The old models of capturing great ideas—the hasty scribbling on a spare bit of paper—just don’t always translate to an increasingly electronic world. To capture these ideas, to plan a presentation, or to record a set of meeting notes, we are often left only with our computers or mobile devices. Many mind mapping apps are now available that can capture those ideas, providing a multitude of options that are sure to increase your productivity.
Multi-platform Mobile Apps
Available across all platforms, a plus for users of both Android and iOS devices, Mindomo allows you the unique feature of creating presentations straight from your mind maps using an intuitive and relatively easy process. You can collaborate in the idea generating process in real time with peers or edit using the online version (therefore opening up the app for use on other devices).
Mindmeister is a free app that works best in tandem with its online version, though it advertises itself as a standalone app as well (Users had some quibbles with this claim.) Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android users, the app offers users the option to create unlimited maps, which you can share directly from the device. The app syncs automatically with its online counterpart, meaning that you can access your ideas from any device with internet access, and offers real time collaboration and presentation features as well. Being able to export your mind maps in RTF, PDF, or PNG format means that this app easily interfaces with Microsoft Word, a unique and attractive feature.
Available for multiple mobile platforms, including iOS and Android products, this application comes in both basic free and full paid versions. The free version has been rated well by users, who have used the app’s basic design features and mapping options, including design features like icons, colors, and shapes that are almost standard across all mind mapping applications. The full version allows storing and sharing that will make collaborative productivity much easier. You can export using multiple file types (though sadly not PDF) and you can sync your work with some mobile devices and the SimpleMind desktop program. The easiest option, however, to share your brilliance with peers is the cloud storage option (including compatibility with Dropbox).
Single Platform Mobile Apps
This mind mapping application was built specifically for Blackberry users in mind, capitalizing on the QWERTY keyboard and tracking ball (rather than having those device-specific features remain a hindrance, as they often are with other apps). Instead, these features are used to create shortcuts, so that veteran Blackberry users can create idea maps quickly and easily. Stocked with beautiful design features and compatible with FreeMind, you can export and import completed or edited maps, but the app is otherwise limited in its compatibility.
One of the most interesting elements of this Android app is its connection to a free Chrome web version that allows users to view and edit created maps on Windows or Mac versions. All you need is a Google ID, and you double your productivity. This app also offers Cloud storage capability and the ability to open and edit existing files on any Android device.
This app offers versions for both the iPad and the iPhone, but is compatible with a multitude of desktop mind mapping applications, like the open source FreeMind and XMind, among several others. With this easy-to-use app, you can add imbedded links to other maps or to websites and you’ll love its automatic backup features. At any given time, you can access up to 100 previous versions of your map, “snapshots” that are taken automatically at regular intervals. A zip file is generated daily so that you can easily transfer your work to a cloud backup system, like Dropbox (a platform with which it easily integrates).
Awarded the App Store’s “Best of 2012, “ MindNode is geared toward the Apple product user. Like its peer SimpleMind, this app offers both a “lite” and a “pro” version depending on user need. The tricked out “Pro” allows you to focus on content rather than design, automatically arranging your information to create clean, easy-to-follow maps. Intuitive for most iPad/iPhone users, this app offers similar cloud storage options to its competitors, including compatibility with iCloud and Dropbox. One cool feature? MindNote easily supports multiple languages.
For the more visually minded, Grafio offers a unique smartboard-like variation on the mind mapping application. iPad or IPhone users can draw shapes, to create flow charts or organize thoughts, and the app automatically recognizes and redraws them neatly—no need to feel the pressure to be Picasso. A variety of “stencils,” or pre-loaded/pre-recognized shapes, are available for users to implement and double clicking allows text to be added easily at any point. Finished maps can be exported as PDFs.
An Open Source program built for both Windows and Mac platforms, this mind mapping software is compatible with several mobile mind mapping apps, allowing you to easily edit, print, and share your files. With multiple compatible export options and web and file hyperlink options, FreeMind is a worthwhile download for users who want a compatible application on a computer.
This software for multiple operating systems also comes in a free basic version, which offers very limited export or design options, and a more expensive complete version. The program itself will likely be intuitive for Microsoft users, since it looks like the most basic MS Word program, and the complete version allows export as Microsoft Word and Powerpoint files, among others. It is pricey, but schools, educators, and non-profit groups are offered significant discounts.
Samantha Kotey is the editor for AvatarGeneration and has a background in educational technology and virtual worlds. A mom of two, she is passionate about all things related to toys and technology.