Mind Mapping was developed by a researcher in the UK, Tony Buzan and was first mentioned in his book, “Use Your Head” published over forty years ago. Mind Mapping is essentially a graphical representation of the connections between bits of information, or ideas. In a mind map, lines or curves, called branches, link ideas together, called nodes, to create an interconnected but informal web of information.
Mind Mapping has been used since its development for a multitude of things including problem-solving and brainstorming. Early mind mapping was done by hand with paper and pencil, but the progress of technology means there is now a multitude of software applications available for mind mapping. In this article, we’re going to compare the features of just two of these, Mapul vs MindMeister.
How Can Writers Use Mind Mapping?
Mind Mapping is useful for virtually any brainstorming or problem-solving session. When it comes to writing, the possibilities are truly endless. Use Mind Mapping for more formal components of writing like plot order or use it for the myriad of writing-related things like brainstorming ideas for scenes or even possible titles or characters for your current WIP. Other ways writers can use Mind Mapping include:
- brainstorming story, blog post, or article ideas
- character development (physical traits, quirky habits, occupation, relationships, history, etc.)
- uncover character motivation (childhood events, traumatic experiences, etc.)
- world development (history, geography, climate, currency, time, politics, government, rivals, etc.)
- break out of writer’s block
- identify possible solutions to a character problem
- identify or solve plot problems
- uncover reasons for procrastination
- whatever else you need to brainstorm or problem solve
Mapul vs MindMeister: Getting Started
MindMeister does offer a free basic version; the link is near the bottom of their website page. You can get started with just your name, email, and a password. Mapul also offers an opportunity to try its mind mapping software for free after you provide just an email and a password. It takes very little time to be up and running in either mind mapping program.
Mapul vs MindMeister Interface
In Mapul, click the + at the top left to create a new map. You can do the same in MindMeister to start a new map. Both programs offer the ability to modify the visual appeal of your map by altering the background or font colors, the font size or type.
Both programs provide the capacity to drag and drop the entire map at any location on the page. To create branches in Mapul, start from the center and pull outward to the desired length. In MindMeister, new branches are created with keystrokes using enter or the tab key.
Both programs appear to be equally as flexible in letting you add images such as icons or clip art to your mind map. Both programs allow you to create a note providing additional details about different elements. You can also add links to both programs. MindMeister is hands down the more robust program. It includes far more icons and options for customization than Mapul.
One feature that is especially appealing was that Mapul offers the ability to indicate either a thumb up or thumb down for each idea on your mind map. This feature is helpful for getting feedback from others on ideas on a collaborative project or for example in a classroom to survey student support of different ideas presented on the map. To my surprise, MindMeister takes this feature to the next level by providing a multitude of choices including different colored flags and checkmarks and even emoticons.
Mapul vs MindMeister Visual
The visual appearance of the Mapul mind maps for me was more appealing from the start than the MindMeister ones. The MindMeister maps were very streamlined, almost sterile and seemed to use preset shapes like the ones you’d find in MS Word. The Mapul interface uses the visual concept of a tree in its mind maps. The branches look like tree branches and can be modified to be different lengths, different thicknesses, etc.
However, even though Mapul mind maps were more aesthetically pleasing and intriguing, MindMeister is more intuitive when it comes to entering your ideas into the mind map. In Mapul, you must manually draw the branch using your mouse and then enter your text for that branch. It’s also harder to move a branch or correct a mistake.
MindMeister uses the enter key to generate new branches (parent) and tab to create new sub-branches (child nodes). Relying on the keyboard rather than the mouse as a tool for adding branches seems to let ideas flow quicker and without interruption.
Pricing: Mapul vs MindMeister
The basic Mapul version is free, but it limits you to creating one map at a time with a limit of up to 4 upload images. It does allow you to save your map as SVG or JPG or share and collaborate with others using a private or public link. So, in theory you could save the map to your drive or as an image and start a new map if needed.
The premium version of Mapul is available at the cost of $25 for three months. At the time of this review, there is currently an option available to buy a 6-month subscription for $35 and a 12-month subscription for $50, significant savings. Paid subscription plans at any level provide access to all additional features including the ability to use handwritten branches, a brainstorming mode, and even a backup and restore beta feature.
MindMeister allows you up to 3 mind maps with the free version but no storage. You can import from text files, as well as Freemind, XMind, MindManager and of MindMeister files and export to text and MindMeister formats. There’s no collaboration with the free version, and many other advanced features are not accessible.
MindMeister offers three additional paid levels in a 6-month subscription. The Personal ($36 for 6-months), Pro ($60), and Business ($90) levels come with access to additional features such as unlimited maps and images and storage needed for project work and team mind mapping. Some of the additional features include things such as email support, uploading images, chat, collaboration, group sharing, and even the ability to export to MS Word and PowerPoint formats.
Mapul vs MindMeister: Overall Impression
Both programs are helpful in their way as a mind map tool. The simple and scaled back options available in Mapul are less distracting. The colorful and curvy branches and use of the mouse to draw the branches may appeal to those with a more creative or artistic nature.
The streamlined look of the MindMeister maps appeals to those who prefer order and to those for whom visual appearance is less of a priority. Freelancers and writers who procrastinate or who love to tweak will get lost in all the icon and formatting options so take this as a forewarning.
It can be addictive!
Both programs have the slideshow/presentation feature, but in MindMeister, the Wunderkind feature which searches Google for images to go with your topic provides even more icon options. In MindMeister, you can also search YouTube by subject for videos to embed in your mind map. MindMeister can also integrate your mind map with their product called MeisterTask to create to-do lists and manage projects using task lists, due dates, visually moving tasks to show progress, and by delegating work to others.
If you’re looking for distraction-free brainstorming before you begin writing or to quickly problem-solve a character or world building issue, my recommendation is Mapul. For those who are software power users or love lots of options and choices, you will find MindMeister well worth the price.