How to Create a Mind Map in XMind

Mind mapping is a technique for capturing information and visualising thought processes, invented by  author, speaker and self-described brain expert, Tony Buzan.

Mind maps can be used to aid learning, to present information, or as a tool for brainstorming and developing ideas. The key to mind mapping is visualisation. It’s the visual elements that allow you to make connections, remember links, and spark new ideas. So, when you create a mind map, whether it’s in software or using pen and paper, choosing striking images and using colour coding is essential.

XMind makes it easy to do that, thanks to the huge range of available visual elements and the ease with which they can be combined.

Getting Started with creating a mind map

Every mind map starts with a central idea. That can be a topic you want to explore, the theme for a presentation, or an idea you want to develop. The central idea should be represented visually on your mind map, in a way that grabs attention and makes it clear what your describing. It can either sit at the left of your mind map, with branches expanding in front, above and below it, or it can be right in the middle of the page, with branches expanding from all directions.

A traditional mind map has the central idea in the middle, but XMind allows you to put it wherever you want. Take a look through the pre-made templates in XMind and decide if one would best suit your project.

1. Choose your layout

Click on the ‘home’ button at the left of the XMind toolbar and click on Templates. If there’s one that suits your project, you can double-click on that to open it and you’ll have a head start on creating your mind map. Most often, though, you’ll want to create one from scratch, so click on Blank and choose a style, then double-click to open it.

2. Create your central idea

XMind calls it a topic, but it’s the same thing. It’s automatically placed on the page when you open a new blank document. Double-click the text to rename it with your central idea.

3. Format the node

Click the paintbrush in the right hand sidebar to see the formatting options. From here you can change the shape of the node, as well as its colour and the thickness of its border. You can also change the font, colour, weight, case and size of the text. Alternatively, if you click the My Styles menu, you can choose from pre-styled nodes. Finally, if you want to create a style of your own to use again, click the My Styles menu and click Add/Edit style. Now, click New Style and double-click ‘Untitled Style’ to give it a name. Click on each Property in turn and select an option. When your done, click Save.

4. Add another node

To add a secondary node, or sub-topic as XMind calls it, click on the central topic and tap the Tab key. You’ll see the sub-topic appear with a line joining it to the central topic. The style of the line will be dictated by the style you set in Step 3, but you can change it by clicking on the paintbrush and selecting a different option in the Line section. To add more sub-topics, keep tabbing with the central node selected. To add topics branching off the sub-topics, click on a sub-topic and hit Tab.

5. Add Clip Art or icons

Remember we said earlier that the visual elements of a mind map are important? Here’s where you add them. XMind has a large collection of clip art and icons you can add to your mind map. To see the, click on the picture icon in the right hand side bar and click either Clip Art or Icon Finder.

Clip Art is spit into different sections, such As Business, Education, and Festival. So you can scroll directly to the section you want or browse through everything. The Icon Finder displays just a search bar initially, so type in a term that best describes the icon you want.

6. Add your own images

If you can’t find anything in the Clip Art or Icon Finder that suits, don’t worry. You can add any image you like, provided it’s stored on your Mac. Click on the topic you want to add an image to and then click on the Insert menu. Click ‘Image from File’ and navigate to the image you want to add. Then click Open to add the image. Once you’ve added it, you can scale it by grabbing a handle on one corner and dragging it inwards or outwards.

7. Add information about a topic

Images are great for conveying a message, but sometimes you need to add more detail. Go to the Insert menu again and this time click Notes. You’ll see a text box open. Type your notes into the box and format them using the text formatting tools in the box. Once you’re done, click outside the box. You’ll see it disappears, but there will be a note icon in the topic. Click on that to expand it and read the note. If the topic is a task, select Insert then Task instead. Here you can add detail like you the task is assigned to and when it must be completed.

8. Carry on building your mind map

You can now add more topics and add images and other details to them to flesh out your mind map. As well as the elements we’ve discussed, you can add markers to each topic, such as a day of the week icon, a progress meter, or a priority badge. Using icons and images in this way is a great way of conveying detail in your mind map without adding too much text. Don’t be afraid to experiment with themes and colours. Remember, the idea is to make it stand out and be visually stunning!

When you’re finished, you can print your mind map, export it in one of many supported file formats, or press the share button to share it on social media, the web, or by email.