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PersonalBrain helped us organize our thoughts, notes, and research while writing this very article.
Simultaneously a wonder of nature and source of constant frustration, the human brain can effortlessly choreograph the movements of a complex body yet fail to record the location of car keys. Imperfect, yes, but it’s all we’ve got. To help us exercise a little more control over our master, TheBrain Technologies offers PersonalBrain Pro.
PersonalBrain Pro is a tool for collecting and organizing thoughts, files, and webpages into a coherent framework called a “brain.” Just as important as the thoughts themselves are the relationships between them, and unlike most other organization tools, PersonalBrain avoids imposing external rules or structure on your brain.
The app should make sense to anyone familiar with mind-mapping software such as NovaMind and MindManager (3 out of 5 stars, Oct/07, p64). Starting with a central thought, you add child and sibling thoughts, and connecting lines show the relationships between them. While a given thought is just a few words, a detail area below the main diagram accommodates styled text notes, classification, and attachments. Attachments can be files on your computer or URLs, and there’s no limit to the number you can assign to a given thought.
Double-click a thought, and it moves to the center of the map in a smooth animation that pushes its siblings off to one side while its children sprout into view. As a brain grows, getting around can become disorienting, so PersonalBrain includes a bread-crumb trail of your session along the bottom of the display. You can also place aliases, or “pins,” of frequently used thoughts along the top.
We found PersonalBrain fairly easy to get the hang of, especially with the ample help available. One standout resource is the weekly Web-based demo, “PersonalBrain 101.” In a Web conference setting, the product is demonstrated by a living human who takes questions.
Unfortunately, seemingly obvious importable formats like OPML, plain text, and other mind-mapping files are absent. Apart from PersonalBrain files, the only import feature is one that scans a folder in the Finder and creates thoughts for each file and subfolder inside. Also, brains are saved as a document and accompanying folder instead of as a single package, which we found annoying.
The bottom line. Despite its quirks, PersonalBrain is the most compelling computer adaptation of mind mapping we’ve encountered.
COMPANY: TheBrain Technologies
REQUIREMENTS: 1GHz CPU, Mac OS 10.4 or later, 1GB RAM
Excellent computer adaptation of mind-mapping principals. Abundant help. Universal binary.
Only one import option. Unconventional interface. Documents are not self-contained.