Following on from my previous post (Why do mindmapping on paper?) we’ll now look at digital mindmaps.
Considering that information technology is ubiquitous, digital mindmaps seem an obvious choice. Indeed there are clear benefits to a computerised approach to mindmapping.
Advantages of digital mindmaps
With mindmapping software it’s easy to whip up a diagram quickly. The level of detail can be adjusted easily, meaning that branches (or the entire map) can be collapsed or expanded.
And, when working with a large map, searching for key words within the map can be quite useful. Most software allows for rich content such as hyperlinks to be included. This can enhance the value of a map significantly.
Then of course there’s sharing – a digital map can be passed on quickly to other people. Just attach it to an email or place on a network drive and it’s there. Physical mindmaps would need to be scanned in (or photographed) first, which takes time. And then the scan isn’t editable.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of digital maps is the ability to drag & drop branches and leaves, rename them, or erase them. Unlike with paper mindmaps, the visual remains as pristine as it was before.
This is particularly useful when working on complex topics that tend to require a fair number changes. On paper i find myself producing new version quite easily (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but still) whereas when working on a computer i simply amend the same file. This saves time.
The main disadvantage of digital maps is that they’re mono-sensory: they mainly involve the sense of vision. Paper maps, on the other hand, offer a uniquely compelling tactile experience (and may involve other senses as well, such as smell or sound). We looked at this in our previous post.
Furthermore, compatibility issues may hinder the swift exchange of mind maps. Different programs tend to produce different proprietary formats, and so the map that you produced on your computer may not open properly on mine. So i tend to save a mindmap as a pdf file before sharing it with somebody else, which is an extra step and does not allow for any editing.
(This is less of an issue in companies where there’s a corporate standard on mindmapping software. Still, in my experience, there’s no guarantee that colleagues have actually installed the same software.)
There’s also a learning curve for most software. And it’s generally more difficult to include visuals; it’s still hard for computer-based drawing programmes to compete with simple pen and paper.
Typically i find that my more complex mindmaps are digital as flexibility becomes increasingly important to me.
However on most days i also find a good reason to produce at least a simple mindmap on paper as well.
It all depends on my requirements.
My next post will address the question: What mindmapping tools are out there?
Related posts (most recent first):
- Why do mindmapping on paper? (14 April 2012)
- What are the uses of mindmaps? (13 April 2012)
- How to make a mindmap? (Part 3 of 3; 11 April 2012)
- How to make a mindmap? (Part 2 of 3; 11 April 2012)
- How to make a mindmap? (Part 1 of 3; 11 April 2012)
- What are the benefits of mindmapping? (5 April 2012)
- What is mind mapping? (4 April 2012)
- Possible mind-mapping topics (29 March 2012)
- Pick of the week: mind mapping (26 March 2012)