The technique of mind mapping has been around for centuries. Since the 1970’s psychologists such as Tony Buzan, promoted the benefits of mind mapping, explaining that jotting down ideas in a branch-like fashion was far more conducive to the way our minds naturally function. Starting with a central idea and breaking it down into its most basic parts, mind maps have found use in a variety of fields including project management, small and large business, medicine, education and even in the military.
Mind mapping is a great way to brainstorm ideas within a team and develop creative solutions quickly. Whether it is nutting out the management structure of your business, developing a new logo, making sense of complex supply chains or breaking down the tasks for project management, mind maps have almost unlimited applications.
Traditionally done by hand, mind mapping has come along way, with a stack of great tools that are now available on your computer, phone or tablet. Here’s a list of the top five, and a few tips for how they can help boost productivity in your office and inspire team collaboration.
This incredible mind mapping program claims that it works more like people and thoughts and less like a computer. Coggle.it has great ratings, and it is easy to see why. For starters, it’s free! And it allows you to work completely online, no need to download anything, although you can export your mind map to PDF or PNG if so desired.
It comes with a color wheel, and you can drag and drop an unlimited amount of images. It is also excellent for collaboration because of it’s ability to track changes from anyone who adds or edits a mind map. There is even a history mode that allows you to go back to previous versions and work from those. Pretty sweet for a free program.
With MindMeister, the features seem endless. Keep in mind that for some of the most advanced options mentioned here come with only the Business version ($14.99/mo), but so much still comes with the Pro ($9.99/mo) and even the Personal ($4.99/mo) versions that are packed full of features.
Some of the best features include the ability to share via email or link, playback changes with History View, and export projects to a heap of different formats. All changes from users are color coded, and each user can see the history of the project. MindMeister is also available on mobiles and tablets and it is super easy to use, no matter on which device you access it. Best of all, each of the subscriptions come with a 30-day free trial so you can check it out for yourself.
This tool was featured on Apple as an “App Store Best”, and only costs a one-time fee of $9.99. As expected, it only works on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. In fact, you can start a mind map on your Mac, leave for coffee with your iPad, and continue working with its inbuilt iCloud or Dropbox syncing options.
Other features include the ability to cross-connect nodes from different mind maps, keyboard shortcuts, hyperlinks, show and hide entire branches, tap to add nodes and the ability to automatically reorganise complicated maps. MindNode is simple and easy to use but also quite pretty. It comes with colour themes, different strokes and fonts, and you can change colours of each aspect in the map. You can even embed your map into websites or blogs and share links across Twitter, email, or Facebook.
Built for collaboration, Stormboard is one of the best mind mapping tools for when you know you’ll be working with a team for most of your projects. The shared whiteboard and sticky note-like format allows you to collaborate online, vote, comment, add priority and organise, while being able connect remotely or via mobile device. Stormboard provides summary reports, image and video embedding and a number of templates to make your ideas come to life.
Stormboard is also SSL encrypted, keeping your ideas safe. The good news? The free version includes 5 users, 1 admin, and unlimited storms. The $5/user/month version comes with 30 users, 1 admin, unlimited storms, and a 30 day free trial. The $10/user/month is unlimited everything plus a 30 day free trial.
The XMind 2013 is a beast of a mind mapping program, so it’s easy to see why paid versions start at $79. A free version is also available, which comes with a variety of cool features such as local network sharing, IME support, presentations, attachments, password encryption, and even audio notes. It has a number of inbuilt templates and structures like tree chart, org-chart, logic chart, and more while also offering a ‘matrix view’ that displays all the information in a table.
Users can also share your mind map on the XMind network and set the privacy to public, private, or unlisted. Visitors can comment, bookmark, or download your map, if your map is public or privately shared with them. There are heap of other features available through the paid version, so check out their website and pick the right version for you or your business.
Be sure to try out any of the ones above with free trials or that are simply free. You may not know until you actually get into some digital mind mapping what works for you best. And if none of them appeal to you, there’s always the old-fashioned way of using large sheets of paper and coloured pencils or a whiteboard and coloured markers.
Jo Sabin is the community manager at DesignCrowd, a leading online graphic design jobs marketplace.