While almost all professors now allow students to bring laptops into the classroom, laptops themselves are still limiting. Yes, the average typing speed for college students doubles or even triples their handwritten speed, and access to online resources can make the learning process smoother when new concepts are introduced, but typical word processing programs, like Staroffice, simply aren’t designed for note taking. This is where FreeMind, a tool presented by the open source community, plays its role.
FreeMind is designed for “mind mapping,” or associating various ideas in a “free-form” format. The result is a non-linear chart that allows different associated ideas to be linked or branched out in numerous directions. This patterning follows the exact same patterns most professors use on the white board notes, meaning you can more easily duplicate the content being presented in class, and “connect the dots” in the same way they were originally shown.
We haven’t reached the limits of the program yet, however. As part of your non-linear structure, you can insert additional items such as:
-Links to valuable URLs.
-Images from a file on your computer.
-Sketched doodles to mimic those “artistically challenged” sketches from your professors.
-Different colors or looks to the “category clouds,” allowing for easier visual organization.
-Expandable lists or items.
-Stars/flair to clarify which notes are most important.
One additional benefit is the fact that FreeMind is cross-platform, so you can use it on Linux, Mac, and Windows systems. This means that any campus, library, or personal computer can gain access to the same resources, just by using the built-in import/export features of this powerful program. Further, if you want to share the information with a user who refuses to download the no-cost FreeMind software, you can export the completed file as a PDF or print it directly from the program. However you use it, FreeMind makes for the ideal note-taking software.