Mindmap Alone or as a Group on the Web With MindMeister

MindMeister lets an individual or a team lay out thoughts visually and easily create appealing mind maps for any project.

We all need to gather our thoughts every now and then. Some of us do that by just writing in a simple text editor, such as Simplenote, but others may find the look of a blank page intimidating. Also, some people tend to be more visually organized than others; if you're one of those people, perhaps a mind map is what you need. MindMeister (various pricing from free for personal use to $20/month) is a low-overhead, efficient online tool for creating such mind maps, on your own or with others.

A mind map is simply a diagram with a concept in the center, and branches leading off it to various directions. If you remember Google's Wonder Wheel feature, you know what a mind map is. For example, if you were to consider adopting a dog, the core idea could say something like "New dog," with a branch for "possible names," another branch for "shelters" (i.e, where to look), yet another branch for "desired characteristics," and so on. Each of these branches could have sub-branches, so you could have "names suggested by Sam" and "names suggested by Bill," both under the "possible names" branch. The end result is a very visual representation of your thoughts.

While there are free and simple mind-mapping applications you can download (such as Blumind and FreeMind), MindMeister lets you create a mind map using nothing but a Web browser. Each node (or "idea") can have its own icon, as well as a color, font size, and text style (bold/italic). If you have more than a couple of words to say about an idea, you can attach a note to it. You can also add URLs to an idea, and even attach files to it.

You can use MindMeister as a project management system of sorts: Any idea can be made into a task, given a priority (on a scale of one to seven), a due date, a completion percentage, and an assignee. Each of these changes is reflected visually on the mind map, so you can see all task properties at a glance.

If your idea is complex, a mind map representing it can become cluttered. MindMeister helps alleviate this by making each idea collapsible. So if you don’t want to think about names for the dog at the moment, simply collapse the "names" branch, and you can focus other branches.

Unlike downloadable mind mapper TheBrain, MindMeister only lets you link each thought with just one parent. It also keeps things simple (perhaps too simple, for some) by not letting you specify link types to indicate relationships between different ideas ("inspired by", for example).

MindMeister has powerful collaboration features. You can invite collaborators over email. When editing the map simultaneously with another person, any changes you make are reflected in real-time on both systems--MindMeister calls this "brainstorming mode," and it’s easy to see why. It's actually a lot of fun to use: Move a node, and it moves on the other person's computer. This could get confusing, so MindMeister animates the moves smoothly and highlights any changes with color as they’re made, so you can easily see what the other person changed.

Another powerful MindMeister feature is the History View. This is a horizontal bar with color-coded dots (according to the color assigned to each collaborator). You can use this bar to travel back in time to a previous version of the mind map. As you scrub back to past versions, the map changes instantly, so it’s easy to find the version you were looking for.

MindMeister offers multiple visual themes and apps for iPad, iPhone and Android. It also works well with Google Apps for business users. All in all, it's a robust, friendly way to visually collaborate on ideas.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags pimsMindMeisterGoogleproductivitymind mappingmappingsoftware

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Erez Zukerman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?