Thought I'd share how I use TheBrain to document movies and books I've read. It may give a bit of perspective on how you can use TheBrain for this sort of thing, as well as give some "power user" functionality examples (or at least functionality that's not talked about as much) for looking at your database including:

  • Thought type and tag usage (ok, this may not be power user level functionality, but it shows how types and tags can be used together and reported on)
  • Naming conventions for searching (make sure you have the Enable context sensitive names feature check in the Advanced preferences)
  • Using link types
  • Custom reports
  • Advanced searching
  • Wombats

Thought Types
First, I've set a Thought Type for Categories. I have a specific thought color and icon for it, so they are easily identifiable. I've also got a Thought Type of Media, with sub Thought Types of Book and Movie. Each have their own icon. Lastly I have a thought type of Person, again with it's own thought color and icon. I use this as a generic thought type to cover multiple different people types, you'll see how I do this a little later on.

I have a few tags for this:
Interesting (because if I use "to read" or "to watch" it limits me to books or movies, and I use this tag for other stuff.
Also a rating system:
Note: I use the star system because it's pretty, and because I have a TextExpander snippet that auto expands into those if I type 1star, 2star etc, so I can type it into the instant search grid and pull up the tag easily. If you don't use a text replacement utility this may or may not work as well, depending on your usage.

Link Types
I set up two link types, called "Author of" and "Performed". Both are directional so have an arrow.

To create a directional link type, click the link between two thoughts, and then the Thoughts tab will become a Links tab. Once the tab name changes to Links, click the Type dropdown (the same place Thought Types are) and choose New Type. Enter the name of your new link type and now the link type will be created and applied to the link you are using. You are not done yet...
Now in the Link Type dropdown it will say the name of the link type, and have a circle with an arrow in it. Click the circle arrow thingy. Here you can enter or change the defaults for your link type. To make it a directional link type, click the circle to the right of the default dropdown (you can use this dropdown to change the link thickness). Once you have clicked the circle, it will change to an arrow and be a directional link. Then close the window. Whew, now you are done!

I keep this moderately simple. I let the Book and Movie thought types be the main grouping for all movies and thoughts (I can type "book" or "movie" in instant search, activate the Thought Type and see everything).

For parent thought (non-thought type) structure I use Genre, so I can use them for books and movies.
As child thoughts of Genre I have "Genre, Action", "Genre, Horror", "Genre, Science Fiction" etc.
This means that I can instant search on the specific genre, or search "genre" and see a list of all of them. I also assigned Genre and it's child thoughts a thought type of "Category", primarily for color.

If a movie or book (usually books) are in a series I will first create a thought for that series with a type of Category. Naming convention is "[Series Name], Series". Again, this is so I can instant search on "series" and see all of the series in my database. I can also use a partial name search to get to a specific series. For example, searching "ser dres" will bring up "Dresden Files, Series". 

For books or movies in a series I will enter them as child thoughts of the series with the following format:
[number]. [Name], [Series Name]
For example, "1. Storm Front, The Dresden Files".
Again, this is so I can search "dresden" and see all the books in that series. Or "1. dres" to see the first book.
I create a thought for the Author (if it's a book), and set that as the parent thought to either the book if it's stand-alone, or the series.

For the actual book or movie thought, I'll attach a link to either an Amazon, Goodreads or IMDB URL to the book/movie. I set the thought type as book or movie.

If I haven't watched it/read it, and want to, I'll add an interesting tag. I may also attach a quick plot overview from the IMDB/Goodreads/Amazon link in the notes, so at a glance I can see what it's about. I'll also click on a full size image from the url and choose Thought > Capture Thought Icon from the menu (ok, I actually have a keyboard accelerator for this) and capture the cover or movie poster.

If the book or movie isn't out yet, the last thing I'll do is right-click the thought and choose Add Event. I'll call the event "Release Date" (and not include the book/movie name), and enter the date it's coming out. If I want to be reminded I'll check the box. [smile]
Note that when you view the event in the calendar, it will read as "[Event Name] > [Thought Name]". This means that even though I have 100's of events called "Release Date", I can easily see what it's the release date for. 

After I've watched or read the book/movie, I'll come back to TheBrain and write a quick review (well at least my thoughts on it) and give it one of the star tags as a rating. If I haven't already captured the author, I'll enter the person thought. For lead actors in a movie, I create child thoughts for them under the movie (although it may make more sense to have them as parent thoughts, whatever your preference) and give them a thought type of person.
If I didn't capture the genre the book or movie was in when I entered it, I'll add the genre as a parent thought now as well.

For authors, I'll click the link between the thought and the book, and select the link type "Author of". For actors/actresses I'll use the "Performed" link type and then write the characters name in the link label (make sure the arrow is pointing the right way after you've set the link type, generally the arrow points in the direction you dragged the link from, so sometimes I have to change it). I also generally capture an image of the author/actor and a link to their site, page, or what have you if I'm interested enough and can find one. [smile]

Back on the thought itself, I'll usually enter the publish or release date in the label. 

Finally, I'll create an event. For movies I call it "Watched" and use a single date. For books, it'll be "Read" and be a multi day event from when I started to when I finished the book. Actually, when I start reading the book I'll enter the event then called "Reading", so I don't have to remember the day I started reading it.

The upside of this is I never have to try and remember when I actually watched something or read something. Not only that, but using the calendar, I can view a historical account of what books I read, similar to a timeline.


I like to keep a running list of books or movies I want to read or watch. I can do this by going into Reports, click the All dropdown and choose Custom > Custom Report. I'll click the checkbox for the "Book" thought type, and click the "Interesting" tag once so it has a + next to it. Click Ok. Then I go back into the dropdown, choose Custom  and then Save custom report list and call it "Books to Read". Then I did the same for movies. Now I have quick access to my list. I can do similar reports for top movies or books by selecting the ????? rating tag instead of interested. Want quick access to the movies you hate? Create a report for a movie type with a rating of ?????. 
The advantage of having these custom reports is you can then use the rating system for other stuff, not just movies or films, but still have easy access to your different groupings of your rated stuff. For example, you could also use the rating systems for wine, beer, combs, jigsaw puzzles, headphones, or pony rides. 

Here's the reason I set up link types. For Authors and Actors/Actresses, I've set up a custom report, this time with "Person" thought type checked, and the "Performed" or "Author of" link type checked also. I've saved this as "Actors/Actresses", and "Authors" custom reports respectively. So it's very easy for me to get a report of all people that are authors, but still use the "Person" thought type for non authors or acting persons.

I can report on event information by going to the Search Tab, and clicking Advanced. Now I click the Clear All button and then select Events. I type "Read" in the All of the words: field and then click Ok. It will give me all the books I've read, and the starting date when I read them. You can sort by date modified if you want, but this may not be helpful. Where this really comes in handy is after I've done this search, I navigate to the author I want to see and in the search tab, click the Under Active button. It will now give me the date when I started reading any book by that author. Note that you can then select another author/series and uncheck/re-check the report and it will refresh to show only the events under the new thought.

Here's another reporting trick. I created a custom report for my top rated books. Now I can activate that report so it shows me the list. Next, I'll choose Edit > Add Report Results to Selection.  Now I'll repeat the advanced search I did for "Read" in the Events title (above). The search results will have the box In Selection enabled. If I click that box, I'll see the dates I started reading my favorite books (the search results will be limited to only the selected thoughts).

Remember when I put the year in the label? If I want to see everything released in a specific year I can go to the Search Tab, click Advanced. Now I click the Clear All button and then select Labels. I type in the year in the All of the words: field and in the Thought Types dropdown I can choose if I want to see books or movies by choosing that thought type. Now it will show me all the books/movies I have entered that were released in that year.

Epilogue (yes, I'm giving this post an epilogue, deal with it)

The length of this post may indicate it's a long ordeal to do all of this. It's really not. Once you get going it's easy to maintain, often I'll write a review on my iPad quickly after watching a movie and then paste it in as a note when I get a bit more time. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so if you are a tl;dr kinda person, here's a summary of what this will look like:

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.13.05 PM.png

For those of you who read through this entire thing wondering how wombats can be used for managing data, I'm sorry, that was a bit misleading. Here's a picture of Humphrey so you don't feel quite as robbed. 

Edited: Whew, I've made a few changes from the original post, separating out reports and hopefully clarifying some points. I think I'm going to step away from the keyboard now...

macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
P.S. For Brandon Sanderson fans, don't worry, most of the books under the series got a ★★★★★ rating, for some reason I didn't like the standalone books as much (although I may need to re-examine The Rithmatist rating).
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
I came up with an idea for a new custom report: Books I've read.

Set Thought Type as Book.
Under tags click each of your ratings (★★★★★ etc) so they have a plus sign next to them.
Under the tags change the dropdown to Require at least one tag marked +.

You could do the same for movies, jigsaw puzzles, lego sets, anything you've rated, as the assumption is, if you rated it, you probably watched/read/pieced together/built it.

Here's another powerful trick. 

I only use one TheBrain database, and I put everything in it. Let's say I'm looking for a book that has "Red" in the name, but when I use instant search, it finds hundreds of thoughts with "Red" in the thought name. I really don't want to scroll through that long list, or do an extended search because I'm pretty lazy.

I'll go to the Reports tab. Click the drop-down and choose my "Book" thought type.
Next, on the same tab, I'll change the Filter drop-down to Normal. 

Now I do an instant search on "Red" again. It will only return books with "Red" in the name.
If I want to narrow it down further, and show only books I've read with "Red" in the name, I can select the "Books I've Read" custom report I just created and do the search again (don't forget to off the filter once you're done [smile]).
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
Thank you zenrain! gave me some new ideas, especially the calender and reporting tipps!
Thanks Zenrain. You are giving me food for thoughts with your clear explanation. I am sure I could use similar methods for recipes... Will be playing with this!

Any chance you have the ability to upload your Brain or an example of this so that we can replicate it easily?

I'll look at doing an example when I get a chance.
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
New Tip:
Ok, so given the setup I outlined above, lets say I want to see all books I'm interested in reading, in the Non-Fiction Genre.
There's no way to limit report results to children of a specific thought (in this case the "Genre, Non-Fiction" thought). However, you can do this via search.

  1. Activate the thought you want the results to be filtered by.
  2. In the search tab, click Advanced.
  3. Click the Clear All button, and check the Tags box.
  4. Type in the Tag name you use to define if you want to read a book (in my setup it's the "interesting" tag) in the All of the Words field.
  5. Change Thought Type to Book and click OK.
  6. In the search tab, click the Under Active checkbox.

Not only will only the Non-Fiction books I want to read be in the search results, but they will be highlighted in the plex. If I remove the Under Active filter I can go into each Genre thought and see the books I want to read highlighted in the plex (if the highlighting isn't very visible, you can adjust this by going into Preferences, Brain and change the Highlighted thoughts, outline color).

macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
I recently applied your 5 star rating system to my own personal Brain!  In addition to books and movies, it's a great way to keep track of favorite (and least favorite) museums, biking trails, campsites, ice cream shops, etc.!

Thanks for the tip!  I give it ★★★★★.

Ha, glad you found it useful Matt.

For those interested, I've attached a sample brain with the Genres, types and tags I use for this, as well as a few book and movie examples.
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
This is a very cool example thanks!!
I like this Zenrain. Simple and elegant. I think I'm going to make a slight change and let Goodreads track which books I've read and when rather than bring that into my brain (though Goodreads doesn't handle re-reads well at all.)
Ah, glad you like it. Yes, I like Goodreads also, and although I'm not tracking my reading through them (for some reason it just doesn't stick, it's a personal problem…) I still link the book page to the thought and now I've also started linking the Goodreads series page to the series.

I've found this to be even more useful with TheBrain 9's preview functionality. Particularly because I only add notes when I've completed a book, so now when I activate the series I can immediately see if there's a new book that I don't know about, or read about the book itself from the thought. And the timeline functionality is absolutely killer for tracking what I've read and when. 
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
Now that Goodreads gives you the ability to track multiple reads of a book it's better. And with the Kindle Paperwhite it tracks start/finish from there. 

I can see how V9's preview would be good there. Timelines for me, on top of Goodread's tracking, is a duplication of data so I am personally unlikely to use it in that manner. Will be good for other things though.

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