dlangendorf
The more I use the Brain, the more I become addicted to it. I can see great potential for this program in my life, but I am worried that once I get things inside it I won't be able to get them out. I can't use the data in a way I would like, other than to view it within the Brain itself. The printing function seems clumsy at best, and while I can export via simple html and xml, I don't have any control over what is exported (I may not want the whole Brain exported but just a section). What do others think about this? How do you use your data inside your Brains?
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Dryopithecus
Currently you can export a brain (or a section of a brain) to:
* Another brain
* Clipboard (thought names as text outline)
* HTML
* XML

If you just want to export a portion of a brain, just select the desired thoughts, then File > Export... then check the "Only Export the Selection" option when exporting, or you can copy and paste the selected thoughts to another brain.

I'm certainly not a computer expert, but I think since the brains can be fully exported to XML files, we should be able to do anything we want with our data, as long as we have the required programming skills. Maybe some smart dudes in these forums could write some scripts to convert our beloved brains to other formats.

And I think I have read somewhere in these forums that TheBrain will release API in 2009, but maybe I have been dreaming.

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dlangendorf
Dryopithecus wrote:


We should be able to do anything we want with our data, as long as we have the required programming skills. Maybe some smart dudes in these forums could write some scripts to convert our beloved brains to other formats. And I think I have read somewhere in these forums that TheBrain will release API in 2009, but maybe I have been dreaming.


I realize I can export a brain, or a section of a brain, to another brain. i didn't realize there was an export a portion of a brain option -- thanks. And I agree with you that we should be able to do anything we want with our data -- it *is* a database after all -- but I don't like the required programming skills part. It's not that I am lazy, or have something against programmers. For me it's a time and convenience issue. With so much capturing our attention, it's nice to have well thought out programs that understand our needs and deliver reasonable solutions like, in this case, a decent print function and allowing us to use our data as we see fit. I'm not asking for anything but reasonable basics.

So I take it with the limitations that the Brain has, it's still good enough for you to make it worthwhile your time and effort to build brains?

Thanks for the comments.
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gingerman
I'm in the same place you are.  I love the program, but there are a few dropped out things that are stopping me.

I run LInux, and some of the important features (to me) don't work in Linux, such as drag and drop.

Also, I've been using home computers for a long time.  My first was a Timex Sinclair, if anyone remembers that little thing, and I've never had any kind of a system failure until the past year.  I had two hard disk crashes, and then after getting it fixed, and paying for data recovery services, the repair shop dropped and smashed my computer, so three losses of all data.  Then I shifted to LInux, and anything I had in windows became useless.

So I have no faith in electronic storage of my information anymore.  My email server just went kaflooey today, and I lost a couple of hundred contacts.  They're backed up somewhere, but I haven't worked out the file structure in Linux yet, so I can't find them.

Do I trust The Brain?

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zenrain
One of PersonalBrains weaker area's is exporting multiple notes and attachments. It's not that your data is held hostage, it's very easy to get your notes and attachments out of PB for each thought, but the export formats are primarily for outlines, web sites, and importing into other brains.

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So I take it with the limitations that the Brain has, it's still good enough for you to make it worthwhile your time and effort to build brains?


Honestly, I think it's as good as you make it, and can find uses for. My advice is to devote 2-3 weeks to continual use. If you use it at work, make a thought for your common tasks and link the documents, task locations, websites, etc to that task.
If you have an upcoming project, link the people and phone numbers, along with steps, documents, etc.
If you use at home, import your bookmarks and link like websites together (like forums, financial sites etc). Create a to-do section and list everything you have to-do, as well as sites to related information, attachments etc.
While you are testing the software, don't add file attachments internally, just add them as links, so you have nothing to lose if you decide it won't work for you.

I know this doesn't answer the question exactly, but it's the best advice I can give if you are considering using the software. Well, that and check out these forums for tips, uses and other good info.
Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
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OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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crbnblu

I would like to echo zenrain's comment about devoting time to continual use. I've been around PB since 1.0, and over the years it was used and sometimes not used, once I actually started to live in it I think productivity really started to improve. I think the only thing I haven't done from within the context of PB for the last several months is load new versions of PB.

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dlangendorf
@zenrain and @crbnblu:

i agree with you both. i am giving PB a solid month of use and I expect to find workarounds for printing and exporting. one of the things i am experimenting with is using PB in conjunction with DevonThink Pro, making use of DT's organizational power and using PB's visual capabilities. I guess I'll see how it goes. thanks for the input.
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agnor
At work, but just wanted to chime in on this topic real quick.

Because it's a full xml export, you can do whatever you want with your exported data.  While I'm sure that given infinite time and programming resources, PB might love to be able to convert/export your data to all kinds of formats, the availability of xml export at all is a huge deal and represents an attempt by the company to NOT lock you into program (plus they needed it just for copy+paste of xml to work in the first place, heh heh).  If it came down to it, barring a lack of 3rd party tools for conversion / processing,  you could export your data and then find a friendly programmer to help you.

* * * *

All that said, I'd have this say:  make it part of your every day work to really take advantage of it, and keep well-organized backups to avoid catastrophe.

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zenrain
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i am experimenting with is using PB in conjunction with DevonThink Pro


Please give us an update on how you do with this. I tried it for a while, but several things got in my way. When testing with DevonThink Pro 2, I found it a bit of a hassle adding DT attachments into PB. If you add the URL path to the document you end up with the link text for the attachment name which wasn't at all useful for me. Also, PB wasn't able to find the contents of the file when it was in the DT database. I'm guessing that it's because the file is within the package database, but it's just a guess.

I then started to think I'd just add my files as links into the DT database, but since I also use Leap, I ended up just using that as it can also read directly into PersonalBrain's GUID folder structure, and just return the documents.

Unfortunately I miss DT's advanced capabilities, so any input or feedback you have would be helpful.


Edit: I've also tried only using PB just on my Windows machine and DT on my Mac, but quite frankly PB's visual linking database works far better for me than DT's folder based structure, even with the see also feature. I gave up after a few days.
Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
--
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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dlangendorf
zenrain wrote:
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i am experimenting with is using PB in conjunction with DevonThink Pro
Please give us an update on how you do with this. I tried it for a while, but several things got in my way. When testing with DevonThink Pro 2, I found it a bit of a hassle adding DT attachments into PB.


Will do. I am not sure if this is even smart. I like the power and collection capability of DevonThink, but at the moment I am not writing a book so the searching power and such is not really used to its fullest. Truthfully, I am disappointed with DT 2 in that it's still folder-based and its UI sucks. It doesn't have to be visual, per se, like Personal Brain, but some of the innovations in 2.0 have been in other programs for years. So I am not sure what the relationship will be between the two. I don't want to enter and manipulate data two or three times between the programs. As I am more of a visual thinker, I feel like I will dedicate more time to PB and use DT as a bucket for everything, including data that I may not be using at the time. If it becomes used, I can always include in PB ... But who knows.

Anyway, thanks for your interest in the subject.
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Darkstar

gingerman wrote:
I've never had any kind of a system failure until the past year.  I had two hard disk crashes, and then after getting it fixed, and paying for data recovery services, the repair shop dropped and smashed my computer, so three losses of all data.  Then I shifted to LInux, and anything I had in windows became useless.

So I have no faith in electronic storage of my information anymore.  My email server just went kaflooey today, and I lost a couple of hundred contacts.  They're backed up somewhere, but I haven't worked out the file structure in Linux yet, so I can't find them.

Well, if you uses "Cloud" computing, you wouldn't have that problem. You'd only lose your data if your cloud host went out of business. If you use Google as your host (Gmail, Goggle Gears, etc), you probably won't have to worry about that. Some "Cloud" apps to look into, other then Google, would be Evernote and Zolo, off the top of my head.

With PB 4 and onward, you can actually keep your important stuff inside the brain, brainzip your brains, and drop those brainzips to free online storage, so you'd always have your last brain backups out there. Then if your hard drive fails, a tornado/hurricane/flood comes through and wipes out your home and work stuff you are still backed up.

Personally, I've been dumping my important data to USB drives for years. Of course, I'm screwed if my drives go out, but I also have USB flash drives that I use for daily backups and shuttling data, so I'm never too far from a recent backup of my data. Knock on wood.

Oh yeah--- there are services out there that offer online backups. If it is that important to you, you should check them out.
 
dyslucksia wrote:
Is PB worth it? Depends on which edition you mean. The Free edition is certainly worth it - it comes at an unbeatable price.

Pro and Core editions? after carefully studying the differences (http://www.thebrain.com/#-111) I don't really think they are worth the asking price right now.

In the Core and Pro editions you can add file attachments to thoughts. Who needs this? If you can attach URLs to thoughts in the Free edition ("Add Web pages to Thoughts"), you can point URLs to any file on your hard drive.


Actually, file attachments ROCK. For instance--- instant backups and instant versioning--- all in my work brains. I make project brains, and keep a copy of all my documents inside the brain. Whenever a new version rolls down, I "forget" the old thought and add in the new one--- or I just rename the old one (with the date as a version), and add in the new one (for "important" documents). Either way, I've got a long line of document versions of stuff that is important to me concerning the project. Sure, I know there's plenty of document management systems out there. We have at least 15 that I know of at my work. And then I have MINE--- which never fails and I can always access, no matter how we migrate document management systems, or reorganize, or even split contracts and companies. All it takes is a brainzip, and I'm covered.

Of course, this does make it take a while on the zipping and the brains get big, but hey, you got a big brain, you might as well be proud.

Other great uses? When I buy software, I create a thought in my Personal Brain, and drop in, as attachments, a copy of the order html page, the confirmation page and emails, any files (like license files) sent to me to use that, as well as the software itself. Bam! Instant backup. Whenever I need anything to do with that software, it's all right there, in my brain. No tracking down which backup it might be, years later. I just need the correct brain. And it's highly portable--- just need to unzip that brain when I move between machines (upgrades, work location transfers, etc), for instance.

dyslucksia wrote:
"Additional views to see more Thoughts at once". Big deal. There are still too many bugs in the Expanded view that need fixing. If you need the Outline view a lot, you might be better off with a tree-based application, of which there are many (e.g., DevonThink, OneNote, TreePad, etc.).


Well, that's one way of looking at it. But I use expanded a LOT. I used to use "distant thoughts" constantly back in the original version. I find I am usually working with the same set of thoughts, so having all their neighbors stick around saves me time. And Expanded is useful when I'm pondering and considering items in brainstorming brains. It lets me display what I want and prune what isn't useful to what I want to consider.

dyslucksia wrote:
"Link types and properties"? Nothing but a damn nuisance at present, see http://websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/thebrain/vpost?id=3205691


Actually, I've found them to be very useful in many circumstances. Not particularly when only using PB as a URL manager, but very useful while using it as a flow diagrammer for many issues and problems.

dyslucksia wrote:
"Tables in notes"? I find the Notes HTML editor barely usable.

I'm not a big notes guy. I stuff ancillarly data in them from time to time, but I don't use them significantly. So Notes functionality improving or growing really doesn't affect my usage.

dyslucksia wrote:
"Zoomable thought icons"? Unless you really love icons, don't give them any further thought (pun intended) if you want to keep your brain fast, simple and as small as possible.


Actually, this is very useful--- depending on what graphics you have been stuffing into your brain. Using process flow charts, for instance, and having them get big enough that I can easily recognize what the next step in a forgotten bit of documentation is useful without requiring me to load up the source document and digging. And I bet the presentation people love it.

dyslucksia wrote:
Pro Edition features? Looking down the list, there is nothing on it I can't live without. Save your money till the developers take a rest from trying to cater for everyone's fancies and concentrate instead on making PB's most used functions really efficient and user-friendly.


If you are doing fine with the Free, good for you. Or if you Core meets your needs, cool! Use the cheapest level that works well for you.

Of course, paying them money does mean that the company is more likely to be here for years to come, but that's just important to people that want future support and future enhancements.

-Darkstar
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Darkstar
Hey, no problem. There are much bigger Brainiacs around here than me.

After this thread, I went and took a look at the differences between Core and Pro. For me, the only feature of Pro that I couldn't live without is the multiple attachments per thought. It's just too useful to me not to have. However, I don't understand why it isn't in Core functionality, since Core allows you to do file attachments--- but only 1 per thought (so you just get a more cluttered node for all your important files). I would guess that if it was in Core, only The Brain customers who were using Site Brain would need Pro. I know I've read of a few Brainiacs who export their brains to HTML and then put those files on their Pocket PCs and PDAs, so they have their brains with them when they are out and about, but I haven't noticed any of those guys talking about it recently in the forums.

I keep meaning to expand out a bit and use the multi-page printing of my work project brains, to make good wallpaper at work where I can just point people at the walls rather then explain stuff to them, but they'd still keep interrupting me and make me have to answer them so I could get back to work, so that wouldn't save time--- just fill wall space.
-Darkstar
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JHS87
Sure, Pro has some extra features.. But for me, they are not worth the upgrade price. Attaching folders is.

I believe that the PB business strategy should be reconsidered.. I would go for a fully featured application priced like the Core edition and a 30-day trial instead of the free-edition. I know that "freeware" might be an attractive label to put on softwaresites etc. but really i think (in the case of PersonalBrain) that people will either find it really useful and buy the full version or not like the brain at all..
  

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zenrain
In the core version, file indexing is important to me. Zoomable thought icons, especially now they go to full size actually ended up being far more useful than I thought it would be. I attach report and document images so I can easily see them and get a grasp on what the thought is for. Even more so on my PC since I can't use Quicklook on attachments. Another surprise was templates. I've ended up using them extensively, they are a great timesaver!

For the Pro version, multiple attachments per thought is pretty vital for my use of PB. As well as versioning, (a point I took to heart the first time Darkstar posted about it, thanks!) it keeps for a tidier brain, and I have multiple documents available to me without going to another thought. I've also found that the calendar is very useful. Last but not least the Mac and Windows licensing is vital for my dual OS world.


Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
--
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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JEL
I'm using the Brain for the first time work a serioud business project and everything was fine except for two time wasters for me:  first, I can't print the entire plex that I set up unless it's visible on the screen.  I've tried to resize it with the wheel (which is set to work but doesn't in expand or expand all mode) and I'm printing all on one page (and I used that function in TheBrain to do so) on a large A3 (European) format, so normally it should easily fit (only 150 thought or so and not too spread out) and the second related issue was the time it took me to "layout" the expanded view.  Even though I used the "expand all" feature, it didn't expand to the lowest level (perhaps this is fixable in an options area that I don't know about) and when it does, it layers items in an overlapping manner and you have to manually fix that.  I expect TheBrain to be able to optimize the best layout for me even with expanded or expand all view. I would assume everyone wants it to automatically NOT overlap thoughts.  Of course, if someone wants that,then thye could manually do so, as opposed to the other way around (which is a more logical layout for the plex).

So all that said, yes, it's been worth having the tool to brainstorm and organize all of my thoughts for this project, but failed me in simple logistics of printing everything I'd like in a readable or exploitable format for Word, etc.

And I must have missed the copy to clipboard in an outline format feature, because I wouldn't be trying to print this large plex if I could have simply exported to Word by selecting the thoughts I want in my outline.

Still a good tool, not sure it's worth 200 plus dollars for what it does and can't do easily.
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