Tools and Skills

5 Great Mind Mapping Tools to Brainstorm, Study, and Learn

Go Mind Mapping

Mind mapping knows no bounds.

Those spidery diagrams can be used for brainstorming business ideas, studying complex information, and even figuring out what you should do with your life.

mind mapping

How to Mind Map

You don’t need much to start mind mapping – even a large sheet of paper will do.

If you’re looking to find out what kind of job you might want next, start with something you like – running, restaurants, old records – and write that word in the center of the page.

Draw lines coming out of the word and start writing down secondary connections and free associations, write Bill Burnett and Dave Evans in their book Designing Your Life.

Then draw lines from these words and start free associating again. These maps should only take a few minutes. Then start highlighting whatever jumps out at you and try mixing-and-matching concepts. Pick from the outer layers as those are the ideas coming from beyond your conscious thinking.

“It may be the jumping-off point for something really practical and really new,” the authors write. “You should create your mind map on a big piece of paper. You are looking for lots of ideas–so make your map as graphic and as big as possible.”

Of course in this post-paper age, digitally-minded thinkers might appreciate one of the many apps available to help with mind mapping. Here are five of our favorites.



You can make simple, professional looking mind maps easily with MindNode, a $10 app for IOS users. The app is excellent for collaboration – maps can be shared, and users can add additional information in popover notes.

Mind Vector

For the more visually inclined, Mind Vector helps produce colorful maps with different variants on the structure of your maps. This app includes a search feature and the ability to add a background image. Mind Vector is free to download, but to create unlimited nodes you’ll need to cough up $10 for this one, too.


Popplet is promoted as a tool for school or work (and is one of the few mind mapping apps that bravely forgoes using mind in their company name). This one is great, if you want to work in a group, but the end product doesn’t need to look too formal–each node is cartoonishly outlined. Popplet works on iPhone, iPad, and online and costs $5.



Mindly offers search functions as well as quick finger-touch ID access when you upgrade their free app for $7. This app uses a solar-system style design with lots of colors for each word bubble.


Mind mapping newbies looking to dip their toe in without the financial commitment should try SimpleMind. It’s free and available for IOS or Android. Although teams can’t collaborate in real time, a mind map can be shared and edited by other users. The app allows photos to be added too, for when words or word associations escape you.


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