XMind- A free mind mapping app

If you’re a visual learner like me, you might find mind maps the most helpful way for you to absorb information. If you’re also an accomplished procrastinator (like me) then you also know how easy it is to get swept away on a tide of fancy stationery, colour coordinating and obsession over how exactly to lay out your information.

Inevitably you run out of space and have to squish a really vital topic in a not so large space, and an insignificant topic (and accompanying useless diagram) occupying most of the page. Along with this, the fact that your writing never quite looks like those bullet journals and Tumblr #studyspo blogs, and that your hand ends up sore and covered in ink and your page is all smudged; you might find yourself pretty frustrated and giving up before you really get into the flow of studying.

A free app that I use that avoids all of the above problems, along with added features I didn’t even know I needed, is XMind. I accessed XMind for free through the DDSS memory stick of assistive software.

Below is the basic bones of how most of my mindmaps begin. This was one I used for my first year exam revision. After you type in your title/ central topic you press enter to start a new branch. Then, from each of these branches again when that subtopic is selected, press enter again to create smaller sub-subtopics. So on and so forth ad infinitum (I assume).

Screen shot of a mind map created in xMind
Basic mind map

When your subtopics are looking quite full and cluttered. You can press the minus sign next to each heading to hide the sub-subtopics, and press the plus sign to reveal them again. Below is how my mind map looks when all branches are expanded.

Screen shot of a mind map created in xMind. The branches are expanded to show all of the detail
Mind map with extended branches

As you can see I have quite a few inter-topic relationships, which I create by right clicking a subtopic (or sub- subtopic) and pressing ‘new relationship’. You can then drag the arrow to connect it to wherever you want it to go. This includes ‘floating topics’, which you create by double clicking an empty space.

To format the colours, shapes etc. you use the bar to the right of the page. You can also rearrange subtopics and so on by dragging them around until they are in the right place. This saves so much time planning layouts, as you can just type what is necessary and rearrange later, without thinking about how it’s going to look.

I personally don’t spend much time on formatting the aesthetics of my mind maps, I have created my own basic template formatted in the way that I can read best and then saved that to my PC and Unidrive. Every time I want to create a new mind map, I open this file and then resave the file as whatever topic I am studying that day. There are some good default themes available, but it’s always worth having a little tinker as everyone’s visual needs are different. (Not too long though, the whole point of this is to reduce procrastination time.)

To get hold of X Mind and the free assistive software memory stick please contact your disability advisor at DDSS .

Thanks for reading,