5 Best Mind Mapping Software Tools To Try Out — Which One Suits You Most?

5 Best Mind Mapping Software Tools To Try Out — Which One Suits You Most?
07 January, 2023 • ... • 1526 views
Alexey Baguzin
by Alexey Baguzin

Sometimes you have an idea that is too big to keep in sight entirely. It might be relatively straightforward, such as what to write your next blog post about. It might also be more nuanced: a growth strategy for stakeholders or an advertising campaign for customer acquisition.

There are a myriad of things you might need to consider before finalizing your idea, but these things won’t become obvious until you write them down. Which keywords should you target to rank higher? Will your growth strategy require a short-term financial hit? Will an ad campaign provide good return on investment? To answer these questions you’ll need to create a mind map to think about all the details.

What is mind mapping (software)?

Mind mapping allows you to visualize and structure your ideas and strategies using an endless canvas. It’s a great way to get your thoughts in order or map out a strategy. It can come in handy when working on a team project, with contributions coming in from all directions, or when laying out a growth strategy for stakeholders. It can even do wonders if you are a freelance copywriter writing a new article.

Now, you can do it with a pen-and-paper approach but there are problems:

  1. If your idea grows beyond the original A4/A5 you picked, you’re in trouble.
  2. It’s hard to edit connecting ideas without making a mess.
  3. If you lose that bit of paper, your idea’s visualization is gone.

Entre, mind mapping software. Sensing an opportunity to help people keep track of their ideas, numerous developers created apps to help them out. And then the concept shifted to helping groups of people work on joint ideas. We sometimes call these people colleagues.

Benefits of using mind mapping tools

  1. It makes map creation easier

When relying on a pan and paper, it might be hard to add new ideas; deleting irrelevant ideas is impossible; editing current ones is messy. Software tools make it all much easier.

  1. It allows for collaboration

Most tools allow you to work on the same mind map at the same time regardless of your team members’ location (handy in today’s remote-work-dominated world). Most apps also allow you to export and share created files.

  1. It offers extra perks

Cloud syncing, Gantt charts, map templates and Scrum-specific features are among those you might need at some point. And I’m just scratching the surface here in terms of functionality.

  1. It integrates with other apps

Not insignificant, if you already have a tech stack in place at your company. Miro, for example, integrates with tools like Slack, Jira, Zoom and even Figma. This allows the app to seamlessly slot into an existing structure.

How to choose the best mind mapping software

It all depends on what goals you pursue when picking the “best” mind mapping software tool.

A project manager at KPMG will probably pick something vastly different from a freelance blogger sitting at home in his PJs (no hard feelings, freelance bloggers — I’m one myself). Here are the most important questions you should answer when deciding which tool to pick.

  1. Is it intuitive to use?

It’s easy to get a pen and paper and start drawing, so it’s only reasonable to expect mind mapping software to follow suit. Remember it’s just a tool for your team/project at hand, a means to channel creativity and brainstorm ideas. An app should not be slowing the process down.

  1. Does it fit your or your company’s needs?

In short, you should decide which features are essential for the work you are doing, and which are nice-to-haves but ultimately expendable. Budget is also a consideration here. Depending on how much you can spend, going for a free version and upgrading it later on might be the way to go.

  1. Does it integrate with your company’s tech stack?

While some whiteboard and visualization tools might boast a wider set of features, they’ll be of little use if you can’t properly use the app within your company’s existing ecosystem.

If, for example, you use Asana and Teams in your day-to-day, then you’ll need something like Miro or Mural as your mind-mapping friend — because Mind Meister, for example, won’t work with Asana.

The best mind mapping tools on the market right now

I’ve looked up the most popular mind mapping software on Capterra and added a sprinkle of my own judgment. Below are the tools that made our cut.

Miro’s homepage
Source: Miro

Miro offer a wide set of features which can help with brainstorming, map creation, diagramming, organizing meetings, workshops & scrums — and even project planning. 99% of the Fortune 100 trust it, while teams at HP, Upwork and Cisco use it day-to-day.

Key features:

  • Real-time collaboration: members of your team will be able to work on the same project simultaneously.
  • Ease of communication: there are built-in video calls, a chat, mentions and comments.
  • Infinite canvas: that’s what we came here for, isn’t it? Create a mind map as big as you like.
  • Presentation mode: switch between creation and presentation, break up your charts/maps into slides.
  • Integrations: integrate Miro into your tech stack — the tool supports 100+ apps, such as Slack, Jira, Teams and Figma.
Pros Cons
Unlimited canvas Visitors & guests can only contribute on paid plans
Built-in communication features Only 3 boards provided on free accounts
Free plan available Can’t export to PDF in HQ on free plans
Intuitive setup

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.7 (914)

Pricing: there’s a free forever plan (limited to 3 boards and no collaboration options). Paid plans start at $8 per user per month.

Lucidspark

Another popular whiteboard solution, labeled “an intelligent diagramming application” by the creators themselves. Team collaboration management is quite easy with Lucidspark, and it also goes along with project and workflow planning.

Lucidspark’s homepage
Source: Lucidspark

Here’s the rundown of Lucidspark’s key features:

  • Ideation and brainstorming: capture ideas using sticky notes, free-drawing tools and an infinite canvas.
  • Teamwork and collaboration: empower efficient teamwork with in-app chat, voting on ideas, timers to keep things moving and “call-to-me” function so everyone stays focused on the same project.
  • Organization and evaluation: tag & group items, share feedback and create presentation-ready docs — all to transform your ideas into an actionable strategy or a workflow.
  • Sprint & scrum planning: keep every member of your team on the same page when planning sprints or discussing work.
Pros Cons
Cloud-based solution, accessible from every device Doesn’t work offline
Allows easy import from other apps (like Excel and Salesforce) Offers limited template options
Integrates with some major apps: Zoom, Slack, Jira, Notion and Google Workspace Some users complain collaboration features are lacking

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.7 (338)

Pricing: there’s a free plan with 3 boards and free-hand drawing, while team plans start at $9 for a user per month. There’s an individual plan for $7.95 too, if you only need the tool for yourself.

MindMeister

Simply put, with 25 million users all over the world, it’s another hugely popular mind mapping tool. Before you ask, Miro boasts to have 45 million clients, and Lucidspark over 8 million.

What makes MindMeister stand out are rich style customization options, the Outline feature (which converts maps into bulleted lists and back again) and the Focus Mode (which removes distractions by hiding menus, icons and everything else but the mind map itself).

Mindmeister homepage
Source: MindMeister

Here are the key features MindMeister does offer though:

  • Decent collaboration: brainstorm ideas with your team, add comments and reactions and restore previous versions of the maps when needed.
  • Rich styling options and templates gallery: even on the official website the styling options for your mind maps are given two separate sections. Designers’ joy.
  • Outline and Focus modes: convert maps into lists and limit distractions when working on a project to a deadline.
  • Ease of export, file attachment: add files of your choice to mind maps, download maps as PDF, PowerPoint or printable options.
Pros Cons
Intuitive interface Very few integrations: only Teams and Google Workspace
Allows to add attachments and comments/reactions to maps If you go a step back on your mind map, formatting will get lost
Cheap plans compared to Miro and LucidSpark

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.7 (231)

Pricing: the free plan comes with customary 3 maps, but allows for team collaboration straight away. $4.19 per user per month gives you the full package to work as a team; $2.49 is an exciting option for individuals.

Ayoa

There are several things which make Ayoa an interesting choice from a functional point of view.

Firstly, they claim to use AI to power their mind maps. This enables the app to basically expand mind maps with little input from you: once you click on a block, a drop-down menu offers you 3 options: ideas, questions and explanations. All 3 are sourced from the Internet and help you quickly grow your mind map. The AI can even brainstorm ideas this way.

Secondly, Ayoa allows you to purchase not only mind maps, but tasks and to-do lists as part of one bundle, empowering you to use it as a workflow and management tool as well.

Finally, Aoya’s mind maps can come in several interesting shapes: speed maps (which allow you to quickly create maps from scratch), radial maps (think pie charts), capture maps, and organic maps.

Ayoa offers speed maps, radial maps, capture maps and organic maps
Source: Ayoa

But there’s a trade-off: very few integrations, no free plan, more expensive subscriptions than on Miro, Lucidspark and most definitely MindMeister. However, let’s focus on what Ayoa does offer first.

Key features:

  • Easy collaboration: there are built-in video calls with team members and even the option to publicly share your ideas with people who don’t have an account. Amazingly, I found nothing to suggest members can add stuff like attachments though. And no chat option either.
  • Interesting map types: speed maps empower to work quicker, radial maps are a unique touch among competitors, and you can create Gantt charts as well.
  • Tasks and to-do lists: it’s a project management system as much as a platform for idea creation and curation.
Pros Cons
The only tool that features AI No free plan, just a 7-day trial
Mind mapping and project management rolled into one Few integrations (Evernote, Dropbox and Zoom are the most prominent available)
Interesting map options, such as radial and speed maps Limited collaboration functionality despite some fun options (e.g. video calls and public sharing)
You can only export mind maps as PDFs
Pretty expensive for a quite limited app

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.5 (203)

Pricing: mind maps and tasks can be purchased as standalone options (you won’t get AI in this case though), at $10 per user per month. A bundle at $13 per month would make much more sense, but I’d probably give this one a wide berth in lieu of better and cheaper alternatives.

Mural

Another interesting collab tool which offers mind mapping and whiteboards. Aside from the fact it’s trusted by some of the biggest players on the field (IBM and GitHub to name a few), Mural has some interesting perks.

Firstly, it works together with the LUMA Institute — an organization whose main aim is to improve how teams work together. So when you are opting for Mural, you are also getting access to a platform which can actually pump up your coworkers’ expertise with courses, certificates and other digital resources.

Mural works with LUMA
Source: Mural

And secondly, Mural’s free version allows full visual work collaboration for your team members — and allows you to use all of the tool’s templates. Not too shabby.

Here’s what else Mural has under the hood:

  • Rich collaboration options: easy access sharing with one link, commenting, chatting in-app and quick voice calls. Members can also add sticky notes and texts.
  • Interesting facilitation features: like Lucidspark, Mural has a timer to limit work on the idea and a call-to-me option. Unlike Lucidspark, Mural has a private mode (to hide separate contributions and prevent groupthink), lock mode (to make parts of the map uneditable) and outline mode (to hide the next steps of the process).
  • Plentiful integrations: Asana, Jira, Slack, Figma, Notion, Google Workspace, Teams — Mural work with all of them.
Pros Cons
Good collab options (although seemingly no way to attach files) In-app chat only comes in a paid plan
LUMA Institute training as part of the package There is no mention Mural can be used as a presentation tool: exporting as PowerPoint is limited only to Outlines but not Mind Maps
Access to all templates and visual collab features on free plan Some users complain is app is not very intuitive
Brilliant facilitation options, such as private mode
Loads of integrations

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.5 (102)

Pricing: it’s definitely the best option for teams to do collaborative work without paying the price of subscription. Sure, it’s limited to 3 templates (murals) and no chat is a bummer — but no other app comes close to offering such a rich collab for free. If you decide you need unlimited murals, unrestricted user access and the in-app chat for colleagues, you’ll have to cough up $9.99 per user month.

XMind

XMind reminds us of Ayoa to an extent, in that they offer some pretty cool ways to visualize your mind mapping efforts. Their interface looks slick, they offer some cool features, like Pitch Mode (for easily switching to presentation mode) and Zen Mode (which allows to hide all side panels) and they are trusted by a bunch of big companies, such as Amazon, Barclays and Visa. However, the collaboration features seem to be lacking entirely.

XMind’s homepage
Source: XMind
Pros Cons
Works on all major platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android) There are paid plans for teams, but I found no mention collaboration in real-time is possible
Feature some cool ways to visualize ideas (tree chart, timeline, fish bone, etc.) XMind seemingly doesn’t have any integrations with other apps either
Zen Mode and Pitch Mode help remove distractions and make presentations easier
The free plan supports unlimited maps, including all the cool ones
Mind maps can easily be exported

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.5 (89)

Pricing: there is a free plan, and a Pro plan which will cost $5,99 per month or $59,99 annually, with a discount. Plus there are separate pricing plans for students and organizations.

Creately

Creately position themselves as the “world’s first work management platform that runs on a smart visual canvas”. Their main focus is on organizing data into visually-appealing and structured forms. Creately are used by 8M+ people, and some serious companies (like Intel, Netflix and Facebook) trust it.

Creately’s homepage
Source: Creately
Pros Cons
Aside from mind maps, there are flowcharts, org charts and different diagrams you can use No discernable presentation capabilities
There are integrations available with Microsoft and Google apps, Slack and GitHub too on more expensive plans List of integrations is not particularly impressive
Real-time collaboration (including commenting) even on a free plan In-app video conferencing is only available on Enterprise plan
Export in PDF, SVG, PPT

Capterra rating (number of reviews): 4.3 (158)

Pricing: there’s a free plan with 3 unlimited canvas (and 60 objects combined), a starter plan for $5 per user per month, a business plan for $89 per month (regardless of the number of users) and an enterprise plan that can be suited for your company’s needs.

Wrapping up

Mind mapping tools allow your ideas to run free without fear of losing them. They allow you to visualize these ideas, branch them out and create connections you might not have thought of before. And dump your brain in the process: it’s an important consideration and one of the main reasons we revert to mind mapping.

Mind mapping software makes ideation easier, allows to work jointly on projects, and can come with a handful of other features, such as workflow organization and useful integrations.

Picking one option among the sea of alternatives is not simple, there are literally dozens of apps, but I hope the in-depth analysis above will make things easier for you.

07 January, 2023
Article by
Alexey Baguzin
Alex has an master's in Journalism, a keen interest in eCommerce & email marketing and a background of writing articles dating back to 2015. He reads about copywriting in his spare time, watches Netflix and supports Arsenal. He's into rock of all sorts - most recently Muse.
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