Showdown: Paper Mindmaps vs Computer mindmaps

I’ve seen so many discussions online about which mindmap is better, the one on paper or one a computer. I write for real people who want to use mindmaps, not for big corporations who need to read everything extremely business-like. That’s why I want to allow myself to write this article in a different style.
I organized a little showdown for you. Below is a short article on a match between a computer map and a paper mindmap.

After all¦ we are trying to become more visual thinkers, right? Just let your imagination run wild as we watch the match.



Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the match of the year.


In your left corner we have a Paper Mindmap know as. P.M. P.M. is almost 40 years old. He is still a great tool for people of all ages.

In your right corner we have Computer Mindmap, initials C.M. This young adult is eager to take over the place of P.M.

It’s going to be an exciting match I believe. The winner will take home not only the honor, but also have the entire mind mapping community in his corner! Total supremacy, that’s the price there are fighting for.

I believe they are about to get started lets watch

ROUND ONE: Young vs. Old, or Established vs. Upcoming

As you know P.M. is a very experienced assistant for getting overview in your information. That’s why he is used and useful for so many years. C.M. is relatively young. He had to wait until computers were capable of producing the nice visual overviews we need. And still… they are not very capable, yet…

The people already familiar with P.M. usually find it a little bit difficult to understand the style of C.M. After all… they are quite different.

ROUND TWO: They mean Business!

We now enter the second round. Both C.M. as well as P.M. are really showing us they can be used in a business environment. As you know, the business side of mind mapping is all about:

1. Creating overviews with lots of information of your databases and with co-workers
2. Easily sharing information with teams and co-workers

We immediately see that P.M. is having a problem. Sure, he’s great in showing an overview. The problem is that:

A. He can’t really work with databases
B. The maps are often perceived as being too ‘colorful ’ for a business environment.

On the other hand, C.M. is performing like a Champ this round. He easily connects to databases and retrieves the requested information. Then he shows the data in a good visual overview. Although these maps are often populated with too much or excessive information, this is because of the user, not the technique. He simply does what he was asked.
C.M. shows much flexibility by allowing many people to work on the same map at the same time!

The presentation of the information by C.M. often is very strict and business-like. This leaves less room for discussion regarding interpretation (don’t even get me started about P.M. on this topic).

ROUND THREE: Oh, now it’s Personal!

Final Round! Who’s got the most stamina?

Both C.M. as well as P.M. showed some impressive moves in the first and second round. This match clearly has become personal!

And that’s exactly what P.M. loves! He is all about adding your own personal style to mindmaps. After all, you create the map, you choose the colors, you add your own images to the map. The map truly is a Map of and from your Mind.

Most of the time P.M. is therefore used for personal overviews, quickly jotting down your thoughts and ideas, etc.

C.M. clearly is experiencing a difficult final round. He knows that in order to make a computer map, you should have… a computer! And even if you have one, you need to switch it on, start your tool and then finally add your information.

Most of us don’t have a computer at our disposal 24×7. And even if you do have one… well, let’s just say it’s more work to get started.

Even if you have a computer tool, the maps are less personal. You use a different font than your normal handwriting, you have less flexibility and most of us don’t use our own images. You just grab one from the software library or download them from Google.

Quickly organizing your thoughts is easier on a computer when you have to move the information around (C.M. can do that much faster).



And that’s the end of the final round. Let’s have a look at some quick responses from people who have been watching with you.

“Since we all are visual individuals, the mindmap you create should match the one in your head. I would go for P.M.”
“C.M. clearly has the advantage of youth and opportunities for the future. I’ve never been able to share maps as easy as I do with C.M.”
“All I can say: P.M. is personal and can be used everywhere!”
“We all love C.M. because of the flexibility in editing maps.”

These are just a few comments from people watching the Match of the Year.

Who is the winner of this match?

Nearly 40 years, Paper Mindmaps have been around . They may be old, but they have and had a huge impact. Everybody can use the technique and most of us do it (sort of) by nature.
They’ve shown us that presenting your information only a little bit more brain friendly has a huge impact. Paper mindmaps have not (yet) been able to take over the business world. From the looks of this showdown, it probably will not do that…

Computer Mindmaps are relatively young. There are perhaps not yet fully matured. This is probably due to the fact that the computers don’t allow us to create ‘real’ mindmaps yet.


Here are the results of the judges:

Judge one: “Paper Mindmaps won. Especially the fact that it is so easy to do and so brain friendly was it for me.”

Judge two: “Computer Mindmaps won. Easy to share with co-workers and exceptional master mind mapping features make this tool a perfect business companion!”

And now for Judge Three. You are the third judge. You are the person who decides which kind of mind mapping wins. Do you like mind mapping on Paper or on your Computer, and why?

Please do tell your fellow MindmapsUnleashed members about your preference.

Would you like to know my opinion?

To me, mind mapping is done on paper.

Computer mind mapping is not really mind mapping due to the limitations the computers have. And in my honest opinion, there is not a software tool around that captures the essence of paper mind mapping. But that’s fine!

I firmly believe that computer maps are what they are: Computer Maps. They should not be seen or treated as paper mindmaps. This is mainly due to the fact that a computer map is less personal and more a good tool to share information and present it in and to groups.

You may have heard about data mining? This is something you can’t really do effectively with paper mindmaps. Computer maps are perfect for this!

I think that we have two very distinct forms of mapping information:

1. Mindmaps, which are created and used on paper (a.k.a. Traditional Mindmaps)
2. Computer (Mind) Maps, created on a computer (a.k.a. Modern Mindmaps)

The two can work together in a very powerful way… but that’s a completely different topic ?

For now, I think that we must understand that in (most) business situations, a traditional map is not delivering what it should do. After all… it is very hard to connect your paper mindmap to a database and work on it with team members from different locations.

On the other hand, the Modern map is less personal and may not be the perfect companion for recalling information and getting personal insight.

The most important issue for you right now is:

USE the map you created in a productive manner. This may sometimes be by using a paper mindmap. Other activities require you to use a computer mindmap.
I’ve seen so many people use the ‘wrong’ kind of map… During my online training courses, we share maps and people learn how to really USE their maps so they work for them.

When you use the wrong mapping method, it reduces the effect and effectiveness of the map greatly. Don’t limit yourself by only using computer maps or paper mindmaps.


It has been an exciting match. Do share your thoughts on which tool is best for you (in general and specific situations). When and why would you use mindmaps on paper and a computer?

It would be great to hear from you.

Arjen ter Hoeve
Let your visualmaps work for you!