The Best Mind Mapping Software for Businesses: Brainstorm and Build Better Ideas with These Free and Paid Tools

Sean Lund-Brown

Mind mapping is a creative process that's an important part of ideation and business development. It starts with writing down a main theme or idea and then branching out to other ideas and related concepts, going deeper and deeper until you're out of ideas and all the connections have been made. Brainstorming has long been done on paper, scribbled in different formats of mind maps, graphs, charts, trees, and other random drawings. Today, it's been digitized, and it's better than ever.

Digital mind mapping software makes it easy to save maps for later, share with colleagues and team members, and create interactive, intuitive tools that can better guide your business through the creative development process. There are dozens of different mind mapping apps and tools on the market today, but some are going to stand out more than others.

You may also have different needs when it comes to this software, so that will be a factor in your decision, as well. We've taken the hardest work out of it for you by rounding up the best mind mapping software. All that's left for you to do is review the options and choose what's best for your needs.

Of course, if you're going to choose the best tools, you have to know what to look for. Each of the best tools has its own benefits, but they all provide things like:

·  A tool that's there when you need it and out of the way when you don't. Digital mind mapping will never be as easy as pen and paper, but it will be easier to track and less likely to get lost in the shuffle of papers on your desk. Choose an app that fades into the background like your browser and still gives you all the functionality that you need.

 

·  An unlimited canvas for idea mapping and drawing. If you have a limited size, you're going to limit your creativity. Even if the canvas requires scrolling, you will benefit from having more space so that you can take your ideas as far as they will go, not just as far as the program will let you.

 

·  Saving and exporting options. When you have a tool that lets you save, share, and export in various formats and mediums, you'll be better able to share and collaborate with your teams and even keep yourself organized.

 

·  The chance to attach files and links. When you're looking for more than just some scribbles on a page, consider adding external files through the app that you choose. With the best apps, it will be easy to attach images, links, and other types of files.

You'll also want to consider what platform(s) the software will operate on and what kind of cost is involved. Don't focus on price alone, though. Consider the value that you're getting for the money. In order to narrow the search and help you better wade through the selection available today, we've listed each of the apps below and why they've made the list.

While you're looking for the best tools to map out your ideas, consider how our virtual receptionists can help you map out a better strategy to manage your mission-critical services, including 24/7 customer service support via phone and live chat, overflow calling, payment collection, and even SMS and Facebook message answering.

 

Coggle: best for beginners

Coggle offers a web-based platform that offers one of the most user-friendly interfaces that you will find. Upon logging in, you're taken right to the dashboard, where you can create a new mind map, add new ideas, and then choose the direction and placement of the nodes so that they fit your needs. This tool allows you to use keyboard shortcuts for easy mapping and you can even format the items and messages on your maps so that they are exactly what you want.

This means you can get as stylish as you want with text and images, or you can stick to the basics. You can easily add people to the map to collaborate and full-screen presentation mode makes it easy to share ideas with the entire team. Coggle is a great choice for beginners because it offers everything that you need without the extras, and it's designed to deliver the powerful performance that you need without a huge price tag.

In fact, Coggle is free to use for a single user with three diagrams, or $5 per month to have unlimited diagrams and extra tools.

 

Mindly: best for mobile brainstorming

Mindly is our top pick for mobile use because it offers one of the best user interfaces for mobile mind mapping and creative brainstorming on the go. The app is designed for iOS and Android, and it also has a version available for macOS. It makes it easy to create all kinds of maps, starting with a central node and then branching out from there. You can tap on a circle and start adding ideas right away. The app will zoom in and let you focus on each branch and section as needed.

Mindly also makes it easy to get back to the main point with access to the original node in the top left corner of your screen. You can even sync your mobile mind maps with the desktop software to keep everything streamlined and shared with the team. There's a free mobile version that includes plenty of tools and features, or you can pay to upgrade for unlimited features and more.

The free version includes three mind maps with up to 100 elements. The paid app costs $5.49 for Android and $6.99 for iOS.

 

SmartDraw: best for linear mind mapping

SmartDraw makes mind mapping easy when you need flow charts, floor plans, and other linear tools. Although most of the tools today focus on free-form and circular solutions, this tool makes a good choice for those who do better with linear thinking. The layout also resizes automatically as you add to your ideas and the organized result may look like a chart but functions just like the mind map with that free ideation.

SmartDraw also allows the brain to go through the creative process and get to all the good ideas and then to transition seamlessly into examining the logic of the ideas and how they connect. It also makes it simpler when it comes to sharing since following the mind maps is a breeze. There's no free plan, but discounts are offered for larger teams.

This mind mapping tool starts at $9.95 per user per month. If you've got more than five users, you can get a discounted rate of $5.95 per month for each user.

 

Stormboard: best for collaborative sessions

Stormboard is a great collaboration tool when your team needs something to keep everyone on the same page. This tool has taken index cards and sticky notes to the next level with the different features that it offers. You can group notes around the screen and then use lines to connect them later. There's even a cool Rapid-Fire mode that allows you to generate a new note every time you post one, ensuring that you never lose your train of thought opening new notes.

Stormboard is also uniquely designed for teams that collaborate and it makes that process simple. Collaborators can create tasks, record and share comments, and even vote on ideas and offer their feedback. This software integrates with tons of the tools that you're already using on a daily basis, and you can guarantee that your ideas will be well-managed and properly mapped when you rely on this tool.

Stormboard is free for a personal plan with five boards, or you can upgrade to the Startup Plan for $5 per month for advanced features and tools.

 

Diagrams.net: best for free mind mapping

When you need a simple, free tool for mind mapping, Diagrams.net offers everything that you want and more. It's not going to have the rich features and robust elements of a paid tool, but you'll actually be quite surprised at all that it can do without costing a dime. This tool lets you create just about anything you could imagine, including plenty of mind maps and idea flowcharts.

This tool is accessed from the web and there is no cost involved. You don't even have to log in to use the site. You can download the desktop version, if you prefer, and work outside of the browser. It offers all the features you need for simple mind mapping, and even though it doesn't offer a lot of templates, it's still a great choice for beginners or those who might not use the software enough to justify a purchase.

 

Scapple: best for nontraditional brainstorming

Scapple makes it easy to take your brainstorming out of the box and get as creative as you want with a unique tool. Instead of having to start with a central idea, this tool allows you to start anywhere you'd like and work from there—whether that's backward, forward, outward, or any other direction. You can even create dozens of separate nodes first and then connect them all later, rearranging them until they fall into place.

This makes it easy to rapidly sketch out complex ideas and create a unique collaboration for the team. It also has a simple user interface that makes it easy to work with, and although it doesn't have some of the same features as other apps, it gives you the ultimate flexibility when it comes to the layout of your mind maps. Plus, it's got a free 30-day trial that covers 30 days of use, not just the first 30 days from when you sign up.

Scapple can be free for almost a year if you only use it once or twice a month, but most people will be more than content to pay the $10 price for the Mac and Windows apps.

 

Ayoa: best for a modern approach to the creative process

Ayoa offers a unique perspective in the world of mind mapping. This tool was created by an expert in the industry known by the name of Chris Griffiths and is available on the web, as well as for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. This app allows you to choose from organic maps, radial maps, or speed maps. The organic map is most like a traditional mind map, so it's usually where people start. However, it's not the only option.

Another thing that people enjoy about this app is that you can draw on the tool and even create ideas in a much more natural way than you would imagine. The idea is to keep it as close as possible to putting pen to paper, and this brand has done a great job of that. Speed Maps are designed for rapid brainstorm sessions and radial maps offer a whole new perspective with a series of concentric circles. Plus, there's a simple tool that's free to use and you can find real-time collaboration, chat features, and task management tools, as well.

Ayoa is free for those who need up to five boards with limited features or starts at $12 per month for additional features like attachments and exporting.

 

Spend more time on your creative strategies when Smith.ai handles your customer service needs and more

 

At Smith.ai, we know the power of putting the best technology to work for your brand. Mind mapping software tools are going to empower you to improve the creativity of your business in several different ways. You'll be well on your way to more creativity and a brighter future, and you'll be able to rely on us to handle all of your mission-critical services in the meantime.

Our virtual receptionists can offer a host of dedicated solutions for everything from CRM integration and sales development to customer service, email and digital marketing, and more. We'll help streamline all your mission-critical services so that you can spend more time focused on growing your business and the creative brainstorming it takes to get there.

Schedule your consultation today to discuss how we can create a custom solution for you, or reach out to us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484 to learn more and get started.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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