Generate Better Ideas With These Android Mind Mapping Apps

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mindmap android intro   Generate Better Ideas With These Android Mind Mapping AppsBrainstorming is sometimes a spur-of-the-moment activity. Arguably, the best tool for generating ideas remains the humble pen and paper. Again arguably, the second best tools are mobile phones and tablets. After all who carries paper anymore? And phones are “smart” these days aren’t they. What makes a brainstorming process like mindmapping a perfect fit for the mobile devices of today is that there is very little typing involved. A touch here, a swipe there and you have your instinctively created mindmap.

So, next time you are stuck in a queue, riding the subway, or waiting for your date to arrive, pull out your smartphone (maybe an Android) and let your ideas flow on a mindmap. We have looked at both brainstorming and mindmapping previously. But apart from one instance, we haven’t really married mindmapping to an Android. Let’s look into their union.

Mindjet and Android

Clicking on the above link will take you to a previous review I wrote on Mindjet for Android. The Android mind mapping app has got two major updates since then:

You can now use the new Camera mode to create map topics (and sub-topics) from photos and annotate them. They can be easily dragged and re-arranged around nodes and sub-nodes.

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You can use Android’s speech-to-text conversion feature to enter topics on your maps so you can turn your thoughts to vision without typing. This sounds really useful for those one-handed hanging on to the straps moments. Though I would never recommend that you create a mindmap while driving.

The rest of the review still holds good. So, let’s move on to four more Android mind mapping apps that should help us generate better ideas.

SimpleMind Free Mindmapping

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The SimpleMind mindmapping app comes in two flavors – free and paid. The free version of the mindmapping app for Android has the basic features in place. You can go over the differences between the two versions here.

Creating a Basic Mindmap:

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Mindmapping with SimpleMind as usual starts with a central topic which you add to the editor. To add new topics, double tap in the empty area anywhere on the background. This adds the new topic at the location you double tapped. You can also click the [+] icon to add a topic with a branch. The [<] icon is for word wrapping the topic to adjust its width. You can manually adjust it with line-breaks too. Notes can be added to any topic with a tap on the [T] icon.  You can drag and drop the topic nodes to create parent-child relationships. The free version however does not allow you to create cross-links between multiple nodes.

Notable Features:

SimpleMind supports unlimited mindmaps which are limited only by the memory of your device.

Some Features Missing:

Sharing features are completely disabled in the free version. You cannot import external mindmaps or share the ones you create here. Mindmapping ideas take considerable time, and I couldn’t see a workaround to back them up or even print them. In my opinion, there should be a way to back up your mindmaps even in the basic version. The auto-layout feature is not very useful – a single tap to center and lay out a complex mindmap would have been useful. Branch labeling is also missing in both the free and paid versions.

What I Like in SimpleMind:

SimpleMind and the free version we are discussing here may be feature limited. But the constraints helped me focus more on the content and their interrelationships. Customizing colors are limited to the global styles and the palette, so you can save time with a click on the styles available instead of puttering around with too many styling options. It is basic, and apart from the lack of sharing and backup options, should serve your mindmapping well.

Mind Map Memo

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With a more developed feature set, Mind Map Memo gives you more control over your mindmapping. Mind Map Memo is another free Android mind mapping app that helps you create an unlimited number of mindmaps and visualize your ideas on your phone or tablet.

Creating a Basic Mindmap:

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Mind Map Memo thankfully comes with an illustrated help file which should help you start off. Tap on one of the nodes and drag to create a new node in any direction. You can add labels and change the color of the node. Mind Map Memo also supports icons for distinguishing the nodes. You can cut and copy selected nodes and child nodes, and then add it to another selected node.

Notable Features:

You can hide all child notes with a tap and display them again when needed. Mind Map Memo allows export and import of mind maps to (and from) the SD card. It supports Freemind (.mm) and MindMapMemo (.mmm) file types. Do note that some information may be lost during the process as the formats are different. You can also share the mindmap from the Options using the default sharing choices on your device.

Some Features Missing:

Icons and colors are the only two ways you can customize nodes. Complex maps need visual distinction, and the sameness becomes a limiting feature. Mind Map Memo is a basic mindmapping app for Android, so I wouldn’t harp too much on what’s missing.

What I Like in Mind Map Memo:

Mind Map Memo is quick and easy. It is not feature-filled, but I would say that for a mobile screen limited by screen real-estate you need a simpler way to create mindmaps. For someone starting out with mindmapping, the learning curve is minimal.

Mindboard Free

Mindboard Free moves away from the rigid icon based approach of most mindmapping tools and gives you a free flowing interface. You can create your mind map just by finger-drawing on your Android tablet. The app opens with a blank canvas (i.e. if you don’t have any mindmaps on the app yet). Else, it will display your previously created mindmaps. While it may not feel very intuitive at first, it is actually meant to be just that. Think hand drawing and you will get it.

Creating a Basic Mindmap:

You can create a mind map with freehand drawing. Tap the rounded icon in the upper left corner to enter the editing mode. You can choose a color for the node. Use the finger to write and label the node.  To add more nodes and establish parent-child relationships you can drag the [+] symbol on either side of the nodes. The editing mode gives you menu options to erase, shift-scale, and clear your strokes.

The user guide takes you through the instructions to create free-flowing mindmaps.

Notable Features:

The most notable feature is that you can use your finger like a stylus to create mindmaps. Mindboard Lite gives you three themes to choose from – Whiteboard, Blackboard, and Autumn. You can also export your mindmaps as PDF files.

Some Features Missing:

You can change color of the branches and the nodes (from the few choices available). But there are no choices for changing the color of the pen strokes with a color picker.

What I Like in Mind Map Memo:

Mindboard Lite is a rare app among the herd because it allows for free drawing of your ideas. It comes closest to the feel of pen and paper, though writing on a screen isn’t that neat. If you have a tablet, then you can give this a go though I wouldn’t recommend it for smaller Android form factors.

Mindomo

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Mindomo is a powerful and a well-rounded Android mind mapping app in an attractively designed UI. But a word of caution…if you have a small screen on your mobile device, give this one a miss. Mindomo seems to be designed for Android tablets though it explicitly does not say so. If you can make it work for you, then I would place it between the powerhouse Mindjet and the simplicity of SimpleMInd. Mindomo is free on Android, though you are limited to syncing only three mindmaps with a sign-up. But you can work offline without any restrictions.

Creating a Basic Mindmap:

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The interface is very intuitive. You have multiple layout options to begin with and complete flexibility to tinker with topic shapes and colors. The toolbar found on the left helps with creation –  notes, add images, insert media, hyperlinks, specify details, and other basic editing tools for fine-tuning the mindmap. The toolbar on the top is for tweaking the appearance – you can change the current mind map theme, set the tile settings, add subtopics or floating topics, and change the map layout. A single tap takes you into the palettes for tweaking topics, their siblings, or any branches. Mindomo is one of the very few mindmapping solutions for the Android that lets you specify the relationship between topics or nodes. It is as easy as tapping the topic you want to relate to and noting down the details.

Notable Features:

One of the unique features is that along with Themes, Mindomo also gives you multiple Layout options as illustrated below.

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Mindomo can tap into multiple sources if you want to decorate your topics with images. You can use the camera, your image gallery, or source images from the web via a web search or Flickr. The other notable feature is the task scheduler which is part of the mindmap. You can set deadlines and priorities for any node.

Mindomo has a Presenter mode which is one of the highlights for the app. You can create a mindmap and use the Presenter mode to display it as an interactive slideshow to your audience. It takes brainstorming to professional levels.

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What I Like in Mind Map Memo:

You will notice that I left out the ‘what’s missing’ section for Mindomo. Mindomo is very comprehensive and I couldn’t think of a major feature that would stop me from creating great mindmaps. Yes, I tried it out on a table also and I would recommend that you do the same. It doesn’t really bloom on the itsy-bitsy smaller screens of our handhelds.

My review of free Android mind mapping apps took me to quite a few testing grounds. There are quite a few out there; some I had to dismiss because of some problem or the other. For instance, MindMeister for Android has a very limited Basic edition. It is a very good frontend for their hosted mindmapping solution if you can pay up. But if I had to go for an all-rounder, I would plonk for Mindjet. It works properly across the range of form factors (a problem which the excellent Mindomo suffers from) and gives the full complement of features I can expect from a free Android mindmapping tool.

Are you into mind mapping? Are you enthused enough to do it on a mobile device while on the go? Tell us about your reasons and your favorite app for brainstorming sessions. Tell us even if it’s the humble pen and paper.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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9 Comments -

Garris Rago

Definitely gonna give simple mind a go. I find it hard to find productive uses for my smart phone and iPad but love it when things like these appear.

Alan Trinder

Brilliant piece, I had sort of left mind maps behind when I retired without thinking of the personal uses on my tablet. Can’t wait to try.

SaikatBasu

Mindmapping is definitely a pleasure on a tablet compared to a mobile device. And it has so many uses beyond the obvious. I often use it to declutter my brain :)

Vincent Estrellado

Thanks for the article. Quite helpful.

Nevzat Akkaya

Some time ago I’ve searched for such a tool, so many alternatives exist (even cloud based ones). Many thanks for the article.

Phuc Ngoc

Can you give out a deeper comparison on app performance?! I’m glad to read it.

SaikatBasu

The comparison above is pretty much valid. We all have different uses and different skill levels with mindmaps. I can assure you that after the humble pen and paper, these tools should serve you well.They are the best I could find for Android.

Nandan Shanbhag

Sorry to say but you have actually missed one of the best “imindmap” software which is great on Android devices.

Philipp Sokolov

Good apps but not fun.
As a creative person I’ve always wanted something more fun and exciting to keep me going.
I’m working on my own app that turns brainstorming into a game.
Check out this Indiegogo campaign:
http://igg.me/at/brainstore