Mind Maps + Concept Maps

Mind maps are a perfect way to visualize creative processes like brainstorming or summarizing hierarchically organized content like feature descriptions e.g. of a software product.
But when it comes to the visualization of non-hierarchical organized knowledge of a whole system with interdependencies mind mapping will fail.

This article is about the differences between Mind Maps and so-called Concept Maps. Additionally the app Inspiration (iPad) for creating concept maps is reviewed.

Mind Maps …

Mind Maps visually outline information in the way the creator thinks about the topic. Insofar it’s a subjective (or personalized) view on a topic.

Consider a simple experiment, the relationship between resistance and temperature of a metal conductor. Pupils should mind map the way to

  • think about the right questions
  • create a suitable experiment
  • think about appropriate accessories to reach the goal
  • think about the right presentation of the results
  • extend the primary question for getting more knowledge about nature, e.g. to repeat the experiment with other materials like iron or silicon.


The example exhibits many of the characteristics of a Mind Map. Graphics bring it to life, and the subject is pretty clear, although the intended purpose of the map is not. The subtopics are certainly related to their parents, but not necessarily exclusively, and the exact nature of their connection is left to the reader to decide. That can be an advantage but at the same time a disadvantage too.
A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. Major categories radiate from a central node, and lesser categories are sub-branches of larger branches. Categories can represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word or idea.
Ideas and information far away from the centre are usually regarded as the less important detail.

It can be used as a result of a brainstorming process and gears to be extended by further ad-hoc ideas. So a mind map often reflects an ongoing process.

Mind Mapping developed as a personal note-taking, memorization, learning and brainstorming technique is very effective, because the rich layout helps greatly with recall. Visualization of initially boring topics enforce pupils and students to further go into the details.

A report format would not inspire pupils while thinking about this topic. Providing the mind map with visual mnemonics, colors, icons and links pools the information and goes along with satisfying the play instinct.

Concept Maps …

Concept Maps visualise and communicate knowledge.

Joseph Donald Novak (born 1932) is an American educator, and Professor Emeritus at the Cornell University, New York, and Senior Research Scientist at the Florida Institute for Human + Machine Cognition. He is known for his development of concept mapping in the 1970s.

From the outset, Concept Maps were designed to communicate. A student’s Concept Map can be systematically evaluated by their teacher, to assess their grasp of a subject. The scope of their maps and their level of understanding of the relationships between ideas are a reliable indicator of their “knowledge” – what they have learned and integrated, not just learned by rote. It is one thing to know facts, but relating them to each other and understanding their influence on each other takes us from information towards knowledge. Facts alone do not help us to predict behaviour, whereas knowledge represented by models does.
(Nick Duffill)

Summary …

Bringing Nick Duffill’s analysis of the differences between mind maps and concept maps to a very shortened summary:

Mind Maps are captured visualizations of fairly independent objects gearing for extensions and loosing much of their relevance for people who weren’t involved in the creation process.
The tree limb is just connected to the bole.

Concept Maps visualize knowledge of whole systems with interacting elements and logic operations. In contrast to a tree limb objects are connected with basically all other objects like the orbs in the solar system where the gravity and the magnetic and electric fields define the interactions.

If you are interested in a comprehensive description of the differences please read Nick Duffill’s excellent article about mind maps and concept maps (see the link below). He hit that nail square on the head.

The visualized differences …

Within Apple’s iOS operating system some settings influence the battery life but cannot be summarized under one topic. Unlocking the device immediately after using it not only saves energy but also increases security.

This is the visualization of some aspects regarding security and battery life with the help of a mind map.


One way to point out the influence of unlocking on security AND battery life is to draw a cross-connection with a thin line. An alternative would be to split the map into two separate maps for security and battery life. This causes redundancy of topics.

Here is the same topic visualized in a concept map without a tree structure where every subtopic is bound to a parent topic.

In contrast the Concept Map visualizes the whole system with it’s interdependencies and it’s not limited to a strict hierarchy as some points are bound to more than one parent topic.


In this Concept Map you can see that dependencies are going along with textual description explaining them. Concept Maps need less space an redundancy can be avoided.

The app Inspiration …

The app Inspiration (Inspiration Software Inc., USA) for the iPad is intended to create concept maps as well as mind maps by offering the following features:

  • Brainstorm new ideas and capture insights
  • Analyse information
  • Understand cause and effect
  • Organise projects
  • Organise thoughts and topics for writing
  • Take notes

Features ..

  • Simple usage because of a perfect UI
  • Diagrams are easy to build and saved instantly
  • Diagrams transform to outlines by just a single tap
  • Personalization with images, colour, shape, arrow style, and backgrounds
  • Using images from the web or the camera roll
  • Notes can be attached to any item
  • Hyperlinks can be added as floating shapes
  • Templates are available after installation

Filesharing …

Inspiration Maps files can be converted to Inspiration desktop files

  • with other apps by using the ‘Open in’ command
  • with other iPads via Dropbox or iTunes
  • E-Mail or export diagrams or outlines in vector PDF format

Impressions of the UI …


The pros and cons …

Pros …

  • Simple UI (user interface), perfect UX (user experience)
  • Maps can be organized in folders
  • Transfer of a map to a self-created folder is done by drag and drop
  • One and just one task bar at the top of the screen
  • Hyperlinks can be added as floating objects
  • Maps can be generated from an outline

Cons …

  • WebDAV is not supported
    The user is bound to Dropbox except he uses the ‘Open In’ command to transfer the map to a file management app. From their it can be transferred to other cloud storages.
  • Text color of hyperlinks cannot be changed
  • Text color doesn’t automatically change if the object color is changed
    Changing the background color from black to white should automatically change the text color from white to black.
  • Opening of hyperlinks only via dialog
    A nice-to-have feature would be the tap-and-hold gesture.
  • Connection symbols between notes and topics have a standard length
    If moving a note away from a topic the connection cannot be assigned any longer.
  • Saving to Dropbox does not allow to select a folder
    The app uses /apps/inspiration maps as the default folder.
    So it’s recommended to install the free Dropbox client app to manage the files.
  • Multiple saving of the same map creates numbered file names
    So on one hand a version history is created on the other hand it cannot be managed by the app.

To check the quality of the developer’s support and to get a statement about the cons of Inspiration I sent some questions by mail. Here are the answers:


Inspiration is useful for easy tasks but a bit light weight for business purposes. See a detailed description of Inspiration under ‘Related links’.

Notes …

A big thank to

Prof. Toni Krasnic, USA

Concise Learning

He suggested the app Inspiration, is an expert in mapping technology, and created the Google+ community ‘Mind Mapping’.

Nick Duffill, Harport Consulting, Scotland

Mind Maps + Concept Maps

He is an expert in mapping technology as well writing sophisticated articles about mind mapping and concept mapping.

Inspiration Software Inc., USA

Inspiration for the iPad

developer of the reviewed app Inspiration and intensively taking care of my questions.

Related links …

Web-based Mind Mapping



Apps …

iThoughts (Mind Mapping)

Inspiration (Concept + Mind Mapping)

Basics …

Chuck Frey, Mind Mapping Software Blog

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Further information …

Remarks to Mind Mapping

Pairing People with Mind Maps

Molecules and Art

Mind Map vs Textual Pages

Mind Map ‘Concussion’

Platform for shared maps …

The group ‘Apple’ on Biggerplate
created by myself in January 2013 on the world’s largest platform for shared mind maps with lots of mind maps related to Apple and Apple products

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.