What You Said: What’s Your Favorite Brainstorming Tool?

By Jason Fitzpatrick on August 12th, 2011


Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite brainstorming tools and techniques; you responded and now we’re back to share your tips.

Favorite Sites and Software

Several software tools made multiple appearances in reader responses. John Lopez shares love for popular MindManager:

I have tried a vast array of brainstorming and management tools, to the point of being quite exhausted by the fact new ones keep appearing.

In the end I setted on MindJet’s MindManager. While I really love The Brain for multiple connectivity, I just couldn’t live with it long term (although it was the runner up and I only recently didn’t upgrade to the latest version… if the server version wasn’t so painfully expensive I might have keep it.)

MindJet’s MindManager simply works in such a straightforward way, responds quickly to input and moves seamlessly from brainstorming (it has a brainstorming “wizard” that tries to walk you though the process… along with many templates that address common needs) to organization (easy drag and drop, annotation marks and note taking) and for me the reason I use it, project management.

Brainstorming is great, but if you don’t actually follow up it isn’t as effective as it could be. So being able to organize my brainstorming into a work breakdown structure and then tag times, people and resources directly onto the result of my brainstorming was the feature that I couldn’t live without after using it.

Other applications that made an appearance include FreeMind, XMind, MindGenius, and Blumind (portable).

When it came to web sites things were a little lighter, but several people mentioned how much they loved LucidChart and how it was the absolute best tool they’d used. Van writes:

I’ve tried a lot of mind-mapping software (Xmind, Blumind, etc.) but none of them hold a candle to LucidChart.com.

He wasn’t alone in that sentiment, so if you’re looking for a powerful web-based mind mapping solution it may be worth checking out.

Analog Tips (or: Why the White Board Will Never Die)


Many readers used analog tools like white boards, notepads, etc. James weighs in heavily in favor of the analog method:

A white board.

Why perform 3 steps for a software program when marker to board is two ? (cap off marker, marker on board)

Some tech kids/young adults are so ingrained into the Matrix, they believe anything w/o script is like a chariot is to a Prius.

Elliot also failed to see the allure of software in the face of the speed of a pen and paper:

I have a medium-sized whiteboard which sits leaning against my desk, and an assortment of marker pens lying about. Great for quickly jotting down ideas, especially changeable ones, and pretty eco-friendly.

Otherwise, pen and paper. I have never found a piece of software easier to use for things like mind-mapping or brainstorming than pen and paper.

Grant mixes up the analog and digital as he moves from group to personal brainstorming:

We used flip-chart sized post-it notes. They have flip charts that after you fill a page, you can tear it off and stick it to the wall! Not great for one person, but for a large group, they are excellent.

For just me, I use a text file in an outline kind of format, starting very general and adding layers of detail as I go.

Other readers used notepads, notecards, and other analog methods to capture there brainstorming without touching a computer. Hit up the original comment thread to see all the different ways your fellow readers get their ideas on paper and/or into their computers.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/12/11
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