Structure your ideas with Heimer mind maps

Make Way!

Using the same approach, you can now create more nodes for ideas that arise directly from the central topic – in our example that would mean the chef's salad and the cake. In case of an incorrect entry, Ctrl+Z cancels the last step. You can delete a node by right-clicking it and selecting Delete node.

Ctrl++ and Ctrl+-, or the mouse wheel, let you zoom in and out of the entire mind map. To use a different font, click Font in the status bar (Figure 3). The arrows can also be adjusted using the status bar. Arrow size determines the size of the arrowheads, while Edge width controls the line thickness. Finally, you can round the corners of the nodes using the Corner radius.

Figure 3: The font and font size selections always apply to the complete mind map. Similarly, the other settings in the status bar always refer to all elements.

When arranging the nodes, Heimer supports you in several ways. First, you can use the arrow keys to move the displayed section. Alternatively, you can drag the mind map to the appropriate position using the mouse. For better orientation, the software offers to show a grid to which the nodes automatically snap when moved (Figure 4). To do this, check Show grid in the status bar. If you can't see this entry, click the double arrow on the far right in the status bar. Then increase the grid size to suit your needs. In practical terms, any values from 10 upwards will be fine.

Figure 4: If so desired, a grid can help you precisely align the individual nodes.

Despite the grid, you are very likely to keep pushing the nodes back and forth to create extra space. Again, the software will give you a helping hand: If the nodes look a little messy in the window, select Edit | Optimize Layout. Press OK, and Heimer rearranges the nodes. How this is done is influenced by Minimum Edge Length, which specifies the arrow length. The higher the value, the bigger the gap between the nodes. The Aspect Ratio determines whether Heimer arranges the nodes more vertically or horizontally (Figure 5).

Figure 5: In the upper image, the Aspect Ratio was left at 1, while it was set to 2 in the lower one. Heimer will arrange the nodes differently depending on the value.

Changing Links

The tree structure is now gradually emerging in Heimer. As usual in a mind map, the arrows always move out from the central node and never go back. But Heimer does let you retroactively disconnect and reconnect connections. To do this, hold down Ctrl and click on the relevant nodes. Alternatively, hold down the Shift key and drag a frame around the nodes with the mouse. All of the nodes should be highlighted in red. From now on, most actions will affect all of these nodes. For example, if you move one of them, the others will automatically move with it.

To rewire the nodes, select Edit | Disconnect Selected Nodes from the main menu, which removes all arrows between the nodes. Connect Selected Nodes tells Heimer to draw new arrows between them. Note that the Heimer software does that arbitrarily. If you select three or more nodes, the tool will most likely not connect them in the way you intended. When connecting, only ever mark pairs of nodes. To deselect all nodes, hold down the Shift key and then click on the background. Additionally, when you double-click on the background, Heimer creates a new node that is not yet connected. In addition, nodes that are selected and highlighted in red can be copied. To do this, press Ctrl+C to copy the node to the clipboard and then Ctrl+V to paste it.


Big surprise, the cake option seems to be the favorite in my family. To highlight it as the winner, let's color its node. To do this, touch the node with the mouse cursor and press the button with the colors in the node's bottom right corner. Then pick a suitable color from the palette that appears, such as the red shown in Figure 6. Because the black font is not so easy to read now, let's press the button in the top right corner of the node. In the palette that appears, pick the font color; you could set this to white for our example.

Figure 6: The selected color is for the node's background. You can use this approach to highlight important points.

The question remains, what kind of cake should it be? A lemon cake or maybe a cheesecake? At this point, just repeat the familiar principle used earlier on. Mouse over the cake node and create a new node by pressing the button; this time label it lemon cake. Repeat the process for any other cakes your family fancies. Doing so adds more and more branches to the mind map, but at the same time, you are adding detail to your ideas or tasks (Figure 7).

Figure 7: After the family decided on lemon cake, the elements in the path were highlighted in red. The central node is displayed in green.

To make it easier to choose between the cakes, why not attach a suitable photo to each node. To do so, right-click a node and select Attach image. The selected photo is then used as a (somewhat blurred) wallpaper in the background. In some cases, Heimer will trim the image. If the photo is more of a nuisance than a help, right-click the node again and select Remove attached image from the menu.

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