Have you ever tried to create a mind map on the small screen of an iPhone?
It seems to be impossible except there would be an app with a suitable approach to object management.


And here it is, it’s Mindly by Jaakko Rantanen, first released in December 2013 with powerful updates in January, April, and July 2014. Since April 2014 Mindly is also available for the iPad.

About mind maps …

Mind mapping is a widely used powerful technique to visualize information. If you look on a mind map you see that one central topic is connected to subtopics with an underlying hierarchical structure. Scientific studies validate that mind mapping improves learning, understanding, planning, and with it the development of personality and knowledge.

Mind maps already have been used hundreds of years ago. See

Roots of visual mapping

for more information.

This impressive overview from Porphyry of Tyre in 3rd century C.E. to the legendary BBC TV series by Tony Buzan in 1974 shows us:

The devices changed from a pen to a computer but the basic idea to connect topics like cells in our brain are connected by nerves remained the same.

With touch screens as the main interface between user and device we came back to the ‘oldfashioned’ technique of using our hands to create information. No mouse, no keyboard, no cables, just fingers and the brain. We are no longer bound to work desks when using a tablet or a smartphone. With this, a problem comes up, the screen size. Fortunately there are prolific developers whose apps are solving life’s dilemma.

Back to Jaakko …

Mind maps are cormorant space eaters and definitely not suitable for editing on an iPhone but the approach of Jaakko solves this problem by using a ‘solar system’-like design of topics. The sun (center of the map) is surrounded by planets (1st level topics) positioned on an orbit. This design is repeatedly used for the sub-topics.

This fascinating mind mapping app places topics in “orbits” around their parent; at the top-level view, the central topic and its first-level “children” appear in the center of the screen. Tapping on one of these first-level topics causes the parent to glide to the upper left corner of the screen, and the next level of information is displayed, this time with the first-level topic centered on screen and its child topics orbiting it.
(Chuck Frey, a reputable member of the mind mapping scene)
See also an interesting interview with the developer under ‘Related links’

There is a striking resemblance to the app Pearltrees (see my review under ‘Related links’).


Mindly helps to organize your inner universe by

  • structuring thoughts
  • collecting ideas
  • supporting brainstorming
  • planning a project
  • preparing a speech
  • preparing for a meeting
  • writing a quick summary

If your brain prefers visualized information and you want to use your small iPhone, Mindly is the right choice although there are some cons you should know about.

The features of Mindly:

  • Hierarchy of elements
  • Attach notes, image or icon to any element
  • Color schemes for elements
  • Visual clipboard for reorganizing content
  • Export as OPML, HTML, PDF, and TXT by mail and the ‘Open in’ command
  • Printing via Apple’s AirPrint
  • iCIoud support
  • Move+Copy to upper element directly via drag+drop
  • spell checking
  • Using the limited display space of an iPhone with an innovative approach to the layout of mind maps

Let’s start with the file management located in the Home Screen and the map overview.


Editing maps is mainly done by just two gestures, double tap and drag + drop.
Each topic consists of a caption, a note, and an optional image.


If you start dragging an object a symbol for the ‘virtual clipboard’ (top right) and the trash (bottom right) appears.


With colors and icons you can breathe life into your map.


These are the features for managing files and setting up iCloud synchronization that means, your Mindly maps are synced across all your iOS devices running on the same Apple ID.


That’s it. User-friendly, simple but nevertheless powerful.

Great job, thanks Jaakko.

The big brother …

To get familiar with Mindly I manually transferred a mind map about the iPhone sensors, earlier created with iThoughts for the iPad to Mindly.

iPhone sensors were described in my article Sensitiveness.

I created all topics in Mindly, exported the images of the original mind map to the camera roll, and assigned them in Mindly. Textual parts (the sensor descriptions) were transferred via the iOS clipboard. All this took me about 10 min not reading any of the helps provided in Mindly.


Both maps now have identical content regarding text and images and it turned out that the app design forces you to use it. I’m sure it will not sink into obscurity like many other apps you ever downloaded from the App Store. Quite the contrary, you will upgrade to the full version.

The pros and cons …

The pros …

  • Perfect UI adoption to the screen size of the iPhone
  • Seamless usage
  • iCloud support
    maps are synced automatically across all iOS devices running with the same Apple ID
  • Availability of a free version allowing you to create a maximum of 3 maps
    upgradable with an In-App-Purchase
  • Exporting the map is possible by sending an email; the mail contains a PDF version as well as the native format of Mindly (.mindly).
  • Comprehensive help system within the app
  • Fast, friendly, and understandable support from within the app by mail

The cons …

With every update I have to reduce the original list of cons. This is my list as of July 2014 and it’s likely that the remaining cons will not survive this year.

  • Reduced quality of attached images when minimized
  • Fixed topic size so that words might be split in two or more lines
  • Maps can only be exported in OPML, HTML, PDC, and TXT file formats
    Other formats like DOCX with a hierarchical outline of elements or
    proprietary file format of other well-known mind mapping tools are not supported.
  • no access to other cloud providers

At the time there is no iPad version available but in his interview with Chuck Frey the developer confirmed that he is working on it.

Whether some of the mentioned cons are really cons is a legitimate subject for debate. Some people are always looking for more features others prefer
simplicity of design
restriction to useful features.
This is completely in the line of Apple’s design strategy and it’s most often the reason why people buy Apple products.

And we should not forget all the kids with iPhones. Instead of gaming all the time they could use Mindly for many tasks related to their education.

So let the developer decide which way is the best to keep the brilliant idea alive.

The app has an amazing concept, works excellent, is easy to use and so you should give it a try. My impression is that there is a highly engaged team behind the scene and we will see powerful updates in the near future.

Summary …

The app is an innovative approach to mind mapping on small screen sizes. It’s not suitable for more professional requirements because of it’s limited export options. Nevertheless it’s a perfect tool for private use if there is no computer or tablet available.

Related links …

About the developer …

Chuck Frey interviewing the developer

Reviews of mind mapping tools …

iThoughts for the iPad



Three In One (about MagicalPad)


About mind mapping …

Mind Maps vs Concept Maps

Mind Mapping (1)

Mind Mapping (2)

Mind Mapping (3)

Thanks for dropping by.