Top Brainstorming or Mind Mapping Software and Apps

Personal or Team Tools for Generating and Recording Creative Ideas

Brainstorming and mind mapping software can be useful for getting your ideas down on paper. But did you know it can also be a way to collaborate, refine, or present those ideas?

Communicate your ideas with others in a more visual way. Many of the options on this list offer flexible ways to help others see where you are coming from.

Or, maybe you are collaborating on a project with a team. You will find many brainstorming or mind mapping tools available. Here are several I would look at first to find a solution quickly.

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Brainstorming Tools for Mobile
Brainstorming Tools for Mobile. (c) Hoxton / Tom Merton / Getty Images

What We Like

  • Free application.

  • Robust editing symbols to fine-tune a mind map.

  • Cross-applicability to other domains, like project management.

What We Don't Like

  • Last updated three years ago.

  • Archaic visual design.

As the name suggests, this is a free tool that helps you free your mind by getting your ideas out.

Take a look at this site for a bunch of screenshots. These show how mind mapping software can help you connect ideas visually.

This site is also a great place to start because it shows not only a long list of uses for mind mapping software in general, but also a list of alternatives to FreeMind.

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What We Like

  • Elegant flows with good use of color.

  • Optimized for social sharing.

What We Don't Like

  • Too-limited free trial and too-expensive pricing model.

  • Core features are hidden behind the paywall.

Coggle offers colorful options for charting your ideas. Drag and drop ideas, track changes through authorship options, and more. This is a great example of a tool you could use collaboratively or even remotely, among various editors.

Try Coggle free by signing in through your Google account.

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What We Like

  • Deep ties into Microsoft Office applications.

  • Optimized for large-scale, collaborative work.

What We Don't Like

  • Far too expensive for casual home use.

  • Emphasis is on project management, but PM methodology doesn't rely in mind maps to organize work efforts.

MindManager is a great tool for those building an entire project, including meeting management.

The company behind this software is Mindjet, which offers other products you may be interested in for business.

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What We Like

  • Easy to use.

  • Low price point on the App Store.

  • Explicit focus on small projects and on academic inquiry.

What We Don't Like

  • For iOS or browser-based work only.

  • App last updated in early 2017.

Popplet can be used for business or personal projects as well as educational situations. Use it on the web or for iOS. 

This tool is great for capturing notes or brainstorming around a central idea.

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What We Like

  • Well-designed, robust interface.

  • Supports many other tools (like org charts) beyond mind maps.

  • Reasonable subscription cost.

What We Don't Like

  • Online only.

  • Can be clunky depending on your browser setup.

Flow charts or diagrams are great for conveying information, especially to a wide audience. Various price levels are available. 

This is an online tool, which can be a plus for simplicity (no upgrades or other maintenance and it does not take up room on your computer or device) but the potential downside is that dependence on an internet connection.

Collaborate with group chats and comments. Lucidchart can integrate with Google Docs as well.

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What We Like

  • Designed for writers and other creatives.

  • Some hooks into Scrivener, a leading authoring platform for writers.

  • Reasonable price point.

What We Don't Like

  • Bare-bones functionality.

  • Despite both Windows and Mac versions, the developer clearly favors the Mac version.

If you are a writer, you may have checked out Scrivener, a popular tool by a development company named Literature and Latte.

Scapple lets you sketch basic ideas out in a rough draft mode. This is a great way to cook up ideas in a nonlinear, freeform format, which you can then format with fonts, colors, layouts, and more.

Available for Mac OS X or Windows.

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What We Like

  • Optimized for mobile devices.

  • Version history.

What We Don't Like

  • Mobile platforms are not ideal for this kind of work — lack of a browser interface is problematic.

  • The "in-app purchases model" is a red flag.

Collaboration is easy with tools like MindMeister, which lets you send invites to other editors. Or, create a public mind map, which is an interesting concept you might have a use for.

MindMeister is available online or as a mobile app for iOS and Android. Personal, business, and education plans are available, as well as a free trial.

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What We Like

  • Full-featured toolkit with elegant presentation in the XMind Zen product.

  • Desktop and mobile apps — with compatible file types.

What We Don't Like

  • Two versions: XMind 8 and XMind Zen, with different features and price points.

  • Subscription model, or (large) one-time license fee.

This is an interesting site, which even offers a Mind Map Library community for sharing mind map templates you have found useful. Export to Microsoft Excel and more.

Like others on this list, XMind is available in a free or premium version.

A Final Thought on How Software Aids Brainstorming

You have likely heard that while brainstorming, you should turn off the editor or critic in your head, whether you are are generating ideas personally or with a group.

Mind mapping or brainstorming software makes that process even easier because you can get all your good and bad ideas out on paper, then evaluate and edit them with ease.