FreeMind vs. Freeplane: the battle of the freebies!
In this war of open source, cross-platform mind mapping software, what tool triumphs? Freeplane or FreeMind?
There are not many free software tools anymore, mind mapping software developers—just like most software developers—are all introducing paid subscription packages.
But, it’s good to know that we still have free mind mapping software solutions with features that can rival paid tools.
Because who has time for authorizing credit card payments when all they want to do is brainstorm quickly?
Definitely not me. And… probably, not you too.
So, shall we get this comparison started?
What is FreeMind?
FreeMind is an efficient open-source mind-mapping software written in Java and supports Windows, Mac, and Linux.
FreeMind is used to plan and structure essays and books, comprehend and memorize concepts, structure and manage information, make a list of priorities, keep track of projects, and coordinate research data.
This mind mapping software tool helps users create simple, flexible, and readable diagrams. It doesn’t come with a flashy user interface, but it has sufficient features to help you create a comprehensive mind map.
It is an open-source project, so anyone can copy, inspect, make improvements or contribute to the software in any way possible.
- Supports all major systems
- You can use or edit the mind maps in another mind mapping tool if you save FreeMind maps in XML format
- Convenient, memorable shortcuts
- You can copy text directly from word processors
- Some features may be hard to find
- The classic UI might look too outdated for some people
What is Freeplane?
Freeplane is a free and open-source software application for mind mapping.
With Freeplane, you can create both simple and complex maps, visualize your brainstormed ideas, and manage information.
It has a clean user interface with a classic theme, ideal for simplifying confusing concepts and making mind maps for teaching young students.
Creating mind maps is drag and drop easy, and there are plenty of options for customization. In addition, Freeplane supports all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, and Linux).
- Intuitive mind mapping features
- Natural text editing
- More features compared to other free packages
- Ease of use with
- multi-language support
- spell checker
- Convenient hotkeys
- Usability could use some improvements
- User interface is pretty basic
- Linking of pictures needs to be improved
FreeMind vs. Freeplane Comparison
FreeMind and Freeplane have similar features, with little differences here and there. However, depending on your preferences or needs, you might like one tool’s features more than the other’s.
Note-taking: Forget the embellishments, every mind map has to have note-taking features. FreeMind comes with a lot of text input options including a small window/tab for writing and editing notes.
Linking and adding external: Mind has the ‘insert’ feature for linking to external files and information. With this feature, you can add hyperlinks, graphical links, images, or save your maps to the cloud.
Navigation: Navigating your mind maps is one-click easy. You can fold and unfold the map’s branches with one click. Likewise, you can follow links with a single click and move the map by dragging it with your mouse.
Copying and pasting: Smart copying and pasting into FreeMind—which includes the pasting of links from HTML. Plain text and RTF can be copied and pasted from word processors, i.e., Wordpad and MS Word.
Exporting: you can save the map as a PDF, PNG, SVG, HTML, branch as HTML, and other file formats.
Searching: FreeMind’s ‘find’ tool helps you search for items on your map and check the results by one. When the tool finds things related to your search, the map is unfolded only for the current item.
Icons: FreeMind lets you decorate your topics and subtopics using a variety of built-in icons, colors, and different fonts.
File mode: A feature that enables users to access your computer’s files while viewing the folder structure as a mind map.
Note-taking: Like any other mind mapping software tool, Freeplane helps you take notes. To edit a node, all you do is double-click it. To add notes, you right-click the node and add or edit the notes.
Ordering, grouping, and data classification: Freeplane lets you classify nodes with metadata and style types, i.e., system styles, user-defined styles, and level styles; order ideas/nodes by creating a hierarchy; and group nodes using ‘clouds’ and summary nodes. You can also connect nodes using dynamic links, free lines, and labels.
Styling and Aesthetics: Freeplane has formatting features for styling nodes (shape, border type, et cetera) based on the hierarchical level of the node and other factors.
Navigation: Freeplane lets you change fold branches, roll-up details, and hide extensions. You can also search for texts on the map, scroll, and drag the map around. Freeplane’s Search facility can find search terms in a text even if there is no exact match. In addition, there’s a scroll bar on the bottom that you can use to move sideways.
Adding external files: You can insert pictures, add hyperlinks to files on the web, or hyperlinks to local files, among other options.
Task calendar & reminders: Found on the ‘properties’ panel, you can find the ‘Calendar and Attributes’ tab, which is used for setting tasking with calendar and reminders.
Full-screen mode: This mode gets rid of the clutter: the title bar, tabs, and Windows taskbar.
Security: With Freeplane, you can protect the whole map or a single node with DES encryption.
Being open-source programs, I would like to believe that there are a variety of modified integrations for the two tools.
The integrations in this section are those that I was able to find, but you can find or make more.
- Firefox Integration
- Microsoft Office
- Microsoft Outlook
Freeplane can be integrated with the Docear Academic Literature suite, which is also an open-source software used to manage information.
Other known Freeplane integrations are:
My FreeMind vs. Freeplane Verdict
So, which mind mapping tool is better? It’s—honestly—a tough question to answer.
FreeMind boasts of smart drag-and-drop features, a classic UI, the capability to copy nodes or copy the style of nodes, linking inserting texts or external files, memorable shortcuts, and other benefits.
On the other hand, Freeplane users enjoy natural text editing, ease of use, multi-language support, a spell checker, convenient hotkeys, and many other perks.
Even when you’re stating the benefits, the two mind mapping tools seem to be offering something similar.
They are close alternatives, and it’s a tough choice.
If I were to choose between FreeMind and Freeplane, I would choose Freeplane.
Even Ken Hill, someone who is sort of an expert on Freeplane, thinks that Freeplane has more features than FreeMind.
In fact, he acknowledges that it could be because Freeplane ‘has outpaced in features and development’ and Freeplane has the latest update (released on 3/5/2022) compared to Freemind’s 2016 update.
Why You Shouldn’t be Head Over Heels for FreeMind or Freeplane
At the end of the day, they’re still open-source software programs.
One thing you have to know about open source code/software is that getting support is almost impossible.
Well, not always, because there are special forums for open-source software/code, usually.
However, they are not a 24-hr/7-days-a-week type of service, so you might not get the help as quickly as you would with a paid tool.
Plus, since it is free for everyone to modify, you might get a program that has been booby-trapped with malware.
Final Words on FreeMind vs. Freeplane
FreeMind and Freeplane are both free, open-source software applications for building mind maps and creating outlines.
Answering the question ‘What is better Freeplane or FreeMind?’ is an issue of preference for some people, especially those who have been using FreeMind before Freeplane came out.
In some forums, you find that the majority like FreeMind, and in others, Freeplane beats FreeMind by a good margin.
They are both powerful tools, maybe not as powerful as paid tools such as Scapple, XMind, and other paid alternatives, but as freebies, they are kings!
Try them all out; after all, you have nothing to lose!