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Mind Map Software Review

I wanted to find Mind Mapping software for the primary purpose of making tree diagrams for discussions. They're also good for diagramming sentence grammar. I often prefer to write a bullet point outline in markdown then have software convert it to a tree. I generally prefer simple, readable output without customizing individual nodes. There are many options, most bad. I looked at 25.

OK

mindnode: solid UI, import, export. imports markdown with italics. no svg export. has mac and ios versions. curi’s choice

omnigraffle+omnioutliner: have to import and export through outliner. has svg export. many features and plugins. some hassle to get fresh imports usable. mac and ios.

iThoughtsX: import/export looks fine, no svg export, iffy UI, a review says it has some good power user features. has weird extra features like some calendar related stuff. mac, windows and ios versions.

xmind zen: limited customization, good themes and structures global options, ok import, no svg export. mac, windows, linux, ios, android.

graphviz: command line tool. many features. important tool that lots of people use. I would need to write a script to convert from markdown to dot including adding linebreaks cuz there’s no built in word wrap. already have an s-expression to dot script that doesn’t add linebreaks but works for grammar charts with one word per node. editing dot files sucks if you want to customize appearance of individual nodes.

jsSyntaxTree is an s-expression based web app suitable for small diagrams with single word nodes.

markmap converts markdown to a mind map. there's a plugin for using it with the atom text editor. but it has little configuration and doesn't do word wrapping. the results are basically unusuable if you put a paragraph of text in a node. i'm still glad to know it exists. it might be useful sometimes for personally looking at the outline of a document i'm writing.

Fail

GitMind: web. decent UI considering it’s a web app. img, pdf, txt, svg exports. import via paste from markdown list. but no wordwrap. nodes are all on one long line. RIP.

mindjet mindmanager: heavy advertising. UI looked bad in screenshots, wanted personal info including phone number for free trial, the web form had horrible formatting, didn’t try it

lucid chart: heavy advertising. web app. unclear if it can import markdown or tabbed text. trying to import from mindmaps was a premium feature. has pdf and svg export.

simplemind: bad export

Ayoa (bought iMindMap): no import, pdf export only, mac desktop app is a blatant port from web app with no file menu.

mindmeister: web app, iffy UI, no svg export

bubbl.us: web app, don’t see any import feature, no svg or pdf export

freeplane (was freemind): awful UI even for a java app, a million export options but crashed trying to export to svg.

Scapple: doesn’t import

mindmup: web app, publish online feature is auto-deleted after 6 months (not a permalink) and also you can’t delete it yourself. need gold membership to see what import options are. pasted markdown list in and it made every node a child of the untitled root node.

mindomo: mac app looks like web app port, no svg export, opening a txt or md file just opens it in default editor not in mindomo, wtf, RIP. can import with copy/paste (under the root node, need to manually paste your root node text in separately). bad UI and significant delay on zooming. has some tree structure options.

the brain: no png, svg or pdf export. no print. some sorta cloud upload feature. txt import says it had an error and logged the details (don’t know where). bad UI.

Coggle: Web. Imports with copy/paste but doesn’t wordwrap nodes by default. They’ll wordwrap with individual editing. no svg export.

mindmaster: heavy advertising. mac app is an awful port. only 3 weird import options that warn they aren’t 100% compatible. pasting lost all structure, made every node a child of the root node. has a lot of features including svg export.

Canva: art web app. not really for mindmaps.

InfoRapid KnowledgeBase Builder: $12 in mac app store with no free trial (every single other one i tried has a free trial). the name and other marketing look awful.

mapul: web, can’t import markdown data. has svg export. awful web ui.

miro (was: RealTimeBoard): couldn’t import markdown data, confusing UI, seems like a web app port

PDF to SVG Conversion

After reviewing apps and not getting svg export in MindNode, I figured out that pdfs can be converted to svg. Command line pdf2svg and pdftocairo worked but made unselectable text while the Convertio website made selectable text. I didn’t try Inkscape yet for conversion or extraction. ExtractPDF web app said there were no images to extract, so I don't think MindNode is creating an SVG embedded in the PDF. I got a working svg from importing and exporting with Affinity Designer. Affinity and Convertio both lost the hyperlinks though.


Elliot Temple on November 13, 2019

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