for subsequent thoughts, I always end up with a page full of arrows and comments written sideways in the margins, or numbers and stars that point to more thoughts on a separate page that I inevitably misplace.
Today I found heaven.
Freeplane is a free mind-mapping program that is tailor-made for people like me. You start with a central concept, and then create branches off of it for each of the topics you want to cover. Each of these can be further branched off for subtopics, and so on. Forgot a point? No problem. Freeplane lets you add additional branches wherever you want on the map, and it will shuffle everything around automatically to accomodate it. As far as I know, you can keep branching off endlessly, making it as complicated as your little heart desires.
Once you get to the writing part, you can collapse and expand the various branches so that you can focus on what you need instead of getting distracted by all the information at one time.
The app can be used on Mac or PC. (Yay! I use both.)
Download it. Use it. Enjoy it. Never create a disorganized outline again.
I posted this last night, and woke up this morning to find Chris Brogan talking about mind-mapping as well. Freaky.
Check out his post here to see how he’s using mind-mapping software (different package, but essentially the same thing) to help organize is business and keep him on track.