Got an idea? Then expand it by making a mind map

mind map

Mind maps are visual representations of thoughts, plans or tasks and are based around a branching concept. We show you how to make visually rich maps.

Launch a web browser and go to the Mapmyself website, which is the service we’ll be using to build our mind maps.

Look at the bottom right of the page and click Go. Create an account by clicking the Sign Up link, then type in an email address and a password. Don’t forget to write these credentials down somewhere safe, as they’ll be needed whenever Mapmyself is used. Click OK.

Two tasks are required to start a mind map. First pick a graphic from those available.

Scroll down to see more than those immediately visible and click the one that seems most appropriate. Then type the text label that will be at the centre of the mind map and finally click OK.

Getting the wording right is not critical at this stage as it can be easily edited later. It is also easy to change the size, colour and font of text later on so there’s no need to be too picky at this stage.

Position the mouse pointer over the central idea’s label and a red circle will appear

Drag a line to roughly where the first branch needs to go. Watch the branch grow as the pointer moves around: release the mouse button when it is in the correct place.

If necessary, use the two red dots to drag the branch into a different shaped curve. Click a blank part of the work area to fix the shape of this branch (note that it can be clicked again at any time to reveal the red dots for more reshaping).

Click the first branch to reveal the red dots then click again to display a text-entry box. Type in some words to label this branch and press Enter.

There is a small, almost-greyed-out area to the right of the branch: pass the mouse pointer over this to see some options for editing the branch. It is possible to edit the colour of the branch (Mapmyself chooses random colours), the text colour, the font and font size.

Now place the mouse pointer in the middle of the central idea and drag to create a second branch. Give it a name by clicking to show the red dots then clicking again to see the text-entry box – then just type.

To make the mind map look balanced it might be necessary to drag the branches into new shapes.

Click a branch and drag one or more of its red dots to do this. Remember branches can have their shapes changed at any time.

Put the mouse pointer at the end of a branch and click: this creates a sub-branch. Drag the sub-branch to its desired end point and release the mouse button.

Add more sub-branches as needed by clicking the end of a branch and dragging the new one to its desired end point. Edit font colour and size, and the branch colours as before.

Use the mouse to drag a map around the screen as it gets bigger and use the slider on the left of the screen to zoom in and out.

It can be useful to add notes to a mind map

To do this click, to select the relevant branch then click the Notes button on the toolbar: type the note into the pop-up box, changing the font, font size, colour and other formatting, if desired.

Click Save when the note is finished and a Clipboard icon appears on the branch. Click this icon to see the note.

You can also add images to mind maps. To do this in Mapmyself, click the Images button at the top and an Image Library pane will appear on the right-hand side. Use the Search box to find an appropriate picture and then double-click to add it to the mind map.

An image can be resized by clicking it and dragging the grey box at the bottom right-hand corner. Images can be used as reminders or simply to make a mind map look more attractive.

There are a couple of ways of getting mind maps out of Mapmyself. A paid-for version of the tool enables you to save in Microsoft Word and specialist mind-mapping document formats. In the free version, it’s possible to save either as an image and or in XML format.

The XML format can be used on web pages, while clicking the Image button will result in the map being saved as a JPEG file. To save a file click the Export tab and choose the preferred format.

It isn’t always easy to know where to start with a mind map or, as a newcomer, to get to grips with the range of things they can help with. So Mapmyself has several templates that provide ideas and that can be easily edited to personalise them.

To see the templates choose New from the toolbar, then choose Templates and look at the samples. Click OK if one appeals and it will open into the main window to be edited.