Most other web sites that rank mind map apps carry advertising from at least several different producers of these programs while I do not. This may or may not explain my greater willingness to differentiate sharply between the apps.
Your idea of what a great mind map app should be may differ from mine resulting in different ratings. Mine are particularly relevant for scientific, health, education, and personal use rather than corporate outline formatting. In fact corporate outline formatting in “mind map” programs does not really produce true mind maps, but most corporate customers do not know the difference. Learn why Buzan-style mind maps will perform far better than the “formatted outline” maps produced by many of the best selling programs before committing to one model or the other.
The programs continuously change (most copy each new version of iMindMap after its release) and my ratings change fairly often.
I communicate with some of the app developers (as well as other independent reviewers) via email. I try not to let these interactions with nice people and arrogant people and people with crummy business models (and crummy customer support) and development geniuses color my ratings.
These ratings apply only to Mac software. I do not use any of these programs on a PC. After 25 years of 40-80 hours of PC use per week, I switched to a real computer and use Macs exclusively.
I will release separate ratings for iPad apps, but in general those programs that are especially good on the Mac tend to be especially good on the iPad. Note that while I do not believe that the Mac version of Inspiration is a particularly good app, I think that the iPad implementation is among the very best.
The apps I review are full commercial versions. I have yet to find a free mind map app that is even close to the best paid apps in quality and usability.
Virtually all of the paid apps have free evaluation periods. Most periods are 30 days which is plenty of time to form your own judgment. Make use of the opportunities provided by the developers and vendors.
And yes, the three programs that I intend to use 90% of the time or more are iMindMap, iMindQ, and iThoughtsX. My use is about 85% iMindMap and 2.5% each of the others. I spread the other 10% of my usage around, often experimenting with other programs just to see if they better fit specific uses or types of users.
This mind map that follows is the same as that above reformatted for “3D” presentation.
Kidspiration Maps for iPad came out about a month ago. This is an adaptation of the Kidspiration and Inspiration 9 software available on PC/Mac and the iPad Inspiration app (for tweens to adults). Inspiration is a (concept but also mind) mapping program widely used in schools, and as my friend Hans Buskes (@hansbusked) has demonstrated, management consulting. So for the K-3 set and $350,000+ set, a new tool is available to combat Powerpoint and crayon fatigue.
I am not sure how I feel about using concept mapping at such a young age. I am inclined to want to see the huge research studies of efficacy school systems and educational psychologists are likely to prepare first. On the other hand, I would rather have my own children using this app than most of the so-called “educational” apps or just zapping Zombies.
I think I can say without reservation that the first time an audience sees a Kidspiration concept map presented with high level scientific results at a professional association convention, everybody will wake up laughing in the middle of their Powerpoint fueled naps.
The developers of Kidspiration Maps believe this is a Pre-K to Grade 5 product. I think it is probably best used in Grades K-3.
Some snaps from Kidspiration mapping from when I was playing around. All mapping was done by a retired 62 year old on an iPad 4. A 6 year old is more artistic and accomplished at using an iPad and probably would get better results.
Scapple on the Mac (and recently also the PC) is one of my favorite programs. Unfortunately, Scapple is not available on the iPad. There are several good alternatives, and MagicalPad uses the special features of the iPad to make enhanced diagrams for visual learning and project organization.
March 5 2014: A fourth good alternative to Scapple on the iPad is Trout. Trout is not only a Scapple work-alike, but it also has versions that run on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. See this post for a demonstration and review of Trout. Trout is probably the best of the four methods but it has a relatively steep learning curve.
Day One is a small Mac-iPad-iPhone for journaling. It is a very simple app that elegantly reminds you to make journal entries at time intervals you select throughout the day. It handles pictures very well (taking pictures with an iPhone/iPad or using images from the camera roll). I have tried dozens of these kinds of apps over the years including just adapting standard word processing programs.
This is the only journaling app that I have ever been able to motivate myself to use on a regular basis.
It strikes me that this could also be a very good program as a lab notebook or data analysis notebook in that major issues can be typed in with automatic timelines, pictures, etc. While it does not have a built in sketching routine, you can always do a rough sketch on a piece of paper and photograph it as part of the entry with an iPhone or iPad camera.
UPDATE: In December, Apple chose Day One as their app of the year for 2012.
UPDATE 2: February 6, 2013. I like this app more than ever. I frequently use the synching between Mac and iDevices and it works very well and seamlessly. It is possible to import old photographs and (if the photo has a standard date entry) the photograph will automatically land on the correct date page of the journal.