Introducing three CmapTools Application Features

I love diagrams and flow charts. The more I looked into Cmap’s features, the more Cmap appears in a class of it’s own. Three features I like most about Cmap are Knowledge Soups, Compare two Cmaps & Search the Internet. But, the documentation can be thin at times. You might end up spending your Sunday reading the documentation (see page numbers below), reading the Cmap about Cmaps, and engaging in the forum. Or, continue reading this short overview.

Knowledge Soups–Snippets of Cmaps (p244)

Among the several opportunities to collaborate with Cmaps, this is the most unique. Users can share snippets of Cmap diagrams through an application context called the Knowledge Soup. Basically, after navigating through the menu option Collaborate, and joining a remote server, then an additional GUI pane is added to the right of the Cmap canvas. This feature is something of a mixed metaphor: soup & claims. ‘Soup’ suggests anyone can add to a “knowledge soup”. The contributed bits are called ‘claims’–not very culinary (I guess it’s too long to say ‘contributions’). The Cmap Knowledge Soup uses a simple example named “Biological Systems” throughout the Help manual with variations of (PLANTS) have (ROOTS, LEAVES). It’s a sufficient example to understand the concept.


As you see, the Knowledge Soup pane has two sections: My Claims and Soup Claims. The example is clear enough. Publish your Cmap snippets and download other people’s Cmaps by drag’n drop from the side pane to your own Cmap canvas. These new structures don’t automatically snap into place. It looks like a copy and paste job.

The next section explains anyone with access to a Cmap Server can “Create Knowledge Soup”. The owner who sets up a Knowledge Soup controls these basic settings:

  1. expiration in days
  2. participants (members/users)
  3. edit list of current ‘claims’
  4. filter [1]
  5. and a few other settings

Page 172 explains how you can search Cmap Servers for other Cmaps using keywords. While both features have the result to access other people’s Cmap output, the Knowledge Soup metaphor is clearly intended for group work with the moderator and member metaphor.

Compare two Cmaps (p251)

This is a rather nifty feature. Wasn’t sure it was going to work with my Cmaps, so I mocked up a few examples. I created three Cmaps on a single question, “What is ontology?”. I added content from a Google search [2], Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Wikipedia:

There are a number of parameters you can set with the Compare two Cmaps feature:

  • Entities:
    • propositions (Concept + Linking Phrase + Concept)
    • connections (? only mentioned once in the Help doc)
    • linking phrases (edge labels)
    • concepts (nodes)
  • Using:
    • Full text
    • Partial Text
    • Keyword
    • Synonym
    • Hypernym
  • Option: Word Match Strength (%)

Most of the results were predictable. Simple word matches which seemed straightforward,

  • is the branch of matched to is the and of
  • “What is ultimately there? matched to “What there is”

But also some subtle mismatches,

  • “What is it like? matched to “What there is”

Unfortunately, the feature failed to detect the difference between similarity and identity. Bummer. In cases where I used quotes, I’d much rather have the matches made as exact matches. There is a Word Match slider which “…can be adjusted to the percentage of words inside single concepts that must match in order to report the two concepts as ‘matching'” (p251). But one wonders if this might break other matches in your Cmap where you can afford more flexibility (something quotes handle quite nicely in web search engines).

One of my favorite matches was this,

  • nature of being matched to existence

[Shown here, a node in the left file is selected, and the comparison match in the file on right is colored green by the application.]Cmap_compare_ex_v1.0_02-good_find

Happily, turning up the percent match didn’t effect this example, but eliminated the previous quoted examples. There’s hope for this feature yet.

Searching the Internet (p175)

The help doc says, “You can use CmapTools to search the internet, just like you would any other search engine.” I was having trouble setting up the server, so I posted to the Cmap forum. Turns out this feature does not currently work and will be removed from the next major release. [1]

What a bummer. The most interesting claim of the Search feature was [Searching the WWW] leverages on the [Topology, Semantics] of the [Concept Map]. Fortunately, this functionality is not completely lost without search engine support. The WordNet Server promises to work with Cmap topology and semantics when using the parameters keyword, synonym, and hypernym.

What’s Next?

Many features require a Cmap Server. My next step is to sort out what are the options for installing your own Cmap Server. There are public Cmap servers; What are the norms for using these resources?

Other links here

Testing Cmaps for Note Taking


[1] I wasn’t able to test this feature, because I haven’t figured out how to get access to a Cmap server. I don’t know what exactly is referred to with filter, and the documentation wasn’t very explicit.

[2] The google search was first the definition of ‘ontology’ from google ‘define’ keyword. Then the word ‘metaphysics’, which actually quotes from Wikipedia. My biggest concern was I would get no matches, so this was find to me.

[3] Postby acanas » Sun Dec 21, 2014 6:23 pm “The web search used a WebSearch server that searched through Google and then presented the results to the CmapTools client. Since Google started charging to use their APIs, and so does Bing, the web search has been removed from the software, since it stopped working. It won’t be appear in v6 or later versions of the client.”


knowledge model. A set of concept maps and associated resources about a particular domain of knowledge is referred to as a Knowledge Model.

hypernym. A word with a broad meaning that more specific words fall under; a superordinate. For example, color is a hypernym of red. [google define]


List of Research Publiscationson Cmaps.
Cmap Support page

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