A comparison of mind mapping apps for the iPad

Feb 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Mobile Mapping Tools

NOTE: This report was updated in February 2013. Here is the up-to-date infographic and analysis

How do the mind mapping apps for the iPad compare with each other? Here is a visual analysis, in the form of a chart, which compares price vs. functionality, and what that translates into in terms of potential value to you. The larger the circle, the greater the program’s value. Please click on the image to view a larger version of this chart.

Ideally, you want a low-cost (or free) app with lots of functionality. That yields a lot of value. But don’t discount the higher-priced mind mapping apps in this chart, because even the highest-priced one is only US$15.99 – still a bargain!

What can we learn from this chart? First, there are many developers fighting for the lowest end of the market – low-cost apps that do just basic topics connected by lines, and not much more. If they don’t at least offer text notes and hypertext links, they’re not worth your time, in my opinion.

Next, there is a cluster of apps in the mid-range of functionality, in the price range of US6-8.They offer a bit more functionality, at a slightly higher price than the low-end programs.

Finally, at the high end of the market are apps like iThoughtsHD, iBlueSky, MindMeister and DropMind, which provide an excellent level of functionality for a reasonable price. Mindjet stands alone as a supplier of a fully-featured mind mapping app that is giving it away for free – part of its mission to spread visual mapping to a much larger audience of users, who may some day purchase its MindManager desktop mind mapping program and Connect online workspace service.

What do you think of this analysis? Is this something I should repeat for other segments of the mind mapping software market?

(Updated chart 2/20/12 in response to comments – changed position of iThoughts HD relative to other apps)

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11 comments
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  1. Great summary of an increasingky complex market.

    I would put iThoughtsHD would further to the right having tried MindMeister, iThoughtsHD and Mindjet. If you are a serious exploiter of the desktop applications the iPad apps are a good notepad and viewer but not for your more complex and styled maps.

    Think about how you will be sharing maps via Dropbox, Connect and other cloud storage.

    Each application has a different UI so do try before you buy. Some work for some people and some for others. The price point is not significant in the choice of app.

  2. Do you know that MindHD supports iCloud? others not.

  3. I agree with Andrew that ithoughts HD is further to the right especially when compared to the other apps. There are compromises on the ipad side but ithoughts HD is the most fully functional on the ipad with the most comprehensive format sharing and use of dropbox. New version of mindmeister is due shortly as well as updates to imind map so interesting times.

  4. Yes. I like this kind of "bird's eye view." please continue.

  5. I really like the "balloon race" type comparison format. However, you should see how David McCandless on http://www.TED.com creates a balloon race "living document" in Google Docs, comparing health supplements. I could see you doing this to compare mind-mapping app features and OSs. See http://bit.ly/tTng06

  6. From a 'race' perspective, it'd be nice to see the chart's axis flipped to show the least expensive on top.

  7. I lIke the layout of the chart showng the functionality. Helpful format.

    But I agree with others that you have underestimated the functionality of iThoughtsHD. I tried all the other “high end” apps and iThoughtsHD is an order of magnitude better, especially since adding the cloud features. The customer support is very good too.

    It seems to me that the Pricing is not very relevant. Most of them are less than $10.

    Brian Maskell

  8. An interesting analysis; thanks for sharing. A couple of comments from my perspective.

    I'm not sure I understand what the circle size is telling me; is it number of features divided by price or some more (subjective) score of value? If its the first, then the axes tell the whole story already.

    However, in the end I don't think that price is that useful a piece of information here. Price is generally related to features. At the prices in this market its probably not a determining factor in a decision to purchase.

    What I'd find much more useful is an axis that shows how often the software has been updated plotted against features. This gives a good idea of the usefulness of the software. Frequent bug fixes are as important as new features. The main reason I abandoned MindManager on the desktop is their almost non-existent bug fixes and infrequent (and expensive) version upgrades.

    This is also a market where there are lots of potential orphans; software that has no future.

    By the way, I love IThoughtsHD. I think it would score well on almost any plot :-)

  9. Great. Yes – Mac, cloud & PC platform comparisons, please. Later, possibly other criteria mix.

  10. I have several of these on my iPAD, using simpleminds+ most of the time. What I miss most is the stylus pen to easily draw on the iPad. I have one, but they do not give me the same flexibility as when I am just using a blank A4 sheet of paper. Do you have recommendations to improve this? Or do I have to wait for a new iPad?

  11. Great analysis – thanks! Do any of the ipad apps allow for drilling down on a given topic, isolating the branch for editing and review?

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