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The mind is a powerful thing. Yet sometimes, it needs some support, especially when trying to make sense of difficult concepts, struggling through creator’s block or managing complex projects. Mind mapping is the perfect solution.
Mind mapping is a process involving mapping the connections between core concepts. For example, each map starts with one central idea node, such as a new project, new service, idea or problem. Secondary idea or concept nodes are then linked to the central node using a maplike structure.
While similar to the tree maps you may have made in primary school, paper and pencil are no longer required for mind maps. Now, software tools exist to make creating mind maps simple for project managers, stakeholders, team leads and anyone else within your organization who needs help making sense of complex ideas.
- Why should you mind map?
- What is mind map software?
- Who uses mind map software?
- The benefits of mind mapping software
- What to consider when choosing mind mapping software
- Best mind mapping software and tools
Why should you mind map?
Mapping concepts by creating connections is exactly how our brains work. According to Harvard University, “brain architecture is comprised of billions of connections between individual neurons across different areas of the brain.” And as we learn and take in new information, new connections are made between these neurons.
These connections enable us to understand information, from simple to complex. Mind mapping supports our brains in building these connections, making it an effective tool for studying, brainstorming, planning and more.
SEE: Software procurement policy (TechRepublic Premium)
There have been numerous studies completed on the effectiveness of mind mapping. In one study, mind mapping was put to the test by examining what would happen if medical students studied a passage using the mind mapping technique versus simply reading the text.
Those who read the text had a mean knowledge score that was less than those who used the mind map. In other words, the medical students could more easily recall information after using the mind mapping method.
In another study, seventh graders who used mind mapping techniques showed a significant difference in academic achievement, scores of retention learning and perception of inquiry learning.
In addition to helping with information recall and learning, mind mapping offers other benefits:
- Simplifies brainstorming: Being able to visualize all of your ideas in one place at one time can help you come up with additional ideas faster.
- Boosts productivity: Mind maps can help speed up processes that require critical thinking and brainstorming, such as project planning or content creation. In any complex process, mind mapping provides the clarity needed to move forward quickly, improving productivity.
- Improves problem-solving: Mind mapping enables you to solve problems by visualizing the big picture. As you map, you dig deeper into potential solutions and the effects of those solutions. You may even discover solutions you wouldn’t have thought of without a map.
What is mind map software?
Mind mapping software is a tool used to virtually map ideas and concepts. The tools found inside this software help you create visual diagrams that fit your needs and offer a wide range of customization options for your maps. In addition to simple mapping, the software also includes features such as presentation tools to streamline team collaboration.
Who uses mind mapping software?
Due to its flexibility, mind map software can be used for virtually any organization in a wide range of applications. For example, project managers can use the software to map out project plans and visualize to-dos. And marketing teams can use mind maps to brainstorm upcoming campaigns and determine next steps.
Other uses for mind mapping software include:
- Developing maps for presenting ideas to stakeholders
- Taking notes during business meetings
- Collaborating and brainstorming with others while working remotely
- Planning upcoming corporate events
- Brainstorming new products or services
SEE: 5 Mind Mapping Tools for Project Management (TechRepublic)
The benefits of mind mapping software
1. Simplifies mind map creation
Instead of drawing nodes on paper or a whiteboard, you can simply add nodes in a couple of clicks using mind map software. Modifications can be made in the same way. For example, you can quickly delete nodes or add more context to a node using built-in editing tools.
But, if you prefer the look created by pen and paper, tools such as XMind allow you to switch to a hand-drawn look with just a click.
2. Enables map collaboration
Brainstorming and problem-solving often happen in a group setting whether in-person or remotely. Mind mapping software enables simplified collaboration. For example, most apps allow you to share your mind maps with others, who can then edit the map and add their own ideas.
Some mind mapping software, such as MindNode, enables you to export maps to other formats like PDF for sharing with those that don’t have the tool. And other tools, such as Coggle, enable real-time collaboration, allowing multiple people to work on a mind map at the same time.
3. Offers additional tools
Many mind mapping solutions go beyond the creation of simple maps to provide tools such as cloud syncing, Gantt chart creation, map themes and templates, keyboard shortcuts, notes and attachments, Scrum-specific features, and much more. This means you’re sure to find a mind mapping tool that fits your specific needs.
4. Integrates with your other apps
Any tool you add to your tech stack should integrate well with your other software and apps. Many mind map tools do just that. For example, MURAL integrates with apps such as Slack, Dropbox and Jira for streamlined mapping. You can even work on maps from inside Microsoft Teams or send tasks from your map into Asana.
5. Goes beyond the simple tree map
Traditionally, mind maps resemble trees or even spiders. However, mind mapping software gives you the ability to fully customize maps based on what works best for you. For example, MindMeister offers an outline layout for more linear thinking. And XMind provides additional layouts, including fishbone and timeline.
Regardless of the layout, other elements of your mind map can be customized such as color, line styling, node positioning and more.
What to consider when choosing mind mapping software
Selecting any new software for your organization should be done with care and consideration. There are many mind mapping tools available on the market today. However, not all of them are the perfect match for your organization. Here are some questions to answer before making your selection.
Does the software fit your organization’s needs?
Start by determining which mind mapping features are must-haves and which ones are nice-to-haves. For example, you may need a tool that integrates with your current tech stack but may be able to move forward without more niche features such as focus mode or the ability to add video to your maps.
While we don’t like to focus on budget, this is also something to consider here. Some mind map tools are offered for free or feature no-cost basic account options. As you search for software, keep in mind that additional investment may be required for more robust features.
Is the software easy to use?
Mind mapping should be simple for everyone within your organization. After all, it should be a stress-free way to capture and share ideas and solutions. Choose software with an intuitive interface and simple controls. Luckily, many mind mapping solutions are basic in nature, as they have one purpose: creating mind maps.
Does the software integrate with your tech stack?
You and your team should be able to brainstorm and keep track of bright ideas from anywhere, whether that be while managing projects in Asana or taking notes in Evernote.
The mind mapping tool you choose should integrate well with the other tools you currently use. This will streamline the process of turning great ideas generated from mind mapping into initiatives within your organization.
Best mind mapping software and tools
MindNode is a mind mapping tool that packs a punch. While the tool is great for creating simple mind maps, it’s capable of much more. For example, you can use Outline mode to brainstorm in a more linear way. Or, you can use Outline mode and the mind map at the same time for greater visibility. MindNode also features a Focus mode, which allows you to focus on one map branch at a time.
One key feature of MindNode is the ability to add visual tags to your maps, enabling you to easily group ideas together or simply add more context. Plus nodes can quickly be turned into tasks and synced with Apple Reminders for an automated to-do list.
MindNode is currently only available for Mac and iOS.
MindMeister takes visualizing your ideas to the next level. Using MindMeister, you can create mind maps quickly using a wide range of themes and mixed map layouts, including Mind Map view, Organization Chart view or List view. You can also customize your map using line styling and emojis.
MindMeister makes it simple to add notes, documents, images and more to your mind maps through the attachments tool. Plus, you can embed media such as videos and GIFs right into your maps.
MindMeister works in your browser and also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices.
SimpleMind is perfect for organizations that need a mind mapping tool that’s available across a wide range of devices. The platform is currently available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android.
SimpleMind is a straightforward mind mapping tool that features an intuitive interface, great for all skill levels. Features include a Free-Form layout mode for placing topics and nodes wherever you like as well as Autofocus mode for blocking out distractions for brainstorming.
The SimpleMind Pro account offers additional features such as five extra layouts, including Vertical, Top-Down and Linear. It also offers cloud-syncing capabilities with tools such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.
Coggle offers simple tools for creating mind maps as well as detailed flowcharts. While the mind map tools can be used to quickly brainstorm new ideas, the flowchart tools can be used to plan new projects and develop process maps. These tools are perfect for project managers.
Coggle also offers more robust features, including real-time collaboration. Your entire team can work on a single map together from anywhere using Coggle inside a browser. Plus, through Coggle’s no-setup collab feature, anyone can edit a map without the need to have a Coggle account.
Mindomo provides platform-independent mind mapping tools for those using Mac, Windows or Linux operating systems. This mind mapping tool provides all the typical features required for building maps, including different layouts and themes, real-time collaboration, and more. For example, users can choose from layouts such as concept maps, tasks maps, Gantt charts and even outlines.
Mindomo also features online and offline sync. This means you can create mind maps offline or online and sync them between users for easy collaboration. The tool offers additional features such as Presenter mode, which enables you to present your maps without the need to switch to separate software.
MindManager is a powerhouse tool for both basic mind mapping and project management. While you can use the tool’s mind map view to brainstorm, the Kanban board view can be used to manage your team’s workflow and ensure projects are completed on time.
MindManager also features more robust features such as text accelerators, which enable you to tag topics as well as utilize drag-and-drop functionality and map filtering.
One key feature is MindManager Snap which enables you to send ideas, images and more straight to the Snap queue, so it’s ready to use whenever you open MindManager. This is perfect for mapping or brainstorming on the fly.
Lucidchart is one of the most popular cloud-based mind mapping solutions on the market today. Coined as an “intelligent diagramming application” by vendor Lucid, it’s a great tool for data-driven organizations. Using Lucidchart, teams can not only diagram ideas and processes but document key metrics within their diagrams using data linking.
Lucidchart features drag-and-drop functionality for easy map building as well as plenty of collaboration features such as in-editor chat and real-time co-authoring of maps.
If you want to take the app to the next level, Lucid provides Lucidspark, a digital whiteboard, in addition to Lucidchart. When combined, these tools enable you to take a simple idea and turn it into a reality within your business. Your team can brainstorm using the whiteboard and then map out a process or accompanying tasks using Lucidchart.
MindMup is a free, online tool for building simple yet collaborative mind maps. Using MindMup’s free account, you still have the ability to create an unlimited number of maps, which is unique when compared to other tools on this list.
MindMup isn’t short on mind mapping features either. For example, it includes features such as keyboard shortcuts for streamlining mapping, easy conversion to PDF and other formats, the ability to share maps with others and so much more.
Plus, you can attach documents and images to your maps for context and add measurements such as cost to map nodes for planning projects.
XMind is a mind mapping tool that provides a wide range of map layouts, including Fishbone, Tree and Organization Chart to fit your needs. These layouts are fully customizable to ensure no detail is missed on your map.
Another key feature of XMind is Pitch Mode. Using Pitch Mode, you can create slideshows for your maps in one click. These slideshows feature multiple layouts to choose from as well as animated and auto-generated transitions. This is perfect for presenting everything from ideas to project plans.
MURAL is a digital whiteboard tool that’s used for a wide range of tasks, including mind mapping and brainstorming. However, the tool doesn’t stop there. You’ll find a wide range of templates, including diagrams and maps for team meetings, project planning, research and client engagement.
MURAL provides many visualization tools to help you create maps that are as visually appealing as they are functional. Some of these tools include sticky notes, icons, images and drawings.
MURAL is also perfect for team collaboration, featuring tools such as commenting, text chat and even instant voice calling from inside the software.