Looking back over the mind mapping software developments of 2010, the biggest trend was the growing popularity of apps for mind mapping on portable devices like the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android-based smartphones.
Looking back over my archive of blog posts, the first iPhone mind mapping apps began to emerge in mid-late 2008. But clearly, 2010 was when this new platform for mind mnapping started to reach critical mass, driven largely by the introduction of Apple’s new iPad – the ideal portable platform for mind mapping – and the growing maturity of existing apps for mobile computing platforms.
For ambitious software developers seeking to make an impact on users of mobile devices, the opportunities were significant. One developer who took advantage of this opening was CMS, who packed an impressive amount of functionality into its iThoughts app, and then scored another win by providing similar market-leading functionality on the iPad version, iThoughtsHD.
iMindMap (pictured above) brought its organic mind mapping model to the iPad, creating an experience that’s closer to a hand-drawn mind map than anything I’ve experienced.
Another stand-out during 2010 was MindMeister, which seamlessly integrated its cloud-based mind mapping platform with its iPhone app. Why is this important? Because the most common usage scenario for portable mind mapping is utilizing it to capture the beginnings of an idea, report or plan and then to export it to another platform, such as a desktop program, for further refinement and development.
For most apps, moving files from the iPhone to the desktop was rather kludgy, requiring the user to upload the file to the developer’s server, and then copy and type an arcane URL into their web browser to retrieve their mind map. Also, until earlier this year, it wasn’t possible to e-mail mind maps from the iPhone, due to some restrictions Apple had placed on its operating system. Even though you can do this now, it isn’t as simple and elegant as MindMeister’s solution, which is to provide a tabbed view of your local and online mind maps and then to access all of them quickly and easily.
It also helped that developers added more map export formats to their apps during 2010, with the most common ones being FreeMind, MindManager, NovaMind and OPML, an XML format used for defining hierarchical outlines. This makes it easier to move your maps from your mobile devices to your desktop program of choice.
In addition, during 2010, the Android smartphone platform emerged as a serious competitor to Apple’s wildly popular iPhone. Thanks to its fast-growing acceptance by consumers, two mind mapping apps were launched for this platform: Mind Map Memo and Thinking Space. Watch for more apps to be launched in 2011, as developers figure out that this is a wide-open opportunity to sell apps to eager Android owners.
Finally, CrowdMap brought real-time co-editing of mind maps to the iPad in mid-2010. But collaboration was limited to sharing maps with other users of Apple’s tablet device and the app lacked some essential features, in my opinion. Still, to see this kind of functionality on a plaform like the iPad was quite impressive.
Getting back to the iPad, why do I say it’s the perfect mind mapping tool? The obvious reason is it’s larger screen size is much more conducive to mind mapping than that of the iPhone. It feels like an expansive canvas compared to its smaller brother, and enables you to do more without constantly scrolling or zooming your mind map to keep the topics in view that you’re working on.
But it’s more than screen size that makes Apple’s popular new tablet attractive for mind mapping. Its form factor – not too big, not to small, unobtrusive and easy to balance on your lap – makes it fun to create mind maps. The device doesn’t get in the way as much as it does when mind mapping on a laptop or desktop PC, where your input devices are the keyboard and mouse. In contrast, on the iPad, you use your fingertip to add and manipulate your map’s content. There’s something very tactile about it brings it much closer to the organic feel of hand drawing a mind map. Because it’s small and flat, I also found myself carrying the iPad more places with me. Also, because the iPad is an “instant on” device (you don’t need to wait for it to boot up), it’s ideal for quickly capturing ideas or adding content to a map when you have 10 minutes to spare.
In short, when faced with a choice between creating mind maps for several new projects during the last few months on my laptop or the iPad, I found myself gravitating to the tablet more and more.
In summary, it has been an exciting year for mind mapping on portable devices. 2011 should be even more exciting, as developers begin to create mind mapping apps for a host of new tablet devices that were launched in the fourth quarter of 2010 or are slated for introduction in the first half of the new year. iPad apps should continue to grow in power and sophistication, too. Remember, this isn’t a platform where developers launch one or two major software updates per year, if that. Rather, users of the iPhone and iPad have come to expect more frequent, incremental updates to fix bugs and add attractive new features to their apps.
Happy New Year to the loyal readers of the Mind Mapping Software Blog I wish you much prosperity and many blessings in 2011!