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Tinderbox from Eastgate Systems, Inc. is an information management application notorious for its long, steep learning curve. Almost any review you read will hammer that fact to the point that many people are sure it’s beyond their ability to master. This is going to be a review for them, actually for us — because I was one of them.

I won’t deny that Tinderbox can be challenging. I’ve been using it for two years and still feel like a babe in the woods. But the message I want to convey with this review is that Tinderbox can be remarkably useful even if you never venture too far into its more advanced features. To shift metaphors, if Tinderbox is a swimming pool, this review is about the fun you can have even if you just splash around in the shallow end. So let’s jump in.

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For years, the mind mapping software market has been perceptually dominated by FreeMind. I say perceptually, because it seems more people have been recommending it than actually using it. Despite its ubiquity on free software alternatives lists, FreeMind is an awkward fit in the OS X environment. It’s cross platform, which often means “looks sub par everywhere”. It’s Java based, so performance is unpredictable.

And, most importantly, it’s not MindManager.

MindManager was never born as a FreeMind alternative. It’s existed on Windows since 1994, and on OS X since 2006. This is mind mapping with a totally native interface, and a novel idea for system integration. Let’s see how it performs.

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Organising your thoughts can be a difficult task when approaching a complex problem, and there’s no reason why you can’t enlist the help of your trusty Mac. “Mind Maps” have become increasingly common as a way to manage a stream of thoughts, ideas and information – though their graphical nature doesn’t easily fit into a traditional software package.

Today I’ll be looking at 9 different specialist mind mapping applications for the Mac. Some are fairly expensive, commercial solutions – others are relatively budget-friendly. Hopefully there’s something for everyone, and you’ll be mapping our your own thought process in no time!

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