Share Your Data

Besides donating and spreading the word there is another way you can give back to Docear – share your data with us. One of the reasons we develop Docear is to study how mind maps are created and what kind of information they contain. This information allows us to improve Docear and other mind mapping applications. For instance, data from mind maps can be used to automatically classify documents and recommend relevant new literature (more details can be found in our publications). To do this, we need access to a large number of mind maps and therefore ask you to share yours with us. However, we are aware that mind maps may contain sensitive and private information, and therefore we have made it entirely up to you whether to share your data or not. 

When you use Docear for the first time, a dialog will ask you what data you want to share. In the following, we will explain what happens with your data if you activate the options. But first: whichever functions you activate, we will never give your personal information (such as your name and email) to third parties! We carefully follow the very strict German data privacy law. This means, among other things, that you can make a request at any time to find out which information about you is stored on our server and you have the right to request the complete deletion of all your data at any time.

Before explaining what we will do with your data (if you allow us to do it), let us explain what we will not do with your data

  • We will never make your mind maps publicly available
  • We will never redistribute your literature (e.g. PDFs) 
  • We will never give your personal information (e.g. email) to third parties

In addition, we don’t force you to register or share your data with us. When you start Docear the first time, you can choose to use Docear as “local” user. In this case, Docear behaves like any other “normal” desktop software and no data at all is transmitted to our servers. However, as a local user, you won’t be able to use our online services such as backup or PDF metadata retrieval. Alternatively, you may register and deactivate selected online services. If you elect to register after declining that option when first installing Docear, click the Docear icon in the lower left corner of the Docear workspace panel.

Online Backup

If you activate this function,  a copy of your mind maps is stored on our servers (the original file remains on your computer). If you are not online at the time of saving, a copy is created on your hard drive and uploaded to our server the next time you are online. Your backups can be accessed through our web interface where you access all revisions of each of your mind maps. That means, if you made a mistake or deleted a mind map by accident, there is nothing to worry about. If you use our backup feature, we will do some basic statistical analysis on your data. That means we will analyze the number of mind maps created, how large mind maps are (file size), how often they are edited, etc. We will however not analyze the detailed content of your mind maps. In the future we also plan to backup your reference data and PDF documents and may also analyze them (again, only aggregated statistics).


If this function is selected, your mind maps will be transferred to our server (similarly to the backup function) but we will do more sophisticated analyses with them. For instance, we will analyze the language of your mind map, how many nodes they contain, how often nodes are created and edited, how many words the nodes contain, how many hyperlinks are present and so on. We may also look at your mind maps directly if they stand out in some way. Results will be published in research papers using only aggregated data, meaning that nobody will be able to track back any information to you. In rare cases we might decide to publish screenshots of your mind maps of parts of them. However, we will make very sure that on the screenshots no sensitive information is visible (such as a title of an upcoming paper or some ideas of yours). We will not publish your mind maps and we will never use information contained in the mind maps for any other purposes than research. We may also allow our other projects (e.g. SciPlore, Mr. Dlib or CitePlag) or partners (e.g. FreePlane or JabRef) to do research on your data, but they have the same obligations to respect your private information as we have.

Currently, this setting is not available and deactivated by default, except you activate recommendations.

Usage Mining

If you activate this function, we will study the way you use Docear. This includes which functionalities you use, how often Docear is started, how many mind maps you work with at one time, and how long you work on your data. We use this data to improve Docear and find out how researchers utilize mind mapping functions to manage their literature. Again, results will be published in research papers but only summarized results that won’t allow anybody to track individual information.

Currently, this setting is not available and deactivated by default, except you activate recommendations.

Utilize data / Information retrieval

If you activate this function, we will analyze your usage behavior, mind maps, PDFs, and reference data with the goal of enhancing external applications such as academic search engines and search query recommender systems. For instance, if you reference Paper A in your mind map, we will analyze which terms occur around the node referencing Paper A. We then use the terms to index Paper A. Let’s assume the referencing node contains the term ‘academic search engine optimization’. In this case we would store the information that Paper A is relevant for the term ‘academic search engine optimization’. We might use this information for our own academic search engine or give it to other search engines. This means, if a user of those search engines searches for ‘academic search engine optimization’ the search engine might show Paper A as a result. In another scenario, if a mind map contains two nodes, one with the term ‘recommender system’, another one with the term ‘user model’, we analyze the nodes and store the information that the terms ‘recommender system’ and ‘user model’ are occurring close to each other in the mind map and hence might be related. If a user of our (yet to be developed) search engine searches for ‘recommender system’ we might recommend to him to search for ‘user model’ too. As of now, your BibTeX file and PDFs are not utilized at all. We might change this in the future but will inform you beforehand.

How does this affect you? By activating this function, we certainly will not publish entire mind maps but it might happen that fragments of them are published (e.g. terms contained in them). Of course, we try to protect your privacy and remove phone numbers and email addresses that might occur in a mind map. Nevertheless, there is a slight chance that some information could be published which you may not feel comfortable with. As a result, while we would highly appreciate if you activate this function, it may be better to leave this particular option disabled if your work involves really sensitive information.

Currently, this setting is not available and deactivated by default.


If you activate this option, we will provide you with recommendations for academic papers, conferences etc. that might be of interest to you. To give you the best recommendations possible, we will analyze and research your mind maps, PDFs, etc., and may also publish the results in academic papers. That means, when you activate ‘recommendations’ you agree to the same terms as agreeing to both the ‘Research’ and ‘Usage Mining’ options.

PDF Metadata Retrieval

Metadata retrieval for PDFs is a service being activated by default if you register. If you use it, your username and password are sent for authentication. We will also store how often you ask for metadata and for which PDF files. If you don’t use the metadata retrieval, no data is transmitted to our servers (even if you are registered).

Questions? Please contact us!