A mind map, as AYOA defines it, is a ‘visual thinking tool used to capture information and ideas’. It is a mental heuristic that helps us capture and organize our ideas and thoughts in a more structured and organized forms. Brevity, clarity, and conciseness are mind mapping hallmarks.
When you create a mind map you only focus on what is important cutting through the clutter and making space for more ideas to germinate out of the captured connections and interrelations. Hence the reputation of mind maps as thinking tools that boost memory, creativity, and productivity.
For us in education, mind maps are key learning tools which can be used in a wide variety of ways. For instance, students can create mind maps to help with their thinking processes (as is the case when writing to think).
By connecting ideas via different structures and branches, students uncover new connections and discover new ideas and lines of reasoning, a process known as ideation. Mind maps can also help students learn visually and creatively by visualizing information in formats that are compatible with their favourite learning styles.
[Related: Best mind mapping tools for Google Drive]
Mind maps are inclusive tools and tend to students divergent learning styles. Students can use them to collaboratively or individually brainstorm ideas, plan for projects, document outlines, create presentations, write short summaries, and many more.
The collection below features some of the best web-based mind mapping tools for you and your students. For mind mapping apps, check out the best Android and iPad mind mapping apps for students and teachers.
Some of the interesting features these mind mapping tools offer include: the ability to add various types of multimedia materials to your mind maps (e.g, images, web links, icons, stickers, etc), collaborative brainstorming in real time, pre-made editable mind mapping templates, multiple third party integrations, and various export formats (e.g., PDF, plain text, image, rtf, and more.
Mind mapping tools
Here are our picks for the best mind mapping tools:
Popplet is a great tool for creating and sharing mind maps. The way it works is simple and easy: simply drag and drop then add images, videos, drawings, and text and when you are done share your mind maps with others.
There is also Popplet for Education which offers a wide variety of student-friendly features including real time collaboration. Popplet for Education also offers a special discount for the educational community.
Pricing: the free version offers limited features and allows for the creation of only one popplet. The Solo version comes at $2.99 per month or 29.99 per year and offers way more features. There is also the Groups and Schools version which offers custom pricing.
AYOA is another great tool for creating and sharing mind maps. AYOA offers numerous features ideal for us in education. These include real time collaboration, commenting, and branch voting. Using Team view, users can get a quick overview of collaborators availability and view what everyone is working on.
Mind maps created by AYOA can include attachments, imagery, text, videos and many more. Besides mind maps, AYOA can be used to create radial map which is a pie-chat style map ideal for setting goals and visualizing steps in a project. The Whiteboards feature further allows users to capture and organize ideas using sticky notes, annotations and more.
Pricing: Mind Map ($5.75 per user/month when billed annually), Pro ($10 per user/month/ when billed annually), and Ultimate ($13 per user/month/when billed annually).
Simple enables you to create beautiful mind maps using free-form layout and auto-layouts. There are also over 15 style sheets to choose from or you can create your own style sheets. Other interesting features provided by SimpleMind include the ability to add multimedia materials to your mind maps such as images, icons, labels, checkboxes, links to documents or webpages; customize your templates the way you want; share mind maps in different formats including as PDF, seamless integration with cloud-based tools such as Dropbox, iCloudDrive, and Google Drive, among others.
Pricing: Free version with limited functionality (no ads, no registration and works only on iPad, iPhone, and Android)
MindMup is another mind mapping creation tool that lets you create unlimited mind maps. Everything you create on MindMup is stored online for you to access anytime, anywhere and across different devices. More importantly, ‘Maps saved to MindMup Cloud support concurrent editing for teams and classrooms, enabling you to instantly see updates made to your map by other users’.
Mind maps created in MindMup can be easily converted to PDF, PowerPoint, and outlines. Other interesting features provided by this tool include: the ability to attach various elements to your maps including longer text, videos, spreadsheets, images, icons; link to other project documents on Google Drive; integration with Office 365 and Google Drive, among others.
Pricing: Free version offers: unlimited number of maps, no account/login required, community, publish maps for up to six months. More advanced features are embedded in the premium plans: Personal Gold plan costs $2.99 and Organizational Gold costs $100.
MindNode offers a number of powerful mind mapping features that enable you to brainstorm your ideas anywhere and anytime. You can start your mind app in your iOS device and finish it in your Mac. The syncing capabilities are awesome. For a more structured and organized brainstorming you use the Outline feature, or better yet, user mind map and Outline side by side.
Other useful features provided by MindNode include the ability to add more context to maps using visual tags, focus mode to highlight key data, over 250 stickers to illustrate maps, pre-made themes that are fully customizable, the ability to share mind maps in various formats including PDF, rtf, docx, plain text, image, markdown, among others.
Pricing: MindNode free edition offers basic features that include creating new nodes, adding titles, reordering nodes, importing and exporting supported file format, folding child nodes, among others. MindNode Plus offers more features such as editable outline, visual tags, focus mode, notes, stickers, connections, layout options, and more. The introductory prices for MindNode Plus are $2.49 per month and 19.99 per year. A free 14 day trial is offered.
Cacoo is a diagramming tool that provides you with a virtual space where you can visualize your ideas and collaborate with your team. You can create, edit, share comment and chat with your collaborators in real-time.
You can use the presentation mode to share your screen with others and engage with them in video chats right from within the editor. You can free-draw on a blank canvas or start with a pre-made template.
Also, you can create your data or import it from a spreadsheet and edit it in Cacoo. Similarly you can import your Visio files and edit them in Cacoo. Revision history allow you to track edits applied to a diagram over time.
Your final diagrams can be exported as SVG, PDF, PowerPoint, and PostScript. Additionally, Cacoo supports numerous integrations including Google Drive, Google Docs, Adobe Creative Cloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Slack, Box, Visio, Microsoft Teams, and more.
Pricing: Cacoo free version offers the following features: 6 sheets, templates and shapes, PNG exports, real-time editing, in-app video chat, comment and chat. For more features such as revision history, 1 on 1 training, multiple export options, unlimited sheets, etc., you need a premium version. There is a Pro plan that comes at $45 per month and a Team plan for $5 per month per user.
After it was an exclusive app for iOS and Android, Mindly is now available for MacOS X. Mindly helps you capture and organize your thoughts and ideas into mind maps. Features supported by Mindly include: the ability to add unlimited number of elements, attach multimedia materials (e.g., notes, images, icons, and web links), copy and paste nodes, multiple export formats (e.g., PDF, text, image or OPML), passcode your mind maps, and more.
Pricing: Free version offers very limited features. Pro version offers full functionality: $29.99 for MacOS, $6.99 on iOS devices, and $5.49 on Android.
Looking for a powerful whiteboard tool where you can collaborate with your team in real time (or asynchronously)? Miro has you covered. Miro is especially ideal for use in remote teaching. You and your students can use the digital whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming and ideas generation.
Some of its helpful features include video conferencing, screen sharing, presentation mode, note taking, pre-made templates, the ability to add different resources to your board including documents, spreadsheets and PDFs. Another cool feature in Miro is Stickies Capture which enables you to easily digitize your hand written notes and turn them into editable sticky notes.
Pricing: Miro’s free version offers the following features: 3 editable boards, pre-made templates, core integrations, and basic attention management. Pro plans offer way more functionalites including custom templates, private boards, unlimited visitors, unlimited editable boards, and many more. the Team plan comes at $8 per member per month billed annually, the Business plan comes at $16 per member per month billed annually, and the Enterprise plan uses custom pricing.
XMind is another good mind mapping tool to consider. XMind lets you design visually appealing mind maps with multiple structures. You can visually record your brainstorming into timelines, free tables, org charts, diagrams, fishbone, among others.
What I personally like the most about XMind is the Hand-drawn style which allows you to convert your digital mind map into a hand-drawn look with a single click. Other interesting features provided by XMind include stickers and illustrations, Pitch mode to present your mind maps in slideshows, Math Equation to create mind maps for scientific calculations and symbols, smart color themes and more.
Pricing: For students and educators, the Academia plan costs $34.99/annually or $22.49/6 months. For the rest, XMind costs $59.99/annually. There is also a Team plan, and NGOs plan, and an Enterprise plan, each has different pricing.
Visio by Microsoft is another good tool to help you capture your ideas into beautiful visual configurations. Visio offers a wide variety of ready-made templates and a huge number of editable shapes that you can use on your visuals.
Visio also supports real time collaboration allowing you to co-design diagrams, flowcharts, and org charts with anyone anywhere they are. The tool also supports accessibility features that include Narrator, Accessibility Checker, high contrast support, and more.
Pricing: Visio is not included in Microsoft 365 plan and you need to buy it separately. Visio offers two types of subscriptions Visio Plan 1 ($5.00 user/month) and Visio Plan 2 ($15.00 user/month).