What is Mind Mapping?
Mind mapping is a highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain. Mind mapping is a creative and logical means of note-taking and note-making that literally “maps out” your ideas.
All Mind Maps have some things in common. They have a natural organizational structure that radiates from the center and use lines, symbols, words, color and images according to simple, brain-friendly concepts. Mind mapping converts a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable and highly organized diagram that works in line with your brain’s natural way of doing things.
One simple way to understand a Mind Map is by comparing it to a map of a city. The city center represents the main idea; the main roads leading from the center represent the key thoughts in your thinking process; the secondary roads or branches represent your secondary thoughts, and so on. Special images or shapes can represent landmarks of interest or particularly relevant ideas.
The five essential characteristics of Mind Mapping:
During my work I have tried different tools. Each program has its strengths and its weaknesses.
I show you some tools and some web-based program:
Mindjet is more than just mind mapping software—it’s a total suite of applications and tools designed to help you and the people you work with brainstorm, stay on top of projects, collaborate on tasks, and stay organized together. It’s more like a complete project management and collaboration suite. It has an extremely powerful mindmapping and brainstorming tool however, designed from the ground up to help you organize your projects, assign different arms of your projects to different people, flesh out all of the individual to-dos and jobs required to make the whole project a success, and it works just as well if you’re working with a hundred people, a dozen people, or just organizing your own to-dos. Plus, it integrates with web services and tools you already use, like Microsoft Office, Box,net, and more. Anyone familiar with the old tool MindManager will be happy to learn it’s been rolled into Mindjet’s individual apps. Most of Mindjet’s users are companies willing to pay for it though: It’s $15/mo per user for the individual plan, and $30/mo per user for the enterprise plan.P
XMind has been around for a good long time, and it even made the roundup the last time we looked at mind mapping apps. It hasn’t lost its power though; it’s still extremely flexible, works great on any desktop OS, and makes it easy to organize your ideas and thoughts in a variety of different styles, diagrams, and designs. You can use simple mind maps if you choose, or “fishbone” style flowcharts if you prefer. You can even add images and icons to differentiate parts of a project or specific ideas, add links and multimedia to each item, and more. If you’re a project manager, you can even use XMind’s built-in Gantt view to manage tasks in a way your colleagues may be familiar with. Best of all, XMind is completely free and open source. If you have some cash to spend, XMind Plus and XMind Pro offer some additional import/export and presentation features, along with some featured targeted at project managers and businesses who want to use XMind on the enterprise level. Plus will set you back $79 one-time, Pro is $99 one-time, and a subscription to Pro and all of its updates is $79/yr.P
Coggle is a completely free, simple to use mind mapping tool that’s easy to get started with. Sign in with a Google account of your choice and you’re off and away. Double-click on any item to edit it, and click the plus signs on either side to add branches to your mind map. Click and hold to drag them around the canvas to design your mind map any way you like. Coggle will automatically assign different colors to your branches, but clicking on a branch will bring up a color wheel so you can personalize it yourself. When you’ve finished a map, you can download it as a PDF or PNG, share it with others who can just view it or, if you allow it, edit your mind map. You even get auto-saving and revision history, so if you want to see what your mind map looked like before someone you invited started working with it, you can. Best of all? Coggle is completely and totally free.P
Freemind is a free, GNU General Public Licensed mind mapping app built in Java, so it runs on just about anything you throw it at. It was the winner of our last poll, partially because of its flexibility, and because its features and performance are pretty consistent regardless of the operating system you use with it. It’s a pretty powerful mind mapping tool too, offering complex diagrams and tons of branches, graphics and icons to differentiate notes and connect them, and the option to embed links and multimedia in your mind maps for quick reference. Freemind can export your map as HTML/XHTML, PDF, OpenDocument, SVG, or PNG. Compared to a lot of the newer tools it may look a little dated, but it’s still powerful and useful, especially if it’s function you’re looking for, not form.P
MindNode is an elegant mind mapping and brainstorming app for OS X and iOS. The iOS version is designed to work well on touch devices, specifically the iPad, and makes it easy to drag branches around, add new nodes, connect nodes, share documents with others, and more. The Mac app is similar, and supports sharing your mind map with others and exporting as PDF and as a Freemind project. MindNode can automatically hide branches that have nothing to do with the items you’re working on, embed images and screenshots onto nodes, create links on nodes, and even automatically organize your branches for you if they get messy. It can also support linked mind maps. The UI is relatively clean and hides a lot of its features in order to keep things clean, but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. Many of you who nominated it pointed out it’s one of the first mind mapping apps you’ve seen that really does things right on a tablet. MindNode is $20 for the Mac app, and $10 for the iPhone/iPad app.
MindMeister was built to facilitate collaboration for mind mapping and brainstorming, with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. You can collaborate in real time, discuss changes over live chat, exchange ideas and even view the change history of a mind map.
You can access projects via mobile devices as well as online and offline, safe in the knowledge that your data is stored securely with data encryption and daily monitoring. Since MindMeister is cloud-based, there is no need to install any software or worry about upgrades.
Price: Personal accounts start at $4.99 per month, going up to $14.99 for a business account.
iMindMap was developed by Tony Buzan, who popularized the term “mind maps,” and refined and formalized its diagramming process and guidelines.
iMindMap is designed to be visually stimulating, with curved branches, bright colors and sharp images to help unleash your creativity. You can take full control over your map with a customizable drawing experience, or let iMindMap create the whole map for you. There are freehand, styling and text options so you can create a unique project. It’s simple to brainstorm, refine, plan and craft an animated presentation.
Price: Home and student edition is £49 (~$79); the Ultimate package is £149 (~$240).
SpiderScribe is an online mind mapping and brainstorming tool that lets you organize your ideas by connecting notes, files, and calendar events in freeform maps. You can create private or public maps and collaborate with others, as your maps are stored in the cloud and can be accessed anywhere.
You can combine a variety of media to create a stencil, and each stencil can be customized by changing colors, fonts, size and formats. Another particularly interesting feature of SpiderScribe is the ability to embed your mind maps on your website.
Price: Personal accounts are free, with Pro accounts at $5 per month and business accounts at $25 per month.
Text2MindMaps is a useful way of organizing your thoughts using a simple, online tool. It’s easy to use — just type some text into the text area, use the tab key to indent text lines and click the Draw Mind Map button to see it evolve.
Each line of text is a separate node in the mind map, and there are options to style the map to suit your requirements. It features a number of keyboard shortcuts, and each map can be downloaded as a PDF or image, or even emailed to share with collaborators.
Popplet is a mind mapping tool that is perfect for visually curating your ideas and brainstorms. You can visually record your ideas, inspirations and thoughts, as well as upload text, videos, images and draw on your canvas.
For those working in teams, Popplet allows multiple devices to connect to the same project. You can create Popplet presentations, use high-resolution images, create embeds for websites and blogs, and include tags, keywords and categories on all your Popplet projects to make searching easier. There is an accompanying iOS app which gives you mobile access to your projects; however, there is currently no Android version available.
Bubbl.us makes online brainstorming and mind mapping simple. To start, just type your central topic to start a tree, and then create another idea at the same level or as a sub-level. The Bubbl.us tree will automatically reposition itself to fit any new ideas you have, or you can move the bubbles around manually.
You can customize a tree to suit your style by changing the color and size. The auto-save feature is especially useful, and you can share your project as a read-only file or allow others to edit it. To collaborate on the same tree, other team members must have their own Bubbl.us accounts.
Browser-based Mind42 allows you to manage all of your ideas on one platform for a fast and simple mind mapping experience. You can quickly create, manage and edit any kind of data structure required for mind maps to explore ideas in a visually meaningful way.
All you need to do is create an account and click New MInd Map. Once you start a project, you can invite collaborators and create helpful groups such as Business or Private. You can even import existing mind maps from other applications, such as Mindmanager and Freemind.
GroupMap is specifically built to make team activities easy, providing a unique platform for anyone to respond on a map, with any parameters you set. You can select a map or create your own, and then invite your team to collaborate, comment, converse and vote to help decide the best ideas from a session.
Each individual can add their ideas to the brainstorm, and the results aggregate into a group view for comments and voting, making for a more open, efficient process.
Price: Accounts range from free up to $49 per month for a professional account.
Mindomo provides mind mapping and project collaboration tools for both businesses and education providers. It can be used to brainstorm mind maps, create tasks and share resources within a secure environment. It’s fully collaborative with the conversations, discussions and topics enabled within each workspace.
You can style individual mind maps using themes to better illustrate concepts and projects. You can choose to keep you map private or public, and also provide a direct link to your map to share with team members or clients.
Price: Accounts range from free up to $29 per month for a team account.
Stormboard focuses on real-time brainstorming and collaboration, allowing you to add ideas, photos and videos to a shared online whiteboard. You can quickly generate and capture ideas, and prioritize and vote on them. All ideas have a unique comment thread to clarify, refine and debate.
Stormboard features a library of templates that you can customize to suit your specifications. Since Stormboard is compatible with mobile, you can access, capture and review ideas anytime and anywhere.
Price: Accounts range from free up to $10 per month for at team account.
MindMap is a Google Chrome extension that has Cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox and Box support built in. You can save your work into local storage, in the cloud, and print or export finished mind maps as an image.
You can even manipulate the fonts and positions within each node, add images and text, and share your maps through your social media connections. MindMap allows real-time collaboration and embedding within websites or blogs. Also of interest are three similar mind mapping Google Chrome extensions: MindMapr, MindMup and Connected Mind.
Wisemapping is an online, open source mind mapping editor for both individuals and businesses to share with collaborators, embed in blogs, and easily import and export. If security is important and you don’t want to use the browser-based app, you can download, install and configure WiseMapping on your own server.
The tool allows you to invite team members to view and collaborate on your mind maps and export maps to Freemind, PDF, SVG and other image file formats. Wisemapping also features an embeddable mind map viewer for use on other websites or blogs.
MindManager from Mindjet is a powerful mind mapping tool that lets you organize your ideas in a single view, where you can easily drag and drop to gather and prioritize your ideas. Adding images, video, hyperlinks and attachments is simple, and the project planning tools make it straightforward to turn ideas into action.
It works with Microsoft Office and Apple productivity tools, including Outlook and Entourage. MindManager also features automated calculations to help evaluate and analyze data.
Price: A license is $129, or $349 for MindManager Plus.
Freeplane is an open source application that runs on any operating system with Java installed. It can also run locally or portably from a removable storage, such as a USB drive.
You can freely position, order, classify, group or connect any node and style the map using shapes, colors and edge type — or even according to hierarchical level. You can structure nodes in terms of content, such as text, formula, icon, image or hyperlink. Mind maps are password protectable, and you can make full use of the drag and drop functionality, search, publishing and sharing options available.
The Brain aims to be the ultimate in digital memory, and is available for Windows, OS X and Linux. It’s more than a mind mapping application in that it allows you to visualize all of your tasks, ideas, projects, documents and notes in one convenient place.
You can store an unlimited amount of information, which is available on both the desktop and mobile devices, using a simple drag and drop interface. The Brain focuses on helping you build meaningful and dynamic connections that give you a greater insight into whatever idea or project you’re working on.
Price: The Service Only package is $15; License Only is $219; Complete Package is $299.
LucidChart is a powerful diagramming application that helps you quickly capture and organize ideas during a brainstorming session into a single useful mind map. It features a suite of tools including real-time collaboration, built-in Google image search, custom themes and social sharing.
The auto-spacing of mind mapping nodes, hotkeys for quick mind map creation, collapsible branches, auto theming and chat feature all give you the flexibility to create and customize your mind map.
Price: Accounts range from free up to $21 per month for team accounts.
Scapple is a mind map app for OS X from the developer of the popular longform writers tool Scrivener, and it’s specifically directed at writers. It provides a space for mapping out your thoughts in a free way, without conforming to a single idea or goal. You can start typing anywhere, link ideas, build relationships, and adjust or expand everything.
Your notes can take the form of text, pictures, a PDF or any other type of file you choose. You can stack related ideas into columns for better organization, while the appearance of notes can be easily changed through the font choice, colors or border style.
Price: The software download is $14.99.
Mapul is a web-based tool powered by Microsoft Silverlight, which allows you to generate mind maps without leaving your browser. It’s an evolution of MapMyself and provides a free or subscription-based account.
It features a quirky, hand-drawn interface and has the option to save or export mind maps. You can import images and style your text with various sizing and color options.
Price: Accounts can hold up to 10 users; a single user account for six months is $30, and a 10-user account is $360 per year.
MindApp is a mind mapping tool available in-browser or as a Windows desktop app. It features a drag and drop interface, keyboard shortcuts, children’s options, and map and text formatting.
You can save mind maps online in your free personal account or as images on your desktop, which can be used in other applications. The map can be styled to suit your tastes and includes shapes, lines, alignment, size, color, borders and background options.
CoMapping is an online mind mapping application to take notes, plan, organize and share information, with multiple people able to work collaboratively on the same map. The visual interface allows for the drag and drop of topics for quick reorganization, while the app also enables you to work offline and provides a place for private, non-shareable data.
CoMapping has a built-in chat feature to support instant discussion, and also includes task management, presentations and email status updates.
Price: Accounts range from free up to $612 per year (for classrooms/departments with 100 users).
MyThoughts for OS X offers freedom and flexibility to build meaningful, unique mind maps boasting powerful features, including drag and drop, branch styles, relationships, a media browser, print manager and outline notes. You can import OPML and Freemind files and export to RTDF, Word, PDF, Image and OPML formats.
The uncluttered, user-friendly interface make it easy to get started and brainstorm freely, with the ability to add links to files and URLs, and even share files between the popular iThoughtsHD OS X and iPad app.
Price: A single license is £31.60 (~$51), and the Family Pack costs £44.49 (~$72).
The tools above are among the the best to create mind maps online or on your desktop. However, there are many iOS and Android mind mapping apps that may interest you: