15 Best Mind Mapping Software for 2020 - Free & Paid

Thursday, July 2, 2020
Christopher Sirk
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What is mind mapping software?

Human brains process visual information thousands of times faster than text. And images are indelibly tied to our long-term memories. 

Mind maps are designed to work like the human brain works. They’re visual. They’re also artistic and analytical at the same time. 

A mind map is a visual thinking tool. It lets you see the relationships between concepts and information. It lets you see hierarchy and connection.

It works like this: you choose a subject. This subject is the central core around which all other thoughts are structured. 

Then you add ideas and sub-ideas. Join branches of ideas together and add more. Structure your information so you can step back and analyze it.

Combining text, symbols, and visuals together in a mind map makes complex things easier to understand. You can see the logical progression of an idea. How you get from really simple to really dense. 

That makes it easier to think up new concepts and refine old ones.

Mind map software takes mind maps into the SaaS digital app era. They allow users to brainstorm ideas with one another online. And to do so in a non-linear way.

These digital tools put visual collaboration in the cloud. They work like an open source whiteboard, where everyone can critique and contribute. A space where the confluence of ideas can be captured.

Project managers and team members can all have a hand in project planning. Or product ideation. Or anything else to do with brainstorming and structuring ideas, really.

What makes for great mind mapping software?

Great mind mapping software is easy to use, yet powerful. It accommodates brainstorming sessions across distributed teams. Ideally, it’s free or very low-cost. 

Mind map templates are key, to save time. Diagramming tools need to be intuitive. And you may well want support for data visualization features like Gantt charts.

A drag-and-drop user interface is a must. And it should be accessible via web browser, rather than app only. That means compatibility across MacOS, Windows, and Linux 

You’ll also want your tool to have a mobile app. One that works across Android, iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices. 

A good mind mapping solution offers real-time collaboration. Like Google Docs or MS Office, you’ll be able to see any new changes instantly.

The ability to access revision history is key too. That way no single user can monopolize input. Or accidentally delete information.

A note-taking feature lets you chat about specific mind map elements. So you can give feedback and reach consensus.

And you’ll need .PDF export. As well as easy link sharing. This allows you to send your mind maps with anyone. 

Your audience won’t need to have the mind map software installed to see your work. And you’ll also be able to keep a hard copy of the mind map. For reference, for printing, or for embedding into a document or presentation.

So now you know what to look for. Here’s our list of the top 15 mind mapping apps.

Best mind mapping software

 

Coggle

Benefits:

Coggle is a dedicated mind mapping tool.  It works as a web application, designed for teams. 

The app produces hierarchical documents to help users visualize and share ideas.

From there, you can generate, analyze, and memorize ideas. Understand complex information too.

Coggle users can share mind maps with as many colleagues as they like. Several users can add or edit branches on the same diagram simultaneously. And the application automatically saves every change made.

Coggle accepts all types of information. This includes unlimited image uploads, links to files in Google Drive, text labels, and math formulas. Coggle supports markdown as well, so it's easy to add titles, links, and formatting to text.

You can share the content you create online on the Coggle website, or export them as .PNG or .PDF files.

Coggle’s flowcharts make it possible to illustrate linear work processes. You can create multiple root items and join branches together to form loops.

The free version offers full change history and unlimited public diagrams.

Drawbacks:

Customization options are limited. There’s no function for auto-arranging branches. This means really big mind maps can get messy without housekeeping.

The free version only has 3 slots for private mind maps. All other mind maps are publicly visible, which is definitely a no-no for a lot of business applications.

Pricing:

  • Free version with unlimited public diagrams and 3 private diagrams is $0 “forever.”

  • Awesome plan for personal and professional use is $5 per month, billed annually.

  • Organization plan for teams is $8 per user/per month, billed annually. 

Website: coggle.it

 

Canva

Benefits:

Canva is an online visual collaboration tool. It’s primarily built to help users deliver impressive visual materials for their brand. It’s packed with intuitive features and a vast archive of templates and images.

Canva also includes a free mind map maker. It offers 20+ professional graphs to work from. As well as many professionally designed templates. 

Canva has a clean drag-and-drop user interface. You can customize colors and fonts. And choose from a range of elements, including frames, shapes, and lines.

Add in visual elements like images, icons, and illustrations. Canva has a large library of free visual materials and over 1 million stock photos you can use. 

You can embed your mind map into a Powerpoint presentation easily. Or make it part of any other presentation mode you like. Publish, share, and download your mind map whenever you like. 

Team templates allow you to create custom, reusable designs. Your team can then use them to quickly generate new mind maps.

Drawbacks:

Tweaking templates can be clunky. One example is if a template is set up for a certain text length. You might encounter layout problems if you want the text longer.

Some elements and images aren’t free. But this isn’t clearly communicated. If there’s paid materials used, you’ll be prompted to pay when you go to download your mind map.

Pricing:

The Canva Mind Map tool is free. Below is the pricing for Canva’s full stack product.

  • Free plan for individuals and small groups is $0 “forever.”

  • Pro plan for small teams is $9.95 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise plan for large teams is $30 per user/per month, billed annually.

A free trial is available for the Pro and Enterprise plans. 

Website: canva.com

 

MURAL

Benefits:

MURAL is a human-centered visual collaboration tool. It features roadmaps, diagrams, and mind mapping tools. 

MURAL’s mind mapping template lets you organize ideas in a structured diagram. That way you can better appreciate complexity. And see conceptual connections.  

You can insert photos, text, and hyperlinks. Also videos and other multimedia. This makes for more dynamic visual documents. 

You can make comments, and give your two cents on a proposal. Align on deadlines and goals. There’s a built-in voting system so you can come to a group consensus.

There are also related brainstorming templates. A couple of examples are for storyboards and concept mapping, 

Drawbacks:

Sharing mind maps to a broad audience is harder than it needs to be. Exporting and embedding mind maps is a bit complicated.

Pricing:

  • Starter plan is $12 per user/per month, billed annually. 

  • Plus plan is $20 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise Network plan is priced on a sliding scale, contact vendor for details.

A free trial is available for the Starter and Plus plans.

Website: mural.co

 

MindMaster

Benefits: 

MindMaster is a professional-grade mind mapping app. It’s made by Edraw Soft, a company that makes a range of diagram, infographic, and data interactive charting software.

Mind maps can be built with 12 different structures. This includes radial maps, trees, fishbone diagrams, and timelines. Circle maps, sector maps, bubble maps too.

There are 33 predefined themes to work with. 700+ clip art icons as well. You can customize colors, fill, and line styles. And change item shapes.

Enrich your mind maps with interactive information. Add callouts, relationships, and marks. Hyperlinks and notes. 

A Gantt view allows you view task start and end dates. Real-time progress tracking lets you visualize tasks, and completion percentages.

MindMaster is truly cross-platform accessible. The desktop app is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Chrome. The mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices.

Drawbacks:

The app comes with a healthy number of templates. Still, there could be more. 

The free version has very limited mind map export options.Pricing:

  • Basic version is free.

  • 12-month Pro platform subscription is $49, billed annually.

  • Lifetime Pro platform subscription is $199. 

  • Desktop Pro perpetual license with 2 years of upgrades is $79.

All paid versions have a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Website: edrawsoft.com/mindmaster

 

MindNode

Benefits:

MindNode is a simple, attractive mind mapping tool.  

Add Visual Tags to elements to contextualize thoughts. This can help you group and prioritize specific types of ideas. It also lets you view related groups of ideas that aren’t obviously connected.

You can set up mind map nodes as tasks. You can sync deadlines and meetings with the Apple Reminders app. Check off completed tasks and get an automatic heads up on what’s coming.

Toggle between task, outline, and focus displays. This allows you to filter information and block out distractions. 

Task mode shows you only tasks. Those you’ve completed and are working on. And those you’ll be working on later. 

Outline mode provides a clean overview of your mind map. This allows you to see the big picture.

Focus mode lets you dive into the details, and makes giant mind maps manageable. It highlights only the branch you’re working on. This helps you finish your thoughts without getting distracted.

iOS users can benefit from the Quick Entry feature. 

The feature sits on your menu bar. It allows you to quickly jot down thoughts when inspiration comes. With the push of a button, your text can be quickly converted into a mind map.

Drawbacks:

Customization options are pretty limited. Larger, more complex mind maps can be a handful to manage.

Also, the app’s pricing is pretty much hidden on the vendor website. It’s clear they want users to download the app for free and get hooked. But more transparency would be nice.

Pricing:

  • MindNode Free Editor with basic features is free.

  • MindNode Plus is $19.99 per year billed annually, and $2.49 per month billed monthly.

A 14-day free trial is available for MindNode Plus.

Website: mindnode.com

 

Mindly

Benefits:

Mindly is designed to help you “organize your inner universe.” It’s a free mind mapping app, available for Mac OS/X and Android/iOS mobile devices. 

The app helps you capture ideas and break down big ones. It’s also good for designing workflows and project management. 

Its minimalist UX is attractive, and easy to use. Mind maps are colorful and pop out on a neutral background. You can attach notes to elements, as well as pictures. 

Share your mind maps with team members and others easily. Send them to other Mindly users as they are. Or export them as text, image, OPML or .PDF files. 

Drawbacks:

Lack of control over elements. You can’t arrange elements with any great precision. And erasing elements is also a pain. 

It’s an elegant, minimal app. But it lacks advanced features and integrations. It’s great for personal or small group use, but probably not sufficient for bigger businesses.

Pricing:

  • Mindly is free.

  • Mindly Plus is $6.99.

Website: mindlyapp.com

 

Draw.io

Benefits:

Draw.io is a diversely featured visual collaboration tool. It’s useful for brainstorm sessions, designing flow charts, and visualizing work processes.

You can select multiple shapes manually, or use the powerful context menu to save time. Insert shapes and automatically connect them. 

Drag sub-trees as a unit. Change layouts for the diagram or specific sub-trees. It’s easy to arrange and rearrange your mind maps on the fly.

The app supports unified modeling language (UML) and org charts. It has a large variety of shapes and chart styles.

It also integrates smoothly with Google Drive. And you can export mind maps and diagrams as image files. 

Drawbacks:

The interface is a bit complex, and there’s a lot of menus and options. When starting out, you may have a tough time finding specific features. 

Pricing:

  • Cloud plan for up to 10 users is $5 per month, billed annually.

  • Cloud plan for up to 20 users is $10 per month, billed annually.

  • Cloud plan for up to 50 users is $25 per month, billed annually. 

 

Above prices are for SaaS solutions. Server and Data Center plans are also available. 

Website: drawio-app.com

 

XMind

Benefits:

A full-fledged mind mapping and brainstorming app. Intended to generate ideas and speed creativity. Helps remotely distributed teams stay productive and in sync. 

Each branch of your mind map can use its own structure. That includes logic charts, matrix, and tree charts. This means you can create dynamic diagrams, expressing different kinds of information in one view.

XMind includes org charts, timelines, matrix, and fishbone charts. You can visualize casual relationships and also do in-depth comparative analysis. Keep track of milestones chronologically, and schedule activities in-app as well.

There’s an image export feature for snapshot and easy sharing. A theme editor lets you customize mind maps and make them visually engaging.

Drawbacks: 

XMind can run slowly sometimes. Especially when your mind map reaches a certain size. This can happen even on hi-spec computers.

Also, the app’s pricing model is not exactly intuitive. And there’s no low-cost entry point into the app. You have to commit to 6 months right off the bat. 

Pricing:

  • Six-month plan is $39.99, billed bi-annually. 

  • Annual plan is $59.99, billed annually. 

  • Xmind 8 Pro for lifelong use is $129 (one license can be used on 2 Macs/PCs).

For the subscription plans: one license can run on 5 Macs/PCs and 5 iOS/Android devices. There is no free trial available. 

Website: xmind.net

 

Lucidchart

Benefits:

Lucidchart is billed as a “visual workspace for remote teams.” It’s built for real-time collaboration with data visualization tools, diagrams, and whiteboards.

As far as mind maps are concerned, Lucidchart offers many options. You can create a mind map from a template, or build one from scratch. Select a shape library for mind maps and begin working.

The UX allows you to easily customize color and layout. 

You can also import mind map outlines from .txt files. Lucidchart recognizes tab or space-indented text outlines. It automatically recognizes ideas and sub-topics to generate a mind map.

It integrates with Slack too. 

Just grant access permissions to Slack, then use the /lucidchart command in your chat. This will create a link to a new blank Lucidchart diagram. 

You can also use Lucidchart’s Share dialog to send WIP or complete diagrams to Slack channels. Or to specific Slack users.

Considering the wealth of features offered, Lucidchart is very fairly priced.

Drawbacks:

Sometimes the automatic line drawing is a bit wonky. Resulting in line shapes that aren’t visually appealing or intuitive. 

The app’s system for managing user images is also not super developed. It can sometimes be a slog to search for images you’ve uploaded.

Finally, the app has a bigger learning curve than you might expect. UX features don’t hide the app’s features for new users. Pricing:

  • Basic plan for a single user is free.

  • Individual plan for a single user is $7.95 per user/per month, billed annually. 

  • Team plan for business is $27 for 3 users/per month, billed annually. Additional users can be added for a higher per-month cost (ex. 15 users for $135 per month/billed annually). 

  • Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with the vendor. 

A free trial is available for the Individual and Team plans. 

Website: lucidchart.com

 

Cacoo

Benefits:

Cacoo is a cloud-based collaborative tool. 

It allows you to create and edit diagrams in real-time, with multi-user editing. Comment in-app and receive activity notifications. Access revision history to check work.

The app is targeted at all kinds of teams. Product management and design, development, project management, and marketing. Accordingly it’s developed to be flexible and adaptable to different work contexts.

Cacoo includes a wide variety of mind mapping templates. For problem-solving, brainstorming, and note-taking.

Put together wireframe mockups for project and product ideas. There’s also flowcharts, network diagrams, Venn diagrams, and more.

Support for dynamic charts is included. You can import data from Excel files or other spreadsheets. Or just input your data directly into the app. 

Export your mind maps in hi-res, as .SVG, .PDF, PowerPoint, and PostScript files. 

A range of hyper-useful integrations are available. Some key ones include Dropbox, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Drawbacks:

The free plan has very limited export options. You’ll need to invest in the paid version if you intend to share mind maps.

The app can run a bit slow sometimes, particularly on mobile devices. 

Pricing:

  • A basic free plan is available.

  • The full plan is $5 per user/per month billed annually, and $6 per user/per month billed monthly. 

Website: cacoo.com

 

Mindomo

Benefits:

Mindomo is a dedicated mind mapping app. It’s intended for workplace, education, and personal use. 

The app’s tools improve brainstorming and strategic planning. They’re intended to encourage out-of-box thinking and aid problem solving and decision making.

Take advantage of your team’s collective creativity. Exchange opinions and work on the go. Invite external collaborators to shake things up. 

Plan ahead by creating clear roadmaps. You can break down every distinct stage of your work processes. 

Identify goals. List the step-by-step tasks need to be accomplished to attain them. Identify which team members should be assigned to which task. 

A hashtag feature allows you to tag ideas. You can then order and filter them. This helps with planning and keeping track of elements. 

The app has offline sync, so you can work without Wi-Fi. Changes will be auto-synced when you get back online.  

Drawbacks:

UX is functional, but not the most eye-pleasing. Customization options are limited.

Pricing:

  • Basic version (limit of 3 mind maps) is free. 

  • Premium plan for single user is $6 per month, billed annually.

  • Professional plan for a single user + guests is $15 per month, billed annually.

  • Team plan for 5+ users is $25 per month billed annually (i.e. $5 per user/per month).

No free trial is available for paid plans. However, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Website: mindomo.com

 

MindManager

Benefits:

MindManager is a virtual whiteboard for knowledge organization. It’s useful for project management, process analysis, and knowledge transfer. 

See the big picture and magnify down to the smallest details. Capture, organize, and contextualize ideas and information. Drag topics and draw connections. 

Manage your ideas from brainstorming to implementation. Take the best ideas and turn them into tasks.

Integrate organizational information in one place. Track priorities, resources, and deadlines within a shared visual environment. Get rid of task duplication and limit miscommunication. 

You can stick notes, links, and files next to the appropriate elements for easy access.

Drawbacks:

The app requires a one-time, large sum financial commitment. Startups and small businesses might find this too daunting. 

Pricing:

  • MindManager 2020 For Windows - Perpetual License is $349. 

  • MindManager 2020 for Mac 13 - Perpetual License is $349. 

A 30-day free trial is available. 

Website: mindjet.com/mindmanager

 

Ayoa

Benefits:

Ayoa combines mind mapping and task management. 

Speed mind maps let you work quickly. This is very useful when a deadline is looming. 

Input ideas into box branches. Then customize branches by look and feel. Add images and icons, and change the color of elements and text.

Collaborate in-app by inviting team members. Vote on ideas and reach consensus quickly. Increase turnaround time on projects, especially for remotely distributed teams.

Branches can be turned into tasks. You can assign them to specific team members. Then add files, notes, and due dates. 

Organic mind maps are for less time-sensitive idea generation. Expand from a central idea and build out unlimited branches. Customize colors and add images and files.

In addition, there’s a “branch voting” feature. This lets you see which ideas resonate most with your team and other stakeholders. A thumbs up icon will be displayed next to the branch idea, along with the number of votes.

Also included are radial maps for brainstorming. Structure goals and ideas as a visual piece chart. Adjust the size of segments to determine task importance.

You can share your mind maps publicly. Just set permissions to “public.” This ensures you can collaborate with external parties when planning events, meetings, or projects.

Drawbacks:

Restrictions on attachment file size are limiting. Sharing large files in-app isn’t possible. 

There’s no way to assign multiple tasks to a team member. You have to assign tasks one-by-one, which can be time consuming. 

Pricing:

  • Basic version with a limit of 5 mind maps is free. 

  • Advanced plan with unlimited mind maps $10 per user/per month, billed annually. 

  • Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with the vendor. 

A 30-day free trial is available for teams of 20 users or more.

Website: ayoa.com

 

GitMind

Benefits:

GitMind is a free, cloud-based mind mapping and flowchart tool. It’s designed to spark creativity and boost productivity. 

Create mind maps from free, editable templates. There’s a bunch available, covering everything from marketing strategy to performance review. Apart from classic mind maps, there’s logic charts, UML diagrams, and more.

Elements are customizable. Add images, hyperlinks, and comments as you like. Change style parameters like text font, color, and size.

Toggle between outline view and mind maps. This lets you systematically work through processes. Export completed mind maps in .PDF, .TXT, and .SVG formats.

Save your work and sync it across devices automatically. 

Drawbacks:

The app is not super visually engaging. 

A lot of templates are available. However, there isn’t a huge amount of stylistic variation. 

Pricing:

  • GitMind is free.

Website: gitmind.com

 

Bubbl.us

Benefits:

Easy-to-use, browser-based mind mapping software. Bubbl.us helps you organize ideas visually. It’s useful for note taking, brainstorming, project collaboration, and presentation planning. 

The app’s minimalist UX helps you stay on task and avoid distractions. It’s clean and simple. Visible buttons are kept to only the essentials.

Create teams, add team members, and manage roles. Centralize your mind mapping in one place. 

Choose a custom domain address on bubble.us website. Add company info, task instructions, or welcome text to your landing page. 

Generate quick links for easy invites. Delegate admin roles and set managers for groups. Retain member account information, so that if a member leaves your organization you still have the work they did. 

You can easily share your mind maps via link or on social media. There’s also a ‘one-click presentation’ option. This lets you show your mind map full-screen.

Drawbacks:

Selecting multiple items is not very intuitive. You can’t easily group a cluster of items to move all at once. Changing colors can also be time consuming.

The app’s UX feels dated, and could use a makeover. 

Pricing:

  • Basic plan (up to 3 mind maps) is free. 

  • Premium plan is $4.91 per user/per month, billed annually as $59.

  • Team plan for 3 users is $14.75 per user/per month, billed annually as $177.

A 30-day free trial is available for the Premium and Team plans.

Website: bubbl.us

 

 

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