During the Roman Empire In the 3rd century, Porphyry from Tyre mapped Aristotle’s Categories in what became known as the Porphyrian Tree. The Porphyrian Tree was possibly the first mind map. (#1) Many famous philosophers and scholars throughout history used mind maps for notetaking: Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, Michelangelo, and Thomas Edison.
Tony Bunzan, however, made mind mapping popular. In his BBC TV series, Bunzan coined the term “mind map” and showed the audience how to create and use a mind map. Since the 1960s mind mapping tools have expanded from pen-and-paper to downloadable and online software and apps.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of mind mapping as a brainstorming tool but also for ‘brain freeze’ aka writer’s block. Research by Al-Jarf in 2009 showed that mind mapping software improved the ability to generate, visualize, and organize ideas. Participants in the study found that creativity flowed and that they became faster at creating and organizing writing ideas.
What Are Mind Maps?
A mind map is defined as a visual representation of ideas arranged around the main idea in the middle of the diagram. It looks like a tree with hierarchical branches and twigs seen from the top. The main idea is centered. Branches connect other ideas with the main concept. Twigs connect third level ideas to each second level idea, and so forth.
Mind maps are the secret solution to organize all that brainstorming ideas that pop into your head randomly. Mind maps help to jot down the ideas as they come and simultaneously linking it to other concepts in an orderly fashion. In other words, mind mapping allows creativity and logic to work together.
It’s like writing and editing. When an author is putting the story on paper, the editor’s voice should be silenced until the writing is done. Then the editor can jump in and sort, organize, and order the words into a story, readers will appreciate. Mind mapping is similar; all the ideas are jotted down, linking what connects using numbers, colors, and images to focus on insights. Then the ‘editor’ comes and sorts, organizes and structures the mind map into a good plan.
A mind map can be a simple tree with one word to identify each item, or it can be complicated with a variety of add-ons.
Mind mapping is more than a brainstorming tool. It’s a powerful business tool for strategic planning, illustrating simple and complex processes, a note-taking tool, and organizing a significant amount of information.
Mind maps are also great tools to help students with their homework planning, preparation for tests, and to understand complex topics. It helps to remember facts during tests and exams because it’s easier to recall a mind map with keywords than paragraphs of writing. Kids whom mind map will comfortably apply mind mapping in business and work projects as adults.
What Features Should Come Included In Top Mind Map Software
When a person starts with a mind map, it often escalates into something bigger than anticipated. Therefore, mind map software should have these essential features. Mind map software doesn’t have the limitations a hand-drawn mind map would have. There’s no paper size limitation; it’s easy to shift ideas around and rearrange keeping content readable and neat.
- No Space Limitations. One of the most significant benefits of mind map software is that a person isn’t restricted on writing space. The diagram can grow and expand in any direction without running out of space.
- Mind mapping software should allow a person to move nodes and connections around. Users should be able to add additional documents and graphics.
- Easy of Use. When moving nodes around, it should be easy to drag and drop or cut and paste an individual node or a group of nodes. Adding or removing from the diagram should be simple actions.
- Text and Images. Good mind mapping software has a library of colors, shapes, nodes, images, and icons to enhance the mind mapping experience.
- Unlimited Information. The mind map may look simplistic with minimal text and lines. Technically, however, mind map software should have the ability to attach additional information in various mediums: text, graphics, videos, etc.
In other words, good mind mapping software doesn’t restrict the thought process, the planning or structuring of the layout. It allows the creativity to flow without restricting the logical organizing of the thoughts.
Why Use Mind Maps Rather Than Outlines or Lists?
During the thought process, the mind map hierarchy, list order, or outline may change. To add an item high up on the list or outline is messy, especially if doing by hand. It causes a dilemma if the new point is on the same priority level as another item. With mind mapping, it’s simply adding another node to the same hierarchy level and linking it to the higher level.
If you don’t know yet where a specific item should feature on a list or outline, it poses a problem. If the data is added at the bottom, it automatically becomes the least important item, which is not necessarily what you want. With mind maps the item is placed on the work area without connecting it within the hierarchy. When you know where it fits, connect the node to the other levels by dragging and dropping it in the right place.
Although outlines make use of hierarchy, it’s still a type of list. With mind maps, a person can immediately see which items are on the same level. Outlines and lists require scrolling up and down to see which items belong on the same level and which ones don’t.
Using linear methods of note-taking doesn’t mean a person is necessarily a linear thinker. Mind mapping increases creativity, problem-solving skills, and memory. There’s greater freedom of thoughts because any thought can easily be added to the map, whereas lists and outlines restrict the thinking process because the person is focused on having ideas that fit within the list or outline.
According to a survey by Chuck Frey, productivity increased by 25% when using min mapping software. Business owners also noticed that work pace increased by 44%. (#2 – also infographic available)
Our Picks For Best Mind Map Software
Best Mind Map for Newbies – MindMeister
MindMeister is an award-winning web-based mind mapping tool with over 10 million users. The ability to collaborate anywhere enhances the usage of the software to plan projects, manage meetings, take notes, capture ideas, and other everyday business functions.
- Newbies can create mind maps with ready to use templates. For those familiar with organizational charts may choose as mind map style the organizational mode instead of the classic mind map layout.
- Project management functions allow for setting dates, assigning tasks, and setting priorities. It integrates beautifully with Mind Task, the project management software.
- Brainstorm, structure and add visuals to create presentations using the mind mapping format. Export the slideshow as PNG, PDF, PowerPoint slides, or embed the presentation on a website page.
- History mode allows users to undo actions and to see who contributed what and when.
- Basic is a free subscription limited to 3 mind maps.
- The paid subscriptions are Personal at $4.99, Pro at $8.25, and Business at $12.49 per month. Packages vary in storage size, export formats, and the size of teams.
Best Free Mind Map – Freemind
FreeMind is an open source mind mapping software written in Java that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. Students and business people use it to brainstorm ideas; when writing essays; to keep track of projects; to manage information; to create knowledgebase notes; and for gathering and bookmarking internet research data.
- The simple interface makes it easy to understand and use. A user guide explains and shows every function step by step. (#3)
- Display only that which is relevant at that moment with the folding feature. It hides or displays information below a selected mode.
- Follow links quickly with the one-click feature.
- Smart dragging and dropping allows copying nodes and styles or selecting and moving multiple nodes.
- Smart copying and pasting, structure pasted content based on the number of leading spaces. Users can paste a list of selected files or add HTML links instead of all the data.
- Decorate nodes with built-in fonts and icons.
- Export the mind map in various ways: HTML, OpenDocument, JPG, PNG, and PDF.
- As a one-user application, users can collaborate on one map at the same time.
- Photo and graphics support is a new feature and in its initial stage.
Best To Share Map Publicly – MindMUp
MindMUp is entirely web-based, which makes it easy to save and publish your mind maps online and to social media platforms. No need to convert the mind map into another file format before publishing. MindMup Atlas automatically adds images and contextual information to the map for posting to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
Controlled sharing settings allows limited access to private mind maps.
- Storyboard feature can transform a hierarchy into a sequence of slides.
- Structure content writing with the document outline and using notes and attachments.
- Measurement tools map notes automatically, calculate and breakdown costs, budget, and track progress. For record keeping download the measurements to a spreadsheet.
- MindMup for Google Drive links to other documents on Google Drive and integrates with Google Photos and Google Image.
- Free version limits map size but works well for basic mind mapping. Storage is limited to 6 months.
- Free plan allows for unlimited number of mind maps up to 100 KB storage and saved and published up to six months.
- Personal Gold costs $2.99 per month and Organizational Gold $100 yearly with unlimited users. The Gold user packages can create private maps, share and edit concurrently.
Best Mind Map for Classroom Collaboration – Creately
Creately’s real-time collaboration feature allows students and teachers to add and edit the mind map in real time. Teachers can see the changes without being in the same room as the student. It works on the Creately Online and Desktop and is designed for in-house use and external use. Students can manage, collaborate, and view their diagrams on their iOS and Android devices too.
Creately integrates with G-suite as a subset of G-suite users or for the entire domain. Create storyboards, mind maps, Venn diagrams, and fishbone diagrams with Creately Education.
Businesses like NASA, Amazon, National Geographic, and PayPal use Creately as a mind mapping tool to create online diagrams. Available online and offline, viewing and editing permission may be set for each user.
- The 1-click create feature draws and connect shapes easily. The right kind of connector is automatically chosen.
- Smart shapes and connectors adapt themselves to the match type of diagrams, to where they are placed in the diagram and the neighboring shapes. Text can be transformed into complex drawings. Connectors present a quick list of matching styles and lines.
- Content can be shared with students or students can reuse teacher templates.
- Inline comments and discussion threads assist with reviews and ongoing commentary between students and teachers.
- Each revision is saved as a sperate version which gives easy access to the full history of the diagram.
- Publish diagrams online on websites and to social media platforms.
- Thousands of templates with over 40 types of diagrams with specific shape sets to use if you don’t want to create from scratch.
- The multiple features may be challenging to some students limiting the full usage of the mind mapping software.
- 50% discount for Education use with requested discount codes.
- $5 per month for individuals.
- Team Plans vary according to the number of users and range from $25 for five users to $750 per month for 500 users. Unlimited project and diagram sharing are included with the Team Plans.
- Free account is limited to 5 free public diagrams.
- There is separate fixed pricing for desktop users.
Best Mind Map Software for Tablets and Phones – Mindomo
Mindomo’s native mobile apps have a smooth simplified interface for online and offline use. User can edit and create mind maps from their tablets or smart phones. Students don’t always have access to a computer. A business person may have an idea when they don’t have their laptop with them. The native mobile apps ensure that users have access to their mind maps always.
- In addition to the versatility of access to the interface on the desktop, tablets, and phones, a collaboration between teams or student and teachers is another benefit.
- Presenter feature changes mind maps into slide-by-slide presentations. It helps to show a step-by-step process in a project. Students may use it to show their thought process when developing their mind map.
- With 1-click web images, videos, and audio recordings can be added to the mind map.
- For newbies, the predefined templates may give them a quick start.
- Concept maps and outlines may satisfy users who are looking for a more traditional diagram. The concept maps show how concepts are connected, and outlines allow for a linear map.
- The free plan is limited to 3 maps.
- Education plan for students and teachers vary from €36/year (about $42.02) for one user, €69/year (about $99.12) for the Teacher package (1 teacher and 75 students) and the Classroom & School package starts at €99/year (about $129.30)
- Subscription packages range from Premium for one user €36/6mths (about $42.02); Professional €90/6mths (about$117.55) for one user and five guests; and Team €142/6mths (about $185.46) for five users.
Best Brainstorming Mind Map – XMind
XMind is designed to improve efficiency by stimulating and capturing brainstorming ideas and creativity.
There are two different products for different needs. XMind 8 is the classic mind mapping software for businesses users who require Gantt charts and slide presentations. XMind Zen creates beautiful mind maps with the new snowbrush engine for graphics and is 100% mobile compatible.
- XMind Zen font families and CJK font ensure the same visual displays on all the devices.
- XMind Zen Dark UI turns the interface to dark at night. Color palettes for windows, stickers, panels, and views adapt also.
- Add topic information with labels, markers, attachments, hyperlinks, notes, or topic links. The add-ons visually explain and incorporate the information descriptively and pleasingly.
- Matrix, fishbone charts, organizational charts, and variety of branch shapes help to capture and emphasize thoughts; create schedules and milestones in chronological order, and help with advanced comparative analysis in project management.
- Ready-made structures save time and are convenient for users to build their maps by combining arrangements.
- XMind Zen packages range from Desktop $4.58/month, Desktop and Mobile at $4.99/month and Mobile at $1.24/month. One subscription allows for 2 desktops and three mobile devices as applicable.
- Students and educators XMind Zen package for mobile and desktop is R34/99/year or $22.49/6 months.
- XMind Pro 8.x version has lifelong use at $129.
Best Visual Thinking Mind Mapping Software – Mindjet MindManager
Mindjet MindManager is more than a mind mapping software; it transforms brainstorming ideas and strategic thinking into actionable plans. With its new features and functions, MindManager 2019 is deemed a powerful visual thinking, business intelligence, and analysis tool.
- Smart Rules is the next generation of conditional formatting that creates interactive diagrams. Based on triggers, Smart Rules enables users to develop properties and automatically apply values, tags, and icons. Saved in a library, Smart Rules are re-usable in other mind maps.
- Create flowcharts, timelines, diagrams, concept maps, or visualize data in a way that works for you and your business team.
- Digital architect creates a new type of diagrams with locked shapes in the workplaces. The latest version enables ‘drag and drops’ items in columns; create icon-based categories for tasks, and display icons and tags in schedule views.
- Over 700 cloud business applications sync with MindManager. Publish or share mind maps almost everywhere.
- Businesses can plan projects, track progress, schedule, and collaborate with teams, manage meetings, and creatively brainstorm ideas.
- For some, the price may be too steep; it all depends on what you want from a mind mapping software.
- Free 30-day trial
- Windows license costs $401.35 or $205.85 for an upgrade.
- Mac license costs $228.85 and the upgrade $113.85.
- Special licensing programs for education, government, and nonprofit organizations on request.