The Best Mind Mapping Software: Which one to use?14 min read
Mind mapping is a great tool to use to better understand the complexity of a subject. As human beings, whenever we think of an idea, we tend to store everything in our minds. Unfortunately, although our brain is exceptional, it is not structured to speak out the complex web of thoughts.
That is one of the reasons why mind mapping was invented — to get a clear and complete overview of a certain subject, which can be an idea, trend, technology, or more importantly, a problem.
For innovation purposes, mind mapping helps in getting everything out of the minds of the participants into a diagram to better explain the whole idea to others, find blind spots, and make it shareable so others can pitch in their insights and opinions.
In this article, you will learn more about mind mapping, what to look for in a mind mapping tool, and know some examples of the best mind mapping software out there.
Let’s get started.
What is mind mapping software?
Mind mapping software provides a solution that will help you visualize or map out a set of ideas or concepts together. It is a tool you can use to set down different ideas or concepts and connect them together in groups.
To make more sense of it, let us dive deeper into the concept of mind mapping.
What is the concept of mind mapping?
Tony Buzan, whom the concept of mind mapping is attributed to, believed that it “harnesses the full range of cortical skills—word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color and spatial awareness—in a single, uniquely powerful manner.”
This method can potentially harness the brain’s power by effectively getting out the information of the brain. It is an activity that creatively (and logically) maps out the ideas that you have and gain a better understanding of them.
There are five essential characteristics of mind mapping:
The main idea is in the center of the whole canvas.
The main theme radiates out from the center as branches.
The branches contain images or words on the associated line.
Related ideas are represented as twigs of their relevant branch.
The branches form a connected nodal structure.
Although many people use mind mapping as a note-taking activity, it can also be used during brainstorming sessions. It is a visual way of organizing information in a web-like diagram that will enable you to see every moving part of it.
Why use mind mapping software?
As with any other matter, using a tool will enable you to do the task faster and more efficiently. Different mind-mapping software solutions were created to make mind mapping easier and simpler to do. All you have to do is provide input into it.
Traditionally, mind mapping is done using a piece of paper. Digitizing this process is more convenient and will give you more flexibility too. As you add more ideas to it, you will not be confined by the size of the medium you are using.
In addition, mind mapping software comes in different sizes and shapes. Though all have an inherent ability to enable you to create a mind map easier, some have additional features like collaborative tools, export/import, and integration with other applications.
The bottom line of all those bonus features is to enable teams to make use of the mind mapping concept and allow them to collaborate with one another and share those diagrams on documents and presentations.
What to look for in mind mapping software?
There are different mind mapping software solutions out there, each comes with its own bonus features. That is why it is important for you to know the most important features to look for to help you with innovation.
Since mind mapping is a visual activity, it definitely helps if the software enables you to input other elements aside from texts like images, charts, clip-arts, videos, and others. Such capability will help the software stand out from the rest and make the experience outstanding.
Being able to add images or illustrations within the mind map to connect various ideas and notes will give you a new perspective on the main idea. They can also spark a new surge of creativity in your team.
Sharing and Collaboration
There is a reason why sharing and collaboration features in most freemium mind mapping software are part of their premium versions. Mind mapping your own ideas is helpful, but it gets even more valuable once you are able to share them with your team.
Since ideas are vital in innovation, it is imperative that teams go on brainstorming sessions. Being able to share mind maps will become indispensable as your team will be able to express their opinions and insights on your ideas.
It helps if the mind mapping tool has a comment capability in case the teams cannot meet in person. That way, you do not have to go out of the software to collaborate with others on your mind maps.
There is a reason why templates exist — they help you speed up the process and give you further inspiration/direction on what to do next. That is why many mind mapping software provide templates for various reasons like business, customer journey, and others.
What is even helpful is that many of the templates are already filled with information. Naturally, it does not mean that you have to go through with the ideas in the template. However, they will be able to help you bring out more ideas into the open and all you have to do is insert them.
For example, if you are doing a new product innovation, a template that you have used in the past that gave you success can guide you with your new innovation project. That means you do not have to start from scratch again.
Export and Import
The ability to export or import mind maps is one of the considerations you should take into account when choosing a mind mapping software. It is even more important when you have to communicate with other teams and departments within the organization.
Imagine how convenient it will be if instead of explaining your mind map to others, you will be able to send it to them as images, PDF, or even web pages. In addition, you can use them in your presentations and demonstrations.
As of 2020, the number of smartphone users in the world today has surpassed the three-billion mark and is expected to grow by hundreds of millions in the next few years. Most of your team members are probably on their mobile phones most of the time when they are not working.
It matters whether or not the mind mapping software is mobile responsive. In other words, a characteristic of good software will enable you to access and use the tool intuitively even when you are using a mobile device.
This will enable you to work on your mind maps and engage with those of your team even if you are not on the computer.
Examples of Good Mind Mapping Software
Now that you have an idea of what features to look for in mind mapping software, here are good examples of mind mapping tools that you can use with your team. Note that there are a lot of free ones out there, but the ones listed here are the best ones that we can find.
1. Microsoft Visio
If your organization is already using Office 365, then you should give Microsoft Visio a try. Visio is Microsoft’s tool for diagramming and vector graphics. It is termed as a flowchart maker and diagramming software.
Microsoft Visio works really well for mind mapping (and with any other kind of graphic representation). It is the best choice for those who are integrated with Office 365 since Visio can pull data from any of the suite’s applications and visualize it with charts.
The dashboard in Visio sets it apart from other mind mapping software. The dashboard can visualize the data that you have entered into a diagram. There are also a lot of ready-made templates you can use to create diagrams and flowcharts for your mind maps.
In terms of sharing and collaboration, Visio enables its users to share their mind maps, in the form of diagrams, as links, attachments, images, or PDFs. Your team can even leave comments and annotations on the diagram. You can even work with them simultaneously if you want to.
Here are some of the pros and cons of Microsoft Visio:
With ready-made blocks and flow diagrams
Slow on outdated computers
A vast library of templates
Complicated interface and features
More than 250,000 shapes and elements
Not mobile responsive
Overall, Microsoft Visio is one of the most robust mind mapping software out there. In addition, learning how to use it may not be that easy especially for those who do not have a lot of experience in using a vector graphics tool.
Visio is available in two plans. The first one costs only $5 per month per user and will only give you access to its web application. The more robust one costs $15 per month per user and is perfect for those who want to use the tool in its full form.
ClickUp is a multipurpose platform, something like a combination between HubSpot, Gmail, and Trello. It is usually used in project management and collaboration. One of its featured capabilities is its mind mapping features.
With it, you can create mind maps for planning and organizing your innovation projects and ideas. It will allow you to link different projects and tasks and directly visualize the workflows and processes behind those ideas.
As a multipurpose tool, you can instantly turn those ideas into projects within the platform itself and manage them effectively. You can create any diagrams that you like and use nodes as reference points, and even convert them into tasks.
Many organizations use ClickUp not only because of its vast capabilities but also because it is initially free. After creating your own mind maps, you can share them with your team, which can have an unlimited number of members.
Here are some of the pros and cons of ClickUp:
Free for the first 100 MB storage
Slow mobile application
Instant conversion of ideas into projects
Edit permissions not in the free plan
A lot of extra features useful for the team
Only 100 mind map uses on the free plan
ClickUp offers a lot of integration options with a number of applications including Slack, Dropbox, and Office 365, to name a few. Upgrading from the free plan is also cheap as the paid version only costs $5 per month per user.
If you want to create beautiful mind maps, then MindMeister is the right software for the job. This cloud-based tool will enable you to create visually-pleasing diagrams, develop, and share your ideas with others.
Using this tool is also easy, at least compared to the previous ones mentioned. It has an easy-to-use interface where you can quickly add texts, images, videos, links, and even files. You can even draw your ideas into the tool if you want to.
As for its collaboration features, you can easily share mind maps with your teams. They can then comment, vote, or even communicate with you in real-time within the software. You can also turn your mind maps into presentations instantly.
Here are some of the pros and cons of MindMeister:
Simple and easy to use interface
Not so good mobile experience
Comes with a lot of templates
Few integrations with other applications
Perfect for newbies and non-techie people
Lacks more advanced features
MindMeister is easy to use. In fact, it is probably the easiest to use mind mapping software out there that has some advanced collaboration features. Unlike Visio or ClickUp, this software will not overload you with options and buttons.
The good news is that MindMeister can be used for free for up to three mind maps. The cheapest plan costs $2.49 per month, though it has no team features. The Pro plan, which costs $4.19 per month per user, allows you to onboard several team members.
Choosing the Best Mind Mapping Software
If you want to get started with mind mapping, the three software providers mentioned above will definitely give you a good experience. However, should you feel they are lacking, note that there are a lot of other good software out there.
When choosing a mind mapping software, consider your needs and the features that you want to use. Consider how the software will bring out different perspectives. Remember that working together will help combine different perspectives to get a better image of the truth.
Next steps: Some people will find mind mapping difficult as this activity is also about structure, logic, and creativity. If you need help with your innovation strategy, feel free to reach out to use any time.