The initiative on mind & concept mapping software interoperability

It’s here at last!  The first publication of‘s information for mindmappers who want to interchange information between one mind mapping software package and another.

After several months of (spare-time) work I’ve finished putting all the information I’ve been ferreting out and begging for into a usable form, and in one place.



The hardest part was deciding how to present it.  What I decided on was to show what can talk to the two most widespread packages, FreeMind and MindManager, as the strongest part of the visualization.  I did something similar with the web-based software import / export picture, but this new one has additional information buttons that lead you separate pages all about the specific packages.  contentpage.jpg


Also included is interchange information about software that doesn’t talk to the two top packages, with downloadable files in some cases and links to authoritative information in all cases.  These are the separated boxes out on the right.  All have some useful interchange information available, and that (plus letting me know about it) is the only qualification for a mindmapping or concept mapping package to appear on this list.

The future

If you know of any similar information that I don’t have, if you make an XSLT for a pair not covered here, or if you can report specific problems with interchange routes, please let me know and I’ll publish updates and feedback.

Software authors and publishers – thanks for your help so far.  If you think that interchange between maps is desired by users and will help the mind mapping market to grow, help me keep this reference site up to date.

That “standard mind map file” proposal

In case you’re wondering: Two people I contacted at the start of this mini-project thought I was proposing to develop a standard schema for mind map files.  I could see big problems in getting agreement on this, but volunteered to give it a go if there was enough support.  Having been heavily involved in formal data modelling for 7 years, I’m familiar with the techniques – and with the difficulty of satisfying all parties.  Several people responded with scepticism, and a couple said ‘good’.  I decided I needed much more support if it was to fly, so that’s why I went with the information repository approach.



The initiative to facilitate exchange of mindmaps and concept maps

In the spirit of the well-established move towards open or semi-open file formats, at I recently began a new initiative.

This is to collect information about the format of mind- and concept map files, or the format of exported structured files.  The intent is to make public those formats for which the software publishers give permission.  Over time, I hope that there will not only be file format descriptions, but instructions for conversion and descriptions of limitations.  I am willing to co-ordinate the gathering of this information.

There are benefits to users, spelled out below, and I believe these benefits will bring benefits to software publishers and vendors for reasons explained here.

User benefits:

  1. Keen mindmappers are starting to work with both desktop products and web-based ones, according to the circumstances around a specific mapping task.  They use different platforms and want the ability to interchange freely;
  2. users want to be able to interchange maps made in different products;
  3. users will be more temped to try out products if they can use their own material without the need to recreate from scratch.
  4. users contemplating trying a new product will have the confidence of knowing that they can revert without needing to redo all work done during the trial period, thus increasing the likelyhood that they will commit to the trial.

Some products offer limited interchange.  The fact that these actions are not freely possible with a wide range of products is a limit to growth on the whole field of mindmapping and concept mapping and therefore a limit to growth on the mapping software market.

I’ve written to all publishers of mind mapping and concept mapping software for whom I can find a contact email.  I asked if they are willing to make public either the format of map files produced by their product or of any exported files.  I hope to be able to show this information by links to an appropriate page on their site or by locating the material at  In either case, I hope to have a copy of the material at to ensure continuity of the link.

Naturally, I shall honour any future request from the software publisher to remove these materials.

I have already received many favorable responses, some with immediate information, others with promises to gather the material or supply it later.  There’s been only one outright rejection so far, so it seems that the general view is, like mine, that expanding interoperability will expand the market, and that’s as good for the mind mapping software publishers as it is for the users.

I’ll be reporting progress here.

The master list of mind mapping &
information management software