Mindmapping on the iPad: iThoughts Review

As a long-time practitioner of the black art known as mind mapping, I was excited to discover an app for that on the iPad (s aapl). I use mind mapping when writing a long article, as I find the free form method is ideal to keep the creative process flowing. I have used tablets for mind mapping in the past, as I love to sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. I quickly realized the iPad is perfect for this type of work, and I am happy to report that iThoughts HD is a solid tool for mind mapping on the iPad.

Mind mapping longer articles allows me to capture topics in a free form, without worrying about the organization of the article. I quickly capture thoughts in the form of topic bubbles in the mind map, and at the proper time I can drag them around to form the final article organization. This method works well for me, and I have adopted it for all longer pieces I write, such as the analysis articles for our research arm, GigaOM Pro.

I used to do mind maps with a pen and Tablet PC as it was the best way to work when sitting comfortably for creative work. I am finding the iPad is great for this, as the onscreen keyboard is ideal for the short text bits I write in map topics. A good mind mapping app for the iPad should be written from the ground up to be optimized for touch operation, and iThoughts HD is just such a tool.

Starting a new map in iThoughts is easy. The app provides a blank canvas with the title of the map in the central bubble. Adding topics and sub-topics is as easy as hitting a button and typing. The display is optimized for either portrait or landscape orientation, depending on how you are holding the iPad at the time. The display slides to the side automatically as you make a long text entry to keep it on the screen.

Each item on the map can be configured in many ways — the shape of the bubble, color, icons and even start and due dates. This configuration is done via simple touch controls, and make it possible to completely control the appearance of the map. Two items on the map can be linked when desired to indicate a visual dependency on two different topics.

The touch interface of the iPad is available to make working with large maps easy. Dragging the map around the screen pans around as expected, and standard pinching can zoom in or out as needed. It is as easy to work with large maps using iThoughts as any method I have used.

A very useful feature of iThoughts is the auto-versioning function. The program keeps previous versions of the map that make it easy to roll back to earlier versions. This is extremely useful should you make major changes to a map that you end up not happy with.

Once a map is finished, it can be exported in several ways for use outside of the iPad environment. It is possible to email a map from the program, and users of box.net can interact directly with that service from within iThoughts (for those interested in cloud computing or data centers, check out our Structure 10 conference in June). Maps can also be transferred over Wi-Fi from within the program.

Exporting maps to other environments is easy within iThoughts, as the program supports outputting maps in the following formats:

  • PDF
  • Freemind
  • MindManager
  • PNG
  • OPML
  • Novamind
  • iMindmap
  • Mindview

I have only been using iThoughts for a day, but I can already tell it is going to be an important tool in my kit. Mind mapping plays a big role in what I do, and easy mind mapping is the best. That makes iThoughts HD worth the $7.99.

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