How to Use Mind Maps for Managing Ideas

I’ve recently started using mind mapping software for managing ideas.

Mind maps are graphical representations of outlines. The advantage over a traditional outline is that you can connect related topics. It’s also easier for some visually oriented people to review.

Like I said, I use it plan ideas. I start with the idea name as the center node (topics are called nodes) and create nodes for tasks and concepts that will guide the project. The resulting mind map helps me figure out where to start work.

It’s also handy for brainstorming. The mind map becomes a record of ideas and questions. Later when I’m ready to develop the idea, it’s a clear representation of what I was thinking. To me, it’s clearer than traditional notes.

Here are some options that stand out:

  • Think: This is a free Web app. Obviously the big benefit is that it’s free. Since it’s in the clouds you can access your maps (which are called thoughts here) from any computer and share them with other users. Which opens the possibilities of mind maps as a collaboration tool. Note that Think seems to work best with Safari and Chrome.
  • MindManager: This is a desktop app that comes at a hefty price ($349 for Windows version and $249 for Mac version). It bills itself as a project management tool with collaboration and sharing features. It does offer a Web-based version called Catalyst ($11/month subscription).
  • MindView:  This is another expensive desktop app with Mac and Windows versions. It can work with your Microsoft Office apps. You can adjust the styles that change how your maps look. The result can be slick charts that will impress your clients.
  • MindNode: This is my choice. There is a limited free version but MindNode Pro costs $24.95. There are only Mac and iPhone versions. It’s simple to use but doesn’t have the slick look of the expensive competitors. I can link to other mind maps, documents and web sites. It works well for me.
  • Deadtree: Sorry, I made that up. But you can map just about everything you think with a sketch pad and collection of colored markers. I recommend fine point Sharpies. The paper versions of your mind map are very collaboration friendly and portable.

There are more mind map tools out there. Your mileage may vary with each. So take advantage of free and trial versions to see what works best for you.

Do you use mind maps in your business?

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Carl Natale is a freelance blogger who writes about tips and advice for small businesses. He runs the site - a site about how top brands set their prices.


  1. Laneth Sffarlenn on the 30th August

    A good open source mind mapping software is X-Mind for Windows. Been using that one for a while now.

  2. Amr ElGarhy on the 30th August is the best in my opinion.

  3. Simon Bestbier on the 30th August

    Yeah, I am using X-Mind now as well and find it works quite well. I previously Free Mind which seemed to be quite good but lacked a bit of slickness factor.

  4. Chris on the 31st August

    Xmind on Linux and Windows.

  5. Mighty on the 31st August

    Deadtree? LOL.

    That made me laugh. I tried one of the free mindmapping softwares available from the net. But I still love the tactile feeling of tracing pen or pencil on paper. Somehow, the doodles and ideas I write on a sketchpad yield amazing insights! I carry a sketchpad with me most of the time. But I don’t draw. I mind-map!


  6. Ivan Jaroš on the 31st August

    I personally use FreeMind. Its free and easy to use.

  7. Jacob Saaby on the 31st August

    Seriously – you missed MindMeister ? Has both an iPhone/iPad app, plus the web version works really great. And it HAS the collaboration features you speak of in Think.

    Best mindmapping solution I’ve ever used, also because I can mail to my mindmeister and have it create a mindmap for me. I can even tweet to it, and work on my mindmap.

    You obviously missed it – you shouldn’t. It’s a tour de force in combining collaboration and mindmaps.

  8. Daniel Nordstrom on the 31st August

    Mind-mapping is great, I did it a couple of days ago for a blog post I was writing. It’s sometimes nice to start out by creating a mind-map with all ideas and information to include in the post.

    I prefer pen and notebook though, it has a certain feeling to it. When I’m at my computer, I sometimes use Skitch (great application, can be used for plain sketching as well as screen-grabbing) and my Wacom tablet.

    Thanks for the post!

  9. Richard Valk on the 31st August

    Mindnode also has an iPad version of their app available.

  10. ChinqMiau on the 31st August

    FreeMind, it’s free and awesome.

  11. beekeeper on the 31st August

    You guys should try ‘’ this is one of the best and its FREE.

  12. Garrett Scott on the 1st September


    Thanks for highlighting the value of mind mapping and including Mind Manager on your list. Mapping has really changed the way that I have done my work since I started almost a year ago. I now have a great central dashboard that I can open and look at everyday that has everything i need in it.

    And with our newest update you can do all the great things you mentioned like brainstorming and getting organized, but even more like manage projects with integrated gantt charts and sync with your outlook.

  13. Jessica Bosari on the 2nd September

    A client just used for a mind map on a project and said it was incredibly easy to use. Thought I’d add that to the list of options.

  14. DemoGeek on the 19th October

    I’m not much comfortable with these online mindmap tools. I always felt that the ideas that I expose on these online mindmaps CAN be viewed by someone on the other side of the spectrum (site owners, may be).

    Do you feel the same too? How do you deal with this notion? I know ideas doesn’t matter and it’s the execution that matters but how do you feel comfortable (possibly) exposing ALL your ideas through these online mindmaps?

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