2020 saw a mass migration of office professionals from the office to the living room. With workers encouraged to stay home, many industry sectors have embraced remote work for its cost effectiveness and comfort. However, the lack of a physical space for professional collaboration has lead to a surge in the development and availability of software tools that facilitate remote cooperation, and the number of options can be overwhelming. Thankfully, no two apps are exactly alike, with each having its own strengths and style. Whether you’re in need of a fluid, dynamic virtual workplace where you can communicate and accomplish goals as a team, or the ability to organize and visually plot your own thoughts for better professional results and increased productivity, here are 9 apps that won’t disappoint.

  1. MindMeister

MindMeister’s polished visage and intuitive functionality were designed with team work and collaboration in mind. Virtually meetings are easily conducted, with map edits updated in real time and users able to make live comments and hold votes. MindMeister’s customizable maps support multimedia attachments and can be shared via Google Drive, Wiki Maps, or with simple but effective link sharing. Unique among mind-mapping applications is MindMeister’s presentation mode, an automated feature which converts finished maps into engaging slideshows which can be exported in .png format for use on web pages. MindMeister also features integration with MeisterTask, with each map node able to be translated into an assignable task for more organized team work.

  1. Braincat

Braincat is designed to streamline thinking and increase mental efficiency, allowing for leaner, more productive brainstorming. Braincat’s process begins with basic questions based on selected project type, prompting users to submit their ideas for deconstruction and reorganization. Once those ideas have been reduced to manageable categories, they can then be mapped, or sequenced according to importance and utility, creating a new hierarchy of concepts that allows fresh interpretations of old ideas, helping to clear mental roadblocks and inspire innovation. Braincat’s idea maps can be shared and edited among coworkers, making it perfectly suited for collaboration. Braincat is available by monthly subscription or lifetime license, with users encouraged to try the software for a two week trial period.

  1. Ayoa

Ayoa is the latest release from OpenGenius, creators of iMindMap. Building on their experience developing iMindMap, OpenGenius have delivered a comparably feature-packed application outfitted with a slick, colorful user interface. Ayoa is especially suited for collaborative mind-mapping; users can easily share their mind maps with each other or allow public access to their mind maps. Ayoa integrates its mind-mapping functions, as well as coworking necessities like instant messaging and video chat, into its collaborative whiteboard, a virtual coworking space where meetings and team projects can be hosted.

  1. Lucidchart

Cloud-based Lucidchart is purpose built for corporate style brainstorming and features various mapping formats. Those used to an office setting will appreciate the optional post-it note visual format, while standard line-and-bubble maps are also possible. Users are able to combine their maps, diagrams, and charts in a single virtual workspace, and may be surprised to see live cursor tracking. Lucidchart supports integration with Slack, G Suite, Microsoft Teams, and other coworking apps.

  1. Mindomo

Studies have demonstrated students respond better to complex concepts when instruction is given visually. Mindomo’s straightforward interface and feature set are tailored to the needs of educators seeking a visual medium for their lessons. Unlike other mind-mapping apps, Mindomo allows the creation of individual and group assignments by an administrator, and also provides a system for grading. Maps created in Mindomo have a viewable edit history appropriate for academic collaboration. Assignments and grades are easily distributed to students, and the app allows for instant feedback and live chat.

  1. Coggle

Web-based freeware Coggle offers a simple, intuitive interface focused on creating, sharing, and editing flow charts and visual idea maps within a browser. This lightweight app is great for academic projects or small scale professional projects, with in-depth mapping, customizable colors, and image support.

  1. Bubbl.us

Bubbl.us, like Coggle, is a web-based freeware with a simple but effective approach. Users input new information according to level of importance, serving as the basis for a bubble tree. Bubbl.us automatically repositions bubbles as new information is entered. For those who prefer not to take this shortcut, or for situations that call for some versatility, Bubbl.us offers manual drawing tools, allowing users to reposition, recolor, and scale bubbles to their preference. Users are able to collaborate on projects within the app, and read-only files can be exported as well.

  1. Visual Thesaurus

Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus provides a novel approach to mind-mapping geared toward writers. This browser based app behaves like an intelligent thesaurus; users input words or phrases which are used to generate an association map of synonyms and related ideas. Each node generated by this process can be selected as the basis for a new map. The definitions for each word and phrase are given in a separate pane. Visual Thesaurus is perfect for overcoming writer’s block or etymological study. Thinkmap offers free trial use of Visual thesaurus.

  1. FreeMind

Standalone freeware mind-mapper FreeMind packs some uncommon features with a utilitarian user interface. Perfect for those unphased by function-over-form design philosophy, FreeMind’s idea maps work better than they look, featuring clickable HTML links and folding headers. Of course, FreeMind’s maps aren’t completely bare; users are able to spice things up with customized font, node color, and icons. Designed with compatibility in mind, FreeMind is available for all three major operating systems, stores maps as universally recognized XML files, and is able to export maps as HTML for web integration.