Mind Mapping with View Your Mind

Branched Ideas

Article from Issue 155/2013

View Your Mind lets you draw and manage mind maps that can help you structure your thoughts and ideas and record notes.

Recipes copied from friends and torn from magazines usually end up in a thick folder at home, where they immediately disappear into the mess. You could painstakingly arrange all the recipes by hand – or you could quickly and easily create an overview with a mind map. Starting from a central concept, in this case Recipes, you draw lines to indicate thematic relationships or subordinate concepts, such as cakes, appetizers, and soups. From these subtopics, you can then branch out again using the same principle. In this manner, mind maps can help organize thoughts, collect ideas, collate data, and aid in the planning of projects.

Drawing Board

When you are ready to create a mind map, the View Your Mind program (VYM) can help. In contrast to paper, it takes just a few mouse clicks to recolor parts of the mind map or move entire branches to a new location. Additionally, VYM outputs the drawing in different formats – from a simple PNG file, through a PDF document, to a LibreOffice presentation. The VYM website [1] has a good example of the possibilities, showing a mind map created with VYM; at its center is the program itself.

Popular distributions, such as Ubuntu and openSUSE, include VYM in their repositories. Alternatively, the developer provides the current RPM and DEB packages on SourceForge [2], which should work on any major distribution. If necessary, you can just grab the source code archive, unzip it, and install the program with qmake, make, and sudo make install. Note that VYM requires a C++ compiler, the Qt development packages, and Qmake.

The following explanations and illustrations are based on the development version, VYM 2.3.15, which is also already included with openSUSE 12.3. However, the previous versions work in the same way.

Branch Growth

After first starting the program, a fairly empty window appears with a monstrous toolbar. The yellow New map rectangle acts as a starting point for a new mind map. Double-click it and enter the central concept of your mind map, such as Recipes, in the case of a recipe collection. To add a new branch, select Edit | Add branch as child (or press A) and then type a label, such as Cake.

All actions always relate to the yellow element that is currently highlighted. View Your Mind would therefore add the newly created child to the keyword Recipes. To highlight the Cake branch, you simply click it.

Also, take a look at the Tree Editor in the left margin, where the mind map appears as an outline. Clicking on an outline level takes you directly to the associated branch of the mind map. If you accidentally create a branch on the wrong element, hold down the left mouse button on the element's label and drag it to the correct position. When moved, the branch automatically snaps to possible positions. In this way, you can quickly reorganize the mind map if required (see also the "Arcing" box). To delete an entire branch, click on it and press Delete. If your Delete key doesn't work for this, right-click and choose Remove | Delete Selection or click the scissors icon (Cut, or Ctrl+X) in the toolbar.


The mind maps in VYM always form a tree structure; so, like the branches of a real tree, VYM branches are only connected to the trunk or a main branch. If you want to connect two different branches, select the label of the first branch, hold down the Shift key, click the label, and drag the mouse to draw a line to a second branch. Releasing the mouse button draws a dotted line between the selected branches. These special connectors are known in VYM as XLinks. If you click on the line, two handles appear that let you manipulate the path of the line. In this state, you can delete the XLink by pressing Delete.

A Game of Colors

To customize your mind map, you can colorize all of the elements to suit your needs. For example, if you often bake cakes, you could color the corresponding branch bright red (Figure 1). This, however, requires two steps: First, select the color in Format | Set Color. Then select the label of the branch you want to recolor (Cake, in this example) and select Format | Color branch. To paint all the subbranches at the same time, instead select Format | Color subtree. To make the link line the same color, right-click on it and check Use color of heading for link or choose this option in the Format menu.

Figure 1: The Cake branch is colored red; the branches here assume the color of their labels.

To highlight a really delicious lemon cake, you can use the second toolbar: A click on one of the icons attaches it to the label currently highlighted in yellow. For example, you can add an exclamation point and a thumbs up at the side of the lemon cake. You can remove the symbols by clicking once again on the corresponding icons. To make the lemon cake stand out even more, right-click the subitem and choose Add image. You can also change the background color of the mind map or even upload a background image using the corresponding items in the Format menu. If you do not like the way the lines look, try the Format | Linkstyle items until you find something you prefer (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Linkstyle Line selection in the Format menu draws straight, narrow branches. The lemon cake has two icons attached.

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