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.
What’s the same?
All three of these services share a core set of features:
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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 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?
|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|
Agree? Disagree? Prefer another solution? Did I get something wrong? Say it in the comments.