Mind Mapping App Suggestions

Yesterday, I wrote about how to use mind maps instead of character sheets.  Today, I’m going to give you a variety of mind maps you might want to check out and try.

There is no such thing as a “best app.”

One peeve I have with writers, in general,  is that many will make posts on forums or blogs that there is one correct way to do something to be successful. There is only one way to measure daily or weekly progress. There is only one right tool. There is only one way to edit or revise. I could go on, but you get the idea. This just isn’t true.

Every writer has different needs. Each need will have different priorities. For instance, a writer might do best with one sort of app, but the app is too expensive. If it’s not an issue of cost, it’s whether or not the app is available on the primary platform they use.

My app selection priorities.

My primary personal issue when I select writing software is portability between devices. I write on my iPad and use iOS apps for much of the time. I also use my PC and use apps compatible with Windows 10.  When I select apps, I need to find ones that I can transfer data across these two platforms. There are many times that this makes my app selection simple because there aren’t many choices I have to fit my needs. Because of this, I sometimes pay more for apps than most writers might. This is why I’m going to show you a few apps I don’t use. They lack the features I need, but most of you won’t need those features.

Unfortunately, I almost never use the Android device in my house, so I can’t recommend Android apps. Many of these apps will have Android versions, but I’ve read reviews of many of these apps perform differently, based on which platform they were originally created for. What might be awesome on iOS might be lousy for Android.

I also can’t make strong recommendations for Mac OSX for the same reason. I will say that more OSX apps cross over to iOS, and if I used OSX heavily, I’d have so many more options available.

My apps

For iOS: MindNode

When I am on my iPad, I use MindNode. The cost is US$ 9.99, which is fairly steep for an app. Many cheap and free apps have the same features and easy of use when it comes to mind mapping. So I don’t recommend this for iOS unless you intend to use multiple platforms. In case you’re curious, here is the feature list in case you want to know all of the different formats you can save in. There are several different ways to save your maps. Almost always, they will be in outline instead of map format. The outlines are very useful once you’ve made your map, so don’t knock it.

You can save it in:

  • Freemind, which is my current use for it.
  • .RTF, which you can open in any word processing app, like Google Docs.
  • Markdown, which you can use in any app that allows you to edit Markdown, including Scrivener and Ulysses. I haven’t figured out how to this yet. I’m told I’ll love it once I figure it out.
  • OPML – This is the BEST way to transfer mind maps into Scrivener. Currently, I’m working on how to make use of this. I’ve only tried to transfer into it into the iOS version, and this app crashes when I try to open the document. I’m going to open up the OPML in the PC version of Scrivener and see what I can do to make sure it won’t crash on the iOS app.
  • .PDF Which gives you an image of your map.
  • Several other formats for several different apps and editors.

If I didn’t need cross-platform features

BigMind was my favorite free app. You can upgrade to Pro for 4.99. I made two or three different maps with BigMind, and never once encountered some feature I needed to upgrade to Pro to use. This is unusual because I’ve always found the free version of an app to be crippled to the point that it was all but useless unless you paid. I looked up the Pro features. Aside from unlimited saves, I didn’t see anything enticing.  This is the best app if you’re only going to use one platform and you don’t intend to incorporate the map into anything.

The main drawback was that as far as I can’t tell, you can’t do much with it with any app except BigMind. You might be able to save your map as a .png. That’s not useful for me.

For PC: Freemind

I use MindNode because it’s the only app that saves in the format used in FreeMind This is the only app I can confidently say it’s the best app for writers with all sorts of needs and priorities.

  • First of all, it’s FREE.
  • Not only is it free, but it works for several platforms. There is a version for Mac OSX,. Windows 7 and newer,  and  Linux platforms. I’ve used the PC and Linux SUSE releases, and they work well.
  • I love the look and feel. It’s easy to use, and quick to figure out.

This would be the only app  I used if it had an iOS version available and the cost was a serious issue. If cost was not an issue at all AND there was an iOS version available, I’d use Scapple 

I wish I could use Scapple.

Scapple is made by Literature and Latte, the same folk who make Scrivener. I use the PC and the iOS version. Because Scapple is made to work with Scrivener, it’s very easy to drop your mind map into Scrivener and then use the map as an outline for your novel. It’s only 14.99, but it has no iOS version. I’ve already spent US$ 9.99 on an app that works with iOS, and I don’t want to pay again at this time. But I’d love to pay if there was a Scapple for iOS.

Other apps:

Coggle: It’s from Google.  You can use it in a web browser and save your projects in Google Docs. That makes it incredibly portable. Google has add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. They might have them in other browsers, but I only checked the browsers I use.

Coggle is awesome — unless you’re me. For whatever reason, I struggled and could never quite get it to do what I wanted. Other people had no issue. I have dyspraxia, and because of this, there are some apps I just don’t “get,” no matter how simple they are for other people.  I wish I knew why. There’s usually something about the layout or tools that stymie me.

XMind Supports Mac, Linux, and PC. It’s got really excellent features. However, it’s US$ 99. On top of that, you pay a yearly subscription, which is US$ 79 if you want updates. In my opinion, the features do not make up for the cost. Still, several people swear by it.

PC Magazine’s List of the Best Mind Maps of 2016. Except for XMind, which I don’t recommend, not picks are on the list. I still stand by my choices. They work for me. If they don’t work for you, try one of these!



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