Ever since first reading about mind mapping I’ve used mind maps often to help clarify my thinking.  Bringing clarity to complicated and unclear situations is satisfying to me.  I like mapping out the complexities of a problem without explicitly trying to map out its solution.  Often the solution, or future state, becomes apparent simply by clearly mapping out the problem.

I am still not satisfied with the Board’s discussion on “What Is Fedora?” nor do I think we have closed out the topic that was first started in January 2009.  Several weeks ago when the Fedora 12 Alpha release slipped by a week I also volunteered to document our schedule methodology. As I started to search for existing wiki pages explaining our schedule methodology I came across several (outdated) wiki pages explaining our freeze and release engineering processes.  I fixed up some of those pages and kept going deeper and deeper into the complexities of our release processes.  It wasn’t the complexities of release processes so much as it was the twisted maze and circular path of wiki pages.  More on this in a separate post.

Being a long time fan of the mind mapping tool Kdissert I started several maps to try and track the logical flow of the wiki pages and our release methodology.  This worked fairly well, but I wanted to create a mind map that once published could also be used as a web page that could be navigated and “clickable.”

Somewhere along the line Kdissert became my mind mapping tool of choice.  It is light weight and no frills.  Initially the mechanics of creating new maps was a little confusing, but with a little practice creating a new map was effortless. Mind maps have helped me to diagram processes (limited use, but always good for a first cut), project plans, to-do lists, org charts, and many other things.  Needing a more robust mind mapping tool I went searching.

I goofed around a little with Semantik, the next generation of Kdissert.  It is not currently in Fedora, but Rex Deiter helped me build it.  I had tried Freemind a few times in the past, but was always draw back to Kdissert’s simplicity and speed.  In the past Freemind only ran with the Sun JRE which was a hassle to add to Fedora and overall performance was sluggish.

In my search I found a great article reviewing free mind mapping tools.  I was surprised how much the open source tools have matured since I last looked.  After reading a few more articles on Google and watching a good tutorial on YouTube I decided that Freemind was the way to go.  It has one of the richest feature sets of the programs I tried and a long history of continuous progress and development.  Freemind has the added advantage of being able to generate mind maps with embedded URLs that can still be clicked on in their published form.  Freemind maps can be exported in a variety of formats and imported to a variety of other mind mapping applications which I found in this interoperability graphic.

From the download page it appears that Freemind runs on any platform with Java.  Freemind is not in the Fedora repos though I believe there have been past attempts to package it which stalled during the package review process.  Historically I’ve found desktop Java applications to be really slow, but this isn’t the case with Freemind.  I’m guessing this has something to do with optimizations in Java since the last tried a Java application on the desktop.  To run Freemind on Fedora 11 perform the following:

1) Download the “binaries for any operating system
2) Unzip the files into a new directory (otherwise your current directory will be polluted with an assortment of unorganized files)
$ unzip -d ~/freemind freemind-bin-max-0_8_1.zip
3) Run freemind
$ bash ~/freemind/freemind.sh

The same version runs fine on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4 with five year old hardware.

I’m not the first to write about mind mapping in Fedora.  Clint Savage talked about some work he did last year mapping out the structure of the Fedora Project which I hope to borrow from.