I really enjoy working with Xmind (xmind.net). I like the different layouts that you can use, as well as the keyboard shortcuts. I also like the automatic layout capability, but only to a certain extent. Here are some things that I have found to be useful or that I wish would be available / fixed.
A little background info…
Since I am transitioning from Windows 7 to Ubuntu 12, I wanted something that was cross platform. There are quite a few options. After trying out yEd, Freemind, diagram.ly (online), and a couple other web-based apps, Xmind was the one that accomplished what I needed it to (Freemind was a close second, and I haven’t ruled it out completely). It worked well under both systems, but on Ubuntu 12 I almost gave up on it.
Cool and not-so-cool things
I couldn’t scroll up, down, left or right! This is a problem when your diagram gets big. I *could* accomplish scrolling using the wheel on the mouse, or by enabling horizontal scrolling on the touchpad for my laptop (also running Ubuntu 12). I found out that in Ubuntu 12 they are changing the default type of scrollbar to ‘overlay scrollbar.’ The normal scrollbars are replaced by this little tab coupled with orange highlighting along the side that indicates where you are on the page. This was somehow incompatible with the way that Xmind was built. [side rant] It is one of the reasons why I have had a hard time with fully transitioning to Ubuntu, a change that has been rolled out that isn’t compatible with all software. (is that possible? maybe xmind isn’t adhering to standards, etc, so forth) [/end rant] There is a workaround for this quirk. I found it in the Xmind user forum (which is hosted on Google Groups). Basically you just disable the overlay scrollbar. If you’re savvy you could do it just for Xmind, but if you’re lazy you’ll just apply the system-wide fix and get back to the traditional scrollbar.
- Xmind User Forum post (link to workaround by user nesneral) [posted 7/17/11... will there be a fix?]
- Lazyass direct link to workaround
I like the shortcuts. Enter, tab, shift enter, control enter. You can map your mind, really quickly after getting it figured out. Some of the other programs I tried were all manual. You had to pick what kind of box you wanted for each one, whereas this tool just makes stuff on the fly. Minimal thinking about how to use the software. Just go.
- directly after making the new topic/subtopic, just start typing and hit enter
- double click in open space = create new floating topic
- tab = make subtopic
- enter = make same level topic
- control enter = go back a level from current spot and create new parent topic
- shift enter = create new same level topic
- In the file menu > help > Key Assist, you can find a bunch of other shortcuts
Automatic layout. OK, so I just sang its praises, but now I have a complaint. Automatic layout is great, really really great, but not ALL the time. Every time I want to move a free floating topic, xmind tries to figure out where within the existing diagram it should go. This can be good sometimes, and bad at others. I usually end up getting as close as I can without xmind pulling the bubble into another structure.
Structure of the diagram. One does not rule them all. For each subtopic, you can change it from one to another. For example, normally the diagram is setup with a central idea, and bubbles are created in some pattern around it. This pattern can go on forever. You can do that, but you also have the ability to change the structure of each individual subtopic. I like the ‘Tree right’ for flow processes.
No ability to insert free floating text, arrows, or anything else. Free floating things, aside from topics, seem to be a weak point for Xmind. I’d like to be able to create an arrow pointing at a box, with some text that says something like ‘this is extra special!’
Boundaries. I’d like to bound multiple topics into one bounded area (in this case, a time period), but when I select my area, it bounds each individual topic. I don’t really see how this is any different, at least in my diagram, than just making the topic itself.
That’s all for now. I would just like to say that I think Xmind is an excellent tool if you have an idea and you want to get everything out FAST. That is it’s strong point. But I did find myself wanting for better flow chart capabilities. I’d say it’s just not there yet… and I’m not sure it will ever be. If you have an idea and don’t want to keep clicking and dropping, this is the tool.