Tiffany B. Brown

Review: The online mind map smackdown

Wouldn’t you know it? About a week after this post, Comapping released an upgrade that changed the chart. I have updated the chart to reflect this new data. However, I have not re-reviewed Comapping. And I’m not 100% sure it’s necessary given my reasons for preferring MindMeister.

Mind mapping may just be the next wave of online applications. Advanced JavaScript libraries and Flash are enabling web-based mind map applications that are almost as robust as their off-line counterparts (such as Freemind).

In this post, I’ll revisit the previously-reviewed MindMeister and three newer mind map services: Mind42.com, Comapping.com and Mindomo.

What’s the same?

All three of these services share a core set of features:

  • Collaboration
  • Exporting or downloading of mind maps
  • Importing of mind maps
  • Publishing and sharing of maps

But there are a few differences between these applications, and some of those differences may be a deal breaker for you.

MindMeister.com

When I originally reviewed MindMeister.com, it was in a private beta. A few weeks later, the site launched as a paid service (currently $4 per month), with a free plan that has a reduced feature set.

MindMeister’s interface is all CSS, (X)HTML and JavaScript driven, with lots of Ajax communication with the server. It still offers all of the features from the original review, plus you can search del.icio.us and Wikipedia for related content from any node.

If you are a premium user, you can export mind maps to Mindmanager or Freemind XML formats. Otherwise you are limited to image (GIF, JPG or PNG formats) and rich text exports. Also, free users are limited to five mind maps at any given time.

Mindmeister offers basic text formatting — and something I thought was particularly cool — the ability to add notes to a node.

Cost? $4 per month; reduced-feature free service available

Mind42.com

Like MindMeister, Mind42.com also offers integration with del.icio.us and Wikipedia. When you create a URL within a node, you are offered the option to browse del.icio.us and Wikipedia for related entries.

Though all of these services offer collaboration and sharing, Mind42 takes it one step further by integrating the Google Talk gadget. If you have a Google account, you can chat while collaboration on your map. Mind42 also allows you to attach notes and to-do lists to nodes, extending it into a productivity-management tool. MindMeister, on the other hand, offers Twitter updates for shared maps.

Both MindMeister and Mind42 let you import Freemind and Mindmanager maps. But Mind42 only allows you to export your maps to Rich Text, Freemind, or Mindmanager formats (or download a Mind42 file). MindMeister also allows you to export your maps as GIF, JPG or PNG images. But to export to Freemind and Mindmanager formats, you do have to pay the $4 monthly subscription fee.

Where Mind42 falls short is in its file management screen. Deleting files is easy enough. But when you delete all of your mind maps, you are prompted to create a new one. As of right now, there is no way to leave that screen other than by creating a new mind map. Only then can you log out of the program.

Mind42 is also very error-prone at this stage. I experienced data-destroying errors (such as while saving) in about half of my sessions. It is the only application of the bunch that is still in beta. Mind42 will certainly have to iron out their wrinkles in order to gain traction.

Cost? Mind42 is currently free to use. I’m guessing that will change once the site exits beta.

Comapping.com

Unlike MindMeister and Mind42.com, Comapping.com’s user interface was developed in Flash. Although that means you will have to install a plug in to use Comapping, it also means that the interface is a little more robust. Comapping.com, for example, offers “tool tip”-like keyboard shortcut hints.

Comapping also distinguishes itself in how it arranges the map. Where Mind42.com and MindMeister center the root node, Comapping anchors it to the left. While I prefer the flexibility of a centered map, Comapping says that its left-to-right organization is more efficient. From the company’s web site:

… The conclusion was striking: people were more confused — and less efficient — when they were building or trying to review a part of a map that had the topics around a center especially going from right to left.

We have a hypothesis that the reason is tightly related to the fact that we read from left to right: Topic organized from left to right gives a much faster overview of the semantic structure — probably because you can physically see the topic in less eye spans.

Like Mind42, Comapping allows you to attach tasks to nodes. You can even assign deadlines. Minor quirk: Comapping only accepts one type of date format (yyyy-mm-dd). A smarter interface would be able to parse a variety of date formats.

One unique feature: the site allows you to develop presentations and slide shows.

There are some drawbacks to Comapping, however, mostly around importing and exporting files. You can only import Mind Manager files. What’s more, you can only export files in Mindmanager, rich text or HTML. You can’t export your mind map as an image, and Freemind is not supported. You can download a .comap file, however.

Cost? $11.99 for six months; 30 day free trial.

Mindomo.com

Mindomo is much like Comapping in that it was developed with Flash. Its interface is good, but not necessarily as thoughtful. For example, Mindomo supports keyboard shortcuts, but there are no hints as with Comapping.

Mindomo’s layout and formatting options far are more flexible than its competitors. You can use a centered map as with Mind42 and MindMeister, or you can choose a right or left-aligned view. Mindomo also offers several pre-defined mind map themes.

One drawback to Mindomo is that you can᾿t export to Freemind. You also have to become a paid subscriber in order to export your maps in Mindmanager format. Mindomo distinguishes itself, however, with the ability to export plain text outlines and PDF files in addition to rich text files and images. But Mindomo can only import Mindmanager files.

Something else to note: only Mindomo also sells an enterprise software version that you can deploy in your business.

Cost? $65 per year / $36 for 6 months (about $6 per month). Also a free, ad-supported version

Who wins the smackdown?

I’d have to go with MindMeister. Mind42.com would be a contender if its service were more reliable. MindMeister’s support for importing and exporting Freemind as well as MindManager has me sold. I also like that it uses XHTML, CSS and JavaScript instead of a proprietary plugin such as Flash. The interface is pretty to look at and easy to use. Importing, exporting and deleting maps is a smooth process. And while some of its offerings aren’t as robust as Mindomo and Comapping, it does what it does quite well.

Feature comparison

Feature Mindomo Comapping MindMeister Mind42.com
In beta? No No No Yes
Flash? Yes Yes No No
Ajax? No No Yes Yes
Price $65 per year / $36 for 6 months; Ad-supported free option $11.99 / 6 months (about $2 per month) $4 per month; Free option available Free (for now)
Free option? Yes. Ad supported No Yes. Reduced features x
Publish maps online? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Publish maps on blogs / web sites? No Yes (as of 7/11) Only with premium subscription. Yes
Export to Freemind? No Yes (as of 7/11) Only with premium subscription. Yes
Export to Mindmanager? Only with premium subscription. Yes (Compatible XML) Only with premium subscription. Yes
Export to image? Yes (GIF, JPG, PNG) No Yes (GIF, JPG, PNG) No
Export as text? Yes No No No
Export as rich text? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Export to PDF? Yes No No No
Download maps for offline storage? No Yes No Yes
Import from Freemind? Yes Yes (as of 7/11) Yes Yes
Import from Mindmanager? Yes Yes (as of 7/11) Yes Yes
Collaboration and sharing? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Chat? No No No Yes. Through Google Talk widget
Attach notes to nodes? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Managing maps? No apparent way to delete maps Good Great Good
Map limits? Unlimited maps and sharing with subscription. Unlimited public maps and only 7 private maps with free option. No 5 at any time for free plan; unlimited for paid plan None at this point
Available as an enterprise solution? Yes Yes No No
Auto save? No Yes (as of 7/11) Yes No
Manual save? Yes Yes No Yes

Agree? Disagree? Prefer another solution? Did I get something wrong? Say it in the comments.

21 Responses to “Review: The online mind map smackdown”

  1. Vic Gee says:

    This is a wonderfully comprehensive review for these four web apps.

    I have been collecting details of information mapping and info management tools for many years, and have tracked the burst of on line applications that has mainly happened over the past few months. I thought you might like to have a comprehensive list of browser-based applications that do mind mapping, concept mapping, or diagramming:

    Information mapping_________________
    bubbl.us Collaborative mind mapping (radiant format not enforced)
    bubble-mind.com Collaborative mind mapping
    glinkr.net Hard-to-use concept mapping and mind mapping (shared but not collaborative)
    kayuda.com Collaborative concept mapping and mind mapping
    mapul.com Collaborative mind mapping with an organic flavour
    touchgraph.com URL mind maps for network visualisation
    wikimindmap.org Make mind maps from WikiMedia articles
    webofweb.net Collaborative mind mapping – this has been around longer than all the others except the now-defunct mayomi.
    writemaps.com Collaborative web-site hierarchical maps

    Generic diagramming__________________
    cumulatelabs.com/cumulatedraw/ Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    flowchart.com Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    gliffy.com Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    imaginationcubed.com Collaborative diagramming – can (just about) draw mind maps and concept maps
    thinkature.com Collaborative on-line whiteboard service – can draw mind maps and concept maps

    I have recommended your valuable post on my blog, http://www.mind-mapping.org/blog/?p=20

    Regards
    Vic
    http://www.mind-mapping.org
    The master list of mind mapping &
    information management software

  2. Vic Gee says:

    This is a wonderfully comprehensive review for these four web apps.

    I have been collecting details of information mapping and info management tools for many years, and have tracked the burst of on line applications that has mainly happened over the past few months. I thought you might like to have a comprehensive list of browser-based applications that do mind mapping, concept mapping, or diagramming:

    Information mapping_________________
    bubbl.us Collaborative mind mapping (radiant format not enforced)
    bubble-mind.com Collaborative mind mapping
    glinkr.net Hard-to-use concept mapping and mind mapping (shared but not collaborative)
    kayuda.com Collaborative concept mapping and mind mapping
    mapul.com Collaborative mind mapping with an organic flavour
    touchgraph.com URL mind maps for network visualisation
    wikimindmap.org Make mind maps from WikiMedia articles
    webofweb.net Collaborative mind mapping – this has been around longer than all the others except the now-defunct mayomi.
    writemaps.com Collaborative web-site hierarchical maps

    Generic diagramming__________________
    cumulatelabs.com/cumulatedraw/ Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    flowchart.com Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    gliffy.com Collaborative diagramming – can draw mind maps and concept maps
    imaginationcubed.com Collaborative diagramming – can (just about) draw mind maps and concept maps
    thinkature.com Collaborative on-line whiteboard service – can draw mind maps and concept maps

    I have recommended your valuable post on my blog, http://www.mind-mapping.org/blog/?p=20

    Regards
    Vic
    http://www.mind-mapping.org
    The master list of mind mapping &
    information management software

  3. tiffany says:

    Goodness Vic, that’s a tremendous list. Thanks for posting!

  4. tiffany says:

    Goodness Vic, that’s a tremendous list. Thanks for posting!

  5. AG says:

    Personally, I prefer a local instance of mind-mapping software only. Perhaps this is due to the fact that my first experience with mind-mapping software was for building the various sections of my thesis. Nonetheless, I suppose you could use this tool as a collaborative means of creating work flow. My preference is vym(View Your Mind), totally free as in free speech.

  6. AG says:

    Personally, I prefer a local instance of mind-mapping software only. Perhaps this is due to the fact that my first experience with mind-mapping software was for building the various sections of my thesis. Nonetheless, I suppose you could use this tool as a collaborative means of creating work flow. My preference is vym(View Your Mind), totally free as in free speech.

  7. [...] Review: The online mind map smackdown :: tiffany b. brown // v 4.1 (tags: mindmapping web2.0 productivity) [...]

  8. Omar says:

    We have just made an update on comapping.com

  9. Omar says:

    We have just made an update on comapping.com

  10. [...] case you missed it, Tiffany Brown has a review of four online mind mapping services: Mind42.com, Comapping.com, Mindomo and, of course, [...]

  11. Omar says:

    Just to let you know that one can now also import and export from Freemind in comapping as well.

    You can now import from MindManager, Freemind and Comap format and export to MindManager, Freemind, Comap format, RTF for word documents and HTML for a web page with bullets.

  12. Omar says:

    Just to let you know that one can now also import and export from Freemind in comapping as well.

    You can now import from MindManager, Freemind and Comap format and export to MindManager, Freemind, Comap format, RTF for word documents and HTML for a web page with bullets.

  13. rrabarg says:

    Mind42 now supports auto-save and cut and paste.

    The interface is good, with intuitive keyboard short-cuts supported, but like the reviewer I’ve also experience problems with it’s data synchronisation with the server.

  14. rrabarg says:

    Mind42 now supports auto-save and cut and paste.

    The interface is good, with intuitive keyboard short-cuts supported, but like the reviewer I’ve also experience problems with it’s data synchronisation with the server.

  15. Eskil says:

    Very interesting – You should also take a look at Text2MindMap at http://www.text2mindmap.com

  16. Eskil says:

    Very interesting – You should also take a look at Text2MindMap at http://www.text2mindmap.com

  17. Alan says:

    I have a different reason for needing a Web based Mind Mapping tool. Interestingly I came across the wonderful http://www.mind-mapping.organd also signed up for Mind42, which so far seems fit for purpose. Please see my blog for all the details.

  18. Alan says:

    I have a different reason for needing a Web based Mind Mapping tool. Interestingly I came across the wonderful http://www.mind-mapping.organd also signed up for Mind42, which so far seems fit for purpose. Please see my blog for all the details.

  19. smith says:

    During the last year and a half, a number of web-based tools for mind mapping have evolved quickly into competent business applications. Several of them are now approaching the functionality of desktop mind mapping software.

    I’ve been planning to create a comparison chart that details how the offerings of each of the major developers of web-based mind mapping software tools compare, but just couldn’t seem to get around to it – until recently. During a recent web search, I came across a chart produced by blogger Tiffany Brown for business cards that compared MindMeister, Mindomo, Mind42 and Comapping, and provided brief reviews of each of the programs. It was dated July 2007 – almost a year old, an eternity in Web 2.0 terms – and so I contacted Tiffany to see if I could use her chart as a jumping off point to an up-to-date comparison. She said yes!

    I first made a detailed set of features and performance criteria, drawn from a similar chart that I offer for desktop-based mind mapping software, and added in other capabilities that are unique to these web-based tools. I then sent the form to each developer, asking them to fill in the required data. Finally, I compiled their answers into a detailed side-by-side comparison chart, which is now available for you to download.

  20. smith says:

    During the last year and a half, a number of web-based tools for mind mapping have evolved quickly into competent business applications. Several of them are now approaching the functionality of desktop mind mapping software.

    I’ve been planning to create a comparison chart that details how the offerings of each of the major developers of web-based mind mapping software tools compare, but just couldn’t seem to get around to it – until recently. During a recent web search, I came across a chart produced by blogger Tiffany Brown for business cards that compared MindMeister, Mindomo, Mind42 and Comapping, and provided brief reviews of each of the programs. It was dated July 2007 – almost a year old, an eternity in Web 2.0 terms – and so I contacted Tiffany to see if I could use her chart as a jumping off point to an up-to-date comparison. She said yes!

    I first made a detailed set of features and performance criteria, drawn from a similar chart that I offer for desktop-based mind mapping software, and added in other capabilities that are unique to these web-based tools. I then sent the form to each developer, asking them to fill in the required data. Finally, I compiled their answers into a detailed side-by-side comparison chart, which is now available for you to download.