This is actually a pair of related features:

  1. Enable us to make Thought Links to thoughts that don't actually exist yet without requiring us to actually make the new thought (as is possible in a wiki).
  2. Add an option that enables TheBrain to parse the Note Text of the currently loaded thought to create temporary thought links out of any words or phrases that match a Title, Tag, Label, or Category that already exists in that brain.

Suggested Implementation of Nonexistent/Wiki-Style Thought Links:
  1. If no match is found when the user highlights text, and clicks "Insert Link to Thought", TB currently asks us if we would like to create that thought or not.
  2. In addition to the options for "Yes" or "Cancel", add an option for "No".
  3. When the user clicks "No", a second dialog presents itself asking whether to create a nonexistent link. We should be given the option of "Yes" or "Cancel".
  4. If the user selects "Yes", allow them to confirm the title of the nonexistent link by pre-populating a text field with whatever was highlighted. This way, if they highlighted a story character's first name, they could form a link to a thought that includes their full name; likewise if documenting computer hardware, they could highlight Cat6 or Ethernet and link it to Network Cable, etc.
  5. By default, links to nonexistent content should appear in a color that is different from other links so that they stand out. e.g. If normal thought links are blue, links to nonexistent thoughts should be red.

Suggested Implementation of Temporary Thought-Linking:
  1. First off, this should be an optional feature rather than a default. During creative writing, many authors will disable spelling/grammar checking during a first draft so as to minimize disruptions. This should offer the same courtesy.
  2. Rather than permanently modifying the content of a thoughts' notes, these links should be temporary and generated on-the-fly upon thought activation.
  3. Post-activation, these automatic links would continue to be generated as the author types, in much the same way that a spell-checker underlines misspelled words as one types.
  4. To minimize CPU overhead, I'm thinking the parsing should look only for exact matches with the notable exception of accepting matches irrespective of capitalization (i.e. "Gods of War" = "gods of war" = "Gods Of WAR" != "War of Gods").
  5. Matches should be found based upon criteria such as thought Title, Tag, Label, and Category.
  6. In the event of multiple matches, allow a fly-up context menu when the mouse cursor hovers over the link. Continuing the prior example, if there exist thoughts for both "Gods" and "Gods of War", typing "Gods of War" would provide temporary links to both thoughts.

Usage & Benefits:
When creating a "World Bible" for a writing project, or documenting technical features, it is often useful to see what content does or does not yet exist while iterating thru the writing process. Traditionally, a wiki has been one of the few tools that lends itself naturally to this process since an author can link to pages that may or may not yet exist. In this way, once changes have been committed, it's possible for the writer to tell from the link colors what exists and what doesn't (blue for a good link, red for one that doesn't exist yet). Likewise, clicking on such a link triggers the search function, allowing the author the option of creating the missing content.

Unfortunately, in MediaWiki and other packages, this doesn't happen with the same on-the-fly highlighting we're accustomed to from our spelling and grammar checkers. And that's to say nothing about the setup efforts involved in getting such a site up and running, let alone having that setup share the same cloud-based security we have with our favorite mind-mapping software.

However, if TheBrain could implement either one or both of these two features (links to nonexistent thoughts, and/or temporarily linking existing content on activation and as we type), authors would have at-a-glance cues as to what still needs to be fleshed-out. Furthermore, we could save time-intensive MediaWiki implementations for when we want to publish finished content to our audiences while enjoying the speed and flexibility of creating and switching between multiple brains during the heavy lifting of the creative/brainstorming process.
No replies at all? Well, in a strange twist of fate, a solution has arisen from an unlikely source.

Wolf Lair, the developers of the table top roleplaying game program Hero Lab, recently introduced a new application called RealmWorks. It isn't a mind-mapping app, but the flow-charting and wiki-like topic linking features are purpose-built for story writing, world-building, and RPG management meaning it fills a similar role to TB within this niche. Likewise, it also has cloud syncing.

Being brand new, RealmWorks isn't quite as refined or speedy as TheBrain, and it would be quite a stretch to shoehorn my IT needs into it, but it's still an ideal solution to what my feature suggestion above was trying to accomplish. While one doesn't necessarily link to content that doesn't yet exist (as I'd suggested), it does retroactively prompt for link creation once content has been created that matches existing terms.

In addition, it also includes a map-pin based view that I'd suggested here two years ago, back when TB 8 still had the custom view where we could arrange the layout of select pins.

So while I'll definitely continue using TheBrain for work-related projects, I'll likely sideline Scrivener and MediaWiki for world-building tasks, and only use them for actual novel-writing and publishing of cannon lore respectively.
Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing this link....I'll be interested in taking a closer look at some point to consider alternative applications for the use of this software.

Also, FWIW, I too was sorry you didn't a response to your feature requests since they sounded like they had good potential.
Thanks for your post Michael. It's always interesting to hear how authors are using TheBrain.

For #1, the easiest way to accomplish what you describe would be to use the existing functionality to insert a link to a thought when the "create new thought?" prompt appears click cancel then select some other formatting (bold, underline, color or background color for example) to indicate a "nonexistent thought".

Alternatively, you could respond "yes" to create the new thought, then tag apply a tag to the newly created thought that shows it is not yet complete.

For #2, yes, that is an interesting idea... We have experimented with in the past doing something very similar and have a feature request logged for it.

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