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Outliner and Mind Mapping

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Poor man's guide to Outliners and Mind Mapping.

Obligatory link: Tony Buzan the father of Mind Mapping and

I started in life of Mindmapping and Outlining using VimOutliner (written by my friend Steve Litt) and it was all command line in Linux. This was back in the days when I was mostly command line and using DEC VT type serial port terminals more than desktops. I slowly embraced GUI's such as Common Desktop (CDE) in Solaris and then later various Linux desktops (currently adopted using Fedora 20).

I discovered FreeMind. Freemind works great on Mac, Windows and Linux desktops. Unfortunately there is no Freemind for tablets like iPad. Worse yet Freemind can only export to HTML and stores in XML. This means importing to iPad Mindmapping apps is problematic. Although FreeMind can export as XSLT, OPML is the way to go here for importing and exporting Mindmaps or outlines. See this older article on Who speaks OPML. Some more notes about converting to OPML from a FreeMind XSLT export on a Mac: and

Today professionally now I use a Macbook Pro (8GB) (OSX 10.9) with some Windows 7 VM's (Virtualbox on the Mac itself and VMWare Horizon View to a VM work provides for me). That's when I started using Mac much more than Windows. Currently on the Mac I use either FreeMind but deferring more to using NovaMind 5 Free version since it can export and import as OPML.

My current way of transferring maps between iPad and Mac is using OPML between NovaMind 5 Free and iThoughts HD (I don't think iThoughts HD is in the iTunes store any longer - it seems they have re-marketed the product). iThoughts HD has a web based "iThoughts - Map Transfer" mode that I can use to upload and download OPML files to/from the Mac.

As I mentioned iThoughts HD appears to be a dead product. Which means I need to find something newer and better maintained. For now it works but when iOS 8 or 9 comes out who knows it may not work any longer. Ahh life on the "Apple Treadmill".

I am now researching software that can be shared directly between iPad and Mac and to that end here is my comparison of Mindmap software that can be used between Mac and iPad:

I tend to create using my iPad and update at my desktop (Mac).

What I am looking for:

Good looking stylistic Mindmap software that I can create on the iPad and complete and edit on the Mac (or visa versa). I don't mind import/export or using Cloud platforms like Dropbox or iCloud to transfer files between desktop and tablet.

I should also note I am not a complicated Mindmap user. I don't need document or calendar integration, project planning or many of the high end features the top dollar solutions offer. My needs are basic and simple. If I hit a show stopper feature I find I cannot get I will note that here.

I should also mention the mobile computing landscape is changing rapidly. You can now get touch-screen tablets that run Windows 8.1 (Metro UI and all that) which of course can run FreeMind. I don't have one of these but I am considering it. The difference in size and power between a tablet and a tablet PC is definitely shrinking and almost at parity. But OTOH Linux could also be (and is also planned to be) run on one of these touch-screen tablet-laptop hybrids.

So for now because I like the simplistic elegance of the iPad I am sticking with that for now as my personal-time-coffee-shop-breakfast-table-and-couch-potato-creative-device.

What I found out:

On the Mac:

I found that NovaMind has more feature-rich versions of their software and they claim to have an iPad version but I could not find this in the iTunes store nor could I see any demos available about it. Dubious about this but as long as I can pass through OPML which all of the versions of NovaMind can do I may upgrade to Pro which is currently (as of this writing 2014-09-12) on sale for about $80. I am still deciding on a Mac client but for now NovaMind 5 Free is working for me.

On the iPad:

iThoughts HD for now... TBD

Update 2014-09-12: I did find this video tutorial on the iPad version of NovaMind. This page states "NovaMind for iPad is in private beta testing. Due to Apple’s restrictions on beta testing, we can not do a public beta test, so during the rollout process, we plan to release videos and tutorials from time to time, so you can familiarize yourself with it and be ready to use it when it is available."

On Linux desktop:


What I settled on:


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Page last modified on September 12, 2014, at 06:33 PM EST