Software is best when it lets you do your primary tasks in a clear and intuitive way without a lot of clutter. In other words, it does simple things simply. I have been on the hunt for software to help expand my mind map. I have narrowed my choices down to five top contenders and would like to share my results with you. I went into this with the assumption that the software would be client (windows or mac) based, but discovered some of the best software out there is cloud based. I have listed the top five in table form and then went into more detail below. I hope you find these as useful as I have!
|Mind Miser||free to $15/month||web only||Intuitive/easy interface||No client side version|
|Coggle||free to $8/month||web only||Colorful easy to use interface||No client side version|
|Mind Maple||free to $10/year||windows/mac/iPhone||Supports multiple platforms||No android yet|
|The Brain||free to $299/version||windows / mac / android / iPhone / unix||Dynamic neural net type view||Too many features that get in the way|
|X Mind||free to $99/version||windows / mac / cloud||Longevity (10 year history and large user base)||Long install and start up time|
Systems: web only
Cost: basic (free)/ Personal ($6) / Pro ($10) / Business ($15)
Ease of use is paramount and this product excels in that area. It is easy to add and manipulate map elements. Everything is web based, so it is accessible from anywhere with Wi-Fi and a browser. The entry level product is free forever. It has nice features at the free level that other products charge for. An example would the slide show that can be generated from any mind map at the click of a button. The interface is intuitive without being over engineered. You can delve into the menu structure to do less common tasks, but everything you really need to build your map is one mouse click away. The tutorial is short and easy to follow without treating you like an idiot.
I found very few negatives. It is only web based, so if you need a client based tool, this will not work well for you. Password creation was a bit over the top in terms of complexity, but once you followed its dictates, everything else just seemed to flow.
Systems: web only
Cost: Deal: free($0) / Awesome($5/month) / Organization($8/month)
Coggle is written by Google, so it will be around for a long time to come. It is one of the lowest cost products out there for both the starter and pro versions. The tutorial is short, intuitive, and easy to skip steps if you wish. The UI uses color to great effect. The redraw time is very fast, in some cases much faster that client based software. Drawing options are mouse selectable with a single hover and click instead of menu based (where you have to know what you are looking for and then use multiple clicks). All significant options were color coded and available. It was understandable in under a minute so I could start using it immediately.
If I had any negatives, it would be the limitations on the free version. For example, you need to upgrade to “Awesome” to convert your mind map into a slide show. The free version only allows one private map (the rest are public), but the “Awesome” and “Organization” versions have unlimited private maps. For most of us, we only have one map so the free version will work for us.
Systems: windows/mac/iPhone (no android)
Cost: Lite version for free (upgrade for $10/year)
This client based product also has the ability to share maps with others (currently in beta). The price is one of the best out there for client based mind map software. The user interface was intuitive and easy to use. Multiple color and image options exist.
It has an iPhone version, but no android version yet. There is no tutorial that I could easily find. Documentation is available, but somewhat verbose.
Systems: windows / mac / android / iPhone / Unix
Cost:: free / license ($219) / pro ($299)
By far the most striking aspect of this tool is its ability to select and redraw the map from any node’s perspective! Instead of a two dimensional flat map, you have more of an infinite dimension map that can be shifted quickly. This lets a single node be used from any part of the map and drawn correctly without very long lines between nodes. The perspective changes such that it shows relationships in the most efficient way possible. It also has a way to integrate documents into your map. These documents are saved as part of the map. There is an option to link to a cloud account that will let you share maps with other people.
It takes a bit of a mental learning curve to switch context from a two dimensional map to an N-dimensional one. The sign up process was a bit cumbersome, but eventually worked okay.
Systems: Windows / Mac / Cloud
Cost: Basic (free) / Plus ($79) / Pro ($99) – both license and subscription modes available
This client based system is supported on both Windows and Mac and also has a cloud linkage to share maps. There is a large user base of this product and the producer has been around for a long time (over ten years). It is a solid workable system at a reasonable price, but nothing to write home about.
The install took longer than I expected. The startup time is slow to average. Some features (like conversion to slide show) are only available on the Plus or Pro versions. The volume of display options at every level feels a bit cluttered, but still workable.