Understanding nodes

Node elements


Nodes are the fundamental element of mind maps. Although nodes appear simple at first, they have many optional elements that can increase their functionality.

What appears to be the whole node at first is actually just the node core. If you create a new node and begin typing, the text is entered in the node core by default. Beginning users generally limit their use of nodes to the node core.

Additional information can be stored in nodes outside the core as node details, node notes, and node attributes.

Node core

The node core is the only part of the node that is always visible whenever the node itself is visible. The node core can itself contain several types of information: text (including numbers), icons, images, and links.

Several Node cores in a mind map

The text in the node core can be interpreted or parsed by Freeplane in different ways, which can be set in the Format Panel drop-down menu Core text->Format. To understand the implications of this setting, see (to be added).

Node Details

Node Notes

Node Attributes

Attributes can be defined for each node. They are displayed in a 2-column table


The actions related to Attributes can be listed in Help->Command Search (Ctrl+F1) – search for attribute

Once you have at least one attribute, you can right-click on the table to perform actions (New, Delete, Move up, Move down).
Alternatively, you can manage attributes in View->Controls->Tool panel – tab Attributes



Unlike edges, connectors must be added manually, one by one. To add a connector, select two nodes, right-click for a context menu and select Connect (Ctrl+L). Another way is to Ctrl+Shift + drag one node onto another. On some systems it's also possible to right-click + drag one node onto another.

Connectors' properties can be edited. When you right-click a connector (it's best to select one of the connected nodes first), the Connector dialog appears. Here you can set formatting properties individually or select a Style (or both), set labels' text and remove the connector. See also Connector styles below.

By default, a connector's shape is Curve①. The other options are Line②, Linear path③ and Simulate edge④. The last one does exactly that: simulates an edge between the nodes. Freeplane achieves this by applying the formatting properties of the edge defined for the target node, ignoring the Connector-dialog properties.

The shape of Curve①. Line② and Linear path③ can be changed using curve-shaping of either end – just click on the line near a node (it's best to select the node first). You will see handles appear. By dragging your mouse up to ~50% of the distance between the nodes, the near handle is adjusted. Going beyond ~50% or clicking near the middle adjusts both handles at once. You'll often need to repeat your click-drag-release several times before you get the expected result, i.e. without affecting the far end.


Hidden connectors

Connector lines can be hidden: Preferences…->Defaults->Connectors->Show connector lines Alternatively, they can be displayed as the lowest level: Preferences…->Defaults->Connectors->Paint connectors behind nodes

Go to a connected node

Like for clones, the right-click node menu item Goto list the other ends of Connectors.

Same-node connectors

Both ends of a connector can be attached to the same node, looping back to itself. To create such a connector, right-click a single node and select Connect (Ctrl+L) or use any of the other methods described above.

When using Line as the type, the connector appears one-ended. Line is often used to draw an arrow going out of a node into empty space (as seen in Freeplane Help->Tutorial).

Connector styles

Connectors use styles. The concept is the same as for nodes (see Styles), i.e. a bundle of connector formatting properties is saved as a connector style. Technically, a connector style is part of a node style. When a node style has a connector defined, like Default has, the style becomes also a connector style.

When a connector is added, a style is applied to it, which determines how the connector looks like. By default, it's the Default style. There's an option to apply a style based on the style defined on the source or the target node. The option can be enabled in Preferences (Ctrl+COMMA) -> Defaults -> Connectors -> Assigns node dependant styles to new connectors. The logic is the following: if the source node has a style applied which has a connector defined, the style is applied to the connector; otherwise, the target node is checked for the same.

The style of a connector can be switched in the Connector dialog. To open it, right-click on a connector. It's best to select a connected node first, to indicate which connector the dialog should open for.

Types of nodes

In addition to standard nodes, there are some special types of nodes:

  1. the root node
  2. free nodes

The root node

Every mind map begins with a central node called the root node. Node levels are defined based on their distance from the root node.

Free nodes

Free nodes are nodes that appear separate from the map hierarchy. They are "free" because they can be freely positioned around the map. They are not automatically positioned like other nodes and they generally do not affect other nodes when they are changed or moved. Any node can be freed by enabling Edit->Free positioned node (set/reset).

A special type of free node is a Floating node. It can be added by Ctrl+double-click on the map background, or by Insert->New node->New floating node. Note: although Floating nodes are positioned independently, technically, they are first-level nodes that are invisibly connected to the root node. You can add children, parents, or siblings to free floating nodes, but you may get unexpected behaviors.

Technically, a Floating node is simply a node with three features:

  • they are given the style Floating node, which connects to other nodes with invisible edges
  • they have the toggle at menu item Edit->Position node independently set to "on"
  • their oval positioning handle is filled and blue rather than unfilled and red

Other nodes can also be given the style Floating node and can be set to be positioned independently: Edit->Free positioned node (set/reset).

Clone nodes

Node groups

Summary nodes

Summary nodes have brackets that suggest that their content summarizes a group of sibling nodes. Technically, summary nodes are specially marked sibling nodes of the summarized nodes. Summary nodes can include other summary nodes within their brackets, creating the impression of a "reverse" map with branches joining rather than splitting.

Summary node brackets can be customized the usual way, by changing the edge formatting properties: width, line type, color. The only exception is its shape (aka edge style) that isn't customizable.

Node clouds

Node position

Node view options

Hide nodes (per-node setting)

Show hidden nodes

Minimize nodes

Hide node details

Hide/show node attributes

Tool tips

Other resources