When you’re working on any kind of project, from designing a webpage to organizing an event to writing a report, it’s difficult to keep all the moving parts in your head. Inevitably something will slip through and be left behind. For that reason, it’s helpful to visualize and find the right place for every idea. That’s why we often reach for a napkin or a blank sheet of paper to draw on.
In the digital age, with all things physical turning into software, it’s no longer necessary to draw visualizations by hand. What you need instead is a mind mapping app, which will not only accelerate the brainstorming process but also allow you to collaborate with others and stay on the same page as a team. And it’s not as easy to lose!
Let’s take a look at what mind map ideas are and what kind of mind map software you might need to ace your next project.
What is a mind map?
Mind mapping is a creative activity that consists of brainstorming ideas and connecting the dots between them. Looking at a mind map you can instantly tell how various parts of the project relate to each other.
Generally, a mind map starts with a central hub of an idea, which then branches out to auxiliary themes, which can branch out further still into even more concepts.
You can see why mind mapping on paper has its limitations. You can’t go back and change something at any time; you can’t search for words that you’re looking for; you’re limited in the size of the mind map; and you can’t easily make lots of copies.
So how does mind map software solve this? It takes the best features of physical brainstorming and adds all the benefits of digital. Mind map makers can be collaborative online web apps or native Mac apps — what’s important is that they help bring to life ideas that seemed too complex before.
The most popular mind map ideas
People use mind mapping tools for all sorts of projects that are too complex to visualize and remember without outlining their structure. For example:
- Designing new digital products and keeping track of all features
- Sketching out business plans with clear connections between various elements, from customers to delivery channels to value propositions
- Planning out editorial content and seeing how articles and infographics revolve around the same themes
- Devising server architecture and mapping out relationships between instances, load balancers, databases, and more
These are just some mind map ideas. In reality, digital mind maps are simply infinite canvases that are only limited by your creativity and imagination.
What makes mind mapping software great?
Whether you use a mind map online or a specific mindmap software for Mac, there are a few key principles that any good mind map should follow:
- Infinite canvas should give you all the space that you need to create
- Minimal learning curve should allow anyone to jump in and participate
- Descriptive annotation should provide you with a way to add links, text, images, files, as needed, to create a complete picture of your project
- Easy export would mean you can take your mind map with you to use in other apps and tools
With these ideas in mind, here are the best mind mapping apps available today.
The best mind mapping software to use in 2023
In shortlisting the top mind mapping tools below, we’ve compiled apps that approach mind maps from different angles — each adding something new to the conversation. Try them all to see what works best or just go with the one that sounds like a good fit right from the start.
Start mind mapping quickly with SimpleMind
If you just need a simple but capable tool for producing mind maps, SimpleMind presents a good option. Mobile apps are free to use, and there’s no recurring subscription for Mac or Windows — just a one-time payment.
SimpleMind is a really simple way to organize your thoughts and create new ideas. Add color, images, links, checkboxes, and photos to an infinite digital canvas, and share your results with your team in a PDF format.
Mind map online with Coggle
For those who’d rather try online mind mapping software, Coggle is a great choice. It’s intuitive and easy to use — no professional drawing skills required!
You start with a central node and simply click the plus icons to expand the mind map in certain directions. New nodes, together with necessary connections, will be automatically generated. You can drag any part of your mind map around to rearrange it. If you want to change the style of any elements, right-click on them and select Choose Style.
Additionally, there are keyboard shortcuts you can use, and you can even format your text in Markdown. Plus, add your teammates to collaborate at any time and message each other right within the app.
Realize mind map ideas with MindNode
When you want to capture your ideas in a mind map format quickly, there’s nothing better than MindNode.
MindNode makes it incredibly easy to start with a core idea and branch out to new thoughts right away. The app automatically inserts proper connections and gives you options to create checkboxes, add icons, paste in images, adjust color, and more. There is also a focus mode, which helps you avoid distractions and follow a single hierarchy of ideas when the rest of the mind map becomes too complex.
Write your best work with Scapple
If you use mind mapping tools as a way to think through writing ideas, as well as structure them and keep track of all the connections, then you should try Scapple.
Scapple replaces your scribbles on various pieces of paper with an infinite virtual board where you can get as expansive as you need. Unlike many other mind map makers, Scapple doesn’t force you to connect all the thoughts to a central idea. Every bit of information in Scapple is equal, and you decide which bits would be connected and how.
Just double-click on a board to start, and drag and drop various thoughts onto each other to create connections.
Master the art of research with MarginNote
For those who require more than just mindmap software for their work, but still need some mind-mapping functionality, MarginNote is the way to go.
MarginNote features an expanded toolkit for note-taking and research. Not only can you paste in documents and notes from other sources, you can also annotate them with a logical mind map on the left side of the screen. Additionally, you can create flashcards to better remember new ideas from lectures and research. Finally, turn on an e-reader and scan through all your notes in a distraction-free environment.
Get team projects done with Miro
When your goal is to collaborate on a project in the most effective way, mind maps, brainstorms, and visual sketches help a lot.
Miro is a visual collaboration platform for teams of any size. You can use it to get on real-time video calls, with every team member in control of what’s happening on your shared whiteboard. Share ideas and outline connections between them, and include text, color, imagery, sticky notes, and more. Miro integrates with the tools you already use and makes adding it to your workflow rather seamless.
Explore the best of mind maps with iThoughtsX
Every industry or niche has its heavyweights. And when it comes to mind map software, it’s definitely iThoughtsX.
iThoughtsX is capable of creating or reproducing mind maps of any complexity, with hundreds of branches filled with interactive media. This is the perfect app for long-term plans and multi-level projects. At the same time, the interface is easy to use and understand, with all the tools you need available right at the top bar. If you’ve ever wanted to be a mind-mapping mastermind, this is your chance.
Best of all, MindNode, MarginNote, and iThoughtsX are available to you absolutely free for seven days through the trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 230 creative and collaborative Mac and iOS apps for any team. Try every Setapp app at no cost today and explore our special Setapp for Teams offering as well.