Home > Uncategorized > Why do mind maps hide connections by default?

Why do mind maps hide connections by default?

Something that seems to be a consistent theme in mind mapping software, which is in conflict with one of their core purposes, is to hide relationships between nodes when they are un-expanded. In doing so, they limit the clarity for which many of us turn to them in the first place.


Hiding Relationships

This is the real killer. Many mind map apps allow you to have a ‘dotted line’ relationship between two nodes that aren’t in the same branch. For example, you may have an org chart, and want to show that a certain person is linked to three projects, so that you know where their influence and interest is. Another example might be linking a company to some clients they work with, or products they sell.

However, every mind mapping app I’ve seen, will hide the relationship if either one of the nodes are hidden. That is to say, if you’re viewing the person, but don’t have all the projects they might be related to at the same time, then there is no clue that there’s a relationship drawn between them. Why is this?!? Surely I need the app to at least hint at me that this person has relationships, and ideally navigate or hyperlink to them, otherwise it’s hiding that fact from me, and I lack visibility.

XMind is a good example of this: now you don’t see it:


But if I expand the Collateral node, now you suddenly do:



If I hadn’t deliberately expanded the Collateral node, I would have missed that vital link.




Hiding Filtered nodes

Another thing that Xmind specifically does, is not show you tasks unless you specifically display them. It has a filter to show tasks that are priority 1,2,3, etc… but if you’re not viewing those nodes specifically, you’d never be aware they existed. Again – why?


Let’s look at the P1 and P2 tasks I have, by applying a filter to highlight them


Phew. There’s only one of each, that’s easy.


Oh… hang on… what where those ones doing hiding under Retail??


It was because it was unexpanded.


You see the problem. You’re using a tool that’s intended to help improve your awareness and see the big picture, but yet it doesn’t show you that; it only shows you the picture that you specifically view. And that’s a problem.

There are solutions… I believe Mindjet Mind Manager will create a task list for you as a separate view, and TheBrain Personal Brain treats all relationships equally, and permits different types, allowing more of a ‘mesh’ of relationships than the traditional branch-and-leaf structure. But these tools grow because the other mind managers fall short – and I can’t understand why.

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