Versions of mind maps existed throughout history, some of which have been traced as far back as the 3rd century. The term ‘mind map’ however was recently popularized in the 1970s by English author and education consultant Tony Buzan. According to Buzan, mind maps are naturally more effective than traditional linear outlines because readers view diagrams in a non-linear fashion. He explained that mind mapping is a technique based on memory, creativity, and comprehensive understanding. It is a more effective learning aid because with mind maps, students are using their brain the way it is designed to be used, according to Buzan.
What is mind mapping software?
Mind mapping software allows you to create diagrams to visually structure your ideas in a non-linear, graphical layout. Ready-to-use shapes that represent tasks, words, and other items can be linked to build a framework around a central concept or subject.
Mind mapping can be done using pen and paper or other writing instruments. Digitally, it is done using mind mapping software. This visual activity is easy to do and can be done for any purpose, whether brainstorming for ideas, planning projects, setting company goals, or finding a solution to a problem. Mind mapping using software rather than pen and paper also gives several advantages. You can start with a virtually unlimited canvass. It is easier and cleaner to edit and make changes. The software is collaboration-ready for multiple simultaneous users and has built-in visual formatting and diagramming tools.
Typical features of mind mapping software
The best mind mapping software provides a graphical drag-and-drop interface for ease of use. It offers a flexible workspace with a library of shapes, symbols, lines, charts, images, keywords, and diagrams to choose from. The software allows a certain degree of customization so that shapes, colors, and other visual components can be changed. Teams can collaborate using mind map tools to make simultaneous multiple edits, post comments, and add attachments to their mind maps.
Top mind mapping software and tools
To help you find the right mindmap software, we created a list of the top solutions based on multiple reviews, features, customer feedback, and market ranking. It is not a comprehensive list but includes some of the choices of top companies and organizations.
SmartDraw is a diagramming software that includes an automated mind mapping tool. Create visually-appealing mind maps to brainstorm new ideas, run meetings, organize information, and plan projects. The software has intelligent formatting features by clicking simple commands. It also has professional design themes, automated icons, is collaboration ready, and integrates with many popular apps such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs and Sheets, Trello, Confluence, and Jira.
MindMup is an online mind mapping software with free and premium plans. The mind map maker is designed to help users focus on ideas without getting distracted by the software. The free plan lets users create unlimited mind maps for free, save them on online cloud storage, and access them from different devices. The software can be applied to help users in their writing, storyboards, social media, and project management. They can also attach documents and add images.
Diagrams.net is a free open source diagram software and flowchart maker that can be used online or downloaded to the desktop. Formerly draw.io, diagram files created with the software can be shared easily with others, has professional diagramming tools included, and lets you choose where you store your diagrams. Ready-to-use templates are available across different categories. For maps, it has a couple of concept map templates, mind map templates, and a site map template available.
Xmind is a fully-featured brainstorming and mind mapping software. One plan lets you run the software on five Mac/PC desktops and five iOS/Android mobile devices. Plans are billed every six months or annually. Some of the features included are an outliner view ideal for managing lists and tasks, a theme editor for customizing preference, shapes, lines, and colors, a smart and easy-to-use UI, and image exporting.
Ayoa is a productivity software that includes mind mapping software and tools, task management, and chat. Mind maps in the software are paired with task management tools that makes it ideal for project management and other use cases. It is also used for brainstorming, presentation, notes taking, and problem solving. The software includes a collaborative white board, Gantt timeline view, visual task management, and instant messaging.
Coggle is a simple collaborative mind mapping and flowcharting software. You can produce beautiful notes quickly and share them with friends and teammates. It is an online tool that works with a web browser. Features include real-time collaboration, version history, image attachments, floating texts and images, loops, branches, and multiple starting points.
Milanote is an organizational tool for creatives. It is easy to use for organizing ideas and projects into visual boards. The software lets you organize ideas into collaborative mind maps. It also has tools for writing notes and to-do lists, uploading images and files, and saving texts, images, and links from the web. A mobile app lets you add notes and texts while on the go, which syncs to your computer to let you organize them together with your other work.
MindMeister is an online mind mapping software that works with any device. It allows users to capture, develop, and share ideas visually. Collaboration features let teams see changes in the mind map immediately. It also has a built-in presentation mode, integration with Meistertask online task and project management app, customizable designs, and allows for multimedia file attachments.
Lucidchart is an online diagram software with mind map app features. Mind mapping is easy to do with the software. You can import text files or write outlines in the software and then auto-convert them to mind maps. Export it afterward in PDF, JPEG or PNG formats. Collaboration is possible with real-time updates, in-line editing, and chat features. Maps can be shared, embedded on a wiki, used presentation mode, or integrated with Slides, Confluence, or Slack.
Miro is an online collaboration platform for teams that includes online mind mapping software. Teams are able to capture, organize, and structure their ideas. It has an infinite virtual whiteboard that can be used for user story mapping, agile planning, design iteration, and visual project management. Features include hotkeys for quick actions, multiple design styles, one-click auto arrange, presentation mode, and integration to over 20 productivity apps.