The following is a list of the 13 best software for brainstorming products or apps currently on the market, along with their pros and cons.
It’s difficult sometimes to come up with ideas for a book, writing assignment, or a big creative project. These days, though, we are in luck because there are lots of apps to help us brainstorm ideas, whether we are working independently or as part of a group.
The Brainstorming Process
Brainstorming is an important initial step in any writing or planning process, so it should not be overlooked or omitted. Diving into the development of a project without taking sufficient time for gathering and organizing ideas can lead to a project that lacks clarity, structure and direction.
There is, however, an art to effective brainstorming, and, although it is important to allocate ample time to this key step in the creative process, it is equally important to ensure an efficient and effective use time.
During the brainstorming stage of any project, we should cast a wide net. Anything goes at this preliminary stage, as we collect as many ideas as possible. We can focus on reigning things in, condensing and categorising ideas later.
As many writers know, writer’s block can be crippling. Often it is making a start that is the problem. Once we get the ideas flowing, we can usually keep going. We just need help sometimes to kickstart the flow of ideas. Brainstorming software can help with that.
Brainstorming can be done individually and in groups. In many contemporary workplaces, it is a creative problem-solving technique that allows participants to share ideas and discover solutions.
Whether you brainstorm with others or yourself, it is preferable to have a board or other tools that will help you think in more creative ways.
Many of us who brainstorm with others use a board to jot down ideas. We pin pictures, charts, and notes. We draw shapes, make graphs, diagrams, and connect them with arrows.
This instinct to scribble, post, and connect concepts is catered to by digital brainstorming aids with collaborative workspaces. They range from digital whiteboards to mind maps.
Brainstorming gets ideas flowing. However, that’s as far as many ideas get if they aren’t organized and recorded somehow.
So, to help you find some of the best brainstorming software currently on the market, here is a list of the top 10 apps, in no particular order, with a summary of their pros and cons.
Pricing: Asana offers a free version, and three paid plans, beginning at $10.99 per month.
The first app we’ll consider is called Asana. Asana gets positive user reviews. This app purports to help you not only generate ideas, but also turn those ideas into concrete action, which is particularly useful for businesses.
With this app you can add ideas any time, anywhere, which cuts down on all those time-consuming meetings. Asana makes for more effective and inclusive brainstorming sessions. It is also extremely easy to use.
Asana helps teams organize all aspects of their work, from daily tasks to strategic initiatives. With this app, teams can work more quickly, and accomplish more with less, no matter where they are located. Customer service is accessible and efficient.
Pricing: Current pricing not available.
Crowdicity gets positive user reviews. This brainstorming software is elegantly designed and it helps teams efficiently capture, organize and distill ideas. It is intuitive, easy to navigate, and very accessible. It also boasts a comprehensive set of features.
This cloud-based software seems to be best suited to larger organizations. Clients come from a wide range of sectors, and include Intuit, the NHS, Oxfam, the WWF and the United Nations.
Crowdicity helps foster a culture of innovation when it comes to collaborative work on projects and campaigns. It also has a good, responsive customer service.
3. Idea Drop
Pricing: Free trial, Pro Plan 7 pounds per user per month.
Idea Drop is a popular ideation platform, whose customers include the NHS, MTV and Sky. It runs on web, Android and iOS mobile apps. This platform supports an inclusive, diverse, transparent and collaborative idea generation process.
The kanban-style workflow board provides a visual overview of the status of every idea. You can quickly and easily see what stage of the innovation process ideas are in and move them through phases of development. Users can conceal their identity when contributing ideas, using a ‘cloak’ button.
User reviews ranked Idea Drop highly on performance and functionality. One of the selling points is that you can grow businesses using frameworks integrated with social media tools.
Pricing: Incremental $850/month for 100 users (plus $50/month for every 100 extra users) and $500 for setup and training. Disruptive: $1,500/month for 500 users (plus $50/month for every 100 extra users) and $1,000 for setup and training. Transformational: contact Ideawake for a custom enterprise plan.
Ideawake gets good user reviews. It is very easy to use and intuitive. Because Ideawake uses an open API, it is customizable, rather than being one size or one price fits all. You can also customize it according to your brand, adding your logo and other elements.
Incentive programs mean that users can earn points for participating and for completing activities. A crowd voting feature also helps gauge the popularity of different ideas.
There are three pricing plans, categorized, interestingly, as incremental, disruptive and transformational. Their website has several webinars sharing helpful insights from customers and industry leaders.
Pricing: Pricing plans are Free, Individual ($7.95/month), Team ($9/month) and Enterprise (contact for quote).
Gone are the days of a person standing at the front of a room with a flipchart and markers. Now people collaborate from all over the world in real time, with digital sticky notes and whiteboards.
Lucidspark is a virtual whiteboard which is perfect for collaborative brainstorming. It can be effectively and seamlessly used in conjunction with Lucidchart, which is diagramming and data visualization software. The latter helps you act on the ideas generated with Lucidspark.
Features in Lucidspark include sticky notes, freehand drawing, chat, templates, timer, voting, Breakout Boards, Miro import, and more. There is also the option to express your reactions with emojis, which some users enjoy. There is a countdown on the timer, which is a good way to boost participants’ energy.
Pricing: There is a free version. The paid plan costs $9.99/user/month billed annually.
Milanote is mainly for creative professionals, but marketers and UI designers enjoy using it as well. If you are a designer, illustrator, or photographer, Milanote could be a good brainstorming tool.
It serves both individual and group brainstorming in real time. You can collect ideas and track your progress.
An appealing feature is Milanote’s online whiteboard capability. You start out with a private board. You can drag and drop files and access many ready-made templates.
You can then share your work with others. Sharing options include read-only links and secret links. Also, the boards you share contain commenting tools for easy feedback. Because it is cloud-based, you can access the platform using any browser from any device.
The free version includes ‘unlimited’ boards, but they are limited in terms of notes, images, and links. You only get one hundred. You also get free 10 file uploads.
There is a paid plan that includes everything in the free plan, plus unlimited notes and upload files. You can also search boards and contents.
Pricing: Basic plan is free. Personal is $4.99/month, Pro is $8.25/month and Business is $12.49/month.
The best brainstorming app with a free version currently on the market is Mindmeister. A mind mapping-based collaborative brainstorming tool for both teams and individuals, this app allows you to collaborate with up to three mind maps in the free version. Its visualizations make for attractive and appealing presentations.
Mindmeister is beautifully designed, and it is both easy and fun to use. Everything is seamless. It has an attractive user interface and is conveniently cloud-based.
Pricing: Advanced plans start at $8 per user per month, billed annually.
Miro’s website is visually appealing and well organized, full of ideas and fun tools to try. This software supports a process for online brainstorming sessions for creative teams. Users can think in many formats, such as diagrams, sticky notes, images, gifs, drawings and more.
Miro has over 120 pre-built templates so you can go from ideation to execution all on one canvas. There are mindmaps, roadmaps, visual kanban boards, user story maps, customer journey maps and more.
A fun tool is the SCAMPER template, which encourages users to view existing problems through different lenses. This can lead to deeper understanding and more creative solutions.
Miro’s clients include Netflix, Logitech, and Upwork. Paid plans include premium features such as private board sharing, projects, and unlimited boards.
Pricing: Popplet has a free version, a solo plan (currently $19.99/year) and a groups/schools plan. For the latter, contact them regarding pricing.
Popplet is a simple application that is mind mapping-based. It is targeted at students, educators, and businesses. The user interface is very straightforward and easy to use, with drag-and-drop controls. It also has a corresponding app that is exclusive to Apple users.
Collaborative work is pretty straightforward with this tool. If you are an educator, for example, you can let the class participate in digital activities.
Students can then create presentations using the materials that they brainstormed in Popplet. It is a useful app for those students who are predominantly visual learners.
For personal brainstorming, the free version of Popplet should suffice.
Wisemapping is a free open-source software that encourages a brainstorming approach to any task. The overall concept centers on mind mapping in both private and public workspaces.
Wisemapping is completely web-based. You can create fairly complex mind maps with this software. There is also a vibrant user community for knowledge support.
You can embed Wisemapping in blogs or on any webpage. It is basically a collaborative mind mapping tool and if you like your brainstorming strictly done in a mind map environment and forever free, Wisemapping is a good choice for individual brainstorming. It is also used by schools and companies.
An update is scheduled for mid-2021.
Pricing: Coggle offers 3 pricing plans: Free, Awesome ($5/month) and Organization ($8/month).
Coggle is a popular and simple online tool for creating and sharing mindmaps and flow charts. There is no need to download or install anything, as it works online in your browser.
This app allows you to take notes, brainstorm, and plan your projects. Real-time collaboration and sharing with others is straightforward, no matter where users are located.
A useful feature is that you can easily drag and drop an unlimited number of images from your computer to the app.
Pricing: XMind offers pricing plans of $39.99/6 months, and $59.99/year, plus special offers for academia and governmental organizations.
Navigation is easy on XMind, another app for helping people get going with their projects, especially with brainstorming and mind-mapping. XMind offers a wide range of tools and features, including a large library of templates.
XMind is designed for both personal and business use, and is available on the web and on mobile devices. The web edition connects to Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.
FreeMind is open-source, free mind-mapping software, a cross-platform tool that runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS machines with the Java Runtime Environment installed. This makes it accessible to most users.
With this software, you can take notes, brainstorm ideas, and create diagrams. Though a bit dated and not the most beautifully designed, the interface is fairly intuitive.
FreeMind does not come with customer support, but there are project forums where you can post any questions.
The Final Word on Software for Brainstorming
Whether you are brainstorming alone or as part of a team, there are all kinds of apps that can support and enrich the process. In the increasingly virtual work world, many organizations are turning to brainstorming software to support collaborative and creative projects.
The best brainstorming software overall is, in my opinion, Miro.
If you’re looking for a free app, the best choice is Mindmeister.
For teachers and students, choose Popplet. For creatives, the best option is Milanote.