MindMaple Lite is a free application for generating mind maps, planning projects, running brainstorming sessions, and generally helping you organise, present and share your ideas.

The program comes with six templates - pre-built maps - to help you get started: "Business Plan", "Course Curriculum", "Lesson Plan", "Project Map", "Syllabus" and "Week Schedule". If any of these suits your needs then you can open it and change its content to suit your needs, otherwise it's simple enough to start with a blank page and create your own from scratch.

How simple? Starting a new project gives you one box in the middle of the screen, titled "Central Topic". If you left-click in that topic, drag to the left and release, a smaller "Main Topic" box is produced.

Repeat the process, dragging and dropping up, down and right, and you'll have a central topic with four others around it.

Drag and dropping from the "Main Topic" boxes similarly creates subtopics, and clicking any box and typing modifies its caption. If you know what you're trying to convey, you could build quite a complex structure in just a very few minutes.

That's just the start, though. Topics can also have pictures, hyperlinks, attachments, maybe text notes. They can be assigned dates, or icons, and you're able to show relationships between them in various ways.

When you're finished, the chart may be exported in various formats, and unusually this isn't just about images. MindMaple Lite can also export the text in a very usable business plan-type format (depending how you generate the chart, anyway). An HTML export option displays a dynamic version of the chart in an embedded Flash applet, and there's also the ability to export in various Office formats (notably PowerPoint didn't work for us).

MindMaple Pro is a $9.99/ year commercial edition with extra features: more themes, clipart, backgrounds, password protection, smarter Office and PDF export, and so on. It's available for Windows, Mac and iOS.

Verdict

MindMaple Lite has some oddities, quirks and bugs (it didn't recognise PowerPoint was installed on our system). But once you've found your way around, the program makes it quick and easy to build a range of charts and plans, and includes some useful extras to help share them with others.