Is there an idea bouncing around in your head that seems like it has no place to go? According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, this is a major productivity no-no. As the book notes, “This consistent, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy.”

In other words, if you don’t have a system for managing your ideas, your ideas will start to manage you. The more we store our thoughts in our heads, the more we struggle to keep tabs on everything. This leads to feelings of stress and overwhelm. And, in the end, we don’t get things done.

Mind mapping is an easy solution for getting your best thoughts and ideas on paper—or on the computer. It is an active way to think about a problem, a project, or a work of art, and forces ideas out of our heads and into the world. 

But before you get started mapping away, it’s worth taking a minute or two to consider: What online mind map maker will work best for you?

Mind Map Tools You Can Use Today

drawing a mind map
Source: unsplash
Mind maps are ideal for getting your ideas out on paper without losing track of specific trains of thought.

Make no mistake: Your creative output ties directly to your plans for productivity. Even if you’re not into business or productivity books like Getting Things Done, the principles that make mind map programs so effective will still help you. After all, creatives need productivity tips, too.

As they say in physics: Nothing happens until something moves. Think of your entry into mind mapping as the first step in getting the creativity out of your head and into the world.

The good news is it’s easier than you think to get started. Here are some mind map tools you can use today:

1. MindMeister

mind meister
Source: mindmeister
MindMeister’s mind map tools are suitable for both individuals and teams collaborating on projects.

MindMeister is a full-service mind mapping suite, working for both individuals and teams. It’s also a handy way to cull together resources from across the internet, seamlessly integrating YouTube videos or Google Drive notes.

Like all the tools on this list, you’ll find plenty of resources for organizing your information visually—a method that can help you to track your ideas while potentially spurring new ones. 

When you create mind maps, you can use custom styles for different maps on the same board. In other words, you can easily tell one set of ideas apart from another. This helps you keep multiple threads organized under the same project.


The free version gets you up to three mind maps, but you’ll have access to unlimited maps for $4.99 per month.

2. Miro

miro
Source: miro
Miro’s mind map maker features a minimalist design for better organizing ideas and idea threads.

Miro’s mind map maker features mind maps so precise, they’ll feel like you’re working from a template. But every step along the way—where you ideate your new thoughts, for example—are all fully customizable. The click-and-drag feature alone makes a tool like Miro better than pen and paper. Once you’ve written it in ink, you can’t exactly click-and-drag it to a new place on your page.

Miro also cuts out wasted time with its templates, such as Kanban boards. You can use these templates time and again whenever you need to populate a project with new ideas. You can also use the flowchart template to predict and design business systems.

As with MindMeister, Miro’s free offering does include three mind maps, but you can unlock “unlimited editable boards” at $8 per month.

3. Microsoft Visio

microsoft mind map
Source: microsoft
Microsoft Visio can be a project management tool, but did you know you can also use it for mind mapping during meetings?

You might know Visio as a presentation tool, something you’re more likely to spot over a conference table than in front of the desk you’re using to plot out a new novel. But there’s no reason you can’t use Visio for all of your mind mapping needs. It lets you build flowcharts and collaborate with others, and it integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft Office tools—which is essential if you’re already working in Word.

The catch? There is no free option with Visio; you’re either using it or you’re not. Fortunately, at just $5 per user per month, it’s an affordable way to get started.

4. MindGenius

mindgenius
Source: MindGenius
MindGenius’s timeline features help you integrate your mind map with the realities of planning in four dimensions.

At MindGenius, you can get started with an online mind map generator without a credit card, which is ideal for anyone who’s on a budget but still wants to poke around with the possibilities of digital mind mapping. 

MindGenius is slanted toward project management, but it’s no less capable of handling your most creative projects. And the feature you might like here is the timeline, which helps you sync your MindGenius mind map with a specific project calendar. Combined with its Trello-like task boards, you’ve got all the tools you need to turn your ideas into reality.

There’s no credit card required to get started and download MindGenius20 for free. But if you sign up for the basic MindGenius Online package to start using the mind map features, you will pay $16 per month. 

Free Mind Map Makers

So you’ve got your mind map generator. Great. Fantastic. Thumbs up. There’s just one problem: When you pull out your pockets, you’re more likely to find lint than the spare change for mind mapping software. After all, you’re still in project-planning mode; the money doesn’t come until the end.

Not to fret. Let’s look at some of the best free mind map makers you can use.

5. GitMind

git mind
Source: gitmind
GitMind’s unique designs are suitable for personal projects for all ages.

The mind map software from GitMind features templates for essay writing, project launches, sitemap planning, and even basic flowcharts that are appropriate for just about any type of brainstorming. GitMind also offers icons and graphics to help you organize your ideas by more than basic threads—you can employ visual cues to sort between major idea groups at a glance.

6. MindMup

mindmup
Source: MindMup
MindMup lets you use its tool for free, with no signups—as long as you’re comfortable storing the mind map openly.

Commitmentphobe? You can use a mind map maker online without signing up. Although systems like MindMup have a “Gold” version, you don’t even have to sign up to start using this free tool. You do have to upgrade to Gold to save your mind map as a private version, but if having a mind map out in public isn’t a problem for you, the free version will suit just fine.

Once you’ve opened the tool, it’s easy to use. Simply begin with “root node” ideas as your main themes, and then attach smaller, related ideas via “child nodes.” 

7. Coggle

coggle
Source: coggle
The smooth flow of Coggle helps to wrangle all sorts of complicated ideas into an easy-to-read mind map.

As another offering with a “free forever” plan, Coggle’s zero-dollar signup lets you use unlimited public diagrams and up to three private diagrams. So if you absolutely must keep your projects under wraps, Coggle will make a nice alternative to MindMup.

Lest you think the “free” plan here won’t give you what you need to make robust mind maps, consider the following features. Unlimited image uploads, exporting to Visio, 1,600 included icons, and free PDF downloads so you can save your mind maps once they’re done.

Get Your Best Ideas Down on Paper

Mind map tools are just that: tools. When you create a mind map, you’re still in the planning stages of the creative process. The act of planning isn’t enough to create a winner every time, but the more you get your ideas out of your head and onto something more like paper, the better you’ll feel. 

Not only will creating a mind map help you proactively explore and vet your own ideas, but it will freeze them in place. With this technique, you’ll be better organized and highly productive. Now you’ll be able to clear up storage space and extra RAM on that other free tool you can’t live without: your mind.

Create Your First Mind Map

Mind Mapping Course—Beginners Guide

Written By

Dan Kenitz

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