Brainstorming is the process of gathering spontaneous ideas in order to find a solution to a problem. While it can involve a big group of people, the same procedure can also be used by an individual that makes the effort of coming up with the best ways of solving a specific issue.

The term was initially populated in the book named Applied Imagination written by Alex Faickney Osborn in 1963. Since then, brainstorming became more and more appreciated by people and industries all-together. This is why  many software companies started to create apps and programs that allow users to brainstorm whenever and wherever they want to.

brainstormingWith such a big amount of applications and computer softwares invading the market nowadays, we find it essential to identify the best ones. And because it should not cost money to put your thoughts together in an orderly manner, we selected the best free tools for you to use. Some of them are designed for mobile, while some others work on computers – Windows or Mac OS X.

Mobile applications

ideasketch

IdeaSketch

This is a mind-mapping tool that allows users to record their thoughts and ideas, by converting them into text and images. The English language application can be downloaded for free on iTunes, and it requires iOS v7.0 or later.

While there is no Android version available yet, the 4.3 MB app can be used on iPhones, iPads and iPods. It’s easy to customize your maps in terms of shape, fonts and colors, while you can also design flow charts and visual diagrams.

To start taking advantage of its features, you simply have to download the app from the iTunes store and install it on your preferred device. Once this is done, you’re free to use it in order to brainstorm, to illustrate a concept, to make lists, plan a presentation and so on.

MindGenius

While well-known on iTunes, this application is only suitable for iPads and requires iOS v5.0 or a later version of the same operating system. It is an ideal tool for capturing your thoughts on-the-go, especially when you’re preparing for a meeting or seminar.

Because MindGenius Ltd knows you can be gathering ideas for different purposes, it allows you to create plans for almost everything. Some of its typical types of maps are a business plan, task list, solving a problem, as well as “first map”, designed for beginners.

The interactive 13.4 MB app is available to download for free on iTunes, and it only comes in English. To find out more about its features and read customer reviews, you can go here and see what’s planned to come next.

Mind Mapping

mind mapping

Moving next to Android applications, you should know that Mind Mapping is one of the most popular brainstorming tools for Android devices. Being a free tool, it is pretty basic but also great in terms of allowing creative professionals to put their ideas together and manage them by association.

The app requires versions between 2.2 and 4.1 of the operating system and is as light as 376 KB. Thanks to Mind Mapping you can add an unlimited number of ideas, link one of them to another, remove the link at a later time, remove any of the ideas, and seek for associations for a specific idea.

MindMemo

MindMemo is one of the older applications for brainstorming. Available on Google Play, it suits all Android mobile phones that run on version 1.6 or later of this OS. While it enables you to create maps and lists of your ideas, you can also share your plans with MindMemo.

Once you download the application, you have the option of setting an email address that allows you to share maps via email. Similarly, you can also set URL so you can receive the link of the plan you’ve created and share it wherever you like – on social media networks, websites, etc.

Mind Map Memo

Another Android application is Mind Map Memo that requires version 1.6 or a newer one of the same operating system. As light as 173 KB, you can imagine that this one isn’t the most advanced brainstorming tool you could get. However, you should be aware of the fact that it’s been nominated for R25 Android App Award in 2012 within the business division.

With close to 500,000 downloads from the public, this is an application that tends to be updated very often. Given this information, you can be sure to have all possible bugs fixed, and eventual problems will be solved soon, if they haven’t been already removed.

This application promises to let users draw a mind map exactly the way they draw it on paper. Being very flexible and user-friendly, most customer reviews it received are positive and prove its efficiency. To find out more about it and download the free tool, go to Google Play here.

Computer software tools

coggle

Coggle

Coggle is a completely free tool that can be used on any operating system, as it works as a web app. This way, anyone can sign in using their Google account and start creating their mind map. You’re free to add items, double-click on them in order to edit, draw branches and connect ideas.

If you want to personalize your maps, there’s no need to worry because Coggle is very user-friendly. It allows you to click on any of the items you’ve created and drag them around the plan to change their location. Once you finished designing your plan, it’s easy to download it as a PDF or a PNG and share it with everyone you’d like.

EDraw Mind Map

EDraw is a tool that can be used on both Windows and Mac computers. While most softwares tend to use an Explorer-like layout, Edraw has an interface that uses similar visual clues to Office. This is what gives it a familiar feel and makes it very easy to handle.

Being a vector-based software, it comes with many templates to choose from in order to create a mind map, a brainstorming diagram, project timeline, traveling plan, life planner, or even a SWOT analysis. As long as you’re going to use it for personal and non-commercial purposes, EDraw can be downloaded here for free.

XMind

xmind

One of the oldest softwares available for free, XMind can be used for Windows, Linux, and Mac. Completely open source and easy to use, this tool comes with a Pro version that can be installed for $79/year. However, the basic one can be downloaded for free and is known to work great with any desktop OS.

Allowing you to add images and icons so you can differentiate between the different plans and ideas, this tool is very flexible. It also lets you add links and multimedia to an item in order to make more sense of it. To start using its features for various styles, designs, and diagrams, go to its official website here.

Blumind

Blumind’s name comes from the word “blooming”, because it is said to allow your mind to bloom. Working in a similar way to a graphics tool, this one is suitable for Windows only. It supports most chart layouts, such as tree diagrams and organizational charts, while you can easily personalize them by changing the color theme and format.

Whether you’re developing a business plan, working on a science project, or simply want to establish a slimming diet, this application can help you organize your ideas. To find out more about the lightweight app and download it, go here for Windows.

Freemind

Another free software that you could use for brainstorming is Freemind. This one is adapted for Mac, Windows, as well as Linux and is free to download. It’s well-known as a powerful tool for creating mind maps, as it offers very complex diagrams and graphics.

With many icons and branches that help you differentiate between the notes you take, this tool also allows you to add links and multimedia as references. If you want to use the plan at a later time, you can export it as a PDF, OpenDocument, HTML file or PNG.  Then it’s simple to share it with others or send it to yourself via email, while you can also save it on an external device.

Freeplane

freeplane

Another software that only works on Windows OS is Freeplane. Apart from this operating system, it also requires Java 1.5 or a later version in order to function properly. This well-known tool is free and open source and can be used for various purposes – for work, for your home, or at school.

Being available to download here, Freeplane comes with a great user guide that makes everyone familiar with how it works. Some of the included features are creating, adding, and deleting items, while you can also add links and connectors. It’s so easy to use that it becomes child play, and mostly everyone can have fun with it!

SimpleMind Desktop

simplemind

SimpleMind requires Intel, OS X 10.6 or a later of Mac, while it can also be used on Windows computer requiring XP, Vista, or Windows 7. This is a free tool that focuses on simplicity, being very easy to use and automatically storing all maps you create as files in a directory.

While you can create, drag, and arrange items as you wish, the editor also includes the undo and redo options. In case you’re using it to make a presentation, the visual styles can be adapted to change colors, lines and border. You can download the software here for Windows and here for Mac.


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Feature Writer

Alex holds an engineering degree in Telecommunications and has been covering technology as a writer since 2009. Customization is his middle name and he doesn’t like to own stock model gadgets. When he’s away from the keyboard, simpler things like hiking, mountain climbing and having a cold drink make his day.