I’m a visual person. My office includes two large white boards that I constantly fill with my thoughts, take a quick photo to upload to Evernote, then wipe clean just so that I can fill it right up again. To me, it’s part of the brainstorming process – new ideas emerge as part of being able to see what ideas I already have.
I never thought much about mind-mapping apps, though, until someone recommended that I try out iThoughtsHD. It was an absolute revelation. The ability to track my thoughts and ideas in a visual thought tree was so much more helpful than any note taking app had ever been. I’ve used my mind-mapping apps for deposition notes, trial preparation, eDiscovery organization, and, most importantly, organizing my thoughts for this blog.
For those lawyers who, like me, prefer to be able to visualize your brainstorming or notes, here are 7 Excellent Mind-Mapping Apps for Lawyers:
iThoughtsHD is my preferred mind-mapping app. With all the basic tools you would expect with mind-mapping software, iThoughtsHD allows the user to create mind maps based on a wide variety of different template options. Additionally, iThoughtsHD comes with a massive toolbox that allows the user to enhance and share the maps they create. Dozens of icons are available, and nearly everything is customizable, allowing the user to be incredibly creative, producing unique-looking maps each time out.
iThoughtsHD’s sharing capabilities are impressive as well. The app comes with built-in support for both Box and Dropbox, and supports direct export in PDF and OPML file formats. iThoughtsHD also allows users to export maps to a number of desktop mind mapping clients, including FreeMind, NovaMind, XMind, Mindmanager, iMindmap, and Mindview. Users can even export individual maps to other iDevice apps as simple outlines.
For my money, iThoughtsHD is the top mind-mapping app on the market.
Simplemind really is aptly named. Although it is the mobile client of a more powerful desktop software – Simplemind Desktop – the mobile app focuses entirely on simplicity. Although it exports directly to the desktop client, Simplemind’s other export and sharing options are considerably more limited than the other apps on this list. In fact, Simplemind also significantly restricts your ability toy customize the appearance of your map.
Why is it on this list? Because sometimes simplicity is beautiful. Simplemind forces you to put all of your effort and creative energy into the content of your map, without caring much about wasting creative energy on how the map itself looks. The interface is basic, but straightforward. If you’re looking for a basic mind-mapping app, give the free version of Simplemind a try!
3) Idea Sketch
The only true free app on this list, Idea Sketch for iOS is an excellent mind-mapping app for users looking for essential functionality without the limitations or in-app advertisements that usually accompany free versions. Out-of-the-package functionality includes integration with Box and very basic font and style options. Idea Sketch’s greatest asset is its ease of use, and is definitely an excellent organizational tool at a great price.
Additional functionality is available via $3.99 in-app purchase, including additional fonts and styles, as well as the capability to export high-quality PDF.
MindNode is the mobile version of the desktop mind mapping software MindNode Pro, and focuses on providing users with an easy-to-use interface for creating basic mind maps quickly. The star feature of MindNode really is the user interface, which is intuitive and easy to learn. Along with being exportable to the desktop client for owners of MindNode Pro, MindNode supports independent exporting in PNG, OPML, and FreeMind files.
Although MindNode prides itself on being a more basic mind mapping app, there is one unique feature that really draws me to this app: multiple main idea nodes in the same map. Anyone who has used visual brainstorming tools has run into the situation where they want to include more than one central point of information on a single map. However, finding apps capable of handling it has been impossible. I would imagine that other apps will start including this concept in their maps, given the success MindNode has had.
For a long time, iBlueSky was the mind mapping app to beat on iOS. Despite losing its crown, in my opinion, to iThoughtsHD, iBlueSky still brings a lot to the table for anyone looking for mobile mind mapping capabilities. iBlueSky was designed specifically for mobile users, and its development has focused on adapting iBlueSky to numerous applications. Not satisfied with being a brainstorming app, iBlueSky’s developer site includes instructional videos on using the app for “problem solving, task breakdown, risk management, SWOT analysis… project and event planning, screen writing and as a study aid for learning complex information.”
iBlueSky supports exporting in PDF, PNG, OPML, FreeMind and NovaMind formats. Additionally, iBlueSky recently added full Dropbox integration, and supports AirDrop functionality between iOS 7 devices.
The mobile app version of the popular desktop mind-mapping software Mind Manager Pro, MindJet is essentially a basic mind mapping tool that focuses on making you comfortable with the idea of mind mapping on a mobile device. Even though it is a more basic version of mind mapping software, it accomplishes everything it seeks out to do quite effectively. In addition to the basic mind mapping functions, you can easily add hyperlinks to outside sources, and the app provides a number of tools to make sure that your map is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Recently added tools include one of my favorite: the ability to take a photo and use the image as the basis for your mind map. This allows the user to take a photo of absolutely anything and use the photo as the center of a map, or even using the map tools to annotate the photo.