First impressions: Mind mapping apps for the iPad

Last week, I finally got my hands on an Apple iPad. What an amazing machine! As promised, here are my first impressions of the mind mapping apps that are now available:

iMindMap: This app is everything you would expect from iMindMap. The experience of creating new map topics with your index finger just feels right. The app supports all of the capabilities that I consider to be important In mind mapping applications, including notes, hypertext links and icons.

iThoughts HD: This full-featured app gives you a surprising level of control over the look and feel of your mind maps. The shape and color of topics, icons and start and due dates can be set via a simple multi-tabbed dialog box. Surprisingly, iThoughts HD does auto-versioning, which enables you to roll back your mind map to a previous version. Very cool! This well-designed app can export your maps in no less than 7 different formats, including PDF, Freemind, MindManager, PNG, OPML (an outline format), Novamind, iMindmap and Mindview. Other excellent features include the ability to sync your maps with cloud-based storage services Dropbox and, unlimited undo and redo, and the ability to turn on or off inheritance of topic colors and shapes. iThoughts HD is the undisputed leader in the iPad mind mapping space.

MindMeister for iPad: This app appears to be well designed and easy to use. It’s claim to fame is its tight integration with the online MindMeister service; as on the iPhone, you can work with mind maps you have created locally on the iPad, or you can access the maps in your online message store and save new maps to this location – ideal for capturing ideas on the iPad and then fleshing them out in the MindMeister web application. In its first iteration, MindMeister for iPad didn’t support links, tasks or notes. But with its latest release, these features are now supported and work very well.

MindNode: This app has a fairly limited feature set, but does the basics very well. When you select a topic, a plus sign appears next to it. Tap on it, and a new subtopic is created, awaiting you to name it. Not quite as organic as iMindMap’s organic tap-and-drag motif, but wonderfully efficient nonetheless. What’s nice about it is that you can add new topics without having to use the toolbar button at the top of the screen. If your mind mapping needs are fairly basic, then MindNode is a solid choice!

SimpleMind: Like its name suggests, SimpleMind has a fairly simple user interface and only the most basic of features – adding topics and sub-topics, and changing their color, either via a set of builts in styles or by selecting a topic and adjusting the color manually. Almost too basic, I think.

Mindo: This app also has a fairly basic set of features, but can create boundaries around groups of topics and relationship lines – features not found on any other iPad mind mapping app.

Popplet - mind mapping app for iPadCrowdMap: This is a fairly new mind mapping app that aims to make it easy for people to share maps with each other. However, the features are just too basic at this time. All it can do is create topics, subtopics and change their color. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, even the most basic mind mapping app needs to support icons, hypertext links and notes – the basics for capturing at least a moderate level of detail about the topic you’re brainstorming.

Popplet: This interesting app does something akin to mind maps, except with topic shapes that can contain any combination of words, images and drawings. The effect is playful, rather than professional. Still, an interesting app nonetheless.

I’m excited to see how far the genre of mind mapping apps has come in the 4 months since Apple’s launch of the iPad in June. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next!



  1. Howard Veit says

    I have both iMindMapHD and iThoughtsHD on my iPad. I really like both and use them both. The major drawback of iMindMapHD is that you can't import maps from you PC or Mac and continue to work on them on the iPad. You can export an iMindMapHD map via email to your PC or Mac, but not vice versa.

  2. says

    I am pleased to say Howard that the ThinkBuzan Development Team are currently advancing the app's import feature so that it will allow you import Mind Maps created on iMindMap desktop onto your iPad. This will be a free update once it is ready for release….

  3. says

    Dear Chuck:
    This is an incredibly important post that I've been looking forward to. Thank you for–once again–sharing relevant and timely information in a concisely organized format.

  4. says

    Hi Chuck! Thanks for a great post. I am using MindMeister, and I find it to be a very valuable service. To your overview, I would add that you can export MindMeister maps directly from the iPad in PDF, PNG, RTF, Freemind and MindManager formats.

    Also, as a general suggestion for all iPad mindmappers, I highly recommend the Boxwave Capacitive Stylus as a tool. It makes mindmapping on the iPad a much easier and, quite literally, a cleaner process. The stylus can be purchased from Amazon at Comes in four colors!

  5. says

    Awesome Chuck!

    I downloaded iThoughts HD onto my iPad and in 3 minutes I had logged into my Dropbox and opened a .mmap and started editing.


    My iPad is getting more thumbs up today! And the guys at iThoughts HD of course!



  6. says

    Hi Chuck,
    have you any info about MindManager for the iPad? I got the news that a version is coming up. Developed by a partner company. It should be released in November.

    Let's look forward to the next iPad generation. Hope they release it in early 2011, just after the Blackberry taplet will be released. Then you'll get a powerfull tool, not only a toy 😉

  7. says

    Most apps I'm working with are MindMeister, iThoughtsHD and iMindMap. MindMeister maps for some projects I share with others, iThoughtsHD for the fast structuring of ideas and the export and import facilities (in combination with DropBox) and iMindMap for the moment the creativity process is more important and my right brain has to be triggered a bit more. Great to read about the advancing of the last app!

    Thank you Chuck for the overview!

  8. says

    Hi there Chuck, you have a really cool post here. I myself have also been doing graphic recording and mind mapping for 6 years now and I must say that I am really impressed with your knowledge in mind mapping and interest in applications. I really never had time to check this apps on iPad yet. Thanks to you for making our life easier!

    Anyway, I also would like to share my excitement with you guys here. I have just created this new product on how to mindmap to get better grades. Check it out here..–>>>

  9. Tony Patterson says

    I’ve used 5 of the 8 ipad mindmap apps and I’ll have to say that iThoughtsHD and Popplet are my two go to products. The Developers of iThoughtsHD have done a great job right out of the gate and continued to bring updates to the product. Popplet is closer in many ways to mind mapping on paper, it allows you to embed images, drawings and text and I can’t wait until the sync with web popplet is added where video can also be included. Your readers might also think about Sketch Book Pro, more of a drawing app but as close to paper mind mapping as you can get.

    I was disappointed in iMindMap because not only can you not import maps from your pc, but by comparison the price of the app is too high.

    Something that all of the mind map app developers should keep in mind is if we create mind maps on our desktops and laptops and import or upload them to the ipad then the images we attached or embedded should come along as well. And the reverse is true as well if I start a map on the ipad and upload or transfer it to my desktop I don’t want to lose features.

    Thanks Chuck for the great recap and enjoy your ipad.

  10. says

    Hi Chuck,

    great overview, thanks.
    Seems like a pretty crowded niche market to me (let alone your review is about one device family only).
    How will it evolve over the next years? Are people more interested to mindmapping these days?

  11. webapps says

    First impressions: Mind mapping apps for the iPad is a great blog,,, it really shares a cool and very important piece of information,,,,,,,

  12. Joe says

    Very useful article Chuck, thanks. After reading your artcile I downloaded iThoughtsHD onto my iPad2 and was mind-mapping in minutes. Every time I have a "did I really need to buy that iPad" moment, I come across a piece of software like this and the answer becomes "yes!"…

  13. says

    I am big fan of iThoughtsHD on the iPad. As you suggested, this has been a game-changer for me. I use iThoughts everyday for basic things like my calendar and workplan, through to designing new concepts, agendas & documenting meettings, planning & writing blogs and articles, writing proposals, setting up Sunday school lessons. I love the Dropbox linkage because I can acccess the mas from iPad, phone, and 2 computers (laptop & office). Plus, Craig (the developer) is very responsive to questions.

    iThoughts has 80% replaced my desktop sofwtare – Axon Idea Processor, my 10 year friend – but Axon does a whole lot of other things than mindmapping. I have been in touch with the developer of Axon to see if he will create an input/output for iThoughts.

    I tried several before I found iThoughts. It's the best.

  14. joachimscholz says

    Something that I find worth mentioning when it comes to MindNode is that it allows more than one mind map per canvas. I find this a great option, especially in academia / university when sketching out the flow of a research paper (I am a grad student). I wrote a more detailed review of MindNode here:

    Do you know if any of the other apps allow for multiple mindmaps per canvas? If so, I would like to try them out.


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