The 3 best mind map tools for online use, and why they work

The best mind map tool for your needs and your budget

Mind-mapping can get more out of all sorts of problem-solving. Brainstorming, planning, note-taking, research… But it’s also good for presenting complex information with ease, and it’s such a break from PowerPoint.

MindMap - Best mind map tool

When your thoughts are popping into your head at random a mind map lets you pin down everything and explore it fully. I find it helps me examine the whole problem without missing a thing. You start with the main idea and branch into sub-topics and so on into more detail.

The process harnesses more than the analytical skills used for making a list on a spreadsheet. A mind map also stimulates the creative part of your brain. And everyone does have a creative part! A mind map allows you to lay out all the different parts of a problem and see the relationships between them – something you just can’t do with a spreadsheet.

So you think you know what a mind map looks like…

The guidelines to create a mind map may surprise you. Watch the following video. You’ll see what a classic mind map should look like using pen and paper. Then you’ll understand where the online versions do things differently…

Online applications take the core idea of mind-mapping and give you a lot more. Not only can you map the thoughts in your mind but you can link to the world of information across the internet. And of course computer-generated mind maps are easier to edit and update. Throw in sharing and collaboration and you have a perfect tool for problem-solving.

  1. MindMap

    MindMap - Best mind map tool

    MindMap is the simplest take on mind-mapping. You drag a branch from a node and it opens up a textbox ready for you to enter text. Each branch is coloured automatically and you just carry on dragging to create a sub-node. If need be you can go back and change the colours or borders.

    This application dispenses with most of the classic features of a mind map. What you get is a way of recording your thoughts in a clear branching structure. The great advantage is that the process doesn’t get in the way of coming up with ideas.

    The styles are limited but may be all you need. You can attach images, video and urls. There’s also a built-in drawing pad to insert your own drawings.

    The saving and sharing options are very flexible. You can save via Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, share on social media, embed within your website or export as an image.

    MindMap is available as a web application or Google Chrome extension.

    Price: Free (ads on the website but not on your maps)

  2. Mindomo

    Mindomo - Best mind map tool

    Mindomo offers a broad suite of mind-mapping tools to cater for a range of situations. There are templates for SWOT analysis, risk management and even planning a website. So from the outset you can tailor the process to the exact solution you need.

    It’s easy to insert multimedia, hyperlinks and notes. And at every stage you can determine the look of each element with a range of styles and themes. This is particularly useful when you want to take advantage of the Presentation Mode.

    Mindomo is geared up for collaboration and sharing. Many participants can take part, it’s easy to insert comments and tasks can be assigned. If any change is made an email notification can be sent to participants. You can choose to make your map public or keep it private with a direct link for team members or clients.

    All data is backed up automatically to Google Drive, Dropbox or an FTP account. It’s also possible to work offline, sync your work and save your maps locally. There’s even an app in the Google Apps Store.


    For most people this is the best mind map tool. It’s a flexible solution that covers more than mind-mapping across a range of situations.

    Find out more in the Video.

    Price: From $36 to $162 for 6 months depending on features and number of users. A free option offers 3 maps.

  3. iMindMap

    iMindMap - Best-mind-map-tool

    iMindMap is endorsed by Tony Buzan who coined the term ‘mind map’ in the 1970s. He used his knowledge of psychology to refine guidelines for the whole concept. This application comes closest to achieving the look of a classic mind map. But is this the look you want?

    If you watched the video at the top of the page you’ll understand that this design aims to do more than display topics in an organised array. It tries to draw out new ideas for creative solutions. It offers a nonrestrictive structure and many styling options to create a unique map. And you can even deliver a 3D animated presentation.

    You can insert all sorts of multimedia including audio notes. It integrates with Outlook, PowerPoint and Microsoft Project. Can you tell it comes with all the bells and whistles? Yes, but for a hefty price tag…

    Price: From $100 to $1,995 for 6 months depending on features and number of users.

The best mind map tool provides the quick and consistent approach to problem-solving that’s best for you. Compared to pen and paper an online tool offers a degree of polish that business often demands. You’ll find options tailored for presentation, creating an overview of a problem or organising resources in a methodical way. What most online mapping tools lack is that combination of techniques founded in psychology that can stimulate you in a truly creative way. The physical effort of drawing seems to engage your brain more deeply. So online mind maps may be perfect for exploring most business problems but not all.


The 3 best mind map tools for online use, and why they work
The 3 best mind map tools for online use, and why they work
The best mind map tool is a quick and thorough solution for problem-solving. The web adds flexibility for editing, sharing and presentation.
  • Frank Haddad

    great info thank you

    • Thanks for commenting, Frank, have a good week

  • Hey Donald,

    Good stuff. Mind mapping is key and a really good way to get the creative juices going. I use it from time to time, but I know I should be using it more. And I don’t really use any particular software or tools for it, but you may have just encouraged me to reconsider that.

    – Andrew

    • Hi, Andrew, I recommend it for all the big decisions.

      I couldn’t see myself using it for things such as blog topics but there’s definitely a place for it somewhere. It does get more out of a subject.

      Good to see you, thanks for commenting.

  • Hi, Donald,

    What an interesting post! I really enjoy mind maps and find them very helpful. I’m on a MacBook Pro, and have used Xmind app and really like it. It’s free as well. Point, click, drag and drop. Was easy to learn, and I use it for training my students sometimes.

    To be honest, I prefer visual ways of expressing (and consuming) thoughts and information, and think it’s the best possible way to communicate a message.

    Hadn’t heard of these resources you mentioned and featured here, so thanks for the heads up on this. Always good to know more about what’s available out there.

    Thanks for sharing and hope you’re having a great start to your week.

    ˜Carol :-)

    • Hi, Carol, nice to see you.

      I haven’t used Xmind, I’m sure to run into it so I’ll give it a look. It’s amazing how many options ther are, isn’t it?!

      I’m always surprised at how much more I can get out of a question using a mind map. I usually start of with an ordinary list then for an in-depth study I set it down in the form of a mind map.

      Glad to see you’re already using it, thanks for dropping by!

  • Bonnie Gean

    Hi Donald,

    I’m not sure what it is with mind maps because I don’t care for them. I am a creative person (I am graphically inclined in Photoshop, etc.) but when it comes to mind maps, I run. :)

    If I buy products for learning that come with mind maps, I find that I won’t go through the entire product. Mostly this is because the product creator doesn’t ZOOM in far enough for me to understand the map.

    I’m limited in my vision, so it’s hard for me to see the words on top of the map tab. Aside from this downfall, I find them very unappealing in the visual sense. Not very creative, in my book. :)

    To me, mind maps look like tiny spiders with a ton of legs that combine to produce something that’s not very appealing or interesting to me. I would rather read a report. hehe

    I’m not say mind maps aren’t helpful. I’m merely pointing out that they aren’t for me. I know they help others, and for that I am glad.

    – Bonnie

    • Hi, Bonnie, don’t give up on mind maps!

      Forget about looking at other people’s maps – it’s clearly not how your mind wants to read information. I think it’s silly that a manufacturer could throw in a mind map without understanding his audience – it’s totally different when they’re giving a presentation and they’re present to lead you through it.

      But writing your own map is totally different. It really does draw out the details and tie it all together. I’d recommend you try the free programme at the top of the list. There’s pretty much no learning curve. You’ll find it corresponds to how you think – though not how you yourself absorb information :)

      Thanks for dropping by.

  • Hey Donald,

    I’m not a fan of mindmaps either, I can relate to what Bonnie said actually. I think it’s more that my brain doesn’t work that way and when I’ve tried using them in the past I just find myself more and more confused. I prefer the old school way, just writing things down on a notepad and of course if I need to branch out then I’ll just start a new list.

    I think for more creative people perhaps it’s a great way to visualize where their ideas are headed. I’m not sure, I’ve tried several different programs but just seem to get lost when using them.

    I know a lot of people love them though so they are a big hit with most. I guess we all can’t possibly like the same things though right!

    Great share and I’ll be sure to share this as well because I’m probably of the minority.


    • Hi, Adrienne, I can’t persuade you!

      I definitely agree that they’re not a natural thing to read (unless someone’s guiding you through it) but I think they really help for writing things down!

      For anyone who’s not comfortable with the ‘creative’ idea I would definitely throw out the illustration style of mind map. I don’t bother with it myself if I’m trying to get an idea down, just go for the words.

      As for Bonnie I should recommend you try the free option at the top of the page – it’s just quick lines and text. But I know you’re not going to try it!

      Everyone’s different like you say :)

      Thanks for commenting, hope all’s well with you!

  • Hey Donald – I’ve played with mind maps a bit in the past, and have always struggled with them. Just not a huge fan. I don’t know if they cater to more of the visual or creative mindset, but that’s just not me.

    Now I read a post recently that was also talking up mind maps, and I thought I’d give it a try again. Don’t remember what tool I was using, but after playing around with it for 30 mins or so I just gave up.

    Now I haven’t ruled them out just yet, and I’m game for giving them another shot, but I may wait a bit before diving in again. Perhaps it was the tool i was using that was making it more challenging than it should have been.

    I’ll take another look at the tools you’ve outlined above.

    Have a great week Donald.

    • Hi, Craig, I think you’ve just been using bad tools!

      I’m surprised that so many people have struggled with mind maps. It makes me more sure that people should forget the really complex options.

      Just try the very simple Google tool and without bothering about inserting images or links. What you’ve then got is just lines and text boxes, all drawn automatically and faster then pen and paper.

      It’s good that you haven’t ruled them out. I hope you get better results next time, it’s a really good extra way of squeezing out ideas.

      Have a good week and thanks for commenting!

  • Hey Donald!

    I love mind maps. They free us from linear thinking and give us an opportunity to think freely – and that’s where creativity comes into picture!

    As a blogger it is very important for me to brainstorm for blog post ideas and ideas for products, campaigns etc. A mind map helps doing these stuff in the way I want – instead of writing down a list!

    I use SimpleMind Free on my Mac to get my ideas out.

    Thanks for sharing this Donald. Have a great week :)


    • Hi, Jane, how are you? Hope you’re feeling much better.

      I’m impressed to see you use mind maps. I agree there’s so much you can do with them.

      I haven’t heard of SimpleMind before but I know there are so many free apps out there. Looks like you’re all set up:)

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Hi Donald,

    Article with an interesting information! :)
    Indeed, sometimes there are some thoughts that pop up in my head.
    But, I had no idea that there are tools for this. It was great to know them.

    Honestly, I have not heard about them yet. So, this is a new information for me. Thanks for sharing this, Donald. I will start to share it right now! ;)


    • Hi, Nanda, good to see you.

      It’s worth playing around with a free tool just to see what it can do. I’d definitely recommend the free one first in the list. Just add the shortcut to your browser and use it to explore any little idea. Don’t save it for the big things!

      Have a good week!

  • Great info. Thanks for sharing

    • Hi, Erik, thanks for commenting.

  • Hi Donald,

    I love mind maps. They really help you understand your ideas and see any little loop holes you may need to fill.

    I used Excel previously but these are some great options and seem so much simpler.

    Thanks for this Donald.

    Have a great rest of the week.

    • Hi, Steve, good to see you.

      Mind maps do fit in perfectly with a certain way of thinking, nice to hear you’re using them. They definitely make it easier!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Lucas Gruez

    Thank for this article Donald, an interesting presentation about 3 very different tools.
    I’m teacher in a junior high school in France, and trainer, and we use mind
    mapping and concept mapping in classroom and for home works. On my blog (in French) , , I share the works of my pupils, and colleagues that I trained and I do curation too about mind mapping and concept mapping in education: .

    With pupils I use Freeplane and, and personnaly I use Imindmap, and differents tools online.
    Thnaks for your post and this very interesting discussion in comments.
    Lucas Gruez

    • Salut, Lucas!

      It’s so good to hear that mind-mapping is being used in schools.

      Your blog and scoop-it are both very interesting and worth looking at for some really detailed information, for people who can speak French of course. Je vous remercie de me parler en anglais, ça fait longtemps que j’écris en français et c’est pénible… mais je sais lire!

      I hadn’t heard of Mind42 but it looks good. I like the emphasis on simplicity. I’ll check it out later and Freeplane too.

      Thanks for commenting, I’m really pleased you liked the post.

      • Lucas Gruez

        Salut Donald!
        Merci pour votre retour.
        Mind42 is not very beautiful but very useful, it is possible to embeded pictures very easily and my pupils work with. I did for them a tutorial shared on slideshare:, vous pouvez ainsi pratiquez votre lecture en français ;-)

        Wisemapping is another free tool (and open source) very interesting

        Bien cordialement.

        • Merci, Lucas!

          The tutorial looks a good place to learn from and I’ll check out Wisemapping too. Cheers!

  • Thanks for this article. Those tools seem interesting and I am definately a mind map person. I think I have to give them a try.

    • Hi, lida-Emilia, I really recommend the first free tool, it’s even faster than pen and paper.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Vivien Goldstrong

    Great post, Donald.
    I have been a mind mapper for quite some time and the technique has helped me a lot in developing my organizational and idea gathering skills. Although I like what your suggested choice of online mind mapping tools is, I really have to recommend iMindQ Online, You might like to check this one out, and share your opinion.
    Looking forward to another great post of yours.

    • Hi, Vivien,

      It’s good to hear from a committed mapper :) It really does help to organise and develop your ideas, doesn’t it? I haven’t come across your suggestion before but I’ll take a look at it sometime.

      Thanks for checking by, have a great day!