Best Smart Apps of 2019

Let’s tackle the difficult question first: What the hell is a mind map? Think of this as a way to organize your thoughts. You pick a general topic, then you navigate branches to subtopics, and each of those subtopics can have branches of its own that go into subtopics, and so on and so forth.

While you can draw a mind map by hand on paper, there are also many applications you can use to make the process easier and more streamlined. We asked for your favorites a while ago, and here’s what you told us that you liked:


Although extremely expensive ($ 349!), This app’s “whiteboard” allows you to link and drag and drop links between related topics to create a beautiful map of your thoughts. Using MindManager , it’s easy to add extra detail to anything on your mind map without causing unnecessary clutter, and duplicating ideas between sections is easy as well. You can also convert your mind mapping to a Gantt chart if you plan on using MindManager more as a project management tool than an easy way to organize your thoughts around a topic. (Given its price tag, I suspect this is what most people use this app for.)

As a Lifehacker reader described saimvah :

“The killer capabilities of MM for me are (1) filtering and (2) views. I usually draw very large mind maps, and these features help me figure out what’s important right now.

I wish I could find a cheaper alternative that doesn’t have all the business / collaboration features. “


This mind mapping app comes withfree and professional versions , and you get a 30-day free trial to test all of its features (to help you decide if you want to pay $ 219 for a “pro” license). Like other apps, you can use TheBrain to create fairly complex smart maps and attach various files, documents, and other notes to any tasks or ideas you create on your mental network. TheBrain is available on Windows, Mac, the web, and Android and iOS, and your changes should sync across all instances so you can easily access the latest version of your mind map when you’re on the go.

According to Lifehacker reader Ragehard :

“I love TheBrain and I think it’s the best tool for visual organizing thoughts. Its two greatest strengths are 1) the ability to communicate with multiple parent and sibling nodes, and 2) when you select / focus on a new node, the software automatically moves the connecting nodes to parent / child positions. I find that mind maps with only one parent / child relationship are too restrictive, and editing other programs that allow multiple node connections is time consuming. Its biggest drawback is the lack of a browser extension that allows you to quickly add to your brain (like Evernote). If someone could combine TheBrain and Evernote, I would exclusively use that. In terms of price, it’s expensive, but TheBrain is so useful that I’m reluctant to pay for it. “

Knowledge base builder

While its website isn’t the prettiest, KnowledgeBase Builder lets you create mind maps on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or even the web. While the downloadable apps will set you back around $ 10, the online tool seems free, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to play around with, at least to see if you like it. I found the basics pretty easy to master, and it didn’t take long to create a fairly complex mind map. While its user interface isn’t the prettiest, you can’t really complain given its price (i.e. for the web version).

As isquish reader Lifehacker writes:

As a winner, I love KnowledgeBase Builder for its ability to create beautiful, customizable mind maps suitable for use by non-mind map users. The manufacturer’s website does not do any favors to the product; better features are hidden in blog updates such as the ability to set display images for each node (optionally linked within a custom form), built-in charting / node grouping mechanisms, etc. The software interface is not as perfect as some However, there are others products to display the mind, and it takes work hard to get good results.


Unlike a number of other apps we’ve described , SimpleMind is a reasonably priced mind mapping app that will set you back around $ 25 for the desktop versions and less than $ 10 for the mobile versions. It comes with both a free trial and a free (limited functionality) version and lets you add all sorts of images, videos, and even voice memos to complex smart cards you create.

As Lifehacker reader John describes (simply):

“I love SimpleMind and actually paid for it :-)”

Free mind

As the name suggests, FreeMind is an open source mind mapping tool that you shouldn’t use at all. The lack of graphics and finesse is offset by cost and functionality. If you’re just getting started in the vast world of mind maps, or want to use a different method of tracking your projects, I recommend giving FreeMind a try. And since FreeMind stores all the maps you create in XML, you should be able to convert them to another mind mapping application if you decide to leave the ship.

According to Lifehacker reader Not_a_robot_beepboop :

“Freemind is great – a real (and amazing) workhorse for developing ideas, outlines, drawing without scribbling and ODT export for LibreOffice writer editing (Writer has no Word structure representation). I have used it for academic articles and other short texts. * It complements very well the initial manual compilation of the mind. Unfortunately the project seems to be out of production and difficult to use on Linux. In this regard, Freeplane seems like a good replacement, although I haven’t tried all the bells and whistles yet. “


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