The two best mind mapping apps for the iPhone

Mind mapping iPhoneI heard about mind mapping quite a few years ago, in this famous (and quite good) book about speed reading. If you don't know about what mind mapping is, don't despair, this post still would serve you... but make a quick trip to Wikipedia and come back!

If you just want a quick answer, it is a set of boxes with captions connected with lines with ideas written over the place.

What's so useful about them? Well, they allow you to organize your thoughts pretty well. Let's say you are writing a blog post about something. You still don't know how it will unfold, but have some ideas related to it... You put the subject in the center of the page, and ideas flowing outward. This is the basis of Buzan's mind mapping system, and for this kind of setting works well. You can keep adding ideas until you can develop your writing.

Of course, you should not be restricted to one idea & branches. I think this makes for non-general mind maps, constraining our mind processes. And this is why I talk about the two best applications for iPhone and don't settle with this one. Also, I only consider those you can try for free, you should not be obliged to pay for something without knowning it will work as expected.

Mind mapping iPhone
First, as of the time of this writing there are about 9 mind mapping applications in iTunes Store, of which only 3 are free or have a free version. To give you an idea of how expensive the other ones are, two are over 5€ each. This narrows the question, and I just want to use something I can try for free. I started with SimpleMindDX, which you can see on the right, with some Asdf and Dfs text garbled. I didn't like it. Doesn't export, and the boxes don't allow multiline content.

Then, a few days ago iMindMap, Buzan's free application (free as in if you want to export, you have to buy the Desktop version at 62€, and in 1.0 version there is no import), but it is an application I like (and use) a lot, despite these problems. It has a neat interface, and wonderful organic flowing branches, although it is focused on Buzan's mind mapping style. And it has no export options beside the Desktop version... To get the nice mind map below I took aseveral screenshots, transferred the pictures, cropped and pasted along the "seam". But is nice, isn't it? Consider buying the desktop version (although expensive, it is nice) if you like the iPhone version through this affiliate link. I ended up buying the desktop version, too.

Mind mapping iPhone
Mind mapping iPhoneControls are quite easy to get used to, and the interface is very clean as you can see over the left. Over the left side, the lightning button, allows for quick branch adding, without careful positioning, the export-like button deletes, copies or cuts branches. On the right side of the screen, you can edit text of branches with the pencil, add branches with the branch tool and boxed branches with the boxed branch tool. I miss final boxes, to end a branch with a box, bout you can fake it with a short boxed branch and some positioning.

Positioning and adding branches is genius. When you tap over a branch, a target-like drag appears. If you drag the outer blue circle, you move the branch around, if you drag the red inner circle, you add a branch and position as you like. Below you can see the process.

Mind mapping iPhoneMind mapping iPhone Mind mapping iPhone
Selecting, moving and adding

Mind mapping iPhoneThis is neat, but I found HeadSpace, and I like it far better... at least for some tasks. Why?
  • Exports and imports to FreeMind (Open Source multiplatform mind-mapper)
  • 3D view! Look, its gorgeous
  • No central idea, just put down your groups of things.
I used it for drafting implementation ideas for my FORTH raytracer, and it worked flawlessly. At first I thought it would be much slower than writing with iMindMap, because the add dialogs are clumsier, but it wasn't as bad and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Below you can see how it goes. I'll probably write a more in-depth overview as I am liking it more and more. The complete version, with export and import costs 2,39€, which is not bad at all. Maybe some image exporting would also be welcome.

Still rewriting these code definitions...

Written by Ruben Berenguel