The Brain

The Brain is a windows app that I keep in my head for creating & navigating a networked information structure akin to MindMaps. Recognized as perhaps having the QualityWithoutaName, though it is proprietary and aspects of it are patented.

--- Home page - (Version 4 of the 'Personal' Brain was released 2007-07-16) See also: ThoughtStream

I felt it best to retain everything, but have previously incorporated some responses that I felt reflect the more recent versions of this software and my relatively extensive set of experiences with it. I don't think it's the panacea that early its early marketing literature may have suggested, but it sure has been a great productivity tool for me.

A few examples: Prior content follows... It is being saved while this page is gradually being updated -- HansWobbe


I tried TheBrain for a while, but it occurred to me after a while that simply indexing documents in it isn't much use, because I almost never look up documents I have saved. To find TheBrain useful, I would want it to be a lot smarter, e.g. to read documents and note that they are similar to each other, and suggest links.

Perhaps they should use TheBrain in conjunction with some of Autonomy's stuff ( -- ChanningWalton

Also, to automatically extract titles. The web integration stuff would not work for me, I couldn't look at brains on the web, and I couldn't automatically add a web page I was visiting to my brain. A few more features like that, and it might take off. -- JohnFarrell

A triumph of cool design over usability, I think. It looks cool, but is tricky to use in practice, I found. Some dogmatic decisions make doing simple things difficult (like moving items between categories). The GUI is superficially attractive, but doesn't actually do that much when you look more closely. So I don't think it has the QualityWithoutaName, but something related might. -- PaulHudson

My experience was similar. I often draw brain diagrams on paper ... less often than before KB pushed me into cards, but still often. I can get so much more on paper, and with even the occasional little sketch. The Brain, with its fixed couple of levels around the focus just doesn't do it for me. It's close to good, but not quite there. -- RonJeffries

Despite the limitations there are a lot of different ways to use it.. I used it most for storing web bookmarks, along with notes and documents. I kept it open in a narrow window on the left, or auto-hidden at the top. It was very easy to drag links to & from the web browser. I used the quick find often, to jump directly to a node. I couldn't bear using large cascading Favorites & Program Files menus thereafter.

I found it simplified my data navigation/finding/organizing tasks, reducing mental effort and clutter. I've been looking for something half as useful since giving up windows. Wiki is doing the business! -- SimonMichael
I've just started using TheBrain to map a RequirementsDocument (that passes the WeightTest?) into a more accessible form. I've only been using it for a couple of days but I'm finding it so much more pleasant to navigate through than a large flat document. I'm writing important details into the notes section for each heading that is used to navigate. Some of my current ContextFree? headings include such things as Actors, Supportability, UserStories, Architecture, Design, Stakeholders. No external documents are being referenced yet but I will likely add pointers to web pages (it's a WebApplication) as they are developed, UmlModels?, etc. as the project progresses. My hope is to have understandability and traceability from requirements through design through testing (avoiding TooMuchDocumentation). To achieve such a goal I will probably need to use TheBrain as the central repository of information for the entire team (~10 GreenDevelopers?). -- DanGreen
I've noticed it has also helped me to add rigour to the RequirementsGathering process. I am prone to gloss over ambiguity or ConceptualMismatch? in a large document but when items are spatially related, I appear to more readily notice ThingsThatSmell?. But it is still early days. -- DanGreen
Well (2 days later), I've now stopped using TheBrain. I didn't like having to judge whether a link was a child, parent or peer when associating two concepts. (...perhaps that's just a deficiency in the way I classify things.)

Shifted to using ZwiKi instead.

What would be nice is to have a graphical representation of the relationships between the pages, the ability to see the last change highlighted and fan-in/out author names for content.

-- DanGreen
I am a great fan of mindmapping and The Brain provides a good way to develop ideas and make them public. Originally The Brain was capable of making it's maps public. I was very disappointed however, since I had bought the product, when the upload facility was withdrawn so that it could be sold as part of a new product. -- MartinStewart

Moved from WwwMemesNet

There's a PHP/MySQL application on which resembles The Brain,, only it's collaborative, like Wiki.
Fans of mindmapping can also try TedNelson's ZigZag space. (connecting concepts via user-defined "dimensions") There is a reasonably mature java implementation of it at It emphasizes having many different representations of the same ZigZag space, and switching between them as needed.
For those who like a really simple linear way of organizing tasks, try To-do List.
I have found theBrain to be a worthy productivity tool. Having used theBrain heavily, I ended up with one containing some 16,000 pages. During the four years I did this, the way I used it changed radically from an initial tendency to use its 'plex' (the GUI in which the 'joins' appear) to become more of a personal-use-only hyperlinked note pad, since I could 'activate' 'thoughts' by clicking on them. Gaining a wiki in 2003-03, I stopped using theBrain and focused virtually exclusively on wikis since camelCase is the most efficient way I have found of creating hyperlinks. The addition of a second wiki in the fall of 2003, operating as an intranet, allowed me to share posts within one of my work groups, but so far I am virtually the sole contributor. It also allowed me to learn how to use a wiki in localhost mode as a personal note pad, which became a solution to the problem of protecting the 'privacy' of theBrain I had built.

At this time, I am exploring how to synthesize new methods of using theBrain, the four diffent wikis I actively use (each having a different 'dialect' that provides worthy benefits, or I would reduce the set), and an elaborate set of raw html files I publish, to create 'best of breed' solutions that improve my personal productivity.

If there is any interest, I can post some screen shots illustrating how I have found theBrain useful. I think this would fit into this site's Patterns theme if only because I have noticed that, as a 'CarbonBasedProcessor?', I can recognize patterns of thoughts more quickly than I can read and that this improves the way I think.

I've been FuSe? -ing my copy of theBrain with WardsWiki and MeatBall for the last few days and I must say that I'm more than pleased with the results. -- HansWobbe
I've been using TheBrain for sevaral years now; mainly as a repository for all the technical information I need in my job as a n analyst. I also MindMaps extensively (I was lucky enough to be exposed to it at secondary school: we had a talk from the man himself TonyBuzan) and have always been intrigued by the similarities and differences between the two. Over time, my Brain has become an extensive network of thoughts; many of which have a MindMap as an attachment.

Unfortunately (for the purposes of this page rather than in general I hasten to add) I have now switched to using an Apple PowerBook and have had to consider different ways of working.

As an interim step I continue to use TheBrain and MindManager in a VirtualPC on the Mac. However, I would far prefer to use native applications. Whilst there are several worthy mind mapping programmes for the Mac; though none as good as MindManager (IMHO), I have found nothing quite like TheBrain.

I have experimented with Wikis for quite a while and started to see if I could use a Wiki to replace TheBrain. Being a SmallTalk fan I experimented with ComSwiki; partly because it stores its pages as XML. This was useful, but the fact that I have stopped using it seems to imply that it wasn't successful enough to supplant TheBrain.

What I am really looking for is a grahical front end to a Wiki that can display the hyperlinks in the way that TheBrain does.

-- GarethHowell 20050504 It's been fascinating to use the Wander feature to randomly trawl through 10 years of thoughts.

-- GarethHowell 20130201

Brain 8

I had not seen TheBrain before. I am now trying out version 8 in comparison with ConnectedText which I have been using for more than a year. It is hard to compare something I am familiar with to this rather different thing. I will work with it for a while and give some feedback. I found out from TheBrainWishList how to make links from the notes. I had to figure out for myself how to then follow those links using CTRL-left click. -- JohnFletcher 20140926

Past notes:

Apparently TheBrain Technologies (nee Natrificial) is now (2001 MAR 19) taking applicants for the PersonalBrain 2.0 alpha. Despite the proprietary engine and what not, perhaps us WikiUsers? can try to get some of the things mentioned in TheBrainWishList put in the next version? -- DanMoniz
I use MicrosoftTechnology? - OneNote for many of organizational components which are contained in TheBrain, particularly for my DoingStuff and ThinkingOutLoud Stuff here within the wiki, and for browsed, collectable stuff from elsewhere. I visualize the organization as if they were in divided sections in books side by side in a book-case of book-cases. In my strategy of using Artifactories, I use what I have, and if ItWorks for me, I do not have to buy or provide for more components and usage spaces. -- DonaldNoyes.20140926
See also: TheBrainWishList, MindMap, ZigZag, PersonalBrainOnPalm

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