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Info management software: FreeMind (for mind-mapping) and TiddlyWiki (for everything else)

January 1, 2006

in All Articles,Miscellaneous

You have a planner for little Skippy’s busy sports schedule. Quick-draw your cellphone to check your personal calendar, contacts, and to-do list. You’ve got so many sticky notes plastered around desk and home, the 3M Post-It company sends you yearly Christmas cards.

But what to do when handheld PCs, planners, or scraps of paper just don’t cut it? How will you keep track of ideas and outlines for your upcoming book? How to convert those sticky notes to something easy to transport, share and back up? Using the free tools “TiddlyWiki” and “FreeMind”, we can easily keep track of eclectic information. They’ll do most of the standard calendar and to-do list stuff, but their unique pizzazz makes them invaluable for many other types of information management.


Think of a family tree, or a tabbed folder with different categories of information in each folder. This interlinking tree structure is the heart of FreeMind. Called “mind mapping software”, it’s good at short bursts of text and managing relationships between bits of related and unrelated information. Use it as a personal knowledge base, keeping track of massive amounts of any information in an easy-to-find visual way. It’s also great as an electronic replacement for a tabbed notebook. You’ll need to install it on a PC. FreeMind documents can be exported for viewing in other programs.

Difficulty: Easy. Mouse and keyboard-driven. No programming or techie knowledge required.
Get it


Think of a website, with one page linking to many others. With TiddlyWiki, the order of the links is automatically changed as you click. In this way, you can easily and quickly drill down to find the information you need. It’s great for linking lots of text. TiddlyWiki documents are portable and will work on most any computer. Consisting only of a self-contained HTML file, you don’t need to install anything to use TiddlyWiki. Save it to a USB key or floppy disk and do magic on any computer. The TiddlyWiki site itself performs just like your own TiddlyWiki: Immediately test drive the software just by browsing to the website. (Before it will work properly on PCs with Internet Explorer, save the TiddlyWiki to your PC, right-click the file, choose “Properties”, and click “Unblock”.)
Click for a TiddlyWiki tutorial.

Difficulty: Medium. Mostly keyboard driven, it requires (just a little) programming to get information to appear correctly and link together.
Get it

Put simply, FreeMind is good software for outlining story ideas, characters and chapters for a book. TiddlyWiki would work better as software for writing and managing the actual text. Both similar in intent, the difference lies in how you like information presented, and what information you’re working with. If you’re a right-brained, creative conceptual thinker, try FreeMind. If you’re a left-brained, logical, analytical type, you may prefer TiddlyWiki.

If Post-It notes, planners and handhelds are your preference, use them. But if you need more, and want super-powered information management software, it’s ready, waiting, and free.

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