Things are heating up this summer with the public beta and accelerated development of TheBrain 9. We cornered Harlan Hugh, CTO and Inventor of TheBrain technology to get the insider scoop on key factors behind the next generation of development.


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Really great tool. I have been thinking about purchasing it for months. But most likely I won't.

There is no one big reason of that though. But a couple of things joined together driving me to the negative decision.


1. Pricing model. I understand great and premium things should cost much. But:

 1.1 there is nothing in between of FREE version and Very Expensive Pro. Just huge gap. FREE version is useless for me, but Pro is too expensive, since I'm not going to use 50% of the features (I think nobody uses all features, but some subsets).

 1.2 only annual subscriptions are available. I'd think about to pay small amounts monthly. But not ready to spend $180 and risk to meet a stopper-issue that would block me (for instance annoying crashes). The Brain is a great thing, but far not as stable as, for instance Adobe Photoshop (for which I pay ten bucks a month, and I know for sure it will never crash). It'd probably take "it's beta" and pay for a month, then - for the second, and then stop if see no progress. But I do not have such option.


2. The Brain is not stable. Period.

   2.1 It does crash a lot. Wanna paste image from clipboard as a thought icon? Get a crash instead (I reported that crash, sent logs months ago, but it still crashes when pasting image).

   2.2 It gets crazy on my MS Surface Book, when connected multiple displays:

      2.2.1 poorly handles events when it moves from the main screen (resolution 3000x2000, with 200% scale) to a secondary screen (1290x1200, scale is 100%). After such move you cannot even add a new though: the dialog is displayed somewhere I cannot see)

      2.2.2 when 2 external monitors connected to my surface, TheBrain cannot "Capture Image" from screen#3. Weird. Exactly the same display #3 is ok for capturing images from.

3. Lack of modern features.

   3.1 poor integration with one-note:

      3.1.1 Drag-and-drop a page from one-note? No! Just copy-paste link

      3.1.2 Open a OneNote page from TheBrain? Yes, but it goes to WebVersion of OneNote

   3.2 Hand-writing notes? No. Hand-writing/voice recognition/digitizing? No. Search in hand-written or voice recorded notes? no. Crucial things to be single-solution for knowledge. And for such a price I'd expect this to be a single tool where I store/track/map my knowledge items.


I understand that stability (items##2) requires some time. The features I would expect (##3) too. I understand that and would accept some limitations (such as using TheBrain only on the primary screen of my Surface, manually search OneNote pages in Desktop version of OneNote (where I have tons of hand-written and voice-recorded "thoughts", no image pasting).

But what I see - even crashes are not getting fixed within reasonable time (#2.1). TheBrain9 has been being available for many months, but the QA team does not test it on multi-display systems with different scales). You might say "it's beta". But reported crashes may not live so long, even if it's beta. And too expensive for poor quality.


From one side:
 - great futuristic tool!!!

 - Premium price
 - long-term stability from the clients is requested (only annual subscription)

From the other side:

 - no premium quality

 - lack of premium features.


I agree and probably would not have invested in the product. Too many features missing or broken for the price. 
The metrics used to evaluate value need to include both cost and benefit. I estimate at least a 2 or 3 ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE in cost benefit of deep utility of TB in my operations. I hate to say it, but that even may be an underestimation.

I can agree with the comments posted above but I believe the software is still in beta. This is the one tool I'd happily support at beta stage.

There are some other good mapping tools out there that enable non-linear information mapping, but I think their limitation render them impractical for real world use. I've used TB robustly for over 20 years now with highly effective results.

TB8022 32bit
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Brain user since zygote
I understand your frustrations with TheBrain 9, and thank you for the detailed description. You are correct that some cases (multi-display system) are not tested thoroughly. We have so many new features, other issues, and specific use cases that we have to prioritize which will be the most beneficial and widespread before we tackle a certain problem or feature request. 

I checked on each of the issues you listed. They are documented as either bugs or feature requests. We would love to be able to fix or add everything that our users ask for. Since we have limited resources, we must prioritize what to work on next. So, thank you for using TheBrain, and thank you for taking the time to explain your specific issues with TheBrain. We really do appreciate the feedback.

Cheers, Sean

Thank you Sean for your response.
Is it possible that you share a bit of your schedule for the features/defects listed?
I am really thinking of joining the group of the clients of your great tool.
But please understand me: it's quite a big investment of money (annual subscription) and huge investment of my time (migration of the knowledge from one system to The Brain).

I'd probably accept some inconvenience if it is not going to take "forever" but has some clear milestones.

Thank you,

Hi Ivan,

Sorry but we cannot give a timeline for development of features or fixes as it is just impossible to predict. I can tell you that we are working very hard on bug fixes and features constantly.

It's certainly fair for you to expect things to work. All I can do is assure you that we are doing all we can to address the most important fixes first and ask you to keep in mind that things are not always as simple as they seem.

If you choose to become a paid customer, that helps us build more features and fixes. If not, we hope that you will find enough value in the free version to make it worth your while so you can help us spread the word. Although you may miss the Pro features, it is certainly possible to get a lot of value from the free version and it is far more capable than many paid applications.

I appreciate your feedback about the lack of a middle-ground between pro and free, and the lack of a monthly-pay option. Perhaps we will be able to address that in the future.
Thank you Harlan for your response.

Yes, I did purchase the Pro, and I'm happy to join the great family of thinking people [smile]

  1. Your tool is really the state of the art. It has plenty of features and use-case scenarios. Therefore, I think 1 month of testing period is not enough. From the other hand, I understand that you cannot make infinite testing.
    For this reason, monthly-pay option would be the great alternative. I was thinking of it only as "pay a month or two to extend testing period".
    For such a tool I think 2 or 3 months is sufficient testing period.
  2. For me it was a big challenge to choose between "Pro Combo" and "Pro Service" options. It took days to understand that "Combo" has no advantage over "Service" in my case. Nowadays it's hard to think about things without cloud-sync. When I stop using services, then stand-alone TheBrain is virtually useless (I do not know people having just a single device, but even if so, then permanent backup in cloud is essential).
    From the other hand, for you as a company selling perpetual licenses means maintaining old infrastructures (if you make TheBrain 11, you may need to support 8, 9, 10 and 11 users with perpetual licenses). It's nightmare and expensive.
    So, from my vision you offer 3 options, but one of them is just useless, and the other two are as similar to each other as confuse the new users.
  3. The application itself is looking (just my opinion) a bit over-engineered.
    For instance, taking types of relations, types of thoughts, directions of the relations. Great features, and they sound sexy. Of course, they give some value.
    but... to get the value I have to invest much time setting all those attributes in my thoughts. I did start doing that, but later realized that the value I can get is not worth of the investment (time for adding those attributes to every new thought). With great searching capabilities that TheBrain already has, most people do not need typification of thoughts and relations.
    I try to evaluate the things I'm doing with 2 main parameters: [investment and value]. And sort them by [value / investment] ratio.
    Then it's easy to cut the expensive features not producing much value off.

    If it had been possible to choose a plan where:
    • no file-attachments (but should be linking with relative path, like I mentioned in another thread "feature-request..."]
    • no thought-types
    • no relations-types
    • no relation-directions
    • automatically resize images (icons in thoughts,...) so they occupy less space in TheBrain cloud (actually, I would add this feature anyway since it will save some seconds and bytes on further synchronization)  
    • less cloud storage space (if we link files instead of attaching into the thoughts, we do not need so much space from TheBrain cloud)
    • fewer bucks in price
------------ I would buy such one without so much thinking. This time I had a feeling that I would pay for something that won't use. I've seen so many complains about TheBrain's price so far, so I guess some middle plan would turn that negative emotion into paying users.

Thank you again for making this great tool, and for listening to your clients!
Thanks for your support Ivan. Welcome to the family. [smile]

The biggest problem with a piece of software with broad appeal to many different types of users is that not everyone will agree on what is most important. For you (and others), types are not important, but I can assure you there are many people who use them heavily and there would an ugly mutiny if we even considered removing them. [wink]

The pricing of software is quite tricky - as a company our main cost is the staff required to develop and support the software. This is true of the vast majority of software companies. Hosting costs for thought images are not really a factor.

As I mentioned in the interview, TheBrain 9 really is a huge investment for us as a company. If you were to compare the the cost of its development to what users are paying for it, you would find that it is an incredibly good deal from that perspective.

But in the end all that doesn't really matter... As Jim said it all about whether the product delivers value to you that exceeds the cost (both in terms of financial cost and time invested)?
ihudak wrote:
...over-engineered...types of relations, types of thoughts, directions of the relations...value ... great searching capabilities ...

Here we go again (sigh).
It always marvels me how many people in this forum come to MindMapping, and forget / ignore the "Mapping" part.

If searching is all you need, why dontcha use a DB, or MS Access, or indeed Windows Index Service, to find your stuff ?

Yes. It also marvels me sometimes how the people see one keyword in the message and make conclusions based on it instead of understanding the whole message [smile]

1. Search and mapping do not exclude each other
2. TheBrain is much-much more than just a mind mapping. I used many mm-tools and all of them live fine without typification of the items (minds and maps).
3. What I'm trying to tell is just about one more layer in the price model. Current model offers virtually the same thing twice. Which means "no alternative".
I just wanted to express my thinking to help the team find more paying users.

Harlan, I do understand how much efforts is TheBrain.
I will try to reword little bit my concerns.
Let's say the light version I mentioned in my previous post, costs $180 per year.
And current ProServices - $220.

I would buy the $180 one without so much thinking as there is no such stopper in my head that " I'm paying for things I won't use."
And another stopper was: "hard to understand Combo vs Services". Actually this is the same option (Combo is just a bit cheaper if I'm planning to use it for 7+ years).
But for me it took a while to understand that there is no more difference in these two pricing models.

As a user I wanted to see real and clear alternatives in pricing that I can choose from.

The 3rd stopper: 1 month of testing was not enough - I would buy 2 or 3 months before making annual subscription.

Those three stoppers did not actually stop me from buying (but delayed for a couple of months).
However, it might stop many other clients. Or delay (which is also a sort of losses).

Again, I agree I can be wrong. Please understand me correctly: I just wanted to express my thinking to help TheBrain to get more paying users.
I believe, this is important not only for your team, but also for all the current users : the more of us you have - the better thing you will make [smile]

Thanks again, 
Let's say perpetual license is a car.
Cloud services - highways.

Option 1: you can buy a car
Option 2: buy a car + permit for highways for one year for $289. Following years will be $159.
Option 3: buy permit for highways for $180 per year. And you will get a car for free to drive.

But nowadays cars without highways are almost useless.
So option 1 we can just skip.
Options 2 and 3 are actually the same thing: if you stop paying for highways, you still have your car, but where to drive it?
3 alternatives without a choice.
But users spend much time to understand what is the difference between #2 and #3 as it's not so clear from the description (or it's unbelievable that there is no difference).
I agree with a lot of what has been said about the pricing options - limited, confusing, and expensive.

I've been seriously considering upgrading (I've been with the product since it started) but for me the issue is not getting the chance to try out the full version of TheBrain 9 - I'd like a trial period of unrestricted use so I can use and become familiar with all the features before I make a costly long-term commitment.

I can live with TheBrain 8, but the chances are, given a full-feature trial of version 9, I'd be reluctant to go back to it. As it is, I'm not sure what v9 is really like.
@dlorde ~

According to TB9 download page, a free 30-day full featured trial of TB9 is available. Is this 30-day trial not sufficient for your testing purposes?

Also, FYI, installing TB9 will not interfere with the operation of TB8. This means you can run versions both simultaneously, and you would not be required to upgrade to TB9 if TB8 is still a better fit for your current needs.

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