Boost Your Brainstorming With These Essential Free Apps

Mind-mapping, note-taking, whiteboarding, and more.

When thoughts get moving a mile a minute, even the most structured brainstorming sessions can get out of hand. These five apps will help you corral your ideas, queue up inspiration, and collaborate with your colleagues.


1. Connect the Dots

You’re a big dreamer. A veritable space cadet. Now your ideas can get the space treatment as well. Mindly (Android, iOS) lets you pad out your ideas like you’re building a solar system: a sun-like main idea in the middle, out of which several planet-like concepts, notes, images, and other elements are born, each planet having one or more moons representing other ideas. It’s a great way to organize the ideas in your head.

2. Take No-Fuss Notes

Simplenote (Android, iOS) focuses on letting you take quick notes without worrying too much about organization. All your notes are searchable and sync to other devices, with a built-in to-do list to help you stay on track if you need to get certain tasks done. If you’re not naturally super organized, this can be the app equivalent of having sticky notes all over your desk–except easily searchable and with legible handwriting.

3. Hoard For Later

You can just sit there brainstorming all day, every day. Try Pearltrees (Android, iOS) if you’re looking to bank some inspiration for future retrieval. The app houses books, art, movies, blog posts, PDFs, and other interesting things you find as you peruse the web. You can organize your finds as interests and see what like-minded people have favorited themselves, while sharing your collections with everyone else.

4. Whiteboard Together

Finally, a way to experience the white-knuckled thrill of a… well, meeting. Even if you’re not in the same room as your colleagues, you can share a real-time virtual whiteboard with SyncSpace (Android, iOS). Add text and doodles as a group, and when you’ve finally gotten all your ideas down, you can email your whiteboard around as images or even edit it later if you need to make some changes.

5. See If That Idea Has Legs

Sometimes you just want to play devil’s advocate. Idea Growr (Android) and Idealist (iOS) each let you outline a basic idea and then challenge yourself to prove it’s viable by answering a series of questions about why the world needs compostable laser printers. Once you’ve defended your idea to yourself, each app lets you send it to others for review. Don’t give up, no matter what Julian in Accounting says.