15 Great Mindmapping Tools and Apps

Mindmapping is the process of drawing up diagrams that show relations between various ideas, tasks or information. For many of us this shows to actually be a way of taking notes that can be more useful than just writing down keywords or sentences like we do on a to-do list.

By drawing mind maps you actually visualize your tasks and how each task can influence each other in a better way, making your brain remember more easily and/or come up with new ideas.

The Tools

There are various tools for mindmapping out there, both free and paid versions. In this article I will focus solely the free options. The apps are not in any particular order. I will simply mention 15 apps I’ve tried and found interesting, then you can see which one(s) could be most interesting for you.

The ones that require any installation, can be run on all platforms that support Java unless something else is specified. Most of these apps are web applications, making it even easier to use them anywhere from any web browser.

Freemind ↓

Freemind

I found the application quick to install and very easy to understand, – which is probably why it is one of the more popular.

You can download Freemind here.

Xmind ↓

Xmind

Xmind has a more professional business-like look compared to FreeMind. Also available in a “pro” version with several customizable features, like brainstorming mode.

You can download Xmind here.

Bubbl.US ↓

Bubbl.US

Web application. Without an account you begin brainstorming right away and are able to print or save your mind map as a jpeg or png. Sign up (free) to be able to save the mind map for later use.

MindMeister ↓

MindMeister

A web application with several options; there’s a free account and several commercial options. Very simple to understand and use, also comes as an iPhone application.

Freeplane ↓

Freeplane
This is a fork/redesign of earlier mentioned FreeMind with many extra features.

You can download Freeplane here.

Mind42.com ↓

Mind42
Browser based mindmapping tool. Colorful and intuitive with great possibilities to sharing with others. Requires free registration.

Bookvar ↓

Bookvar
This one is Windows only. Easy to use and collaborate, you can insert many different file types to your projects/maps as well.

You can download Bookvar here.

Thinkature ↓

Thinkature
Web application with instant messaging/voice chat. Extremely versatile. (unfortunately the Thinkature site seems to be down at the moment)

Map Myself (aka Mapul) ↓

Map Myself
This web application creates completely organic looking mind maps. Many ways to customize, including adding images.

Dabbleboard ↓

Dabbleboard
This is an online whiteboard that makes collaborations easy and fun. Great for making easy mind maps, organization charts and other diagrams. Draw freehand, add pictures or let the application recognize shapes you draw.

Wisemapping ↓

Wisemapping
Powerful yet simple web application with easy sharing and embedding to your own website.

Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) ↓

Visual Understanding Environment
Flexible and simple. Definitely one of the applications I found the easiest to start creating in.

Download VUE here.

Ekspenso ↓

Ekspenso
Web based application that can also be used offline via Gears or Adobe Air. Very easy to use without any bells and whistles.

Edraw MindMap / Free Mind Map ↓

Edraw MindMap
A windows only vector based favorite with some really good templates and examples to work from.

Edraw can be downloaded here.

ThinkGraph ↓

ThinkGraph
2d drawings specialized for mindmapping and related tasks. Hasn’t been updated for some time but very easy and intuitive to use. (parts of the site are in French)

ThinkGraph can be downloaded here.

Conclusion


There is a jungle of mindmapping tools out there. I have tested dozens of different ones over the past few weeks. It’s hard to call any of the tools good or bad as I believe it is a lot about personal preferences.

My tip to you is to try out a couple of different ones to see which one feels best to use for your purpose. Even though some of these tools may look very similar, the user experience is quite different from one tool to the other.

Hopefully one of these 15 tools mentioned here could be the one tool you’ve been looking for ;)

Comments

  1. says

    Hilde,

    First let me say great posting and summary of the apps you mention. However, I would have to say that you forgot Mindjet MindManager. As one of the founding mind mapping software companies and programs I thought I would put this one on your radar. I do work for Mindjet but I thought I would add just one more to your list.

    Thanks.

  2. says

    I’m in no way affiliated with Mindjet MindManager, but after doing some research last year I came to the conclusion that it was the best bet for me. I haven’t looked back. I’m shocked it’s not at the top of the list here :)

  3. says

    @Garrett Scott: hehe, it’s cool. MindManager does look like it’s a very nice tool, but for this post we wanted to focus on the free options :)

  4. Patrick says

    MindMeister iPhone app is $6.99.

    I was hoping it’d be free, since it got listed with the freebie mindmapping tools.

    Oh well. Nice article though! :)

  5. Jean Stephan says

    Nice site, have you saw “personal brain” …www.thebrain.com
    good luck
    Jean

  6. says

    Great summary! I agree that at the top of the list should be MindManager (www.mindjet.com) This is the most effective tool out there! One other point: it has been around and in businesses the longest. When I started mind mapping in 1999, this was THE ONLY MAPPING SOFTWARE business professionals used.

    It is fun to see so many tools out there now! Mind Mapping is becoming a tool that everyone must have in their tool-kits!

    BTW: Tony Buzan also has a mapping tool called iMindMap. I have this tool and find it is great for visual mind maps, however for ease of use and effective business application MindManager trumps this tool for sure!

    Continue to transform your thinking with mind mapping!

    regards,

    Britta

  7. ian morton says

    After trying a few, and suffering on the iPhone, I can recommend iThoughts on the iPad; well worth a few dollars, it can import export to most formats, sync into the cloud and finally has a useable platform.

    ianM

  8. says

    i agree with Matthew Niederberger.
    MindNode is imo the best of all these tools.
    one of the reasons i bought a mac as a concept developer is MindNode!

  9. says

    I have been using FreeMind for 2 years now. It has helped me keep my ideas organized, especially when it comes to putting together presentations. I gotta check out FreePlane since its a fork from FreeMind. :)

    Thanks for this great post.

  10. says

    Jungle is an under statement. There are TONS of mind mapping SW tools out there. Still, XMind is easy to learn how to use and while it doesn’t have all the bells & whistles, its more than adequate for 99% of what most of us need to do for a process mapping tool.

  11. says

    I echo the previous sentiments about MindNode. Even the free version is extremely capable and produces very nice looking mindmaps.

  12. says

    Thanks for sharing this great list. It includes most of the valuable mind mapping tools on the market. I wonder if you had a chance to try Seavus DropMind™ http://dropmind.com? It is represented by the desktop platform friendly solution and online application created in Silverlight. The online application includes free model also. The latest version 2.0 was released in April and includes a set of new features, which i would like to believe that bring this tool on a very higher level.

    I hope you’ll consider trying it and I would love to hear your feedback.

    Have a great day,
    Natalija

  13. says

    Congratulations about the list.
    There are great tools listed here.
    Actually I use the MindOmo.com web based tool. I think its greater than other in the list.
    Best regards,
    Vinicius

  14. says

    Thanks for a great list. I have been using Mindmanager previously, a great tool. Recently I have felt the need for web based tool so at the moment I am using Mindmeister which is excellent.
    Still, all of these mindmaps are static – they all revolve around a startpoint. The Brain (www.thebrain.com) is a dynamic mindmap without a given center. When you move around in the “plex” (mindmap) focus shifts along the way. It might take some time to get used to it but once you get the hang of it you start to find connections you didn’t realized where there. A great software. Surprised that it is not more known.

  15. says

    I’ll give another shout out to MindNode (MindNode Pro) for Mac.

    http://www.mindnode.com/

    Simple and elegant, yet very powerful.

    Whether you’re throwing some ideas down quickly or compiling a fully annotated mind map, MindNode makes the whole thing a simple and enjoyable (!) process.

    Definitely one of my favourite Mac apps :)

  16. Jason Johnson says

    Is there a mindmap tool that is on the iPad/iPhone and on the PC and syncs to the cloud? MindJet can do it but the PC and Web versions are a crazy $300!

  17. says

    Thanks for this list. I have been using Free Mind for ages but tested some of your tools after reading your post. Really helful tools for doing organisational stuff. Cheers, Joe

  18. says

    Hi Hilde,
    Thank you for sharing this, it’s a great list. I would like to point out Seavus DropMind™. It is an excellent, easy to use and collaborative mind mapping tool and offers a variety of features. I think you should try it.
    Best regards,
    Nina

  19. says

    I love mind maps. I don’t think I was aware of programs and apps that do this. The ones I’ve done, I’ve done on my own in Adobe Illustrator (mostly playing with text) and one by hand (text with and emphasis on image). I suppose I might use some of these for a rough draft, but my trademark is more personal, illustrative and hand-done. Does anyone have any examples of how they’ve used these apps and programs? I’d like to see ways to personalize these using the software mentioned.

  20. says

    Hi All,

    I hate to burst your bubble, but none of these are Mind Maps, WITH the exception of MAPMYself, which is true to mid mapping. The rest are versions of conceptual mapping and are not natural, free flowing, organic maps.

    Good luck with those other though.

    Keep Smiling,

    Tom

  21. Oliver says

    Mindjet MindManager is a very nice tool, and I used it all the time when I was on the Windows platform and it was still reasonably priced. After switching to the Mac, I was shocked by the new price tag of $249. No single-trick-pony software is worth that, especially with free versions abound.

  22. says

    I look forward to trying many of these out. In my teaching I use CMap, a free Java-based application. And Prezi is presentation software that has mind-mapping built into the style.

  23. says

    I actually use Creately, works really well for me. But am so great I came across such an informative article. Very well done. Keep it up.

  24. says

    http://cmap.ihmc.us/ great concept mapping tool. Works for mindmaps as well. (client server/standalone/public or private) As a matter of fact i more often want to create a concept map (not spiderweb based) instead of a mindmap. Thanks for sharing this nice list!

  25. Nicmcase says

    Thanks, I found this very interesting! Especially beause you did the hard work for me :-) I will be getting my students to work through a couple to see what works best for them.

  26. Buddy says

    I used to use Mind Manager, but it seemed like their focus was on their windows product with Mac versions lagging behind. For you guys still using it has that changed?

  27. Nemu says

    i love bubbl. easiest and truely what i was looking for. heirachy notes=love. connection Sideway notes = love. hierachy(clearly not equal to)connection= asdf >w<
    also avoided freemind for a while(and all it's clones) since thought it wasn't what i was looking for (ie bubbl and even before that)but thinking again with all the diagrams i see(and being slowly humbled by lsb's existing 'mindmap' tool), maybe if i adjusted a little bit the way i drew it out, would work. just harder to read maybe =/
    so yh, that and freeplane too. what extra features? =D

    ..and also mapul–for the pretty. yepp =DD

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