Sometimes, the mind needs some support, especially when trying to make sense of complex concepts, struggling through creator’s block or managing complex projects. Mind mapping software is the perfect solution.
Mind mapping software offers several advantages for project management. You can use it to manage non-linear conversations, quick meeting minutes, brainstorm project scope and turn that scope into a work breakdown structure.
SEE: 7 best project management ticketing systems for 2023 (TechRepublic)
Here, we have highlighted the six best mind mapping software for project management with information on each software’s pricing, standout features, and pros and cons. You will also find some advice on choosing the right software for your needs as well as our methodology for review.
Best mind mapping software for project management
|Windows and Mac
|$6.99 per user per month
|$5.50 per month for one user
|$4.99 per month, billed annually
|$29.50 one-time purchase for Windows or Mac
|$2.49 per user per month
|$99 per year
MindMeister: Best for team collaboration
MindMeister lets you collaborate with colleagues on mind maps and share your maps with anyone on the web. It is designed for browser-based use and has Android and iOS apps available.
MindMeister makes the project planning process easy. You can add files and images to mind maps with the basic version. The more advanced versions allow you to export tools, manage multiple projects, back up data for compliance purposes and more.
- Basic: Free for up to three mind maps.
- Personal: $6.99 per user per month, billed annually.
- Pro: $11.49 per user per month, billed annually.
- Business: $18.99 per user per month, billed annually.
Discounted versions are available for educators and nonprofit organizations.
- MeisterTask: MeisterTask is a separate app that can work in conjunction with MindMeister. Using this app, you can select a node in a mind map, then assign the item as a task to yourself or any of your collaborators. You can then access and manage additional task details within MeisterTask.
- Outline mode: You can easily toggle between different views using the outline mode. This includes toggling between visual and linear views and you can view mind maps as bullet lists.
- Export capabilities to various formats.
- Clean and intuitive interface.
- Difficult to use on the phone.
Mindomo: Best for presenting
Mindomo provides platform-independent mind mapping tools for those using macOS, Windows or Linux operating systems. It offers all of the core features required for building maps for a project, including different layouts and themes and real-time project collaboration.
For example, users can choose from layouts such as concept maps, tasks maps, Gantt charts and even outlines. Mindomo also features online and offline sync. This means you can create mind maps offline or online and sync them between users for easy project collaboration.
- Free: No cost for up to three diagrams.
- Premium: $5.50 per month for a single user.
- Professional: $13.50 per month for one user and five guests.
- Team: $16.50 per month for three team users; pricing scales as more users are added.
- Presentation mode: The presentation mode is an interactive and easy way to turn mind maps into a presentation without needing to switch to a separate application.
- Importing from other mind mapping tools: Mindomo offers the ability to import mind maps for other mind mapping tools, so you don’t have to start over on any projects that you have already started with other software.
- Real-time collaboration tools.
- Cloud storage.
- Free version lacks basic features such as exporting maps.
- User interface feels outdated.
Xmind: Best for a simple and minimalist interface
Xmind is a mind mapping tool that provides a wide range of map layouts, including mind maps, logic charts, brace maps, tree charts, timelines, fishbone charts and more. These layouts are fully customizable to ensure no project detail is missed on the map. Xmind is available on web browsers, iOS, Android and Linux.
- Free: No cost for unlimited mind maps.
- Pro Plan: $4.99 per month, billed annually, or 5.99 per month, billed monthly.
- Pitch mode: You can create slideshows for your maps in one click. These slideshows feature multiple layouts to choose from as well as animated and auto-generated transitions. This is perfect for presenting everything from ideas to project plans.
- Zen mode: Zen mode is an immersive mode of mind mapping to help maximize concentration, so you can ensure your project details are accurate.
- Password protection for files.
- Export mind maps to a variety of formats, including images.
- Large mind maps take a lot of time to load.
SimpleMind: Best for cross-platform use
SimpleMind is a straightforward mind mapping tool that features an intuitive interface, great for all skill levels. It is perfect for organizations that need a mind mapping tool that’s available across a wide range of devices. The platform is currently available for macOS, Windows, iOS and Android.
SimpleMind offers several templates, which range from a standard mind map, week and month planner views, flowchart, an org chart, as well as a timeline and to-do list. These templates enable you to start mapping out your ideas for your project plan almost instantly.
SimpleMind offers a one-time purchase price per platform for its plans, with no ads or monthly or annual fees:
- Free: No cost for limited features on iPad, iPhone and Android devices.
- SimpleMind Pro Single user: $29.50 on Windows or macOS, $58.27 for Windows and macOS bundle, $10.99 for iOS devices and $8.49 for Android devices.
- SimpleMind Pro Family/Team pack: $52.44 on Windows or macOS and $104.88 for Windows and macOS bundle; Family/Team pack unavailable for iOS and Android.
- SimpleMind Pro 10-user pack: $122.33 for Windows or macOS; 10-user pack unavailable for iOS and Android.
- SimpleMind Pro Site License: Contact sales for details.
- Free-form layout: This layout allows you to place ideas exactly where and how you want to. The benefit of this mode is that it helps you visualize how your ideas relate to the project as a whole.
- Autofocus mode: This mode blocks out distractions, so you can focus on ideas you are working on. This feature can be applied to selected topics and branches within your project mind map.
- Highly customizable.
- Seamless sync with the cloud.
- Creating new templates takes a lot of time.
- The free version has very limited features.
MindNode: Best for Apple users
While MindNode is great for creating simple mind maps, it’s capable of much more. You can use outline mode to brainstorm your projects in a more linear way. Or, you can use Outline mode and the mind map at the same time for greater visibility on project details and planning.
MindNode also features a Focus mode, which allows you to focus on one map branch at a time. MindNode is currently available for macOS, Android and iOS.
- MindNode for Mac and MindNode for iOS: Free.
- MindNode Plus: $2.49 per user per month, or $19.99 per user paid annually.
- Visual tags: MindNode lets you add visual tags to your maps, enabling you to easily group ideas together or simply add more context. Plus, nodes can quickly be turned into tasks and synced with Apple Reminders for an automated to-do list.
- Task progress: Users of Mindnode can stay on top of their projects by using task progress tools. This allows the nodes to be transformed into tasks.
- Supports a wide range of formats.
- Numerous widgets are available.
- No Windows version.
- Lacks label attachments.
- The free version lacks basic features.
MindManager: Best for serious business users
MindManager is a powerhouse tool for basic mind mapping for project management. While you can use the tool’s mind map view to brainstorm, the kanban board view can manage your team’s workflow and ensure projects are completed on time.
MindManager also features more robust features, such as text accelerators, which enable you to tag topics and utilize drag-and-drop functionality and map filtering.
- Essentials: $99 per year.
- Professional: $179 per year, or $369 one-time purchase of the current version, with single-user capabilities.
- Enterprise: Contact sales for pricing details.
- MindManager Snap: This tool enables you to send ideas, images and more straight to the Snap queue, so it’s ready to use whenever you open MindManager. This is perfect for mapping or brainstorming projects on the fly.
- Brainstorm: This tool is a three-step guided process for brainstorming project ideas into a map. It is used to identify current challenges and to generate, categorize and refine ideas for project planning.
- Easy onboarding.
- Several types of charts are available.
- Microsoft Office integration.
- No free plan.
- Limited customization.
- Relatively expensive.
What is mind mapping software?
A mind map shows connections between concepts. A typical mind map features a central idea surrounded by related ideas, with lines that link from the main node to each secondary idea.
Mind mapping software makes it simple to capture a core concept, then add related ideas and details. Unlike a printed page or dry erase board, mind mapping software redraws layouts rapidly — no need to erase or redraw anything as you add or restructure connections.
Additionally, most mind mapping software lets you quickly switch between map and outline views as well as add links, notes and additional content to individual map nodes.
Mind mapping tools often provide task and project management features, too:
- Prefer a Gantt chart? Select a different view.
- Do deadlines matter? Assign a due date to a node.
- Ready to get to work? Export your map as a calendar.
- Task complete? Mark it as done either in the mind map itself or in a task list made from the map.
Benefits of mind mapping software for project management
Simplifies mind map creation
A mind map enables you to easily put together ideas during project planning. Instead of drawing nodes on paper or a whiteboard, you can simply add nodes in a couple of clicks using mind map software. Modifications to your project details can be made in the same way.
For example, you can quickly delete nodes or add more context to a node using built-in editing tools. And if you prefer the look created by pen and paper, tools like Xmind allow you to switch to a hand-drawn look with just a click.
Enables map collaboration
Brainstorming and problem-solving are often required in project management. Mind mapping software enables simplified project collaboration. For example, most apps allow you to share your mind maps with others, who can then edit the map and add their own ideas.
SEE: Top 8 unified communications platforms (TechRepublic)
Some mind mapping software, such as MindNode, enables you to export maps to other formats like PDF for sharing with those that don’t have the tool. And other tools enable real-time collaboration, allowing multiple people to work on a mind map for project management at the same time.
Offers additional tools
Many mind mapping solutions go beyond the creation of simple maps to provide tools such as cloud syncing, Gantt chart creation, map themes and templates, keyboard shortcuts, notes and attachments, scrum-specific features, and much more. This means you’re sure to find a mind mapping tool that fits the needs of your project.
Integrates with your other apps
Any tool you add to your project management tech stack should integrate well with your other software and apps. Many mind map tools do just that. For example, MindMeister integrates with apps such as Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams for streamlined project planning and collaboration.
Goes beyond the simple tree map
Traditionally, mind maps resemble trees or even spiders. However, mind mapping software gives you the ability to fully customize maps based on what works best for you and your project. For example, MindMeister offers an outline layout for more linear thinking, and Xmind provides additional layouts, including fishbone and timeline.
Regardless of the layout, other elements of your mind map can be customized such as color, line styling, node positioning and more to help you visualize your project plan.
How to choose mind mapping software for project management?
Selecting any new software for your project management tech stack should be done with care and consideration. There are many mind mapping tools available on the market today. However, not all of them are the perfect match for your organization or for project management in general.
You need a tool that helps with project planning, brainstorming concepts, risk management, recording meeting and discussion notes, and project monitoring. Here are some questions to answer before making your selection.
Does the software fit your project management needs?
Start by determining which mind mapping features are must-haves and which ones are nice-to-haves. For example, you may need a tool that integrates with your current tech stack but may be able to move forward without more niche features such as focus mode or the ability to add video to your maps.
While we don’t like to focus on budget, this is also something to consider here. Some mind map tools are offered for free or feature no-cost basic account options. As you search for software, keep in mind that additional investment may be required for more robust features.
Is the software easy to use?
Mind mapping should be simple for everyone in your project management team. After all, it should be a stress-free way to capture and share ideas and solutions. Choose software with an intuitive interface and simple controls. Luckily, many mind mapping solutions are basic in nature, as they have one purpose: creating mind maps.
Does the software integrate with your tech stack?
You and your team should be able to brainstorm and keep track of bright ideas from anywhere, whether that be while managing projects in Asana or taking notes in Evernote.
The mind mapping tool you choose should integrate well with the other tools you currently use. This will streamline the process of turning great ideas generated from mind mapping into initiatives within your organization.
The list of best mind mapping software for project management was compiled using several factors as the criteria. This includes the features, pricing, advantages and disadvantages, and ease of use. Each factor was evaluated using hands-on review, expert opinions and user testimonials.
Read next: 10 best kanban board software for project management (TechRepublic)