What is Mind Map Maker for Excel?

Mind Map Maker is an intuitive mind mapping and organization chart creator that runs within Excel. It helps you visually develop and organize ideas and information.

Quick Start Tutorial

Instead of drawing on a canvas or whiteboard, Mind Map Maker for Excel works in a different way. You simply write down a structured node list in plain text, as if sketching it on paper, and then click a button to generate the diagram!

Highlight #1: Automatic layout

You can adjust the ribbon options to split the chart, arrange the parent-child relationship vertically or horizontally, show nodes at different levels, include WBS numbers, and more.

Horizontal Chart

Highlight #2: Mind map template in excel format

The template specifies the legends used in the chart. Customizing the templates allows you to easily change the color scheme and style of your chart, as well as apply your own business and brand style.

A template sample

Highlight #3: Export to PDF and image formats

By integrating PDF Creator for Excel, you can easily export the sheet (chart and node table), the chart, or the selected area to PDF and image formats.

Export the chart or sheet to PDF or image format

Create mind maps using Mind Map Maker

The quick start movie shows the detailed steps. Here are the brief steps for creating a mind map or organization diagram:

Step #1

Start Excel. Navigate to the UniformSoftware (or BoostExcel) ribbon tab. Click on New Mind Map. This generates a new mind map sheet by importing a sample node list from the default template.

Create a new mind map

Step #2

The structured node list is organized using WBS numbers. The Mind Map ribbon tab includes useful functions like Clear, Make Parent, Make Child, Move Up, and Move Down. You can also select the shape type of each node from an intuitive picker.

Edit the node list using a shape picker

Step #3

Click Refresh Chart. The diagram is generated automatically. Typically, you do not need to modify it by dragging and dropping. However, you have the option to do so.

Split mind map

Create mind maps for free with built-in tools

We all know that Excel is good for numerical or text data in rows and columns. Though it offers many graphs and charts for data visualization, this makes it possible to create non-linear visual diagrams that organize and link the concepts related to a particular topic.

There are two ways to create mind maps and organization charts using Excel's built-in tools: SmartArt and basic shape objects.

Create mind maps using basic shapes

Shape objects in Microsoft 365 are graphical elements that can be used to improve the visual appeal and clarity of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and emails. They come in a wide range of simple and complex shapes, allowing you to represent data, illustrate concepts, or simply add decorative flourishes. Creating mind maps is only one of its applications.

  1. Create and open a new Excel file.
  2. Go to Excel's Insert ribbon tab.
  3. Click Shapes in the Illustrations ribbon group.

    Create a mind map using basic shapes

  4. Click a shape on the menu, and then click an empty area on the sheet. This creates a new shape.
  5. Repeat the above step to add additional shape objects.
  6. If you like, you can copy the existing shapes too. To do this, click to select the shape that you want to copy, then press CTRL+C on your keyboard, then press CTRL+V. This creates a new shape with the same size and color as the original one.

    You can also use Excel's alignment tools against the mind maps and organization charts created by Mind Map Maker for Excel. Mind Map Maker for Excel by default aligns shapes automatically, but it also allows you to customize the diagrams by dragging and dropping. In this case, the alignment tools are very useful.

  7. To add text to a shape, right-click a shape and then choose Edit Text.
  8. To add a connect between two shapes, go to the Insert ribbon tab, pull down the Shapes list, and click one of the line objects in the Lines category. When you hover your mouse over a shape, it shows the available connection sites. Click on one of the connection sites; this makes the site the start point of the connection.
  9. Now drag the end of the connection line and place it on the site of the end node. This creates the relationship between the two nodes, as shown below.

    Create a relationship between nodes

  10. Excel offers many options for you to customize the effects of the shapes. Click and select a shape, and the Shape Format ribbon tab appears. Click and expand the Shape Styles list to choose a pre-defined shape style.
  11. This is the result of applying a shape style and setting a shape effect. Download it.

    The result mind map created using basic shapes

As you can see, Microsoft 365 provides numerous options for customizing shapes. You can change the shape's fill, outline, effects, size, alignment, rotation, and text. You can also use the Format Shape task pane to perform more advanced formatting. Mind Map Maker for Excel can use all of these features as well.

In fact, the mind map templates provided by Mind Map Maker for Excel are all based on the same template. We customize it to give it a unique appearance and feel. You can use these techniques too to create your own mind map template using the various tools provided by Excel.

Create mind maps using SmartArt Graphics

SmartArt Graphics is a feature available in several Microsoft 365 applications, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. They allow you to incorporate visual representations of information and ideas into documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. They are pre-designed diagrams and charts that allow you to communicate complex ideas in a clear and concise manner.

Microsoft 365's Web edition does not support SmartArt Graphics.

Here are the steps for creating a mind map with SmartArt Graphics.

  1. Start Excel and create a new spreadsheet.
  2. Go to the Insert ribbon tab.
  3. In the Illustrations group, click SmartArt.
  4. There are nine types of graphics: lists, processes, cycles, hierarchies, relationships, matrices, pyramids, and pictures. We will select the Hierarchy category because a mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information into a hierarchy, demonstrating relationships between components of the whole.

    Creating useful mind maps entails drawing a diagram that branches out from a central idea or concept, with related ideas and information linked to the central idea via lines and nodes. Mind mapping is a popular brainstorming technique because it allows for the visualization of relationships between ideas and aids in the generation of innovative ideas.

    In contrast, flow chart analysis is a tool for analyzing and mapping a process or decision-making flow. Decision trees are diagrams that depict various decision options and potential outcomes, whereas flow chart analysis is a visual representation of a process that shows each step and decision point. Mind mapping works best for brainstorming and organizing ideas, while decision trees and flow chart analysis are used to analyze and optimize processes and decision-making flows.

    Insert a hierarchy SmartArt Graphic

  5. Choose the horizontal hierarchy. This is used to show hierarchical relationships progressing horizontally. This layout is also the default and basic layout implemented by Mind Map Maker for Excel.
  6. Click OK to insert the graphic into the sheet. The "Type your text here" pane allows you to enter descriptive text for each node.

    A new SmartArt graphic

  7. Click and activate the SmartArt Design ribbon tab.
  8. Select the top node in the second level of the new SmartArt graphic, and then pull down the Add Shape menu in the Create Graphic command group.
  9. There are five commands here.
    • Add Shape After, Add Shape Before: These two commands add a new node as a sibling of the selected node.
    • Add Shape Above, Add Shape Below: These two commands add a new node that is one level above or below the selected node.
    • Add Assistant: Adds an assistant to your organization chart. This option is only available if you have chosen an organization chart layout, found in the hierarchy category.

    In Mind Map Maker for Excel, nodes are organized using a WBS numbering system, which is an easy way to organize data in a hierarchical style.

    By using the WBS numbering system, you can easily add new nodes and change the parent-child relationships between the nodes.

  10. Click and expand the Change Colors menu. The predefined color groups allow you to easily change the color schema of the diagram.

    Change the color of a SmartArt graphic.

    In Mind Map Maker for Excel, colors and styles are based on editable mind map templates. The templates are Excel files too. Our application provides several predefined templates; you can also create your own by copying our file and then updating it. This enables you to easily apply your brand style to your diagrams.

  11. Expand the SmartArt Styles list. It shows several predefined styles for the current chart. Click to choose the one you like.

    Apply a style to a SmartArt graphic.

  12. This is the result we built in this tutorial. Download it.

    A mind map created using SmartArt Graphic.

To further customize a SmartArt-based diagram, you can even convert it to basic shapes. This enables you to customize each shape separately. To do this, follow the steps below.

  1. Click to select the SmartArt graphic.
  2. Go to the SmartArt Design ribbon tab.
  3. Click Convert to Shapes in the Reset group. This converts the SmartArt graphic to a shape group.
  4. Right-click on the group, choose Group, and then Ungroup.

    Convert a SmartArt graphic to shapes.

  5. Now you can customize each shape in the graphic separately. For example, here, the root node is changed from a rectangle to a circle. Download It.

    Customize an individual shape in a diagram created using SmartArt.

Compare Mind Map Maker and built-in tools

Let's compare the differences between the built-in tools and Mind Map Maker for Excel.

Basic ShapesSmartArt GraphicsMind Map for Excel
PriceFreeFreeNot free.

One-month fully functional trial period.

After the trial period, you must subscribe to keep it.

How to create a diagramDraw freely on a canvas (i.e., the sheet).Insert a pre-defined template.Write down a list of textural nodes. It is as easy as sketching a mind map out on papers. Mind Map Maker for Excel creates the diagram automatically from the list.
How to define the relationships between nodesAdd arrow lines (connectors) to create parent-child relationships.The relationship between nodes is defined by a template.Use a WBS numbering system to define the relationships between nodes.
How to customize the diagramApply styles and effects individually to each shape or as a group of shapes.Apply styles and effects to the whole diagram. If you want to customize a shape separately, convert the SmartArt graphic to basic shapes.The styles and effects are applied based on templates. You can also apply special styles and effects to individual shapes, like using basic shapes.
How to align shapesUse the "Align" commands on the ribbon.Shapes are aligned automatically.Shapes are aligned automatically.
Microsoft 365's Web editionYesNo.

Excel for the Web does not support running or interacting with SmartArt. To use SmartArt, open this file with the desktop app.


Mind Map Maker for Excel is implemented using a COM add-in. Excel for the Web does not run the COM add-in. However, there will be no problem opening a diagram created by Mind Map Maker for Excel.

In conclusion, Mind Map Maker for Excel falls somewhere between basic shapes and SmartArt Graphics. It makes creating mind maps faster and easier than using basic shapes, but not as quick and easy as using SmartArt graphics. On the other hand, SmartArt Graphics define relationships between nodes using various templates, so there is no easy way to change a relationship unless you convert a graphic to shapes. Mind Map Maker could be viewed as a compromise between basic shapes and SmartArt Graphics in terms of flexibility and ease of use. If you have Microsoft 365, go to the quick start video to learn how it works.

Because of its extensive functionality, we frequently use Microsoft Excel for a variety of organizational purposes. Although Excel is not specifically designed for this purpose, the basic shapes and SmartArt graphics are two different ways to create mind maps and organizational charts. Mind Map Maker for Excel aims to make mind mapping more user-friendly and flexible.

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