By Martin Stut, 2009-05-23

For quite a time I like to use FreeMind as a mind mapping program. Mind maps are logical trees, arranged in a way that gives a good overview while making it easy to add details. With a good editing program, mind maps are a great tool for collecting and sorting ideas. Each mind map gets saved into a separate file, so this is similar to TiddlyWiki.

Collecting and sorting ideas/thoughts is much of what documentation is about, so it is worth analyzing, to what extent mind maps in general and FreeMind in particular fulfill the requirements of the ideal documentation system:

Easy addition of thoughts is the big strength of mind maps, so they definitely can do it.
Usage on the road is o.k, because the mind map is stored in a single file without depending on a server.
Searches are well possible within a single mind map, but hard across separate mind map files. So I'd rather create a few large maps than many little maps.
Synchronization by USB pen drive is well possible because the maps are single files.
Confidentiality is possible by keeping the map confidential.
Longevity is somewhat hard, because the map is stored in a (more or less) proprietary format, although it can be exported into various formats, including long living HTML. When the FreeMind projects decides to drop its product, chances are, I can't open my maps after 2 more major releases of Java.
Sharing with others is very hard, because I can only distribute the map file or an HTML export of it. Not precisely the way, collaboration is meant to be.