If you’re looking for a way to improve the way you plan your business ideas, actions and workflows, we’ve looked at the best professional and free mind mapping software for Mac.
Most of these tools work on all platforms including Windows and mobile too so these mind map software reviews will be useful to users on all platforms.
If you’re still relying on sticky notes, reminders, email brainstorming and mental notes then you’ll be amazed at how mind mapping software can bring structure and organization to your plans, ideas and workflows.
Mind maps were first invented by British author and TV personality Tony Buzan in the 1970’s when he popularized them in his BBC series Use Your Head and in his many books on the subject including Modern Mind Mapping for Smarter Thinking.
Mind mapping is incredibly effective because it uses both sides of the brain at once – the left hand side for logic and structure and the right hand side for creative or “out-of-the-box” thinking.
Mind maps can therefore bring out creative thinking in a way that a lot of business planning or brainstorming can’t.
Mind mapping is particularly important in project management to understand the strategy behind a project, streamlike processes and delegate tasks to the right teams.
Mind mapping can also be used alongside flowchart software to make workflows and process flows more efficient.
Mind maps are also useful in non-business fields too such as helping to map out anything from an idea for a book or for students writing an essay to medical fields such as helping patients with ADHD organize thought processes.
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- Why Use Mind Mapping Software?
- What Are The 7 Steps To Mind Maps?
- How We Chose The Best Mind Mapping Software
- Can OneNote Be Used For Mind Maps?
- 1. Miro (Best For Whiteboards)
- 2. MindManager (Best For Microsoft Teams)
- 3. ClickUp (Best For CRM Integration)
- 4. Monday.com (Best For Project Managers)
- 5. Lucidchart (Best For Scalability)
- 6. Cacoo (Best For Attachments)
- 7. XMind (Best Desktop App)
- 8. Whimsical (Best For Sharing)
- 9. MindMup (Best For Students)
- 10. SmartDraw (Best Pro Mind Mapping Software)
- 11. Freeform For Mac (Best For Apple Devices)
Why Use Mind Mapping Software?
Mind maps are effective for a variety of reasons but some of the most important are:
- Mind maps help you to see the bigger picture
- Use time more efficiently by focusing on the most important tasks or issues
- Improve the ability to remember key information
- Mind maps help to clarify thinking on topics
- Mind maps are an excellent way to present ideas and information in meetings and presentations
Mind map makers make the process much easier than using a pen and paper or even a drawing pad because it makes things far more flexible when it comes to making changes, edits, enriching and sharing mind maps.
What Are The 7 Steps To Mind Maps?
It’s often said that mind maps require 7 steps to be done effectively. Here are the 7 steps to create effective mind maps:
- Always start in the center of a blank page and work out. You’ll have more space for ideas if you turn the page sideways.
- Use an image to illustrate the core theme for the mind map. This helps stimulate your thinking and keeps you focused each time you look at the mind map.
- Illustrate your mind map with colors which will bring your mind map to life and help highlight important ideas and strands.
- All main branches should link to the central image with sub-branches of those but don’t create too many sub-branches otherwise your mind map will lose its focus.
- Curved lines are more aesthetically pleasing than straight lines and easier to digest visually than lots of straight lines.
- Only use one keyword per line rather than sentences or phrases which helps trigger off sub-ideas and branches.
- Images are more effective at conveying a message than words so where possible use images throughout your mind map.
How We Chose The Best Mind Mapping Software
Here are some of the things we looked for the best mind map makers for Mac and Windows.
- Team Collaboration Support: One of the most important features of any mind mapping software for a company or organization is the ability of all members to contribute to it in real time. This includes the ability to comment, tag and add notes to mind maps.
- Attachment Support: We looked at mind mapping software that allows you to support the reasoning behind steps and processes with added attachments such as PDFs, videos, images and other supporting data.
- Presentation Support: Mind maps are often used in presentations to illustrate new ideas or plans. We looked at mind map software that allow you to easily present ideas in meetings or are integrated with presentation software.
- Third party Integration: We reviewed mind mapping software with wide third party application support such as Microsoft Office, database software, project management software, flowchart software, online storage solutions and other business tools.
- Organic Mind Mapping: Although templates are a useful way to speed things up, all good mind mapping software allow you to draw mind maps from scratch like you would on a white board.
- Keyboard Shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts help increase your productivity and workflow by reducing the amount of work you have to do with the mouse or trackpad. We looked at mind mapping software that support keyboard shortcuts for faster, smoother workflows.
- Support for Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs: The latest Macs such as the M2 MacBook Pro are based on the faster Apple Silicon M1/M2 chips than the older Intel chips. While most mind mapping software is Cloud based and works on both types of Mac, we also looked at mind mapping software that offer native M1/M2 desktop apps.
Can OneNote Be Used For Mind Maps?
Microsoft OneNote is one of the best note taking software out there and in theory, should be ideal for making mind maps as it supports attachments and notes of all kinds.
However, OneNote has no specific tool for mind maps and isn’t self organizing meaning you’ll spend a lot of time formatting your mind maps.
Note taking software like OneNote in general are great for capturing snippets for inspiring mind maps later but not for actual mind mapping.
Note that Microsoft Whiteboard isn’t available for Mac but all of the whiteboard software here make excellent alternatives to Microsoft Whiteboard.
With this in mind then, here are the best mind mapping software of 2023 in order of ranking.
Opinion is divided on whether Miro is great for mind mapping but it’s certainly one of the most popular and best whiteboard software out there which makes it ideal for freehand mind mapping.
Miro is used by some of the biggest enterprises out there including Cisco, Hewlett Packard and Dell which gives you an idea of how powerful and trusted it is.
Miro is commonly used by teams working remotely to brainstorm, plan projects, map out information architecture, create org charts and develop sales strategies.
One of the attractions of Miro to big organizations is that it offers an infinite whiteboard to develop ideas as much as needed.
This is particularly useful when it comes to story mapping, agile planning, design iteration and visual project management.
Other advanced mind map collaboration features of Miro include integrated video chat, @mentions and presentation mode for showing-off your mind maps in meetings.
Miro can be used for free but limited to 3 boards while subscriptions start at $8 per month with unlimited boards.
You also check out our full Miro review for more.
Pricing: Free / Plans starting from $8 per month
- Unlimited whiteboard
- Lots of templates for mind mapping
- Used by Blue Chip companies for meetings
- Integrated video conferencing
- Soc 2 and Soc 3 compliant
- Presentation mode
- Free version limited to only 3 active boards
- No Visio import or export support
- PDF export quality low in free version
MindManager claims to be the “world’s most powerful mind mapping software” and it’s certainly got more features and tools than most for building detailed mind maps.
MindManager is used by many Blue Chip enterprises although can also be used by individuals that need a dedicated mindmapping software.
One of the highlights of MindManager is that it can automatically download data from Microsoft applications via Microsoft Office for Mac (now being renamed Microsoft 365). This includes text from Microsoft Word or data stored in Excel for much faster mind mapping.
MindManager is also one of the only mind mapping software that integrates with Microsoft Teams so that you can build mind maps during online meetings.
There is no real-time collaborative mind mapping in MindManager as it’s not designed for teams but unlike many mind mapping software, you can buy a one-time license instead of having to subscribe.
You can try MindManager free for 30 days.
Pricing: Plans starting from $99/year
- Downloads data from Microsoft Office
- Works with Microsoft Teams
- Available with a one time purchase license
- Complex for beginners
- Not many templates
- No team collaboration tools
ClickUp allows you to easily map out your ideas and rearrange your projects by dragging branches into logical paths.
You can easily create and link tasks in ClickUp mind maps by dragging-and-dropping symbols and shapes.
ClickUp uses Whiteboards for collaboration which can be used for anything from sprint planning and brainstorm marketing to collateral concepts and helping remote students work together.
You can also grant guest access to Whiteboards and share them easily via G Suite, Dropbox and over a 1000 other applications thanks to Zapier.
Whiteboards are available on every ClickUp Plan although the Free Forever plan is limited to 3 Whiteboards, Unlimited plan to 10 Whiteboards and there’s no limit to the Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise.
You can try ClickUp for free to test its mind mapping tools.
You can check-out our ClickUp review for more.
Pricing: Free / Plans starting from $7 per month
- Free plan includes most features
- No credit card required to sign-up
- Suitable for project management including excellent Gantt chart tools
- Can also be used as a CRM
- Also does everything from flowcharts to org charts
- Business plans include free training and 24 hour support
- Free version only supports 3 whiteboards
- Limited number of templates
Monday.com is one of the most popular online project management platforms out there and is ideal for project managers that need tight mind mapping integration.
The Mind Map View in Monday.com is an extension to the software that allows you to generate ideas and then turn them into actionable items.
Mindmapping in Monday.com can be connected to what it calls Work OS which means that all members of an organization can feed ideas into a collaborative document that Monday.com then turns into a mind map.
Because Monday.com is a project management tool, you can also assign tasks to team members and track the progress directly from the mind map.
If you want to integrate mind mapping into your sales funnel, Monday is also one of the best CRM software on the market and fully integrated with Work OS.
Monday.com doesn’t have the most sophisticated mind mapping tools on the market but for those that need turn brainstorming into action plans, it’s a project manager’s dream.
You can try Monday.com for free to try for yourself.
You can also check out our review of Monday.com for more.
Pricing: Free / Plans starting from $8/month
- Turns mind maps into actionable plans
- Turns mind map into Gantt charts
- Easy to collaborate
- Integrated project management and CRM tool
- Mind map tools are limited
Lucidchart is an all purpose diagram software that’s also used by Blue Chip companies for creating mind maps.
If you’re in small organization that’s growing quickly, Lucidchart is one of the best mind mapping tools to grow with allowing you to scale up and down from freelancer to enterprise level needs.
Lucidchart is easy to use for creating everything from mind maps, flowcharts, technical diagrams and wireframes to floorplans, process maps and org charts.
You can work in real time on mind maps with other members of a team and embed Lucidchart diagrams into a website which will be dynamically updated when any changes are made.
Like SmartDraw, Lucidchart is another alternative to Microsoft Visio although it lacks the Visio VSDX export support of SmartDraw.
Lucidchart is also integrated with Google Apps, Confluence, Jira and Microsoft Office to allow you to import and sync with them.
You can try Lucidchart for free to test it for yourself.
You can check out our review of Lucidchart for more.
Pricing: Starts at $7.95/month
- Easy to share and edit mind maps in teams
- Lots of templates
- Easy to scale from freelance up to enterprise level
- All purpose diagram tool
- No Visio VSDX export support
- Not many shapes to choose from
Cacoo is a fresh online mind map maker and diagramming tool with a fresh, clean interface which makes it attractive and easy to use.
Cacoo can import but not export Visio files and there’s a generous selection of over 900 templates including for Mind Maps but also Flowcharts, Network Diagrams and Org Charts.
One of the best things about Cacoo is that it offers a high degree of control over the permissions that users have when editing mind maps.
Unlike many mind map makers, you can define user rights per user to control how much they can edit, share and collaborate on mind maps.
Cacoo also allows team members to comment on diagrams, chat in-app and export to SVG, PNG, PPT and PDF formats.
The best way to experience Cacoo is to sign-up for a free trial which allows you to create up to 6 diagrams for free before you have to subscribe.
Pricing: $6.00 per month
- Slick interface
- Visio import support
- User level permissions control
- Lots of templates
- In-app chat
- No Visio export support
If you want a desktop mind map maker then look no further than XMind.
XMind is focused specifically on helping you brainstorm and map out ideas especially for business plans.
XMind has a desktop app for both Mac and PC so you can work offline but it can also be used online in a browser.
A nice touch is that XMind includes integrated note taking tools that allow you to quickly note down ideas and inspiration that suddenly spring to mind which you can then drag and drop into your mind maps.
Another thing we like is that XMind also includes a timer to help focus your mind while putting ideas down. There’s even a day and night mode to help you focus depending on the time of day.
XMind is an ideal complement to any project management software and also includes the mind-map to Gantt chart views that are common to project management apps.
XMind can export mind maps to Evernote format so you can share them with other Evernote users that may not have XMind installed.
XMind also exports to PDF and Microsoft Office formats but it doesn’t support Visio files.
For visual communication and mind mapping, XMind is a clean and highly focused way to plan your business ideas.
Pricing: Starts at $59.99/year or $5.99/month
- Designed specifically for mind mapping
- Desktop app and cloud version
- Eye catching visualization options
- No many keyboard shortcuts
Whimsical calls itself a “visual workspace” but it’s primarily used for creating mind maps, flowcharts, wireframing and writing sticky notes.
Whimsical is an online mind mapping software and is used by some pretty big names including Deliveroo, Wistia and Webflow.
Whimsical is extremely simple and all you require is a Google account or email address to get started. Whimsical is also extremely fast to use, creates elegant flowcharts and allows you to collaborate with other users in real-time.
One of the best things about Whimsical is that you can invite anyone to view and comment on Whimsical mind maps for free whereas most mind map makers require you to sign-up or subscribe to collaborate in any way.
The main drawback compared to most all purpose diagramming tools is that its limited to just mind maps, flowcharts, wireframes and sticky notes but for elegance and simplicity, it’s a wonderful tool.
Whimsical allows you top create 4 mind maps and diagrams for free but costs $10 per month for unlimited diagrams.
Pricing: $10/month for unlimited items per workspace
- Very slick and professional interface
- Viewers and guests can view mind maps for free
- Free for up to 1000 items per workspace
- Pricing plans are expensive
MindMup is the best free mind map software for unlimited mind maps and ease of use although it’s aimed more at students than business users.
Apart from the generous free unlimited mind map allowance, MindMup has some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts of any mind mapping apps out there to speed-up your workflow.
You can also share MindMup mind maps via PDF, PowerPoint, online and save them instantly to Google Drive.
MindMup supports attachments which has made it popular with students writing an article or assignment in order to create a document outline.
MindMup Atlas can also automatically add images and contextual information to make your mind maps look attractive when shared on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
If you pay for MindMup Cloud, you can also editing mind maps in teams and classrooms in real time. The paid version also offers integration with Office365.
Pricing: Free / Plans start at $2.99 per year
- Free unlimited version for 100KB of data
- Lots of keyboard shortcuts
- Ideal for students and classroom use
- Office integration limited to paid version
- Not many templates
SmartDraw is the best professional mind mapping software and all round diagramming tool on the market thanks to a combination of ease of use and an incredible number of templates and symbols.
SmartDraw is an increasingly popular alternative to Microsoft Visio being much easier to use and cheaper but yet still produces professional results.
In fact SmartDraw is so easy to use that it’s by far the best mind map software for beginners thanks to its huge selection of templates and automated mind mapping tools.
One of the things SmartDraw excels at is templates for all diagramming types and there are over 34,000 thousands templates to choose from including mind maps.
SmartDraw makes it very easy to add, move, or delete ideas and everything aligns and connects automatically.
In fact one of the best things about SmartDraw is the way it automatically formats and builds mind maps so that you can focus on brainstorming rather than the way it looks.
If you add or remove an idea or step, SmartDraw automatically realigns and arranges all the shapes in the mind chart to keep everything organized.
SmartDraw supports collapsible branches, automatic spacing, colors, gradients and fonts to make your mind maps look professional enough for presentations, meetings and intranets.
You can also connect SmartDraw automatically to productivity tools like Trello and for project planning, instantly turn your mind maps into a Gantt Chart.
You can start creating mind maps with SmartDraw for free now to test it for yourself.
You can also check out our review of SmartDraw.
Pricing: Starts at $8.25/month
- Incredibly easy to use for all levels
- Automatic formatting of mind maps
- Thousands of templates and symbols
- Integrated with Trello and other productivity tools
- Microsoft Office export support
- Exports and imports to Visio VSDX format
- No support for attachments
Freeform is a free app by Apple that’s designed to help users organize and visually lay out their content on a canvas in order to see and share their work and ideas without the restrictions from layouts and page sizes.
Freeform was released for free by Apple in a December 2022 update to iOS, iPadOS and macOS 13.1 Ventura.
Freeform is free on every iPhone, iPad and Mac that has updated to iOS 16.2, iPadOS 16.2 or macOS Ventura 13.1.
Freeform has been created with connecting and sharing ideas in mind and allows you to easily invite others to work together on a board.
You can invite up to 100 other collaborators on the same board for free, making it ideal for group and corporate projects.
Freeform is integrated through all Apple devices so you can work seamlessly between iOS, iPadOS and macOS thanks to integration with iCloud.
iPad and iPhone users can draw directly on the screen with their fingers but if you need something a bit more sophisticated, Freeform supports the iPad’s Apple Pencil as well.
Freeform is also integrated with Files and Finder and allows you to drag and drop content directly into Freeform.
FaceTime is integrated allowing you to invite others onto any whiteboard directly and collaborators can see all added content or make edits themselves.
To get Freeform on your Mac simply go to the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and select About This Mac > Software Update or select Mac App Store and update to macOS Ventura 13.1.
- Free in macOS
- Works across Apple devices seamlessly
- Lots of brush strokes available
- Up to 100 collaborators at once
- iCloud integration
- No Microsoft Office integration
- No brainstorming or mind map templates
- No Visio import or export support