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April 25, 2019

How to Draw a Mind Map

Diagrams for Software Engineering

The Ultimate Brainstorming Tool: a Mind Map

If you’ve never created a mind map, you’re in for a treat. It’s a great way to brainstorm, study, be creative, or simply organize information. 

Mind maps are drawn differently than flowcharts. A flowchart shows the flow of information and has a beginning and an end; a mind map shows information in clusters and everything links back to one main idea.

Why Use Mind Mapping Software?

One of the best places to draw a mind map is on a whiteboard, while surrounded by teammates who are helping you brainstorm. But what if you're working remotely? What if you're on your own? What if you need to share your ideas later? By using mind mapping software to create a mind map online, you can make edits to your diagram later to clean up your work or easily share your ideas with teammates anywhere.

Because mind maps are a brainstorming tool, they have their own set of shortcuts built into Gliffy, making it possible for you to draw as fast as your ideas flow.

To learn how to draw a mind map, make sure you're logged in to Gliffy Online so that you can drag-and-drop along with this tutorial. (If you're not into Gliffy yet, don't worry — it's free to get started!)

How to Draw a Mind Map

You can create a mind map by opening a mind mapping template in Gliffy. Log into your account (if you haven't already) and choose “create from a template” or go to: File, New and open the mind map templates folder. When you open your first one, a handy list of keyboard shortcuts will appear. Memorize them all and become a mind mapping master!

When diagramming, it's best to start with a mind mapping template. Here's our recommendation: mind maps should start with a main idea. For example, let’s say you’re brainstorming a new ad campaign geared towards college students and their eating habits.

1. Start by writing down your main idea.

2. Create a subtopic by clicking one of the gray arrows that appear when you click on the main topic (or use the (CMD/CTRL + Arrow) shortcut). When you’ve finished typing hit the Tab key.

3. Create a parallel topic by using (Tab + Arrow) or click on the main topic and then click on one of the gray arrows.

4. Navigate around your mind map by using the arrow keys on your keyboard.


Color Themes: Families vs. Generations

There are two preset color themes in mind maps, although of course you can customize colors to your liking.


If you select the “Families” theme, child nodes will be grouped with the subtopics they’re connected to by color. So for example, if a subtopic is blue, all the child nodes connected to it would also be blue (like in the example above).


If you select the “Generations” theme, all parallel topics within the same generation will be grouped by color. The generations theme works well if you need to show order or rank (think of generations in a family tree).

Hiding Mind Map Nodes

Each parent node has + and symbols that can be used to show or hide the child nodes attached to it.


Brainstorming can be a messy business. Use the layout button to automatically layout your nodes so they don’t overlap.

Interaction With Other Libraries

Because mind maps are not like other Gliffy diagrams, the mind map shortcuts won’t work with Gliffy’s other shape libraries and vice-versa.

But enough talk, click below to try it for yourself. We promise it’ll be fun! You can get started with this template to Draw a Mind Map of your own or sign up for free trials via the buttons below.

Try Online  Try in Confluence