Comments. 9 April 2014.

What suits one person may not suit another, and different programs cater for different purposes.

One NTC member says that iMindmap, Ultimate v7, by Tony Buzan is particularly good for workplace, has good Gantt chart and critical path functions, tasking and resourcing functions, presentation function, exporting to Outlook etc. It has a traditional mindmap feel to it. It is easy to use. iPad and Android versions are available.

She points out the Free version 5, offer without end date.

This member also says: MindGenius for Business is also good for the workplace, with Gantt chart functions, tasking/resourcing functions, exporting to Outlook etc.

A colleague said, “I can’t cope with Mindgenius. An acquaintance loves it.” Some time ago, he said “Inspiration is good for visually memorable revision maps and ThinkSheet is better for jotting down ideas for essay planning.”

Another NTC member wrote: “My students loved Inspiration as even the really old version had TTS, so they could hear and see key points for both planning and revision.

Write on Line has a simple mind map tool and all the writing support built in (flexi spell prediction, key word banks and hyper-links to useful information sources).

Most mind maps can be trialled for 20 to 30 days so potential users can get a feel for the program and make a preferred choice. If TTS is not a priority then there are some very sophisticated ones around to both plan and write essays with as well as revise.”

Nasser Siabi Of Microlink wrote in Dyslexia Handbook 2011.
“Mind mapping software: helps learners to structure, visualise and classify ideas and can be used as an aid to study, problem solving, decision-making and writing. Learners can then use the maps as revision aids, story boards for structuring essays and project planning.”

This article is mainly by E.A. Draffan, with contributions from other NTC members.

1. Choosing mapping tools.
     MindView, MindJet, MindGenius, iMindMap.
     SparkSpace range, Inspiration, ClaroIdeas, Read & Write.
2. Mindmaps for children and students.
     Research with children.
     Kidspiration, KidsSpark, ThinkSheet,
     DraftBuilder, Rationale.
3. Sharing mindmaps online.
     MindMeister, bubbl.us, Gliffy.
4. Uses for mapping software.
     Visual display of information.
     Multiple applications.
5. Pros and Cons of computer based maps.
     Handwritten maps.
     Computer based maps.
6. Further information.

Planning for essays and assignments is very often linked to the use of concept or mind mapping when ideas are generated in a graphical way. Not all dyslexic students enjoy the use of mind mapping. Some like the structure of lists and outliners such as that used in Microsoft Word with bullet points and numbers but many mapping tools also include this feature.

The problem is there are so many mapping tools so you need to ask a few questions before you make a choice of program. Perhaps it is useful ask about the differences between a concept-map and a mind-map.

A concept map is a web diagram where each “node” contains an idea, concept or question that is clearly framed with very little chance for ambiguity. These ideas are linked together by branches to show their relationship to each other. It should be noted that concept maps do not always have to take the form of a web. They can be presented as a tree diagram or organisational chart, as an input or output tree or as a flow chart.

Buzan MindMap

Buzan MindMap

Mind mapping is a distinct technique which differs from concept mapping in that short phrases may be used which act as connectors rather than expanding the idea. Mind maps take a particular, prearranged web form. They were developed from psychological theories by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. Combining keywords, images and colour, this highly structured method of concept mapping has become popular with all ages for note taking, brainstorming and creative thinking.

Back to the menu

1. Choosing mapping tools.

The type of mind map chosen, whether computer based or hand drawn, depends on the task, environment, skills, tools available and user preferences, whether there is a preference for a structured or unstructured layout, a map that automatically generates a hierarchy, or one that just provides a scattered web of ideas.

For instance if you want to categorise your ideas and you need to apply dates and times or need a timeline, you may want to use MindView. It has excellent integration with Excel for calculations; good project management outlines and different diagram views. If you want the complexities of the Gantt chart, you might also want to consider Mindjet, (formerly MindManager), MindGenius and iMindMap.

Claro Ideas


However, if you want a simpler look and want to re-order your ideas mainly using a mouse, without worrying about a hierarchy, the Spark Space range or Inspiration might be the answer. For ease of use, consider ClaroIdeas, which also works with symbols. All of the programs mentioned allow you to choose from templates for ideas as well as pictures, items from the web. Text to speech can be used when editing text. Font changes, coloured background and a different look and feel can be achieved with all the maps, so it is not necessary to go with the default view.

Read & Write Gold, from TextHelp , has a mapping element (Fact Mapper) to sort and store in a graphical way, research gathered from the fact folder or to generate new ideas.

Free mindmapping programs are described on B.D.A. Tech Page Free Resources.

Mindmapping Apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices are included in B.D.A. Tech Page Apps and dyslexia. Some of the programs mentioned above have applications for all platforms.

Back to the menu

2. Mindmaps for children and students.

Research with children has shown that:

  • Mind mapping is a useful technique for organising ideas among more experienced writers. But with children in the younger groups of Years One and Two (five to seven year olds), mind mapping is not a quick and easy panacea. Teachers found it was extremely time consuming for the children to master the technique and even then, it led to only modest improvements in writing for most pupils.
  • Prior to the research, there was no real definition of a reluctant writer. The research found that children exhibit a variety of different behaviours and there is no one single cause of reluctant behaviours in writers.
  • Although these children were reluctant writers, 95 per cent wrote at home, with or without parental support.
  • Pupils made most progress when mind maps were used in conjunction with other visual stimuli such as film and story mapping.


For younger users, it is important to think carefully about ideas around categorisation and learning to sort ideas before embarking on using computer programs, but there are some that can help including Kidspiration for primary aged learners, from Inspiration. KidSpark, from Spark Space, has many images and text to speech support. Another option is ThinkSheet. It’s display is like Post-It notes, which can be turned into a piece of writing.

Draft Builder


There are mind mapping tools that actually work through the essay planning process such as DraftBuilder and Rationale for older students. See B.D.A. Tech Word and PDF review of Rationale. An illustration of Mind mapping for an essay from notes can be found at the James Cook University Study Skills online site.

Back to the menu

3. Sharing Mindmaps online.

There are also many online options where you can share your mind map with other users such as MindMeister and bubbl.us or Gliffy. Tablets and iPhones and Android phones can be linked to computer-based mind mapping software and show you the lists you made from the outline of your map or a basic diagram with the main keywords.

Drawing diagrams on small screens and even on larger monitors does not suit all learners. Many mind mapping users still prefer the large A3 sheet with a collection of coloured pens. So do download the trial versions of all programs before purchasing, as these are available from the websites mentioned.

Back to the menu

4. Uses for mapping software.

There are many different uses for mind or concept mapping programs and a few are suggested in this section.




This is an idea generation technique which can be used by an individual or by group. A topic or idea begins the process whether on paper or on computer. Then any ideas, concept, keywords, processes or images relating to the problem or topic are recorded. These form the “nodes” of the map. The relationships between each node, the branches, are then added to start the diagram building process. A hierarchy can be introduced into the map as some ideas may form subsets of others or can be grouped together. As the map is formed it may have additional graphical elements, colour and other cues to help the user retain or re-organise information.

Computer based brainstorming allows for links to be made with many other programs such as word processors, which aids organisation of thoughts when writing long pieces of text. Many of the software packages allow for the graphical mode to be exported to other software packages such as word processors.

The results of a brainstorming session can be a concept map which has many uses. It can form the basis of an essay or project, it can produce the solution to your problem, or it can be saved to be used as a revision tool at a later date.

Visual display of information.
Some find the major advantage of concept maps is that they present information visually. Visual thinking is preferred by many people with dyslexia and seeing information graphically can increase both creativity and retention. Images can be used instead of words, and tools such as colour; sizing and spatial position can be used to convey information on topics, importance or actions to be taken. Large amounts of information can be stored at many levels but seen as a whole rather than as a mass of text streaming down a page.

Concept mapping programs can be used for outlining documents, presentation or projects. This is possible because the programs contain functions that convert the graphical map view into a text version of the map. Functions for notes allow the user to attach text, references or hyperlinks to ideas within the map. Some programs have basic word processing functions in their notes entry boxes, allowing for the addition of lists and tables. Others make an automatic list function from the concept map which can be exported to a word processor. For people with dyslexia, being able to develop a draft version of a document in a visual environment is a great bonus. The entire structure of the document can be seen when exported in a linear fashion and changes can be made at any time.



Multiple applications.
Concept mapping packages can be used in education for lesson planning and presentations and many allow for direct export to PowerPoint or HTML. A project can be planned on the basis of the tasks laid out in Outlook with actions, resources and priorities being assigned to the various branches. The plan can then be exported to a project management tool, word processor or presentation package or held as a reminder or revision tool.

Back to the menu

5 Pros and Cons of computer based maps.

Concept and mind maps have traditionally been created on paper or whiteboards but for the last decade specialist software for creating maps has been available. It is important to consider all aspects of mapping techniques and at all times be aware that this way of working does not suit all those with specific learning difficulties. Here are some comparisons to think about.

Handwritten maps.

  • Attractive look and feel but hard to delete errors and can be messy.
  • Help to revise content and provide better memory traces.
  • Can be created at any time in any place with paper and pencil and/or crayons.
  • Easy to create at any age with any colours and graphics.
  • Spelling and writing skills may cause concerns.

Computer based maps

  • Maps can be edited and re-arranged at any time but need to have the tools.
  • No limit on the size of the map – your piece of paper is as large or small as you need it.
  • Drafting tools such as spell checkers and dictionaries can be used to correct errors.
  • Professional images and multi-media files can be integrated into the map.
  • Maps can be automatically converted into other formats including linear lists and presentations.
  • Lack of I.C.T. skills may hamper development of the map.

It is important to appreciate that some mind mappers really enjoy the process of drawing on large pieces of paper with lots of different colours as suggested by Tony Buzan. The enjoyment of drawing and creating a physical picture may be more memorable than the digital version. Either way the process of developing a mind map with keywords can be learnt easily, and it is a useful strategy not only for writing but also for note taking and revision.

Back to the menu

Wikipedia comparison chart for free and purchasable software.

Chuck Frey concept mapping blog, which includes Android Apps.

Back to the menu

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. July 2015.
Copies of this page may be made providing it is unchanged and the source is acknowledged.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s