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

Getting Started

Mind maps are meant to be easy to make. The basics 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
Mind Map Video

How to Create a Mind Map with SmartDraw

To make a mind map in SmartDraw, start by selecting the mind map template by clicking its icon on the home panel.

Start with a mind map template

Add Topics Using the SmartPanel

SmartDraw's mind map template will always have the main topic already in place. You can add additional topics by pressing the Add Right button in the SmartPanel located to the left of your work area. This SmartPanel is specifically designed to help you build mind maps.

Pressing the button again adds another topic and so on, automatically arranging them on the page. Note that the lines connecting topics are added automatically and the shapes are evenly spaced and perfectly aligned.

Add mind map topics

Add Text and Shapes Using the Keyboard

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

Add mind map text

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.

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.

You can navigate from shape to shape using the [TAB] or [ARROW] keys.

Add shapes and navigate your mind map with keyboard shortcuts

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 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 topics

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.

Use themes to colorize your mind maps

Or change the look of individual shapes instantly by selecting a new Quick Style. Choose from more than 40 preset looks.

Change the individual style of a mind map shape

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.

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 tabs at the bottom of your work area.

View mind map as gantt chart

Share Your Mind Map with Others

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

In the desktop version of the product, you'll find these one-click export buttons to the upper left of the drawing area.

In the online version, these options are located at the very beginning of the Home tab under Export.

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