A personal journey in information management (contd.)

Then came TheBrain

I learned about TheBrain (yes, AllOneWord) fairly early on in 1998, while it was still in version 1 Beta, and gave Natrificial some enthusiastic feedback. Some of the ideas made it into the product, though I don't imagine I was the only person suggesting them. (It's now called PersonalBrain, btw, and the company is now TheBrain Technologies LP.)

I used this for a year actively, another year less often, and another year just occasionally when I had specific things to look up. I had a lot of personal information in there, some client projects and some business planning ideas.


  1. TheBrain had a mind-map way of thinking without some of the limitations of mind maps.
  2. For example you could centre on any node (or 'thought' as they are called in TheBrain). So you could wander around the map and the size limitation of the 2D sheet was less significant.
  3. Any item could be a child of many nodes. This was one thing I really wanted after being stuck with Mindman's (now MindManager) fairly strict hierarchy. It means that a reference that rightly belongs under several headings can be in more than one place without making copies. So if I have a piece on Hong Kong businesses obligations under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, it can appear under 'Hong Kong law', 'privacy', 'corporate governance' and 'IT practice'. Then, searching down any one of four branches will bring you to that item.


  1. For years it only allowed one item per thought.
  2. If I scanned a six-page article from a magazine, or a web review scattered over six pages, I needed six nodes. Quite unnecessary. About a year ago (a year after Topicscape came out with unlimited items per Topic) the Brain allowed more items.
  3. For large, complex projects, visibility is highly limited. For me this was the killer with TheBrain and why a used it less and less and started thinking about an alternative:
  4. Even with a 24-inch screen at 1920x1200 resolution, I found I could not use this in any practical way.

  5. There was no “sense of place”, little to help me recognize the surroundings and home-in more quickly on what I want. This has turned out to be really important now I use software that does offer this.

So I had to move on...

Even less abstraction ⇒