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Collaborating with mind maps
Just a few years ago, anyone wanting to collaborate with mind mapping had only two options:
- Stand in front of a flip-board, whiteboard, or round a conference-room table with co-workers;
- Work on a mind map in software, email it out to your colleagues. On receiving their replies, try to make suggested and agreed changes, co-ordinating discussion where changes conflict.
All this changed in 2006-7, when collaborative web-based platforms appeared that allow mappers to work together. Now, it is not even necessary to install software because these web applications operate in a web browser.
Web-based mind mapping applications
Now, many web applications are available for collaborative mapping. The order is alphabetical:
- Bubbl.us is free, and almost allows drawing concept maps, because there is no forced hierarchy, so anything can be connected to anything. You can even have multiple, separate islands of hierarchy. It does not make provision for linking phrases.
- Comapping A subscription-based mapper with an idiosyncratic layout (i.e. 'radiant' is not an option).
- MAPMYself (formerly Mapul) Free. The only web-based mind mapper that makes maps with with an organic appearance.
- Mind42 Free web-based mind mapper.
- MindMeister In terms of features and active development, this appears to be the market leader for web-based mind mapping applications, with many options including off-line editing with Google Gears. (Google Gears off-line editing is rather iffy at present, please see this Mindmeister blog April 2010 entry, and also check for the latest status. They promise an HTML5 solution later.)
- Mindomo Subscription web-based mind mapper.
- WiseMapping (beta) Free web-based mind mapper.
Most subscription applications have a free options with just a few maps and limited access to services. See also If you often work in dispersed teams or groups.
Most of these applications have the ability to import and export FreeMind maps, and some Mind Manager maps, so backing up locally is not hard.
The business models of companies offering free services mean that you should be cautious with your work left on their servers.
Stand-alone mind mapping software with web applications
Publishers of stand-alone mind mapping software are now responding with servers to support collaborative efforts. MindJet, publisher of MindManager, has MindJet Catalyst, Inspiration has Webspiration, Xmind has a web option and 3D Topicscape has Topicsight for web publishing.
Whiteboard web applications
Another class of web application which is not specific to mind mapping, but that can be used to make simple mind maps may be considered as well: Whiteboard apps. Here are some:
With these you can draw basic mind maps, add images and chat.
Despite all these technology options, meeting in a room, with a good, even inspirational, facilitator can generate an energy that is difficult, maybe impossible, to reproduce on line.
There is a good summary of information about these web-based products at mind-mapping.org - it was my main source.