Product Review: Freemind Mind Mapping Software

When asked if I am an outliner or a discovery writer, I say, “yes.”  I’m a little of both.  When I begin a story, I want to have a good idea of where I’m going, at least for the first several chapters.  I want to understand my characters and their motivations. 

I need a way to capture these kinds of details in a way that is both structured enough that that I can keep track of the kinds of information that fits a pattern as well as flexible enough to be useful to use for many types of tasks.  Freemind is excellent on both fronts.

Freemind is great for outlining, allowing you to branch to an unlimited number of levels, but one of its strengths is that you can close any of the branches you don’t need right now.  You can link to web pages or files saved to your computer, making it a hub for your project research.

Click the image on the right to see a screenshot that shows how I use Freemind to map out scenes.  I also use character templates in another mind map to capture character details.You can define your own icons, templates, and styles in Freemind, so the program is really flexible.  In fact, I have used Freemind not only to map out scenes and characters, but I use it in my day job for client management, tracking to-do tasks, meeting notes, and client information.  I think of Freemind as a free-form surface that I can use for any tasks where I need to outline or other tasks where information branches in a hierarchy.  You can move any portion of the mind map around, making it infinitely flexible during brainstorming or planning stages of writing.Since other mind mapping software can cost up to $500 per user, Freemind’s $0 cost is pretty sweet as well.  I highly recommend it.  Combined with Scrivener, Freemind works really well with my writing process, and is definitely worth checking out.  You can find Freemind here: