Mindmap software comparison for DT users

I’m looking at mindmap products and wanted to share my discoveries with the group as I think they may be of interest to some people. I’m a complete mindmap newbie, but I’ve really enjoyed mindmapping so far. It’s a great tool for outlining for me especially, because I tend to have ideas bubble up in all sorts of places. Trying to generate and capture ideas in a heirarchical outline is effective but somewhat constraining for me. So far I’m using mindmapping primarily for outlining in a less structured/linear manner.

I downloaded trials for the following products:

First thing I did was check out the UIs. They all behave a bit differently and have their quirks. I’m not going to go into that, they’re all competent mindmap tools and you should try them for yourself.

I’d like to share my experience with DT integration. I use DTPO, but I don’t think I’ve used any special features in my tests so it should be applicable to all versions. I mentioned that I’m using mindmaps for brainstorming and initial outlining for my projects. I want to feed my mindmaps into DTPO to initiate writing projects and have an ongoing visual aid for the structure, as well as general note-taking for deeper understanding. None of the products were natively searchable by DT, meaning that if I imported a document into DT and did a search on the content, I got back no hits. I had suspected this might be the case so my fallback plan was to print as PDF into DT. Here’s how they stack up:


  • Displayable by DT
  • Printed PDF is not searchable

The central idea text does get indexed by DT, but none of the child nodes do. Pretty useless for my purposes then. It’s possible that via a different print config the text does become searchable, but I wasn’t able to figure it out.


  • Displayable by DT
  • Printed PDF is searchable (all nodes)


  • Not displayable by DT
  • Printed PDF is searchable (all nodes)
  • By default printed across multiple pages that made no sense in DT. Print dialog has option to scale to fit to one page which made it render nicely

Two other products I’ve considered but haven’t evaluated yet are MindManager and Inspiration. MindManager required me to register to download the demo, and since I already had three demos on my machine I didn’t feel like it :slight_smile: The Inspiration demo said I didn’t have permission to run it. I’m waiting on a response from support before I can try it out.

At this point MindNode is in the lead for me. Its documents are natively displayable by DT, and the printed PDF is fully searchable. It’s good news for me because with the exception of its hotkeys (which may be configurable, I’m not sure yet) I found it the most intuitive. It’s also the least expensive package I evaluated, another plus.

I’m still interested in trying out Inspiration because of some of its other features. But if you’re looking for a straightforward mindmapping tool with decent DEVONthink integration, MindNode seems to be the one to get.

I would love to hear any feedback others have, regarding things I may have missed with these tools or other programs I should check out. Also if someone could tell me how Inspiration integrates with DT I would really appreciate it :slight_smile: And I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you, padillac, for this comparison.

I like MindNode Pro too. Just wanted to add another plus: it has an iPhone / iPod touch companion, called MindNode touch.

I recently bought Curio and even prefer MindNode Pro to Curio’s mindmapping tool.

I tried NovaMind some years ago, but it was much more than I need(ed) and I didn’t like the GUI.

I don’t use Mind Maps daily, so I can’t really contribute in details to the other Mind Mapping tools, despite I tried them all ‘once upon a time’. For my purposes they have to be simple to use, good looking and exportable.

An interesting feature to look for in viewing mind maps in DT is whether hyperlinks inserted into the mind map are clickable in DT. This includes links to DT documents (obtained through the DT menu at Edit > Copy Item Link). With links to DT documents, one can use a mind map in DT as another kind of index. Although it takes patience to construct the map link by link, it is useful for some projects.

Both MindManager and MindNode Pro place clickable links into exported PDFs. MindManager’s native files have clickable links when viewed in DT, although the links emit the annoying jingle sound whenever they’re clicked.

1 Like

I would like to mention FreeMind 0.9.6
I am not a big mind map user and I found this free and open source software fine for my casual use. It does produce decents mind maps and you can add built-in icons to your nodes.
The file format (.mm) is XML but the mind map can be exported to HTML. In DevonThink, I just select the XML and choose open with FreeMind and I can work on my mind map. Mind maps are useful for organizing my thoughts in new creative ways, but for taking daily notes I prefer Devonthink or omnioutliner.

For a free app people may want to check xMind too. It’s not cocoa based, doesn’t work as fluidly as MindNode or is as powerful as NovaMind, but it has a well rounded free version.

xMind website

Btw, the free version, although not supporting export > to pdf, supports print > to pdf. That pdf is searchable on DTP.

1 Like

For what it’s worth, I’ve found a number of mind mapping tools choke when the map size gets too big (100s of nodes).

MindManager is the best-performing of the ones I’ve tried (incl. NovaMind Pro, MindNode Pro, Freemind, and XMind) although I haven’t made a purchase decision yet.

1 Like

Has anyone had any experience with VUE?


Looks quite powerful, it’s free…

VUE is great, but it’s not a mindmapping tool. Excellent for more freeform concept mapping, and it’s fairly quick to use (despite the Java thing).

As a follow-up, I just got the Inspiration demo working locally. DTP cannot natively view the .isf file format, but the exported PDFs are fully searchable.

I’ve tried them all. The problems with most is that (1) they usually force you into a tree structure, unable to change the root, unless they are a concept map. (2) when they work well, they became too complex and collapse of their own weight.

PersonasBrain solves both problems. It’s dynamic, meaning that any note clicked on becomes the center, showing the parents (yes, multiple parents makes a note, in effect, a multiple replicant), the children and the siblings. They have one on their web site with around 65,000 nodes! It doesn’t look complex because you only see a small piece at a time. It helps me see connections better than anything. Most view it as an information storage program, but I use DT for that. For me, it’s a thinking program because it doesn’t force into a hierarchy, so I can dump down a bunch of concepts all connected to one think, like “unclassified” and then start figuring out the relationships, with different kinds of links. Things are easily moved around, subordinated to other things, etc. It’s really amazing.

The bad news is that I haven’t yet figured out how to drag links easily from DT to PB. I can drag files one at at time as a link, but haven’t figured out how to do it for a whole DT database, or section of a database.

Even so, the two together are a VERY potent combination. I used to use Scrivener in between them, but it got too complex, and DT is developing into a great too for actually writing, now that it has tags and Split Document. I just wish that it had a temporary merge and you didn’t have to group docs into a folder before subordinating them to other docs. Why shouldn’t a sub document just be indented under another document without a distracting folder hovering over it. I just want to drag paragraphs (as separate docs) around, seeing how the flow reads.

Oh, the PB folks have a free, unexpiring version that will do almost everything you want, not a stripped-down version. It’s at thebrain.com and you can see Jerry Michaelson’s brain (the one with 65,000+ nodes) at:
webbrain.com/brainpage/brain/3D8 … 1F89BAF87/

I’m completely unaffiliated with them, although I sound like their PR person. I’m just a person who has been imagining a dynamic mind map for 20 years and finally found it.

If anyone has tips on integrating DT and PB, I’d love to hear them!



I’m a big advocate for a programme called Curio, made by Zengobi. Although not a strictly mind-mapping app (it’s more of a ‘thought-space’), it has an excellent mind-map functionality built in that can be exported to fully searchable PDFs or more traditional JPEGS, TIFFS etc.

I use the PRO version almost daily for brainstorming, organising courses, consultancy etc. It is a little pricey at the PRO end (£113) but well worth it for the sheer breadth of features and they do a good trial to test it out.

I am not affiliated with them in any way, just an enthusiastic end-user!


Hope this helps in your quest :smiley:


1 Like

Thanks for this thread. My information is out of date, but I was once the owner of an Inspiration license. Very limited and over-priced was my impression then, but maybe it’s improved.

Somewhat contradictorily, because it’s also rather limited in functionality, my favorite so far is Mindcad Incubator: mindcad.com/ It’s been around for quite some time. If I were starting my search now, I suspect I might settle on MindNode.

grsilverman’s points are well taken: a lot of mindmapping programs do seem to have some pretty arbitrary limitations.

For the record, with the current version of NovaMind PRO (possibly not Express version) installed, mindmaps are fully visible in DT windows for quick reference. To edit or use links, the map must be opened in NovaMind, but that’s only a double-click away. Alas, we can’t do everything in DT.

I have enjoyed using NovaMind because it seems to have the best ability to attach graphics, floating text, and jump (link) lines. You can get really wild. MindManager has a more constrained, businesslike and sedate feel, and it has become the de facto standard for mindmaps. But NovaMind will import and export MindManager documents.

PersonalBrain is an amazing concept, no doubt about it. As an example, I have used it to map our local computer network using color-coded links for Ethernet, wireless, electrical, USB, and firewire connections between all CPUs and peripherals. I can’t think of anything else that would allow visualization of multiple systems simultaneously without a complex schematic.

During the last days I’ve tried all the mindmapping programs I could find but eventually ended up with MyThoughts and MindNode Pro.

MindNode Pro is a really nice application but lacks support for images. Image support will, however, be added soon:


MyThougts is a beautiful piece of software but as stated before it’s pdf’s aren’t searchable from within Devonthink. I dropped a line on their support section and got this answer:

"I have had a quick try with DevonThink and if you use the menu file->export->As Document option it will search the outline and attached notes, however if you just export the mind map only, as it is created as an image file it is not currently searchable by DevonThink. I will take a closer look at which parts of a PDF document DevonThink is using for its searching as I may be able to add fix to support this in a minor update that I am planning to release in the next couple of weeks. "

So, hopefully, both these programs will soon have the functionality I’m looking for. Until then I’ll use my demo of NovaMind.

Has anyone tried The Brain (aka PersonalBrain)?

The movement takes some getting used to, but it’s interesting to use when working through ideas.

I keep waffling on whether to upgrade to the fuller-feature versions, and haven’t yet decided to plunk down my money.

(No affiliation.)

The mindmap application that I use is the donationware MyMind by Sebastia Krauss (sebastian-krauss.de/software/). Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be still supported by the author. What I like in it, is that it lets one work at the same time on the outline and the mindmap - that is exactly the way I work.

I’m never sure if I like mindmappers or concept maps more. I feel, as others, sometimes a bit constrained in the tree structure. On the other side, concept maps tend sometimes to escape to my control, and are less inviting to stay on focus (the root question).

The MindNode approach seems to be a good compromise: work in mindmaps, but allow as many roots as you need. It seems to me exactly as one work when at the whiteboard.


Besides DTPO which I use for data organization I’m using Tinderbox for note taking, outlining and mind-mapping. Although TB probably not has all the GUI niceties as other mind-mappers, it’s power comes from multiple modes to present my notes and data. Most prominent are map-view with boxes links for dashboards and the outline-view for gathering data. TB also excels by its capabilities to modify data (rule and script based) as well as in exporting data to HTML. From posts in the TB forum I can see Devonthink and Tinderbox being a combination chosen frequently.
What I (and other TB users) really miss is DT being able to display and understand Tinderbox file format which is btw. xml.


just an addition to ‘freemind’ (i am using 0.9.0_RC_10)

There is a function that allows exporting of FreeMind mind map using any XSLT—a transformation stylesheet. Several transformation stylesheets come as part of FreeMind distribution, located in the “accessories” subfolder ->

for example: /Applications/FreeMind.app/Contents/Resources/Java/accessories/

with this freemind exports perfect .OPML files



I use OmniGraffle Pro for lots of things apart from mind mapping, it’s not the cheapest software but very stable and works well in DTP.

DTP uses the QuickView preview to display it but is also able to index the text so you can use DTP’s search facility.

You can switch between the object view and use the built-in outliner to create your mind map or import an outline from another 3rd party application or OmniGroup’s OmniOutliner.


Another Mind Mapping program that I like better than FreeMind is Freeplane and it’s free: