13 Free Tools for Mind Mapping & Brainstorming

I’m quite traditional when it comes to planning ahead, this project is the perfect example of that. I didn’t spend hours preparing, learning and analyzing the market before starting to write about web development, technology, whatever else it is you can find on here. I did it spontaneously, knowing that I’d end up succeeding. I knew the market, but I had a lot to learn, still.

Now, I can honestly say that I’ve realized the many flaws of this market, and I’ve also realized the solutions to these flaws, and the first thing I ended up doing after that realization was mind map a completely new project, although hardly related to technology.

Read: Project Management Tools for Development Teams

I drew a quick mind map of what I think should be the initial direction of the new project, and after a few more sketches – I have a reasonable strategy that could take me anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to complete, so there is definitely a lot of potential to ‘mapping your thoughts’, and laying them out as they are. Don’t keep it all in your mind, it just won’t work.

You can see just how easy it is to map something, and it’s even easier to carry out the work when you’ve got all the steps right in front of you. There is a strange process that takes place once you begin mindmapping and/or brainstorming, and under any circumstance – you should end up having a few positive and new things to look at.

Mind Mapping for Developers

You’re a developer? That’s awesome, are you using mind maps to help yourself code better? Brian Burns has put together a nice post that discusses seven ways of how we can use mind mapping to become better developers, and overall have better understanding of things like software archiceture, project management, even for simple things like understanding our code better. Mind mapping works!

Mind Mapping for Entrepreneurs

In order to really prepare you for your first mind mapping session, here is another article (this time, from Tim Wu) that discusses the benefits of mind mapping for business people, entrepeneurs and startup owners. You won’t just learn how to enhance your creativity, or how to be more understanding of your subject of choice – mind mapping allows to see things for what they are, which is one of the things that Tim is trying to emphasize.

Free Mobile Mind Mapping Tools

Hey, don’t think I’d forget about the mobile user community! If you’re an Android or iOS user; you can scroll past all the desktop tools and take a look at some of the mobile mind mapping apps that I have put together. There are three free apps for each operating system. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Learn the Skill of Effective Mind Mapping

You may not poses the knowledge required to create amazing and insightful mind maps, which is why I have decided to include this online video course from Barry Mapp in this post about tools for mind mapping and/or brainstorming. Barry Mapp has been a trainer and personal development coach for several decades now, and he’s got plenty of experience and stories to share that will totally transform your capabilities of making effective mind maps.

You’ll be learning quite a few things from this course:

  • Organization – Learn how to organize your thoughts, goals, or simply ideas using mind maps.
  • Planning – How to plan ahead for an event, article, business plan, speech, etc,.
  • Clarification – Look at your thoughts as they are, learn to have more clear thinking about things you love.
  • Think Differently – Once you have learnt to mind map effectively you will find that your mental approach to issues or ideas will be fundamentally different. Mind Mapping provides the scaffolding for a completely different set of mental processes and taps into the multitasking capability of the subconscious mind.
  • Learning – Speed up your learning process, when you execute mind mapping properly, you’re accelerating your own growth rate, be it for learning or understanding new information, or simple for retaining that information within your brain.
  • Development – Mind mapping offers development in pretty much every area you can think of, so as long as you can map a problem out, it’s possible to look at it from a different perspective.

Free Tools for Mind Mapping & Brainstorming

You don’t even need to download, install or browse for any tools, anything as simple as a piece of paper and a pencil can take you to new heights of learning and understanding. But, given the fact that a lot of us spend an outrageous amount of time online anyway, here’s the list of free tools for mind mapping, brainstorming and generally for organizing our thoughts!

MindMup

MindMup can take a little bit of time to get used to, the small icons don’t explain a lot at first, but once you’ve gotten a hang of it; it’s super easy to build quick mind maps! You can save your maps to MindMup’s storage, or you can send them straight to Google Drive.

As for exporting, all mind maps that you’ve created can be exported as: PNG, PDF, HTML, Text, Presentation, etc,, But, for those who’re ‘constantly’ building new maps, here is the page for MindMup Hotkeys, a lot easier to work with the application once you know them all.

WorkFlowy

WorkFlowy was a YC S10 company, and has since grown to be a famous mind mapping application used between geeks, tech enthusiasts, and even some really big names out there: Matt Cutts, Joel Gascoigne, and Evan Williams have been seen reporting that WorkFlowy is the perfect tool for creating mind maps.

You can grab the iPhone version here, but if you’re an Android user, grab the application here. The WorkFlowy team runs an amazing blog that discusses tutorials, guides and other cool resources for making the most of WorkFlowy, and most importantly – your mind maps.

Mind42

Mind42 allows you to manage all your ideas, whether alone, twosome or working together with the whole world. Mind42 runs in your browser, so no installation necessary for the ultimate hassle-free mind mapping experience. Just open your browser and launch the application whenever and wherever needed.

You can begin by exploring the introductory guide section that will help you create your first mind maps. The Mind42 Blog seems to be covering only new software updates, and occasional downtime reports, while the Mind42 Forums is all about helping people. It looks as if the site is quite lonely, but everything works – which is what matters to us.

XMind

XMind is one of those rare companies that dare to call themselves ‘The Most’ good at, or in this case, the most professional. I’ve to give it to the XMind team, their product is spectacular and it provides capabilities that we haven’t really seen anywhere else, on free mind map software for example. You can opt for a free version, or discover additional features on the paid one.

Not only that, XMind is also running a Public Library of mind maps that get shared across the database by its own users. You can preview the capabilities of this software without having to install it, it’s all available there – in the browser. What else are you looking for in a mind mapping tool?

Coggle

Coggle is a lovely little project that appeals with its bright colors and funky curved connections between your ideas. By taking a look at some of the examples that you can find on the Coggle website (or on the web), the end result is quite similar to that of a tree of life.

Coggle enables team collaboration, the ability to revert back in time to see any previous changes, and don’t worry about collaboration features, Coggle will happily let you know who have been the people making changes to your mind maps, so you’re always up to speed with the latest. The color layout allows for additional learning practices to be incorporated within the application, similar to the likes of Trello.

Popplet

Popplet is a tool for the iPad and web to capture and organize your ideas, it was built for both school and work. Popplet, while an application for the iOS – works perfectly fine from the web environment, so don’t put it out just yet.

Mindomo

Mindomo only allows you to create three free maps, after that the price becomes as much as 36$ for 6months of usage. I have to say that Mindomo has great understanding of how mind maps work, and how to best utilize them. You can see that being emphasized on their homepage as well.

The Mindomo mind mapping application/tool is available on Desktop, Android, and iOS powered devices. You can use this tool to iron out all your business problems, or perhaps you’re a representative of a school that’s looking for a reasonable software to use in classes? Yes, Mindomo has even thought of Higher Education, which shows that these guys themselves like to use mind maps!

FreeMind

The FreeMind mind mapping software has been downloaded an enormous amount of times (into the hundreds of thousands!), not only because it is free and open-source; but because it provides all the necessary tools to carry out your mind mapping moments! It’s written in Java, and developers can enjoy creating scripts and plugins for this particular tool.

Freeplane

You can launch Freeplane on any device that has Java support. It’s a traditionally-styled mind mapping tool that’s great to use at home, or at school. Out of the ordinary functionality that you’d expect from a brainstorming tool – you can password protect your mind maps (with DES encryption), and just like with FreeMind; you can create custom scripts and add-ons!

ProcessOn

They’re marketing ProcessOn as a tool for creating diagrams, and while that is perfectly fine – you can actually use this particular software to build mind maps as well. On top of that, there is an amazing feature integrated within this tool – real-time collaboration with your friends, co-workers or family members. Now everyone can contribute together.

Because ProcessOn is focused on social features – You can expand your business by connecting with other professionals and experts. Simply get in touch to exchange business knowledge with each other or to start a new cooperation.

Speaking of diagrams; check out my flowchart tools post for more cool apps to play with.

Bubbl.us

The free version of Bubbl.us is going to allow you to create 3 unique mind maps, while the premium plan starting at $6/month (free 30-day trial) is going to grant you unlimited mind maps, as well as the ability to upload files and images. It’s really user-friendly, and also has a mobile app available! :)

WiseMapping

The guys at WiseMapping are more than happy to provide their tools to individuals for free, but it’s worth noting that this application is actually an open-source project. As for the tool itself, it’s web-based and it also allows collaboration with whomever you’re working together.

MindMeister

It’s all about collaboration at the headquarters of MindMeister. They’ve also got a free version that’s limited to 3 mind maps, but not only is that enough for starters to play around with – it will give you a better idea of how the tool works, and whether you’d like to keep using it in future. I highly recommend to check out some of the mind-blowing features of MindMeister; have you ever built mind maps on the big screen? Now is your chance!

Free Mind Mapping Apps for Android

The new version of Android is here, have you prepared yourself for the changes, and have you looked into learning more about Lollipop development? Whatever the case; these apps are going to get your ideas flowing like mad!

SimpleMind

This is the free version of SimpleMind, but don’t let that make you think that it’s not going to be feature-rich. The native user interface gives you access to all the basic tools for building cool mind maps. Quickly undo and redo changes, apply colors to specific subsets and a whole lot more. Works fine on phones and tablets.

Mindomo

The Mindomo platform creates a powerful environment where you can easily collaborate with others by sharing ideas and working together on mind maps in real time. Features such as cloud support enable you to instantly save your mind maps in the cloud, to grant you access to them from wherever. No limits for how many maps you can create, neither is the application supposed to be run online – easy offline access make this app a beast!

SchematicMind

I’m very confident that you’re going to love the design that SchematicMind offers; such a pleasant brainstorming experience, each time! Shapes, colors, unlimited capacity. No limits on how big the maps can be, as you can zoom-in or out.

Free Mind Mapping Apps for iOS

We got Android covered, now lets take a look at what developers are building for iOS. The new version recently came out, so we’re surely going to see updates being pushed wherever possible.

Total Recall

With the in-built intuitive touch interface – Total Recall is one of the best free mind mapping apps that you can get for your Apple devices. Add shapes, custom colors, and don’t worry about the layout of your maps as everything intuitively aligns itself. When done creating, you can use the email function to send the map to your associates.

Idea Sketch

Idea Sketch was built as an in-house application for drawing diagrams, creating mind maps, concept maps, or charts that can be converted into text, and back into a visual experience. Pretty neat! Use this app to create illustrations, generate ideas, building lists and a lot more. Creativity is key. There is support for cloud services, which means you can always access your stuff from wherever.

Mind Vector

Mind Vector is one of the best tools for a quick brainstorming & thought provoking session available to iOS users. Don’t let those juicy ideas slip by, record them; analyze them; act upon them!

Learning to Create Mind Maps: Step by Step

I’m very pleased with how this post was able to unfold, I really think that it’s unnecessary to look at millions of different tools – just to try and find the one. You don’t have to expect a lot from a free tool, but neither should you expect a lot. Mind Mapping is a simple and natural process, as I said before – grab a piece of paper and a pen, and see what you can come up with. It works for any idea, subject, profession – literally, anything!

In wrapping up this post, I’d like to ask the community and the readers to leave a comment on how you were able to use mind mapping to your own advantage, and what are some of the tips that you suggest new mind mappers follow? I suppose the ability to free oneself from distraction is high up in the list.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Alex, do check our mind mapping tool Creately as well. Its easy to use, has powerful productivity features and you can use it to draw many other diagram types as well.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.