I’ve been searching for the best mind mapping software for a long time. I’ve tested them all: draw.io, MindMeister, Milanote, MindChat, SimpleMind, iThoughts, MindNode, XMind, Mindly, LucidChart, Cardflow, Coggle, and Grafio 4.
You would think after testing so many apps, I would’ve found one that could meet all of my requirements. But each one of these apps lacks at least one feature that I need in a mind mapping tool in order for me to use it on a daily basis.
Now you might be wondering what are the features I consider must-haves when it comes to mind mapping?
Here’s what I need:
- Apple Pencil support
- Multi-device support for windows, Mac, and iPad Pro
- Collaboration and easy sharing capabilities
- A web clipper
- Integration with other software like Evernote, Asana, and Notion
- Free positioning of my shapes (versus fixed mind map layouts)
After two years of searching for an app that contained all of these features, I finally found a tool called Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) that provides all of these features and even more. It’s not only a mind mapping tool but a fully-fledged project management tool too.
For this article, I will cover the mind mapping capabilities of the app since these are exactly the features I was searching for, and writing about all the features would turn this article into a novel. (If you’re interested in other features like its task and project management features, let me know in the comments below or in the Paperless Movement Facebook group, and I will cover this in another article.)
Mind mapping features
To create a mind map with Miro, you can either choose from a pre-created template or create your own.
To use an existing template, you simply pick the style of mind map you want to use and fill it in as you would a typical mind map that you’re used to seeing from other mind mapping tools. The difference with this app is, you can drag and rearrange the features inside the template to make it flexible enough to meet your needs.
I prefer to make freehand mind maps, which are, for me, just much easier to use. Miro allows you to choose a shape to fill in with information, and then choose from a variety of arrows and paths for connecting thoughts and information to one another. You can vary the shapes, sizes, and locations of your information fields to create the map that you envision in your mind. It’d like actually seeing your thought process materialize in front of you.
You always can also select and “group” different parts of the mind map, which allows you to drag it around. That’s really the flexibility I want a mind mapping tool to be able to provide.
Apple Pencil support
Although you can use Miro across multiple devices with a mouse and keyboard, it is essential to also have a mind mapping app that can be used with the Apple Pencil. I have already made a video about this where I went into detail how to use the Apple Pencil in Miro and how awesome it actually is. If you haven’t seen that video, you might want to check it out, but I will also give you a quick recap here.
Using the Apple Pencil with Miro is easy and intuitive (unlike apps like Grafio, which was actually built for the Apple Pencil).
With the Apple pencil, you can select from the menu in the sidebar to begin drawing your mind map. You can freehand draw a shape on the iPad screen, and the app will change your drawn shape into a nicely formed shape. You can hand-write, or type into the shape to create a subject in your mind map. You also have the flexibility to draw your own connecting arrows, different sizes or shapes, and even create “post-it” notes.
Basically, all the features of the mind mapping tool can be used with the Apple Pencil with next to no confusion.
Multi-device support is really important for me because I’m a Windows and Mac user. As you know, for handwriting note-taking apps, we’re already struggling to find an app that can be used on an iPad and also on an Android tablet or on a Windows machine. This is not so for Miro.
Miro is available on any platform. You can use it on Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, and so on. You have native apps and software for this as well.
They even have a web-based version. If you’re on any machine that doesn’t support Miro, it doesn’t matter. You can open it up in your browser and use it there. The best part is that it looks, feels, and works all the same on any of these devices.
Easy collaboration and sharing
Miro makes it easy to collaborate simultaneously with another person inside the app.
Just imagine that you have a colleague, a team member, or whoever wants to work on this dashboard with you. Both you and the other user will be able to see each other’s cursor moving around, and you’ll see the other person’s creations on the screen as they happen in real-time.
As each item on the screen is created, a little icon pops up momentarily to say who the creator was.
You can create shapes, post-its, or cards. The cards are really the collaboration feature in Miro as well. The cards can be assigned to a user and attached to a task in a command board or you can use it inside a mind mapping tool. You can also add a tag or a description of the card.
When the size of the card is very small, the description on the card will be hidden and you’ll need to click on it to see the details. If you want the description to show on the card all the time, you just click on the card and enlarge it to make the text show up. You can also add links and due dates.
You can group items together using frames. Labeling a group of items into a frame means you can use the frames together in things like slide presentations. Your frames can even be displayed on the side of your screen and rearranged, like slide presentations you’re used to seeing. I think that’s awesome for collaboration and for making presentations and sharing the information you have in your mind map.
Another amazing collaboration tool inside Miro is the video chat feature. You can see the person you are collaborating with and even share your screen.
You can actually share the video chat link through your board to anybody, they don’t need to be part of your team, but they would still see your presentation. That’s just awesome for collaboration.
You can use Miro to clip and save images from the web for upload into your mind maps. You can resize the saved images and use lines with arrows to integrate them into your mind map.
If you want to clip a website, you just select a URL, copy-paste it in Miro, and it will import a preview of the page you clipped. You can also link this clip to your mind map with a line and arrow.
But Miro doesn’t stop there. Let’s say you want to clip a video. You just simply copy-paste the URL and drop it into the app, and you have a playable video embedded into your mind map without doing any code.
Integration with other software
One of the great features of Miro is the ability to integrate with other apps. If there is anything you want to have on Miro, you can add it. You just go to the App Store, which is only free. These are integrated into Miro and it is free. There is no additional cost for adding these features.
You can choose things like Google Drive, Slack, Trello, and Asana. It’s a native integration with Asana, and it’s a native integration with Notion.
Notion doesn’t even offer proper integration with other tools. However, Miro and Notion are compatible, so you can actually integrate Miro dashboards into Notion. Using Miro, you can have everything in your Notion Wikis that you’re building like mind maps. That is really a missing feature in Notion, Evernote, and so on.
You can also integrate Zapier. This means you can use Zapier to integrate Miro with tens of thousands of other apps.
Free positioning of shapes
As I stated above, I like to be able to draw my own custom workflows. This means I need to be able to create my own mind maps using different shapes and different sizes of those shapes.
Miro has great compatibility with the Apple Pencil that I can use to draw out my workflows. The shapes I draw can be left as I created them, or set to auto-create the geometric version of the shape.
Because of the free positioning of the shapes, you can select any of the shapes you drew and drag them wherever you want them to be. You can then use the variety of line thicknesses, and colors to custom create your own workflow.
If I have created a workflow that shows how I use paperless apps with each other, the ability to freely position my shapes means I can drag and drop the icons for each of those apps into the position where I need them to be. This just couldn’t be done correctly inside a different mind mapping app.
There is also a great feature that allows me to include additional information to my workflow by linking an icon in the workflow to another piece of information inside the mind map so that when you click on that link, the app navigates you to the content inside the mind map that has relevance to the link you just clicked. This is just another way you can create a custom mind map and workflow, while still including supplemental information about that workflow.
Miro is a great app. It has every feature I have wanted in a mind mapping app, plus more. It has quickly become a part of my paperless workflow setup. I’m happy that I found another tool that really fits into my workflow and makes the things I’m using much more complete.
Let us know if you’ve used Miro and what you think about it in the Paperless Movement Facebook group. For an even more in-depth look at how you can use Miro in your own workflow, join us in the Paperless Movement Inner Circle.