How to Make a Mind Map

Creating a mind map starts with a central idea, and then branches out into related ideas. These can then branch further, providing more detail with each level. Each of these ideas is presented in a box, circle, or other shape. Connecting lines show the relationships between ideas in each branch level. Mind maps can be a valuable tool for group collaboration as they lend coherence to ideas that might otherwise seem unrelated.

So, how do you create a mind map?

Mind map

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Getting Started

Making a mind map can be broken down into three steps:

  • Start with a central topic or idea
  • Add topics that branch out logically
  • Add color and group ideas

How to Create a Mind Map with SmartDraw

To make a mind map in SmartDraw, start by selecting the mind map template from the Brainstorming and Ideation category under New Document on your dashboard.

Start with a mind map template

Add Topics

SmartDraw's mind map templates will start with the main topic already in place with a few sub-topics connected. You can add additional topics easily.

Click on any of the yellow Quick Action Controls at the side of an existing shape. These appear when you hover your mouse over the shape. Click on the yellow arrow in the direction you want to add a new topic.

You can also use the keyboard to add shapes. Hold down the [CTRL] key and hit the left arrow key to add a shape to the left or hold down the [CTRL] key and hit the up or down arrow key to add a shape above or below the one you have selected. In fact, you can add all the shapes to your mind map without taking your hands off the keyboard.

Add mind map topics

Add and Edit Text

You can add text by selecting a shape and simply typing.

Just like filling in a form, you can use the tab or arrow key on the keyboard to navigate from shape to shape and enter text.

Add mind map text

Rearrange Shapes

To remove a shape select it and hit the delete key - just like you'd remove text in a word processor. Removing the shape makes your mind map reflow - just like deleting in a word processor causes your text to reflow.

You can also insert a new topic and the mind map will automatically reformat to accommodate the new shape.

Use the mouse to move shapes around and SmartDraw will adjust your mind map automatically. To move a shape, select it and without letting go of the mouse move it to any location you desire. As you move your shape, you'll notice SmartDraw's automatic connectors will attempt to grab it. SmartDraw shows you an anchor symbol and a dashed outline of where your shape will be if you let go of your mouse. To drop a shape into place, simply let go of your mouse.

You don't need to line shapes up or connect them manually.

Rearrange mind map shapes

Expand and Collapse Groups

If you want to keep a larger mind map more manageable, you can use the small minus key on any topic that has subtopics to temporarily hide those subtopics. To show the hidden subtopics, just click on the plus icon to reveal them.

Expand or collapse mind map topics

Adjust Spacing

When you create an mind map with SmartDraw, new shapes are automatically connected to other shapes at regular intervals using a special line we call an "automatic connector."

Even as you move or delete shapes, the chart will heal itself and rearrange the remaining shapes automatically.

If you need to adjust this automatic spacing to create less or more space between branches there are new controls to help you.

When you select a shape, you'll now see green icons in the upper left corner. One will have an up and down arrow and the other left and right arrow. Click on either icon and without letting go of your mouse drag them up or down or left or right to adjust the spacing of that particular idea or topic relative to the other shapes either above or to the side of the selected shape.

Adjust spacing on a mind map

Changing the Style of Your Mind Map

SmartDraw automatically applies professional design themes for you, but also gives you complete control to customize your mind map in any way you want.

Change the entire look of your mind map by applying a new design theme with just one click from under the Themes menu on the Home tab..

Use themes to colorize your mind maps

Or change the look of individual shapes instantly by selecting a new Quick Style under the Style menu on the Home tab. These styles will match the current selected theme for your drawing.

Change the individual style of a mind map shape

Add an Icon to Any Mind Map Shape

You can flag or mark any idea during a brainstorming session with an icon. In the Edit Shape palette on the SmartPanel, click on Change Icon and choose an icon to add to your topic.

Add an icon

Convert Your Mind Map into a Project Chart

You can use a mind map to brainstorm tasks for a project and when you're ready to convert it into a project chart, SmartDraw makes it easy.

Map out your project by grouping tasks into logical hierarchical groups.

When you're ready, convert it to a project chart, by clicking the "View as Gantt Chart" button in the SmartPanel under Mind Map Layout.

Once your mind map has been converted to a project chart, you can specify task duration, add dependencies or milestones, and specify a resource responsible for completing each task.

In a few clicks, you can go from a freshly brainstormed mind map to a detailed project chart.

You can manage the entire project in this one document and easily switch back and forth to the different views using the layer tabs at the bottom of your work area.

View mind map as gantt chart

Connect an Idea to Trello

You can also connect any task or idea in a SmartDraw project plan to a Trello card on an existing Trello board. Changes made in Trello will be reflected on the SmartDraw project plan and vice versa.

Select the shape you want to connect to Trello and click on the Create Trello Card button on the SmartPanel to connect to and authorize SmartDraw for your Trello account and then provide the board and panel you want to add your task or idea to.

Connect to Trello

Share Your Mind Map with Others

Insert your mind map into Microsoft Word®, Excel®, PowerPoint® or any of the Google Workspace apps like Google Docs and Google Sheets with just a few clicks.

Choose "Export" under the "Home" tab and click on "Export to Office."

You can also save or share your mind map using Dropbox®, Google Drive, Box®, and OneDrive®.

Share your mind map

Keyboard Shortcuts

Create your entire chart without taking your hands off the keyboard with quick and easy keyboard controls.

To add a shape to a mind map, simply hold down the [Ctrl] key and use the up, down, left or right arrow key.

To add a new peer shape alongside a selected shape hit the [Enter] key and to add a subordinate shape use [Shift] + [Enter].

When you need to communicate an idea visually, do so with a mind map and use SmartDraw to work smarter and with better results, every time.

Mind map keyboard shortcuts
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