Tutorial effort

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(-hyperlinks to Doris Edwards, Rikki's Place: a commercial offering)
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====New video tutorials referring to FreeMind (more to come, status as of Feb 2011)====
====In English====
[http://www.rikkistips.com/capture-your-creative-thoughts-with-mind-maps/ Capture your creative thoughts with mind maps/], Doris Edwards, Rikki's Place
====In French====
[http://www.astucesrikki.com/80-la-creativite-professionnel-et-prive/ La créativité dans le monde professionnel et privé], Doris Edwards, Rikki's Place
There is currently no good and extensive tutorial on FreeMind available. Still, see also:
There is currently no good and extensive tutorial on FreeMind available. Still, see also:

Latest revision as of 11:11, 18 March 2011



There is currently no good and extensive tutorial on FreeMind available. Still, see also:

Resource Note
Videos by Dennis Few videos on the web showing how FreeMind can be used.
Getting started with FreeMind Step-by-step tutorial.

FreeMind 0.7.1 tutorial map 0.1.2 by Joerg Isselmann

The documentation map which is included in FreeMind is a good reference for those who are willing to invest some energy in learning to use the program - but as long as you don't know how useful and mature it actually is ...
To give a novice user an easy start, I thought of creating a tutorial map to be shipped with FreeMind. I sent Daniel a copy and he liked the idea, especially because the user is actually tutored step by step. In my opinion it would be best if the map is shown by default when FreeMind starts for the first time. --Jörg Isselmann

Click and drag the background to move around. Read the "FreeMind Beginners" node which is expanded by default.


FreeMind - What for?

Basically, with FreeMind you can organize and store text information in tree structures.

An analogy:

As the user of a computer system, you should be capable of organizing your data in the hierarchy of the directory structure, which is nothing more and nothing less than a tree. If you have more than one drive/partition, then of course your directory structure consists of as many trees. (By the way, if you are not familiar with file organization, then you can train that unavoidable skill by using FreeMind.)

The Explorer view of the Windows Explorer (place 10 Billion TM/R signs yourself, I'm busy) shows the directory structure for what it is: A tree. Now you basically know what you can do with FreeMind.


  • In FreeMind you can use any Character you want. The text length is virtually unlimited (as you can see). If you wanted to do this with a directory structure, you would have to use text files now and then.
  • It looks more "natural" than known directory browsers. (FreeMind *is not meant to be* a directory browser though it can be used for that purpose - see "Modes" menu. It's just an analogy.)
  • You can collapse and expand the tree(s) on whatever position you want. Collapsed and expanded tree and subtree settings are memorized and stored in the files you create with FreeMind.
  • You can use different styles and colours, even symbols. A word on design: See "Advanced Users" section of this tutorial.
  • You can publish FreeMind-maps on the Web using the free Java applet. Check it out, there are some examples on freemind.sourceforge.net
  • FreeMind works on several platforms.
  • You can print the structure and FreeMind can scale the map to fit the paper.
  • The file format is some form of XML, so your data is not stuffed into a proprietary binary format.
  • (more to come in future versions of this tutorial)

Personally, I have been using FreeMind for about a month now and these are my preferred purposes:

  • Organizing my duties at work so I know exactly what my purpose (at work) is. The feeling of one's purpose is often underestimated. If you have a more complex duty profile then FreeMind is meant for you.
  • Mapping the different aspects of the bureau/department I'm working for (computer workstations: hardware, software licences; data backup; servers; plan for new server directory structure... - all in one map)
  • Planning the visit of an upcoming trade fair (tickets, appointments, ...)

and more

Other ideas for the use of FreeMind:

  • If you are planning on moving from one living place to another maybe you want to take note of and classify your posessions.
  • If you are going to build a house: Make a node for each floor and create subnodes for each room. Then again subnodes for number and placement of power outlets etc.
  • Plan more complex projects and communicate them with non-FreeMind-users by publishing the maps on the Web using the free Java applet.

FreeMind Beginners

Welcome, new user. To quickly understand the easy and efficient usage of this multi purpose tool, please do the following:

1. Right click on the leftmost thingy in the oval circle called "FreeMind x.x.x tutorial map ...". This brings up the context menu on the Windows system. Maybe you have to do it differently on other systems.

2. In the context menu, click on "New Child Node". You just created a child node for the root node. Please enter this text: "Test Area". If by mistake the new child node was deselected so you could not enter the text, just click on the node which puts you in text edit mode again. You may have noticed keyboard hints in the context menu: For example instead of choosing "New Child Node" in the context menu, you could have selected the root node and pressed the INSERT key.

3. Drag&Drop: The "Test Area" would usually be put on the left hand side of the root node because the right side is already crowded and the test area and the explanations are the two sides of a tutorial you could say. Of course you can put the "Test Area" on the right side, too, and attach it to whatever node you want - this is a good point to experiment with Drag&Drop.

You can reorder the whole tree with D&D, but you would not want that in this tutorial. If you have wrecked the place, just close the file using the file menu and *without* saving it over the original file to avoid permanent damage. Then reopen it. A function to do this in one step would be nice, but FreeMind is still a 0.x program, so be patient. Same for undo function - there is none.

When you drag the node around over other nodes you will notice the gradient shading which tells you where the object will be placed. Test it, it's easy to understand.

4. Now we will create a small tree structure to test some functions. Takes only a minute. Call the context menu on "Test Area" and create a new child node. Name it "something 1". Move your mouse over it, so that it will be selected automatically. You can change the selection behaviour in the program's preferences if you like. Now some interesting stuff: While "something 1" is selected, press the ENTER or RETURN key. Zap! There's another node on the same tree level as "something 1". Call it "something 2". If you would rather have "something 2" *above* "something 1" instead of below, use Drag&Drop.

The small tree structure is complete. Should look like this:

  • Test Area
    • something 1
    • something 2

5. Copy&Paste: Sounds boring, but wait and see the light: Please click on *this* text in the tree structure. The editor appears. Now select the three lines above (Test Area, something 1, something 2) and copy them using the context menu or by using the usual CTRL+c which is more efficient and works just everywhere in Windows and most other operating systems.

Please close the text editor to return to the tree. Now hover the mouse over the root node (the central thingy). The magic: Press CTRL+v (or use the context menu). Now the text scheme of our little tree which you copied before should have been automatically transformed into a valid tree which should look exactly like the tree you had built by hand before. See? You can easily transform text into trees. And you can do this the opposite way, too, if you like.

Now there is one Test Area tree too much. Kill one: Hover your mouse over one of the "Test Area" nodes so it becomes selected and press CTRL+x. The tree is gone. If you do this by mistake, just press CTRL+v and the tree becomes pasted where you want it.

As you can see, there are interesting features "hidden" behind keyboard shortcuts and the simple but nicely formatted tree view. I believe FreeMind is really worth some of your time.

6. Collapsing and expanding: You may want to move on now to the advanced users area. It seems empty? But you may have noticed that "FreeMind Advanced Users" is surrounded by an oval circle. This stands for a collapsed sub-tree. Click on it and FreeMind expands the tree for you. Collapsed and expanded trees and their subtrees are memorized and saved with the file, so you can pre-structure a map for later use (as I did with this tutorial).

As you can see, sometimes you enter edit mode when clicking on a node, and sometimes you expand/collapse the subtree. This depends on whether the node *has* a subtree or not. To enter edit mode if a node has a subtree, use the context menu or press the corresponding key (shown in the context menu).

Btw.: Collapse this tree so you can browse the rest of the tutorial map more easily.

FreeMind Advanced Users

The "Advanced Users" part of the tutorial is meant for those who know the very basic functionalities of FreeMind.

About look and feel:

Please go to the Edit menu, down to Preferences and select "Antialias all" if that does not kill your machine. The display should look a lot slicker now.

The main rule in all areas of design is: Less is more. If you are an advanced, highly-educated, certified professional designer, you can use many different elements while still managing to put them into a balanced and beautiful whole. But if (like myself) you are not, you should try to use as few design elements as possible.

Design elements do not necessarily include color or line thickness. They can, for example, also be white space or the *number* of different font sizes. This is no urban legend, this is the real thing. If you take this to heart, it is quite possible for you to create usable and well-designed websites, mindmaps, language, meals, etc. If you ignore this, you do so at your own peril, and you likely will produce 'bloatware' typical of an MSWord beginner's design - offensive to the eye and thus limiting the mass appeal of your primary intended message.

There will be more about the actual usage of FreeMind here later - remember, this is V0.x of the tutorial.)

Freemind - Known Bugs & Workarounds

Launching FreeMind by launching a FreeMind map will at least in Windows cause FreeMind to work improperly: When you call the Documentation from the Help menu, the corresponding file will not be found.

You should launch FreeMind and open your map using the file menu.

For this and countless other purposes you may want to download a little Windows shell extension which allows you to copy a folder's/file's path to the clipboard, so you can just paste it into every file dialog, no matter where the dialog is actually browsing around. Paste the path, click ok, be happy. There are several shell extensions which can do this, some bloated, some slick - stupid enough I forgot where I downloaded mine, which works definitely smoothly and without being bloated with unnecessary functions.

One simple and working utility that does just that, with source code, can be found here (free registration required).

If you call the Documentation from the Help menu, your current Freemind-Map will disappear of course. It is still loaded. To go back there, use the "Maps" menu. The problem is: If you use the "Maps" menu to return to the still opened Documentation file, the file will multiply inside the menu. Very annoying. Workaround: Close the Documentation or launch another instance of the Freemind program and use the Documentation in there, then change back using ALT+TAB (Windows) and so on.

About this tutorial

Tutorial by

Jörg Isselmann freemind@projektohr.de

Sorry for the lousy English.

V0.1 - completed 2004-04 28 V0.1.2 - still working on it"

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