Freemind is an open source tool that is very useful for outlining and mind-mapping. It is written in Java, and runs on OSX, Windows, and Linux. It is pretty quick to learn (see our quick-start here), and provides a nimble means of capturing and organizing information of all kinds.
In a nutshell, Freemind allows you to quickly create outlines of text and hyperlinks. It doesn’t do it in the familiar “word processing” style that involves wrestling with proper numbering and indentation… but instead, it creates a visual tree that that is both easy to understand at a glance, and easy to edit by pruning and grafting the tree’s “branches.”
We regularly use Freemind as part of our workflow, and often exchange data with clients using it (that is, if they like the idea – it’s not a requirement).
Most people we introduce to this tool end up incorporating it into their workflow, no matter what kind of work they do (it’s incredibly general-purpose). It’s really that flexible and smart.
Imagine you’re in a meeting, and you need to take quick notes. Freemind lets you do that in a handy way that lets you structure your outline quickly as you go, and then make changes (re-order things, or move a sub-point to another item) in a snap.
Maybe you’re sitting down to organize your thoughts on something, and you want to be able keep things fluid as you get your ideas down. Freemind lets you spew ideas out quickly, then refine and structure when you’re ready.
Maybe you just want to be able to create a large outline that holds a lot of information in it, but you want to be able to tuck away the detail and leave only the high-level elements visible until readers are ready to go deeper. Freemind’s folding branches make that simple.
We have found Freemind useful for creating website information architecture/content maps, crafting notes for a book, scripting the flow of a video piece, holding notes on ideas for blog posts, even instructions and to-do lists.