9 Great Ways to Make Mind Maps and Flow Charts Online

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This post is a part of a bi-weekly ‘9 Great Ways to…’ series. If you find some of the tools listed here to be worthy, be sure to digg the post. Also, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for the upcoming part of this series.

I spend a lot o my time taking a lot of information and trying to organize it in a way that is useful for me come exam time. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to create flow charts or mind maps to get a grasp on all of the information I need. While I did use Freemind for a while, it lacks the ability to collaborate in real time and is not web based. Here are 9 great mind mapping and flow chart tools (that we could find!):

MindMeister focuses on enabling users to ‘create, share, import, export and collaborate’ on mind maps. Unlike other tools, they also offer a Premium service for $4/month which gives you the ability to create unlimited mind maps, export them in the Freemind format, embed them in blogs and sites, and do it all through a full SSL-encrypted, advertising-free session.

Gliffy is an online diagram editor (flow chart creator). Gliffy runs in your browser. With this service users can create colored flow charts and those flow charts can be shared with others. The service also supports floorplans for those of you designing a home or business. Gliffy gives free accounts with limited functionality and its full feature base can be unlocked for $2.50 per month.

Mindomo is another free and Flash-based alternative to creating mind maps which provides a fully Office 2007-inspired interface. Of all the ones listed, I found it the easiest to get used to given the familarity of its interface. In general, it’s one of the most customizable ones out there — supporting layouts, styles, colours, textures, and even icons.

Bubbl.us is a simple tool for brainstorming. Free to use, it allows you to save and keep a collection of your brainstorms and even share/work on them with your friends. It’s Flash-based, you can also get your brainstorms in a printable form, colour-code them, and best of all, it has enough keyboard shortcuts that one could make one without even touching the mouse.

Flowchart.com is a flow chart creator that is in private beta right now. Charts can be made online without any plugin and does have support for real time online collaboration between multiple users. The demo is promising, so you can sign up for an invite to the private beta if this a tool you may need.

Comapping is an online collaborative mind mapping system. I am really impressed by this site so far. I find Freemind really useful, and this seems like an online incarnation of that software with some extra features. Comapping allows for task management and status emails and online presentations. If you like mind mapping, give this a shot.

WriteMaps is a tool that’s meant for mapping websites and creating sitemaps, but its interface and features are general enough to use it for any reason. It features a fast AJAX-based interface and the ability to share your maps, a whole bunch of keyboard shortcuts, and an ‘Outline View’ option.

Mind42, which stands for ‘mind for two,’ is one of the few mind mapping tools based on AJAX. It features neat zooming and drag-and-drop features, and exclusively focuses on the sharing and collaborating aspect of mind maps. Currently in beta, it’s free and works on most platforms.

Kayuda provides users the concept of ‘workspaces.’ Each workspace includes a mind map with a node list, nav map, guide and layers. With Kayuda, users can create and share these workspaces and work on real-life mind maps with others. As they state: authors use it to create stories, gamers use it to create campaigns, businesses use it to collaborate on projects, and individuals use it to brainstorm ideas in a way that never gets lost.

If you know of any more great mind mapping and flow charting tools, be sure to leave it in the comments.

Opinion

Overall, while all the tools here are really great at what they do, a couple seem to appeal to me. First, I have to mention Mindomo because its interface and customization strikes as something brilliant, and second, Kayuda simple because of the user community they’ve built up and the realistic angle they’ve taken towards this whole thing. In all, all tools are worth checking out though.


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