Review: SimpleMind Desktop lets you create attractive mind maps

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder SimpleMind Desktop

    PCWorld Rating

    SimpleMind Desktop is a straightforward mind-mapping application with solid mobile companion apps. Colorful and attractive, it's an excellent choice for the mind-mapper on the move.

Here's a conundrum: On the one hand, a mind map is a powerful tool for organizing and understanding complex concepts. On the other hand, some people do their best thinking away from the computer. You can always sketch out a mind map with a paper and pen, but it won't be easy to edit. SimpleMind tries to offer the best of both worlds: A 29-Euro (approx. $31) desktop version, along with free and paid ($5) Android and iOS versions for working on your mind maps on the go.

I started with SimpleMind using the Android version, and I was able to create a mind map I was very happy with right there on my phone. SimpleMind's Android version let me save the mind map to Dropbox.The Desktop version is also Dropbox-aware, so I can make changes using my phone, and have them show up on the computer moments later.

The desktop version uses a very similar editing interface to the mobile one, which means it keeps things simple. There's just a single toolbar, and you can do most operations without clicking any of its buttons. To create a new node, just select an existing one and double-click anywhere besides it. To collapse or edit a node, select it and use the quick-action buttons that pop up around it. The buttons are tiny but well laid out, so they're not confusing to use. To move a node, click and drag it; and to move a node with all of its subnodes, click and hold, then drag. These simple rules of thumb are all you need to know to start drawing mind maps.

Complex mind maps quickly become confusing, but you can collapse and expand nodes as needed.


Vendor ModelMaker Tools managed to keep SimpleMind true to its name, avoiding features such as node tags or complex property sheets. SimpleMind's simplicity reminded me of another mind mapping tool, Blumind. This is completely free, but is PC-only, with no mobile version. Simplicity can also become a limitation: If you're trying to use a mind map as a project management tool and assign nodes to project members or use them to track deadlines, SimpleMind is not the tool you need--you should instead look to something like ConceptDraw MindMap.

To ease collaboration, SimpleMind can export and import Freemind files, but that means you can't have multiple people working on the mind map at the same time. If find yourself constantly collaborating with others on mind maps, you may be better off using a more flexible online solution such as MindMeister.

SimpleMind offers several color themes.


In the end, SimpleMind's one distinguishing feature is its mobile app support. If you need to create or display mind maps both on a mobile device and a computer, SimpleMind is a wonderful solution.

Note: The "Try it for free" button on the Product Information page takes you to the vendor's site, where you can use the latest version of this Web-based software.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    SimpleMind Desktop is a straightforward mind-mapping application with solid mobile companion apps. Colorful and attractive, it's an excellent choice for the mind-mapper on the move.

    Pros

    • Simple to use
    • Attractive color schemes

    Cons

    • No bundled documentation (Web only)
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