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The 5 best mind mapping software and apps: Visualize your ideas

What is the best mind mapping software? ZDNet has chosen Miro, but these other options will allow you to gather a lot of ideas, order them and arrange them and visualize them, and work with your team in the most collaborative and efficient way.
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Written by Laura Leavitt and  Allison Murray, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

The goal of the best mind mapping software on the market is to improve upon the in-person, pen-and-paper brainstorming and mind mapping options available. They do this by making their software easy to use, being able to integrate various graphics, thought bubbles, and comments, and incorporating valuable collaboration tools like version history.

When you shop for mind mapping software, you'll want to consider the value of the product for your context since some products offer their best deals to individual users while others give a strong incentive for you to buy an enterprise-based plan. Then you'll want to think through how extensively you want collaboration to occur in the product and the features that help boost your brainstorming potential within each mind map. 

Between features, collaboration potential, and price-to-value, you can pick the best mind mapping software for your needs. While many have similar price points, a major source of distinction is in whether you're aiming for an occasional use product, in which case you'll often be able to work with a free version. If you want consistent access to and lots of features for your mind-mapping, choosing the software that works most seamlessly with your existing team software may be your best path forward.

While all of the mind mapping software can deliver a place to make your ideas come alive, some of them stand out for a variety of reasons. 

Miro

Best mind mapping software overall

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Miro

Features: Video calls and screen sharing | Create diagrams | $0-$16 a month

Part of why Miro is our pick for the best mind mapping software is that it includes a lot of things in one, recognizing that sometimes your mind mapping software also needs to be able to create usable diagrams, be shared in a real-time video conference, and used for a presentation after being developed. 

Pros

  • Edit simultaneously 
  • Video call or screen share from the interface 

Cons

  • Free account only comes with three boards

LucidChart

Best for project management

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Lucidchart

Features: Integrations to third-party apps | Templates to choose from | $0-$9 per month 

One of the top-ranked data visualization and diagramming software products is also incredibly useful as a mind mapping project. With integrations to things like GSuite or Atlassian products, the process of brainstorming in a LucidChart can be connected into project assignments and deadline management much easier than with a simpler mind map. While definitely feature-heavy and geared toward the more intensive or complex project context, it still works with a clean interface and tools that make quickly diving into the work itself easy, without a lot of onboarding and training needed to start using LucidChart tools. 

Pros

  • A variety of templates and objects you can add to your mind map
  • Generates entries in a project management software that can be seamlessly integrated

Cons

  • A bit of an overload of features

Coggle

Best option with an educational context

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Coggle

Features: Export and embed settings | Collaborate with a chat | $0-$8 per member per month

If you want your mind mapping software to be instantly usable for even the youngest learners, Coggle is a great simple tool. While the functionality isn't designed to feed into a complex project management process, it's a tool that allows simple mind-maps without a focus on a bunch of distracting additional features. With the core purpose of being able to outline and work on a piece of writing, this can be an ideal choice for anyone who wants to do their own mind mapping but wants the additional functionality of being able to collaborate on shared mind-maps for group projects. Great for in-class work, especially if doing a group project in a virtual seminar or hybrid course.

Pros

  • Variety of export settings, embed options, and chat history for collaboration 
  • Create visual notes

Cons

  • Limited colors and lack of sorting/arranging options 
  • Simple interface may or may not fit a given business culture or personal preference

Mindomo

Best for templates and themes

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Mindomo

Features: Over 50 templates | Joint editing and commenting | $0, $5.50, or $16.60 per month

Mindomo lets you start with a blank canvas if you want, but you certainly don't have to. It's got an impressive array of more than 50 templates that help businesses or educational contexts launch a discussion and dive into brainstorming and organizing ideas. The software has dedicated ways of use that help you use it for life organization, collaborative planning at work, and teaching/learning contexts. Their collaboration tools get them high marks since jointly editing and commenting to team members allow the plan to be made, revised, and reviewed in ways that are seamless within a meeting, distributed team context, or between teachers and students. 

Pros

  • A variety of export and backup options
  • User-friendly team interface
  • Intuitive platform 

Cons

  • Higher price point needs to be justified through using many of their strong features

Conceptboard

Best for visual appeal and design

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Conceptboard

Features: Tagging capacities | Strong design and layout | $0, $6, and $9.50 per user per month plans

If you have ever used Prezi after having previously just made basic slide decks, you'll understand the classy look of the zoom-in, zoom-out ability of a Conceptboard blank canvas. While you can draw traditional connections between items on Conceptboard, it excels at letting visual distance showcase distinctions. When you've finished creating your mind-map, the strong design and layout make it possible to tidy the lookup just a bit to be ready to make a presentation of the next steps. 

Pros

  • Uses the infinite canvas in a way that brings the best of mind-mapping and data visualization to the table
  • Personalized cursors

Cons:

  • Challenges getting all media to show up on the board
  • Not one of the more integration-rich options on our list

What is the best mind mapping software?

Our top pick for the best mind mapping software is Miro because it includes a lot of things in one. However, any of the options on our list are great mind mapping software, it just depends what exact features and price points are right for you.

Mind mapping software

Price point per user (for lowest non-free version)

Notable Feature

Miro

$8 per month

In-app video/audio

LucidChart

$7.95 per month

Extensive integrations

Coggle

$5 per month

Simplicity and multi-user editing

Mindomo

$5.50 per month

Multi-industry template options

Conceptboard

$6 per month

Visual appeal for presentations

Which is the right mind mapping software for you?

The first consideration for you is whether you want to be able to make mind maps for yourself or for a team since each software offers greater and lesser features that make real-time shared editing possible. More editing accounts can cost more, but some systems actually charge a reasonable amount if you opt for a professional or enterprise account.

Secondly, some software options offer a limited free trial that may work for you. For instance, if your free trial only allows you to make 4 mind maps, but you don't need to retain your mind maps long-term, you may be able to re-edit the same four maps over time and get everything you need from a free version.

Finally, consider if you are prioritizing any integrations. Some software, for instance, integrates into Evernote, a notetaking management application, allowing you to convert your mind maps into notes that you can use in other contexts. Other software is organized more like a LucidChart, where it integrates into multiple different typical enterprise software, making it a viable first step that naturally progresses into project management. Finally, an aesthetically pleasing software like Conceptboard can be a combination of mind-mapping and joint-presentation-design options. 

Choose this...

If you want...

Miro

The best overall option

LucidChart

To focus on project management

Coggle

A mind mapping software with an educational context

Mindomo

Access to lots of templates and themes 

Conceptboard

Software that has visual and design appeal

How did we choose these mind mapping software picks?

We evaluate features, reliability as assessed by customer reviews, and pricing to select a variety of high-quality software options that also offer different priorities and price points for our readership. The goal is to present high-quality options that allow individuals and teams to find the product that best fits what they are looking for in the best mind mapping software. 

Some want a product, for example, with the ability to do an all-in-one collaboration, like Miro, while others want the focused functionality of a program that exclusively does share mind maps, like Coggle. 

What is a mind map?

A mind map is a visual display of many different ideas, similar to how people write concepts on a whiteboard or blackboard and draw arrows, connections, and distinctions between them visually. They are typically used to organize ideas as they are being generated, but can also be used as a definitive plan, a flowchart that illustrates steps in a process, or a delegation technique to showcase who is in charge of what.

How do people collaborate on a mind map?

Mind map software allows multiple to access the same online document, all adding sticky note icons, comments, and photos and other artifacts to a space where each user can see everything that has been added in real-time. Some software even make it clear where each user's cursor is at a given moment to help multiple editors not step on each other's toes in the shared document.

Can I save my changes to a shared mind map online?

Most collaborative mind maps will automatically save your changes, but technological glitches when multiple users are accessing a mind map can occur. Ideally, storing your own ideas locally in case of an update glitch is a smart choice. The best mind mapping software will also have options for saving and exporting, allowing you to capture a snapshot of a moment in time in a given shared mindmap. 

Are there alternative mind mapping software options worth considering?

First and foremost, there are many applications we couldn't include that are fan favorites around the web. We chose our five top picks because of a combination of a reputation for excellence in things like updates/functionality, strong customer support where needed, as well as stand-out features. Here are some we couldn't include:

While many companies really value the ability to draw connections or move concepts into proximity-based groups, it's possible to brainstorm in other well-known programs. If you have a less tech-savvy group who haven't worked with mindmaps before, you may find that using your company's GSuite or OneDrive collaboration options will allow you to contribute to a shared document in real-time, add comments, resolve items, and even assign tasks to each person after the meeting. These types of software may be a little clunkier if you want to include photos, videos, or other artifacts in your brainstorming. Still, they can usually support this feature, even if it doesn't have the easy drag-and-drop usability of a dedicated mind map software.  

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