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The best brainstorming tools in 2024

By Toby Peterson · March 1, 2024
A hero image of a head with a brain on a light purple background.

Ideas can be bright, silly, ingenious, or (usually) just terrible. No matter their quality, though, they're the lifeblood of your business. From product lines to organizational strategies to pretty much everything in between, it's not a stretch to say that your business is only as successful as the ideas that power it.

But where does that all brainpower come from? Who's responsible for generating the idea fuel for your company's economic engine? If you're like most businesses, the answer to that question is some version of "everyone." But coordinating, collecting, acknowledging, and vetting all that input can be a daunting task. 

Enter the brainstorm tool. 

Software for brainstorming comes in all shapes and sizes, but the goal of each brainstorming app is to help you capture lightning in a bottle. So whether you're brainstorming remotely or in person, brainstorming tools can help. 

The best brainstorm software

  • Mind mapping software

  • Online whiteboard tools

  • Flowchart software

  • AI apps

  • Video conferencing software

  • Note-taking apps

  • Automation planning

  • Other brainstorming tools

How we evaluate and test apps

Our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. Unless explicitly stated, we spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

What is a brainstorming tool?

Brainstorming tools offer ways to collect and organize your random stream of thoughts, so you can turn them into actionable ideas. From giving you a literal blank canvas to jot down your ideas to setting up a virtual room for live brainstorming sessions with your teammates, these apps run the gamut. 

This breadth of options is a positive, though, because the best brainstorming tool will differ for each person and project. For example, email marketing teams may benefit from using a flowchart app to visualize their next email drip campaign, whereas an individual freelance writer might need only a note-taking app to capture all their rough story pitches

With that in mind, here's a list of the kinds of brainstorming tools you can use, based on dozens of hours of testing from the Zapier team. 

The best brainstorming tools at a glance

Category

Standout feature

Pricing

Coggle

Mind mapping

Customizable mapping templates

Free for up to 3 private diagrams; $5/month for unlimited private diagrams

Miro

Online whiteboard

Integrations with various apps, including Zapier

Free for 3 editable boards; from $10/user/month for unlimited boards

Lucidchart

Flowchart

Real-time collaboration, even in the free tier

Free for up to 3 documents; from $7.95/month for individuals, $9/user/month for teams

ChatGPT 

AI

Generative AI tools for content ideation

Free for GPT-3.5 Turbo; $20/month for ChatGPT Plus 

Zoom 

Video conferencing

Collaborative features like whiteboarding and document sharing

Free for 40-minute meetings; Pro plan starts at $15.99/month/user 

OneNote

Note taking

Flexible platform for capturing and annotating a variety of content types

Free for up to 5GB of notes; $1.99/month for 100GB

Zapier Canvas

Automation planning

Brainstorm and plan potential workflows with AI 

Free plan available; paid plans start at $19.99/month

The best brainstorming tool for mind mapping 

Coggle

Coggle, our pick for the best brainstorming tool for mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a great way to record the wild flights of fancy that brains can often follow in a storm. Put another way, if you're looking to trace and record the kind of free association that's central to the brainstorming process, a mind map is an invaluable brainstorming tool.

Check out Zapier's list of the best mind mapping software.

With Coggle, you can manage up to three private mind maps for free, giving you plenty of real estate to capture your thought process. Not sure where to start with your mind mapping session? Coggle offers customizable mapping templates that respond to keyboard shortcuts, so you can get your freshest ideas on the page without delay.

Coggle pricing: Free for up to three private diagrams; $5/month for unlimited private diagrams and extra mind mapping tools (like additional shapes and color control).

Once you've logged all of your thoughts in your mind mapping software, use automation to take that raw material to the next level while improving team collaboration. Brainstorm asynchronously, delegate tasks, and keep your stakeholders in the loop—all without the need for a single added click or keystroke. 

The best brainstorming tools for whiteboarding

Miro

Miro, our pick for the best online whiteboard for for turning ideas into tasks

For capturing your ideas—good, bad, and otherwise—there's no beating your standard whiteboard. This handy piece of furniture is the perfect place to plan and dream, requiring only a few dry erase markers and your bright ideas. But what if you can't be together to capture those insights in person? Enter: online whiteboards.

Start by checking out this list of the best online whiteboards.

An online brainstorming tool like Miro, for example, provides you with templates that will take you from ideas to implementation. Zoom and scroll. Add shapes, text, and sticky notes. Keep your teams literally on the same page (or board) even if you can't all be in the same room at the same time.

You can do even more with Miro by integrating it with Zapier. Then you can connect it to thousands of other apps to automate your brainstorming workflows. For example, you can automatically create a board on Miro whenever you have a new task, entry in a spreadsheet, or form submission. Here are a few Zap templates to get you started.

Create Miro widgets with new Trello cards

Create Miro widgets with new Trello cards
  • Trello logo
  • Miro logo
Trello + Miro

Add Miro cards from new rows on Google Sheets

Add Miro cards from new rows on Google Sheets
  • Google Sheets logo
  • Miro logo
Google Sheets + Miro

To get started with a Zap template—what we call our pre-made workflows—just click on the button. It only takes a few minutes to set up. You can read more about setting up Zaps here.

Miro pricing: Free for 3 editable boards and 5 Talktracks (interactive video walkthroughs of your board); from $10/user/month for the Starter plan, which includes unlimited boards, Talktracks, and custom templates. 

The best brainstorming tool for creating flowcharts 

Lucidchart

Lucidchart, our pick for the best brainstorming tool for creating flowcharts.

A whiteboard is great for capturing any idea that might have a chance of sticking to a wall. But maybe you need a more orderly approach to planning. If you're more linear in your thinking, a flowchart or diagramming platform is a fantastic option for a brainstorming app.

Discover the best flowchart software and diagram tools.     

Lucidchart is a great example. It provides you with a ton of planning functionality, even at the free tier. Choose from specific templates, like API workflows or algorithms, and then chart your processes with a variety of shapes, styles, and Venn diagrams. Manage a host of file types and collaborate in real time to provide your teams with a synchronous interface.

When you connect Lucidchart with Zapier, you can expand its functionality even more. Get started with one of these pre-made templates.

Add new Jira issues to Lucidchart data sets

Add new Jira issues to Lucidchart data sets
  • Jira Software Server logo
  • Lucidchart logo
Jira Software Server + Lucidchart

Add new HubSpot form responses to Lucidchart data sets

Add new HubSpot form responses to Lucidchart data sets
  • HubSpot logo
  • Lucidchart logo
HubSpot + Lucidchart

Lucidchart pricing: Free for up to 3 documents; Premium plans start at $7.95/month for individuals and $9/user/month for teams.

The best brainstorming tool that leverages AI

ChatGPT

ChatGPT, our pick for the best brainstorming tool that leverages artificial intelligence (AI).

There's an AI-powered solution to nearly every productivity problem. Maybe you're stuck on what topic to write next for your blog. Or perhaps you have the topic and talking points, but you're at a loss for how to piece it together. That's where generative AI tool ChatGPT can be a great thought partner for brainstorming. Ask it a question, see how it responds, and then go back and forth, using it as your robot sounding board. 

With Zapier's ChatGPT integration, you can take your content creation process a step further by incorporating the creation of blog outlines, emails, and articles into your automated workflows. For more inspiration, read how one freelancer uses artificial intelligence and automation to spark content ideas, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

Create blog posts or outlines from new responses in Google Forms with ChatGPT

Create blog posts or outlines from new responses in Google Forms with ChatGPT
  • Google Forms logo
  • ChatGPT logo
  • Google Docs logo
Google Forms + ChatGPT + Google Docs

Create blog outlines with ChatGPT from submitted Airtable forms

Create blog outlines with ChatGPT from submitted Airtable forms
  • Airtable logo
  • ChatGPT logo
  • Google Docs logo
Airtable + ChatGPT + Google Docs

ChatGPT pricing: Free to use the GPT-3.5 Turbo model; $20/month for ChatGPT Plus, which gives users access to the latest GPT model and faster response times. 

Of course, ChatGPT is far from the only AI tool you can use for brainstorming. Here are some other options.

  • Lots of the tools you already use will have AI built in. Notion AI, for example, lets you ask questions of your documents, which can help you find the best nuggets.

  • All the best AI writing generators can help you brainstorm your written content.

  • AI meeting assistants can provide transcripts, pull out important parts of your conversation, and help you find the diamonds in the rough of a long meeting.

  • AI image generators can be used to help brainstorm visual content or come up with your next logo.

The list goes on: check out the best AI productivity tools by category for more ideas. 

The best brainstorming tools for video conferencing 

Zoom

Zoom, our pick for the best brainstorming tool for video conferencing.

Even the best whiteboards and flowchart tools won't allow you to capture that aha moment on a teammate's face. Video conferencing can provide you with a more personal brainstorming experience, adding an element of free-flowing conversation as well as non-verbal cues into your idea planning mix.

Practically everyone knows about (and uses) Zoom at this stage of the game. And with its expanded AI meeting assistant features, it's continuing to lead the pack. 

If Zoom isn't right for you, though, here are the best video conferencing apps.

Video conferencing apps like Zoom can also be integrated with your other platforms to streamline your follow-up workflows. Automating your video calls with click-free reminders, scheduling, agendas, and tasks removes the manual hassle from these powerful collaborative tools. Learn more about how to automate Zoom, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

Create Google documents for new Cisco Webex Meetings

Create Google documents for new Cisco Webex Meetings
  • Cisco Webex Meetings logo
  • Google Docs logo
Cisco Webex Meetings + Google Docs

Send emails from Microsoft Outlook with new Zoom recordings

Send emails from Microsoft Outlook with new Zoom recordings
  • Zoom logo
  • Microsoft Outlook logo
Zoom + Microsoft Outlook

Zoom pricing: Free for up to 100 participants for 40-minute meetings; from $15.99/month/user for the Pro plan, which includes AI features, user management, 30-hour meetings, and reporting.

If video is a step too far for your brainstorming needs, consider team chat apps for dynamic, text-based communication. 

The best brainstorming tool for note taking 

OneNote

OneNote, our pick for the best brainstorming tool for note-taking.

You'll need an effective way to capture all the brilliant insights that will be flying around during your next idea session. After all, there's nothing worse than wrapping up a successful meeting and then struggling to remember the key takeaways once everyone's out of the room.

Here are the best note-taking apps to capture this important work. 

Microsoft OneNote is a great option: it's not only a free brainstorming tool; it's also a flexible platform for capturing and annotating images, text, and even doodles or sketches, if your computer supports a stylus. And when you connect OneNote with Zapier, you can automate your note-taking tasks. Learn more about how to automate OneNote, or get started with one of these workflows. 

Add new OneNote notes to Notion as pages

Add new OneNote notes to Notion as pages
  • OneNote logo
  • Notion logo
OneNote + Notion

Create OneNote notes from new or moved Trello cards

Create OneNote notes from new or moved Trello cards
  • Trello logo
  • OneNote logo
Trello + OneNote

OneNote pricing: Free for up to 5GB of notes; $1.99/month for 100GB.

If you prefer native apps, check out these picks for the best note-taking apps for Mac, iPad, and Android. Or consider these Notion alternatives to help you manage your key data and details more effectively.

The best brainstorming tool for automation

Zapier Canvas

Zapier Canvas, our pick for the best brainstorming tool for automation planning.

Whether you're new to automation or your entire business runs on it, the process of brainstorming new ways to connect your apps and automate your workflows never ends.

Zapier Canvas is an AI-powered diagramming tool that helps you brainstorm and plan potential workflows—and even get AI-powered recommendations on what to automate next. Then, once you've ironed out a suitable workflow, you can immediately transform your plan into an automated solution that powers your work forward. 

Discover more ways to use Zapier Canvas.

Zapier Canvas pricing: Free plan available; paid plans start at $19.99/month.

Other brainstorming tools 

You can never have enough good ideas, which is why you can really never get enough tools to help you generate, organize, and capture your brainstorming. The best part about these remaining options is that they'll provide you with a host of different ways to foster your thinking and expand your horizons.

  • There are plenty of data-backed ways to de-stress and let your mind wander in productive directions

  • Don't discount physical exercises, either, which can help spur ideas. Take a hike, for example (uh, in a good way).

  • You can also change up the medium. Consider powering down and pulling out some paper to brainstorm.

  • Or, if paper planning feels too limited, you can combine paper techniques with digital ones.

What's the best brainstorming tool?

The best brainstorming tool is the one that helps you spark some creativity. It'll take some trial and effort to find out which tools help you generate the best ideas, so start off with the ones that make sense for you right now. Then, use Zapier to connect them with your other apps so you can automate the boring stuff, leaving you with even more time to think up your next great idea.

Related reading:

  • What is brainwriting? The 6-3-5 technique, explained

  • The best collaboration tools for teams

  • Common problems caused by collaboration (and how to fix them)

  • Mental models to help you make better business decisions

This article was originally published in February 2023. The most recent update was published in March 2024 with contributions from Jessica Lau.

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