Latest additions to mindmapping software

I fell behind with getting new information mapping tools that I knew of into, so here’s the catch-up: Six new tools, and very interesting ones they are. 

This week’s entries are heavy on the development side.  The first four are to help developers build software that produces information maps, then one that helps web publishers turn mind maps into websites, and finally one that lets you present the pros and cons of a discussion visually.

Graph Gear – This provides Javascript and Flash scripts to help developers build these force-directed graphs – you know, the kind that wobble as you drag a node around.


JSViz – Javascript code to build network graphs.  You’ve probably seen these used to map out a website. I had one for once . . . now where did I put it . . .


JGraph -A Java library that can produce a most flexible series of diagram types.  There is an open source version and there are commercial products for developers who have to earn a living.

 t270-1.jpg    t270-2.jpg    t270-3.jpg

I usuually pick just one thumbnail to represent a product’s style.  This one has so many possibilities that a mere three hardly begins to show the range. 

MxGraph – A Javascript library to help developers make browser-based diagrams.


TransLucid – This is a content management system (CMS) with a twist: It takes you from mindmaps to websites, automatically.  It has open source and commercial versions.


Argunet – Collaborative debate and visual argument presentation and analysis.


And finally, a note about terms: I’ve been using web-based as a description for many months now for products that are mostly accessed on the web, rather than being desktop products.  Some if the new programs above are libraries that developers can use to build their own products, and they build on web-browsers’ capabilities instead of including all the functionality in the mapping software itself.  When you see the description browser-based on, you’ll know that this is not just another term for web-based. Instead it means a product implemented in a web-browser.  The value of such products is that they are Operating System (OS) independent.

I believe that web-based software makers are going to have to produce ways of running those locally in a browser eventually, so this distinction will probably disappear eventually.



The shakeout begins?

Two One of the web-based mind mappers are is not answering the doorbell. and is are both showing “cannot display” pages after about 30 seconds of trying. 

Update: Happily, Kayuda is still around. is fine.  Only and are the ones that give the ‘cannot display’ message. Permanent redirect anyone?

The flowering of so many Web 2.0 mind mapping sites over the last ten months was bound to lead to some sort of rationalisation eventually, but these barely got off the ground before vanishing. 

It’s a pity – I like them both.  Kayuda had has the mind-maps-or-concept-maps approach, including verb phrases to show how concepts are connected.


Updated: 19/10/2007


The mind mapping search engine


The mindmapping search engine has its own site at MindMapSearch

Head on over to:

razor sharp mind mapping search

I’ve taken all the links that make up the sources on which the search engine draws, added a description, and categorized the links.  Links can appear under more than one category.  Where a site is mainly about mind mapping, the link is to the front page.  If, like Lifehacker for example, it’s mainly about other topics but has good mind mapping references as well, there’s a link to the front page and a link to the specific mind mapping items.

I’ve added forum or newsgroup links for all the mind mapping software that has support or user communities.  MindManager, as the market dominator with many sites originated not by Mindjet but by users, has its own category page.

Please tell me about broken links, as well as any sites that should be added, and I’d like to hear what you think about the site.  Is it useful?



The initiative on mind & concept mapping software interoperability

In mid-September I emailed publishers of mind and concept mapping software about an initiative to make public either the main map-file format, or the format of any import/export file files that mind and concept mapping software supports.  I blogged about it here, as well.

This project is gaining traction and has the potential to remove at least one of the barriers to more widespread use of information mapping – the interchange of map files.

Below is where we are now and my thoughts on next steps.  I’m also seeking opinions about an alternative (or additional) approach.


So far, publishers of 27 programs [correction 28 – my fault I overlooked one]  have responded — or in two cases did not  need to respond as their formats were already public.  One was a new entry in the mind mapping software field who responded to my blog entry.  I would like to thank those who did get back to me, especially those who offered help, which I shall probably take up later.  I’m not including detailed, named responses here in case that would reveal state of development or information that publishers might consider commercially sensitive.

For those who declined – thanks for responding, I understand the problems that may arise from an exercise like this especially with limited resources or fast-moving development.  I’ll keep you informed anyway, through progress emails, unless you ask me to stop sending them.

Analysis of responses to date

Nine [correction ten] publishers have already made their file formats available – they either sent/offered them to me, gave me links, or in the case of MindManager and FreeMind, I had the links already, as they’re public.

Twelve are supportive of the initiative and either state or imply that they will be able to provide the formats within a period ranging from weeks to a few months.

Four said ‘in principle, yes’, but their reply was worded to make it seem unlikely that they would participate in the near future.

Two publishers declined, on the basis of the file format being proprietary, or not documented and time/resources not allowing development of file descriptions in a form that could be published.

Request for comment

My original proposal was to provide one point where mind mapping software users could go to find how to convert to another format, and over time, to download XSLT files to facilitate these conversions.

Four of those who responded took this as a proposal to specify a standard format that all developers could use either for their map file format, or as an interchange file.  My view was that this is a very hard task to undertake, as mindmaps can vary enormously from one piece of software to another and getting the software developers to agree on a common format would probably require reconciling conflicting needs.  Also, Eric Blue had suggested this on his blog and AFAIK no one responded.

On further thought, I decided that it might be possible using an approach more or less like the following:

  1. I produce an abstract data model of the elements of a mind map based on the limited number of info mapping programs I’ve used ( may list hundreds but I certainly haven’t use them all).  I have done a fair bit of data modelling.  I would probably use ERwin, but might use Visual Paradigm.
  2. I would publish this as a png file and an Excel spreadsheet giving attribute and entity descriptions.
  3. All interested would comment.  We might set up a Google Group or similar for this.
  4. I would amend accordingly.  These steps would iterate.
  5. Of course, we could easily hit deadlock while looping above, but I would propose to worry about that if it happens and throw it open to discussion.
  6. When/if we have an agreed model, we would need to find people with enough knowledge to build an XML schema from it.  My knowledge of XML is lightweight and not based on XML experience.

If you think this is a good idea or would like to suggest variations, go ahead.  If enough people feel it’s worth doing (substantially more than the original four) I’d be willing to give it a try.  No promise on timescales as this is hobby / for-the-common-good stuff, but a few months would probably be realistic.

If this does garner enough interest, I would still see the original proposal as worthwhile and would try to do that.

Please let me have your comments – whether positive or negative.


[Updated Oct. 12th 2007]


MindApp, Flying Logic and Prefuse

I usually get these update reports out at the weekend – very late this time.  Family obligations.

MindApp – A feature-rich mindmapper that is sold only in the U.S.A. and Canada at present.  I suppose there must be a reason…


Flying Logic – You’ve gotta love the name.  This is a tool to support various kinds of thinking diagrams.  Not mind maps, but concept maps, tree diagrams and influence diagrams.


Prefuse – An extensible software framework that helps software developers make interactive information visualization software using Java.  Technical, but oh! so flexible and capable.  Just take a look at that gallery.  Key point: These diagrams are interactive.  Click on a node and it can reorganise and reveal new information.



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