I am a long-time user of the brain, but only recently saw the real power of it. Now I am faced with a very distinct need and plan on using the brain. I could use some advice.

I build software and information products for horse racing enthusiasts.

I get a lot of redundant questions of a technical nature. My plan is to create a help desk of sorts. I have looked at the software out there that is reasonably priced and all of it is aimed towards an IT help desk which generally gets "fix it" kind of tickets as opposed to "How do I do this?" sort of stuff.

I subscribe to the theory known as NED2: "Never Enter Data Twice" and am trying to apply it to this problem.

My primary concern is searching, especially for multiple terms. Can you do that in PB?

So, my question is... Considering the nature of the brain I am going to design, do you have any advice for me in terms of initial design?

Perhaps a video I should watch?

Kind Regards,
Dave Schwartz
My recommendations:
Since this is a targeted database, I'd first plan out the sections you want to divide the data into. There are usually moderately obvious divisions once you start breaking down all of the questions.
For example:
  • How-to
    • Use a certain feature
      • (divide by feature)
    • Implement the software
    • Install instructions
    • Third party conflicts (can also go under issues.
  • Issues
    • Data Corruption
    • Bugs by feature
      • List of areas here
    • Install issues
  • FAQ
This is a simplistic example, but you get the idea.

Next, are you attaching documents, hyperlinks, is the data a certain type? Use thought types for this.
Also, are there similarities or certain things you want to have easy access to, or are currently working on? Experiment with using tags for this.

When creating the topics, use the comma trick liberally. This makes the thought name longer, but it's extremely useful when doing instant searches.
For example, if you have thoughts under your FAQ topic as follows:
FAQ, UI, Why does the blinky light blink?
FAQ, UI, Why does the dropdown list a bunch of stuff?
FAQ, Terminology, What does Horse mean?

You can do an instant search for "FAQ U" and see a list of all the thoughts associated with that section. As your database gets bigger, often you can't remember each of the individual names, or you may not have included the verbiage in the name quite correctly. The list of results you get from the topic and subtopic will greatly increase the time it takes to find items, and if worse comes to worse, you can easily activate that area and look at all the topics.

Finally, as you use it, constantly keep an eye open for stuff you can link to as jump thoughts or parent thoughts or child thoughts, which you may not have thought were related at first. For example, in further research of an issue, you find a website with more information. The information actually relates to two separate issues. Add that site as a jump thought to both thoughts, and when viewing that "issue" thought you have more context around the problem and have supporting documentation at hand. This will become even more useful as time goes on, as you may find issues that are related, that you didn't think had anything in common at first.

Oh, and use screenshots as thought images liberally. Capture the error message, or the UI area in question. This gives you visual clues on mouseover.

Hope this helps.
macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
Great response! Thank you so much!

First, I never knew about the "comma-thing." That allows one to search for multiple search terms - a big hang up I had.

Please permit me a question or two.

1. can you possibly point me to a video on the topic of "jump thoughts?" I do not know about those.

2. When you speak of using screenshots, Where do you put them?

My plan was to have the brain contain the actual text of the answer to the question so that I might send that to the user. However, I found that PB does not handle pastings from Word 2010 very well if there are numbered lists. Until this is overcome I cannot create any form of really attractive copy/paste solutions.

Thank you again for the wonderful response.

Dave Schwartz

To easily create a thought using the comma trick, when adding a child thought, either type ", [Name of thought]" or "[Name of thought], ". This will automatically add the parent thought name either before the thought name (the first example), or after the thought name (second example). This only works when creating new thoughts, not when renaming existing thoughts.

1. For a description of jump thoughts, go to the User Guide and check out page 27. Also, for the Comma Trick see page 70.

2. Usually I attach images as thought icons for easy viewing. To do this you can either copy a .png or .jpg file or have the actual image in the clipboard (for example when you copy the picture in an image editor). Then right-click a thought and choose Paste Thought Icon. This will attach an image to the thought that will zoom to full size when you mouse over it (page 93 of the user guide).

Regarding the text problem, Word documents generally paste into HTML Editors a little weird. If you aren't married to word documents, you can always store that info in text files and transfer them.
Alternately you can attach the word document to the Thought. If you need to send it to someone, activate that thought, right-click the attachment and choose E-mail Attachment. It won't paste the contents into the e-mail, it will just copy the file into the e-mail. This may or may not work for you, but I thought I'd bring it up.

You may also sign up for the 101 classes they hold every Tuesday and  Friday, I hear they are pretty good.

macOS 10.14.6
TheBrain 11.0.119
Thank you again for the great answers.

I understand the issue with any kind of RTF document. Unfortunately, that is what is demanded for good looking email responses these days. (Us old-time programmer-guys would be happy with text but, alas, that world is gone.)


Hello Dave,

This is the forum for personalbrain so suggesting to use something else might not very 'nice' but for solving the problem you mention I would go for a FAQ engine (multiple open-source ones on SF.net). Those are especially written to solve your problem. They give you also more functionality like for example a rating system to point out the succesfull FAQ. 

You could make something like it in PersonalBrain but what if you are at a customers site and you want to "Edit" your FAQ?

I would go that path. I just wanted to mention it.

Good luck,


Thank you for your feedback.

Actually, as I have continued to learn about Personal Brain, I found that it is absolutely perfect for this purpose. In fact, it is far better than any solution I have seen thus far.

I am interested in "end user" support for my commercial products rather than private clients, but truthfully, it does not matter.

By using a Web Brain I can simply create a brain that is accessible from anywhere (read only) and write privileges can be granted to a select few.

Dave Schwartz
However, I found that PB does not handle pastings from Word 2010 very well if there are numbered lists. Until this is overcome I cannot create any form of really attractive copy/paste solutions.

Hello Dave,
Not sure if I understood you correctly, but I just made some tests - copying and pasting formatted text from Word (2010) to PB and viceversa:
bullet lists, numbered lists, text color and even images
Everything "arrived" well - no formatting lost - with the only exception of a yellow textmarker (background color) that gost lost when pasted from PB into Word.



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