Simple Mind Maps in MS Word Using Illustration Tools


Creating a mind map in Word is easy with basic shapes and flowcharts. Extended by other illustration tools like Callouts, Lines and Clip Art and a pinch of creativity; MS Word can effectively become a mind mapping tool. Let’s look at the tools we can use to construct a mind map.

The landscape mode gives the most horizontal area to work with. In a New Word Document, select Page Layout ““ Orientation ““ Landscape. If you want to finally print it, select the right Size in the Page Setup group.

mind map in word

Most of the tools we can use lie in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab.

Click on Shapes which has all basic building blocks for a mind map. Simple shapes like ovals or rounded rectangles can be used to represent the central ideas. All shapes can be easily labeled with Text Box. Lines and arrows can be stretched out and connected to represent relationships. Shapes as all other elements can be copied and pasted, thus helping to put down the main ideas rapidly as nodes and sub-nodes.

mind map in word

All elements can of course, be elaborated using the full range of the Drawing Tools. Drawing the first shape brings up the contextual Drawing Tools tab. The best thing is that a mouse-over on any tool gives us a live preview of how the diagram is turning out.

mind map in word

To change the properties of the shape, right click on the selected shape and selectFormat AutoShape from the context menu.


Any options for Lines connects all the nodes and sub-nodes. Lines are also AutoShapesand their look or angles of rotation can be similarly changed from Format AutoShape or from the Ribbon (double click on the shape to bring up the Format tab).


Shapes and lines can be labeled with text to define the relationships. However, MS Word limits text orientation to vertical or horizontal. Text cannot be rotated to an angle as in PowerPoint, just yet. (Though, in MS Word 2010, one can). Callouts can be used to mark out extra data.

Mind maps can be illustrated with images from the Clip Art gallery or from an image on the hard drive. While inserting images, use the corner handles to define the size of the image.


Creating a mind map in Word can be extended by adding hyperlinks to external sources. Though, a workaround to add notes or attachments within the MS Word file is not there.

Here is a mind map that explains the various elements of what else, but a”¦mind map!

mind map in word

The Last Word on MS Word as a Mind Mapping Tool

MS Word (and even MS PowerPoint) is useful as a rapid tool for building a mind map. It’s better than a pen and paper, because you can easily update it by adding or rearranging the topics. You can copy it to the other Office programs and if need be, even print it out. Presenting it with PowerPoint or email sharing are added options.

MS Word is not a dedicated tool for mind maps. Tools like FreeMind have greater flexibility. Just to cite one feature, it’s not possible to collapse and open the branch nodes in MS Word.

But MS Word can make mind maps. Are you open to the idea? Let us know.