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Best Mind Mapping Software for Authors (Top 11)

BY Robyn Roste | Oct 24, 2022 | Learning, Reviews

For many authors, mind mapping is an important step in the writing process. It is a convenient way to visually lay out your ideas and see the big picture—how everything connects. If you’re old school, then mind mapping on paper will work great. However, there are also excellent digital options available. In this article, we’ve done the heavy lifting to find the best mind mapping software for authors.

For each roundup, we’re including a brief description, features, drawbacks, and price point of the (current) best mind mapping software for authors.

Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Mind Mapping Software

Choosing the right software when mind mapping a book is a personal decision, and the answer is different for everyone. Here are a few questions to consider when determining which mind-mapping software fits your needs as an author:

  • Is collaboration important? Make sure the software allows you to share your mind map.
  • Are you technically challenged? Before you commit to a software, make sure you find it intuitive and easy to navigate. 
  • Assess your needs and budget ahead of time. Do you need the pro version, or will the free version suffice?
  • If you’re especially visual, make sure you like how the software presents the mind map.
  • Do you need your mind map offline or on mobile? Make sure the software supports access where you need it.
  • Does it need to be compatible with other software? If so, which ones?

Think about what you need from your mind mapping program. By answering these questions above, then reading through the options below, you will soon be able to make the right decision.

Miro

Miro is a collaborative online whiteboard with 1,000+ templates designed for teams to plan and brainstorm together. This software is great if you have tons of ideas and need space to lay them out. You can use a template or start from scratch.

One of Miro’s best features is that the board is seemingly endless. You can zoom in and out, move side to side, and up and down with ease (although with so much space, take care not to lose track of your notes). 

With paid plans, Miro integrates with popular tools such as Zoom, Asana, Figma, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Drive, Notion, and more.

Key features

  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Free basic account
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Large workspace
  • Integrated tools with paid plans 
  • Over 1,000 templates

Drawbacks

  • Limited features with a free account
  • Easy to get lost in the massive workspace
  • Only one person can work in each text box at a time

SOFTWARE NAME: Miro

BEST FOR: Collaboration

TECH LEVEL: 3/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $8 – $16/ month (billed annually) 

MindMeister

This mind-mapping software helps authors visually capture, share, develop, and connect ideas in a collaborative virtual environment. MindMeister has a streamlined approach and isn’t bloated with features and options, focusing instead on creating simple, clean-cut mind maps so you can concentrate on what matters most: your book.

You can start with a blank canvas or choose from an extensive selection of color palette themes. The easy-to-use styling toolbar helps you connect your ideas visually—you can add comments, notes, media, and attachments as well as customize fonts, topics, borders, and connecting lines. One of the most exciting features is Focus Mode. This allows for distraction-free mind mapping.

Key features

  • Free basic account
  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Organized and simple interface
  • Easy to use
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Clean-cut look
  • Large workspace
  • Templates and themes
  • Focus Mode

Drawbacks

  • Limited integration features with a free account
  • Need paid plan to export your work
  • Limited uses 

SOFTWARE NAME: MindMeister

BEST FOR: Personal use

TECH LEVEL: 2/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $4.99 – $12.49/ month 

Canva

Canva is well-known for its accessible design templates, but did you know it can also be used as a mind-mapping tool? With thousands of ready-made templates, Canva makes it simple to create visually stunning mind maps. All you have to do is plug in your ideas! 

If you want to get really creative, you can use the “Elements” tab to add graphics, lines, shapes, charts, tables, and more to enhance your mind map. You can also access the curated font combinations in the “Text” tab. In addition to using their photo library, Canva also allows you to upload files and photos. 

Key features

  • Free basic account
  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Hundreds of visually appealing templates
  • Great for presentations
  • Customizable 
  • Collaborative

Drawbacks

  • Paid content mixed in with free content
  • Easy to get caught up in the design element
  • Overwhelming amount of options

SOFTWARE NAME: Canva 

BEST FOR: Great visuals

TECH LEVEL: 3/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $149 – $199/ year, FREE pro plan for teachers and students

ClickUp

ClickUp is best-known for its project management capabilities, but it also provides a mind mapping option to plan and organize projects, ideas, and more using lines and text bubbles. Authors can work on their mind maps individually or share them with a team and collaborate in real time. 

There are more than 1,000 integrations through Zapier, and in addition to mind maps, the powerful software allows you to organize tasks and create timelines, maps, tables, and more. However, the sheer magnitude of options can make ClickUp tricky to navigate and learn. 

Key features

  • Free basic account
  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Clean-cut look
  • Large workspace
  • Many integrations

Drawbacks

  • Non-intuitive interface
  • Too many functions

SOFTWARE NAME: ClickUp

BEST FOR: Multiple tasks

TECH LEVEL: 4/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $5 – $19/ month

Coggle

Coggle is arguably the best mind mapping software for authors. Its organic style is easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. Whether your mind map is simple or complex, Coggle makes them easy to create, organize, and follow. 

Solely designed for mind mapping, Coggle’s features include auto-arranging branches, photo and file upload, full change history, and the ability to collaborate in real-time. When you are ready to show off your mind map, you can download it as a PDF or image, export it to Microsoft Visio as a text file, or directly embed it into your website.

You have the option to start from scratch or repurpose a pre-made mind map in the “Gallery,” where you’ll find a large selection to choose from. If you are new to mind mapping, or want a simple, easy-to-use, clean-cut tool, Coggle should jump to the top of your list. 

Key features

  • Free basic account
  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Clean-cut look
  • Large workspace

Drawbacks

  • Limited features
  • Not ideal for technical diagrams

SOFTWARE NAME: Coggle

BEST FOR: Beginners

TECH LEVEL: 2/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $5 – $8/ month

Microsoft Visio

Part of the Microsoft Office Suite, Microsoft Visio is a visual diagramming tool that works well for mind mapping, as well as creating many other graphical representations. Visio helps you bring data to life in dashboards that display data-linked diagrams. 

More than a simple brainstorming tool, Visio has ready-made templates for creating floor plans, flowcharts, block diagrams, timelines, engineering designs, and more. Users can share their diagrams as a link, PDF, attachment, or image and they can communicate through the comments and annotations features. One great feature is that Visio allows multiple users to synchronously collaborate on the same project. 

As amazing as Visio is, this is not a beginner tool and it has a steeper learning curve than most other mind-mapping software. There are also many more features than most authors require. However, for technical teams, architects, or engineers already working within the Microsoft ecosystem, Visio is a top choice and offers a robust mind-mapping option.

Key features

  • Many uses
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Robust software
  • Compatible with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Many integrations
  • Computer application 

Drawbacks

  • Not web-based 
  • Not compatible for mobile devices
  • Steep learning curve, technical
  • No free version
  • Not visually appealing

SOFTWARE NAME: Microsoft Visio

BEST FOR: Technical teams, architects, engineers

TECH LEVEL: 5/5

PRICING: $6.40 – $19.20/user/month, $459 one-time license 

MindGenius

MindGenius is a mind-mapping software and a project-planning tool. It’s designed to be used in educational settings as well as for freelancers, small businesses, and agencies, making it an ideal tool for authors. 

Integrated with Microsoft Office, MindGenius lets you easily export project data and mind maps to Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Project. The software includes several useful features, such as drag-and-drop mind map creation with labeling, highlighting, and filtering tools to help you organize and present your mind-maps effectively.

MindGenius is consistently rolling out new features and integrations. These, and many other features, make MindGenius a useful mind-mapping tool, helping convert your ideas from simple brainstorming documents into practical tools for managing your book.

Key features

  • Web-based
  • Robust software
  • Compatible with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Integration
  • Templates
  • Multiple uses and features
  • Easy to use

Drawbacks

  • No mobile app
  • No free version

SOFTWARE NAME: MindGenius

BEST FOR: Freelancers

TECH LEVEL: 3/5

PRICING: $160 first year + $56 annually from year two onwards subscription, $256/user one-time payment

SmartDraw

SmartDraw is a web-based, collaborative mind-mapping software positioned as an alternative to tools like Microsoft Visio. They claim to be easier to use while at the same time being more affordable and just as powerful. 

While SmartDraw is not significantly cheaper (SmartDraw is $5.95/user/month and Visio is $6.40/user/month), it does provide an intuitive user interface with useful features applicable to virtually any industry.

Offering more than 4,500 templates, SmartDraw has 70 different diagram types including mind maps, flowcharts, graphs, timelines, infographics, decision trees, CAD diagrams, and more. 

Teams can work collaboratively on the same diagrams at the same time and the software integrates with Microsoft Office, Google apps, Jira, Confluence, DropBox, Box, WordPress, and Trello.

SmartDraw’s intuitive interface, power, and high functionality makes it a strong competitor to powerhouse mind-mapping software like Microsoft Visio at a comparable price. 

Key features

  • Web-based
  • Robust software
  • Compatible with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Integration
  • 4,500+ templates
  • 70+ diagram types
  • Collaborate from anywhere
  • Intelligent formatting
  • Import and export

Drawbacks

  • No mobile app
  • No free version
  • Not visually appealing

SOFTWARE NAME: SmartDraw

BEST FOR: Businesses

TECH LEVEL: 3/5

PRICING: $5.95/user/month for 5+ users, or $9.95/user/month for single user.

LucidChart

LucidChart is a concept map creator and diagramming tool that allows users to quickly and easily create online mind maps, flowcharts, technical diagrams, wireframes, floor plans, and more.  

Similarly positioned as an alternative to Microsoft Visio, LucidChart has a number of powerful features and an intuitive interface at an affordable price point. It uses an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and integrates with programs such as Google apps, Confluence, Jira, Jive, and Microsoft Visio. LucidChart also has real-time collaboration features, several format exporting options, revision history, and hundreds of templates. 

Overall, LucidChart is one of the best mind-mapping software for authors because it’s easy to learn and use, and it’s more affordable than other robust programs

Key features

  • Mobile app and web-based
  • Robust software
  • Real-time collaboration
  • Embeddable
  • Revision history
  • Importing and exporting
  • Hundreds of templates 
  • Integration
  • Free trials for paid plans
  • Easy to use

Drawbacks

  • Limited templates and features with free version

SOFTWARE NAME: LucidChart

BEST FOR: Flowcharts

TECH LEVEL: 3/5

PRICING: Free basic account, $7.95 – $9/user/month

XMind

XMind is a popular mind-mapping program for freelancers, startups, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies. It offers unique features to help you brainstorm and map out your ideas. 

This software can speed up the brainstorming process by converting mind maps into outlines, and quickly turning your ideas into professional presentations using auto-formatting and one-click slide creation. Their algorithms and Smart Color Themes take the guesswork out of designing your mind maps and they provide a multitude of templates, styles, and themes. As you create your mind map you have the option to attach files, audio, images, links, and even digital stickers and illustrations. 

When you need to focus, enter “Zen Mode” to eliminate unwanted distractions. And when you’re ready to present, enter “Pitch Mode” to show off your work as a slideshow. 

Though XMind has many design features, its integration features leave a lot to be desired. YOu can export your mind map to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, RTF, HTML, Plain Text, to PNG, JPEG, GIF, BMP, and SVG files. 

Key features

  • Mobile app and computer application
  • Zen Mode
  • Pitch Mode
  • Smart algorithms
  • Smart Color Themes
  • Digital stickers and illustrations
  • Hundreds of templates

Drawbacks

  • Not web-based
  • Minimal integrations

SOFTWARE NAME: XMind

BEST FOR: Presentations

TECH LEVEL: 2/5

PRICING: Free app, $34.99 – $60/year

MindManager

Marketed as “the world’s most powerful mind mapping software,” MindManager is a robust mind mapping and diagramming tool that offers some excellent features. 

MindManager has many useful data consolidation tools, and its integration with Microsoft Office 365 allows it to pull data from your other Microsoft applications. The View Customization feature makes it easy to change the way your work is displayed to create a customized experience for your audience, even after you have finished editing. 

A newer feature is co-editing, where teams can collaborate in real-time on the same project. With the co-editing feature, MindManager takes team members from the desktop application directly to a live session in a web browser.  

With a design reminiscent of Microsoft Word, users of Microsoft Office will feel at home with the interface. Though it is possible to make aesthetic mind maps with MindManager, it can be time-consuming and difficult to achieve anything other than a boxy Microsoft look. 

Key features

  • Mobile app, computer application, web-browser
  • Co-editing
  • Microsoft Office 365 integration
  • 30 day free trial
  • Digital stickers and illustrations

Drawbacks

  • Difficult to make visually appealing
  • No free version

SOFTWARE NAME: MindManager

BEST FOR: Project Managers

TECH LEVEL: 4/5

PRICING: $140 – $239/year


Next Step

When searching for the best mind mapping software for authors, make sure to look for the option that will work best for you and your personal brainstorming style. By considering ease of use, integration, visual appeal, and price point, we hope this helps you make the best choice for your next mind map so you can move on to outlining and writing your next bestselling book!

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