The best mind-mapping software

Brainstorming sessions are great, but sometimes you can drown in a thicket of ideas, half-concepts, and free-floating words. If that sound familiar, you might want to consider a mind-mapping tool. Mind maps are digital flow charts that can be used to describe ideas and list possibilities.

In more advanced forms, they can also be used to describe complex structures and concepts so your entire team can better understand them. Here are the best mind-mapping software options available, their most impressive strengths, and how you can download them for your next big meeting.

Bloomfire ($9+ a month)

Bloomfire

Bloomfire isn’t just a mind-mapping or brainstorming tool — it’s a suite for knowledge management. If you are part of a business that generates a lot of ideas and pushes them through multiple departments, then Bloomfire could be the platform you’re looking for.

It allows for multiple maps and charts to drive decisions — and then let’s you track the content that comes from those ideas and compare its success to other content. The software may not be able to replace data management entirely, but for a large creative team, it could be an ideal support.

Learn more at:

Bloomfire

MindMeister ($6+ a month)

Mindmeister

MindMeister is a web-based mapping tool, and one of the best options if your team is utilizing multiple operating systems or is located in remotely.

The map works in real time, which makes it ideal for long-distance brainstorming, and the presentation functions allow you to display complex ideas in a natural way, which is great for strategy development. If you’re looking for more features, the software also works well with MeisterTask to create a workflow-oriented solution.

Learn more at:

MindMeister

Coggle (free)

Coggle

Coggle is a Chrome-based extension that’s focused on collaboration, so if you need to build a mind map with other people, this is the first option you should consider. The maps are simple, with a few different formats to choose from, though you can add images as necessary. The app also lets you make comments, chat, and view revision history, making it a fantastic collaboration tool if you’re working with a large team.

It also features robust compatibility with Google Drive and Google contacts, making it an easy choice for those already invested in Google’s ecosystem.

Learn more at:

The Chrome Store

Wisemapping (free)

Wisemapping

Wisemapping is a free, web-based mind-mapping option that’s been around for years and remains a solid choice for building maps from the ground up. If you need a many-forked or detailed map for your work, you’ll appreciate the many customization tools that Wisemapping provides, allowing you to turn simple tree-based maps into complex constructions.

However, expect to spend a little time learning how to use all the Wisemapping tools, as they aren’t as intuitive as some available options.

Learn more at:

Wisemapping

Bubbl.us (free)

Bubbl.us

Bubble.us no doubt got its name from the friendly, bubble-like node shapes that it uses to build diagrams. It’s one of the friendly tools on our list for pure, personal brainstorming, allowing you to rapidly connect a bunch of thoughts before they vanish. They also have a fun collection of quick map templates for building websites, creating organizational charts, and so on.

There aren’t many customization options before a few color changes, but it’s very easy to get started, and everything is free unless you want to pay $5 per month for teamwork and sharing capabilities.

Learn more at:

Bubbl.us