You can't have everything. Where would you put it? --- Stephen Wright
In the digital world, we can collect more and more without taking up much physical space.
We collect so much stuff we can digitize. Where do we put it? On ever-larger hard disks. How do we find items? With desktop search tools like Google Desktop Search. Here's the big question: how do we organize the data in ways with meaning to us.
Say you saw or read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by Irish writer John Boyne and want to store these related items
- customer book reviews from Amazon.com
- author video interview from YouTube
- the movie poster from Impawards
- movie reviews at the Internet Movie Database
- criticism of Disney's advertising
Suppose you see a connection between Striped Pyjamas and
- The Diary of Anne Frank (film or book), since both show a child's perspective from World War II
- films Defiance and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, since both deal with WW II
- the film Australia, which also shows the plight of racially-segregated children
- the film The Reader because of Auschwitz
You quickly end up with an messy, scattered collection.
We see different connections. We want to find items we saw earlier, but can't easily find again. What can we do?
Imagine searching for years for something that might not exist. Then finding it. That's PersonalBrain, a hierarchy-free database. You put data (called "thoughts") anywhere you want and create links to show the relationships with other thoughts. You can add or change links later. You can search too. Your collection (called a "brain") can include photos and other attachments.
I started testing version 4.5, then became a beta tester for v5 which has now been released. Version 5 is definitely better. I especially like the easier way items can be tagged.
You get peace of mind when you know you can find what you want when you want. I like the following
- fast and easy to use (after watching an online tutorial)
- copying web pages (besides saving the link, I paste the page content and then highlight selected lines for easy future reference even if the source webpage disappears)
- portable: my files were on a memory stick but are now on an encrypted external hard drive which I move among computers (you install PersonalBrain on the portable device)
- you can move files into your "brain"
- uses the same file structure as your operating system, which allows you to use other search tools like Google Desktop Search
- ongoing updates (every few weeks)
- excellent online tutorials and live webinars
- multiple uses: file organization, brainstorming or mindmapping, capturing web snippets, client relationship management
The Main Drawback
These days, you can find many powerful applications that are free or low cost. PersonalBrain comes in three editions
- Free ($0): may work well for simple needs
- Core ($150 US): the version most users would likely want
- Pro ($250 US): even lets you publish your "brains" online
I experimented with other tools
- Evernote: interesting online tool but raises concerns about confidentiality, speed and access through corporate firewalls
- Clipmarks: online tool captures web snippets (too limited)
- MindJet MindManager (too specialized and for other purposes)
- storing files in Windows folders and locating items with desktop searches (too hierarchical)
PersonalBrain is a weird name. Try using it in a sentence and see if anyone can understand you. Visual Brain or Virtual Brain are more descriptive. There's plenty more to explore. You know how most computer-based presentations follow a linear pattern? Well, PersonalBrain lets you select relevant material instantly. Think of the impact.
What a way to organize data into information. As you add more and create links, you'll see patterns you missed before and gain wisdom. Highly recommended.
- PersonalBrain website
- PersonalBrain Helps You Map Your Thoughts (AppScout)
- Top 12 PersonalBrain Uses
- Just Shy of Artificial Intelligence (PC World)
- YouTube Video Review (Best Tool For The Job)
direct download | Internet Archive page