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(The)BrainDead? (Hopefully not yet)

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Posted by 22111
Oct 21, 2020 at 11:48 PM


Trigger: https://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/9177/0/thebrain-12—beta-testing-started

After reading, and reviewing, the threads mentioned below, I then tried to check their page http://old.thebrain.com/support/tutorials/display-options/expand/ , but immediately, a chat window opened up, so I got tempted to get into some conversation: some coochy-coochy in perspective? Acknowledging that PB’s/TB’s PROMISE is exceptional, I also tried to be as constructive as the situation allowed for (Matt’s try to end our chat occurred at 24:58 (1 o’clock in Continental Europe i.e. midnight in the U.K.) so was probably legitimate); I invite you to check the threads mentioned: without citing posts therein, I can assure that many brilliant ideas (and “necessary” requirements) are to be found there - conceptional stuff that is. And when Matt says, “popular”, well: I think the chat here will indicate what I think: (together with stored filters / layouts), it’s not one of several happy features, but it’s the CORE of the promise of what some IDEAL PB/TB could do… the “promised one”, in fact… the “paid for”, for people who got their “subscription”. (And, let’s be clear about this, their “subscription” “would pay” (and would be justified: the amount of coding work, if well done for the graphics, would be tremendous indeed) if they lived up to our* expectations.) ((*=“our”=not people in this forum, but people being aware of what PB/TB should deliver, and thus posting in their forum threads mentioned below)


Hi. Thanks for visiting! Can I help you in any way?
Matt C.


Matt C.

Hi again! As you probably see, I’m on the TheBrain Tutorials - Expanded View. This feature went off with v. 8.5, then was promised for 9, then for 10, then for 11 (I suppose), then for 12 (I suppose); I just checked a lot of discussions within your forums. So, what we have: v. 9, 10, 11, 12, i.e. FOUR paid updates WITHOUT this functionality. I am very aware of the fact that the visualization of this, being really high brow, is very, very difficult, but then, that was the USP of TheBain (ex Personal Brain), so I’m really very unhappy about this non-development (i.e. development perhaps behind the scenes, but, as said, 4 paid updates now without this CORE functionality). It’s a deal breaker for me, and for legions of other prospects. Are you aware of this fact, or do you even deny it? The USP of TheBrain would be, “you can have not thausands, but a 7-digit figure of elements, and always see the picture, though”, and that’s not possible currently; Expanded View, with stored filters & stored views are a NECESSITY for TheBrain to live up to the expectations it creates. (Btw., then it would very probably become a class in itself, provided your IMPORT functionality gets MUCH better than it is now, considering most prospects who would be interested in such a (prospective) ACE program will very probably have got a 5- or (as in my case) even (high) 6-digit number of elements to be administered, and thus, to be imported into TheBrain, to begin with! So, could we expect something exceptional, in v13, at least? ;-)

[after some minutes:] Some intermediate reaction?

Thanks for writing in. I’m aware of the v8 Expanded View feature and I do know that it was very popular. It has been replaced with MindMap View, which does allow users to see the full picture of a large Brain. Still, I’m aware of the differences between the two.
We’ve always said that we do hope to bring the classic Expanded View back in the future, but as far as I’m aware, we have never promised it’s return in version 9, 10, etc.
Bringing this view back will take many, many… MANY engineering hours of labor. If we want to bring it back it will need to work properly in our current framework and that won’t be a small task.
So again, we do hope to bring it back in the future and I do know the popularity of this feature, but I/we can’t promise any updates on this request in the near future.
Matt C.

I fully understand that. And also, I acknowledge you didn’t promise the functionality to be back in v9/10, but you implied it should be possible, probably. I’m a developer myself, and I know about the incredible difficulties in this, but then, it was possible within the Java framework up to 8.5, so it should be possible now, and, as said, there have now been v 9/10/11 and now even 12 WITHOUT, so… I want to be constructive, so here’s a citation from your forum:
[”]An interim thing that would help while we’re waiting would be a couple of user-options.Currently, if I open two tabs on the same brain, the “meta-plex” features like the multi-select pane, the time line, and the breadcrumbs bar on each tab are independent from each other. If the mutli-select pane is open in one tab, it isn’t open on the other unless I specifically open it. And then the selections are independent.I suggest that there be an option to toggle the meta-plex features to be the same for all tabs of a given brain. That way, it becomes easier to draw links between thoughts that are far away from each other.In other words, I could have one tab opened to Seattle and another opened to Calcutta. The meta-plex features would then enable me to communicate between the tabs.[”]
I will need to get the name of the author of that citation (please allow for a moment), but he gets it right, I think: in-between, there should be SOME intermediate solution to our* problem. (*=our meaning users and prospective users; as I said, I’m currently not a user but a prospect, also b/of the “import” problem.)

Very interesting. I can see the benefits and I’ll document this request.
Matt C.

It was: wordmuse[ ]Apr. 24, 2017, in the thread https://forums.thebrain.com/post/brain-9-no-expanded-view-8417935

Matt C.

And, as said, better import IS necessary. I have got a high 6-digit number of items to import, and they are in .rtf format, originally, but of course, within tree structures; they can be exported into a html format, with special divider characters between the pages, and preserving the hierarchies. Currently, TheBrain does NOT provide any means to import such html structures. It goes without saying that none of such tool can provide import facilities for ANY of their contenders, but, very unfortunately, TheBrain lacks “standard” imports, so that even most of 2-pane outliner structure EXPORT formats can NOT be imported into TheBrain, and this situation always has been exactly this way, so most of the prospective market (and even before and incl. v. 8.5) remains closed to TB because of impossibility of import; I really wonder if your management never has thought of this? Again (and with Expanded View re-introduced), many (most?) TB prospects have already assembled very LARGE bodies of material, so the need import, even with some scripting, but import which, with some scripting, then would really work, PRESERVING their hierarchies, and that’s never been the case with TB, not today, not in the past - and that’s the reason why I hadn’t been a customer even before v. 9… but very much regretting it, y’know? ;-)
In fact, TB’s import functionalities always have been among the poorest on the market, whilst lesser contenders had worked out this area much more, i.e. tools into which import was and is not really “necessary”, provided import, whilst TB never did.

I appreciate the feedback. It sounds like *maybe* your content could be converted to a properly formatted text outline for import. If not, you could send a sample file into support@thebrain.com and we’ll take a closer look to see if the format you currently have is common enough that others would use it too and an update would be worth implementing.
Matt C.

Well, html format is quite common, and as for the encoding of the hierarchy, that could be scripted, user-side. As I understand, currently, TB expects individual files, 1 file per item, and would be able to “read” the hierarchy of those files within the (here: Windows 10) folder structure, right? So, if I wrote a script, getting my items, from within their html hierarchies, into a folder hierarchy, import would be possible indeed? (I admit I only had this thought in this moment, and it would technically possibly to do so.) - As said / implied above, it’s NOT possible to “manage” almost 1 million items within TB, currently, the missing “Expanded View” preventing this, and the “cutting up” your data set into several “brains” (which, technically, would be possible) goes against the “philosophy” of “being able to connect everything, even items coming from very different categories” - so, if I’m not very much mistaken here (?), I could resolve my import problem, but the “management” problem will only be possibly “resolved” when “Expanded Views” and - STORED!!!!! - filters are re-implemented? Do I miss some aspect here, or would you say I’m right here?
(And my “around 1 million items” is not a lie; most prospects would have large amounts of data, within 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 items already within their data set, and they all will need the discarded functionality, in order to not get “lost” within their TB “hyperspace”.)
(You know, as a data management “specialist”, I’m very well aware of the “conceptional superiority” of TB - which is one of the reasons I’m so unhappy of its current “crippled” state!)

You are correct that a file/folder system can be imported into TheBrain. Each folder becomes a thought and any files within will be attached to that thought. Folders within become sub thoughts, etc.
Matt C.

Oh, my! I would need FILES as items, the folders determing the hierarchy?
(Probably, what you say was the reason I didn’t even buy TB before v 9, become that weird concept seemed impossible to me to be followed?)
(This was years ago, so my memory fails me here.)
(i.e. even then, I wasn’t able to devise a way to import)
In Windows, a folder doesn’t have data, it’s a container for files. In TB and any other outliner and such, an item corresponds to a NTFS file, contains data. Thus, the concept, that a folder equals a TB item, seems, pardon me, aberrant?
And thus, the “natural” way to do things, is to have files which become items, and folders which determine the structure = hierarchy, correct?
(And, as said, I’m able to cut my html hierarchies into folders and files… which most prospects would not be able of… you see the problem for the majority of prospects, when their “original”, current “outliner” or whatever does not allow for exporting into folder structures?
(as does mine, neither, but I could overcome this barrier)

We do have a feature request for imports to treat individual files as thoughts, however, it does not work that way at this time.
Matt C.

Oh, my! “at this time” means some 15 years after the introduction of TB - isn’t your management aware of the importance of import? I don’t want to sound mean here, but I’m just aghast!
You know, on your site, you have several, very impressive, “monster brains”, but WITHOUT “hybrid subsets”, and creating “hybrid subsets” (i.e. subsets with deep links into other “item families”) would make 90 p.c. of the power of TB (and seems to have been possible before v. 9) - you see the “interest” in re-introducing “Expanded View, with stored filters”? And does your management see it? Ditto for import, and it’s “late”, better import could have been done so many years ago indeed! What about transferring our chat to your management, and with my mail address? (I’d be happy to provide it in this case)
(I have read the following threads: https://forums.thebrain.com/post/brain-9-no-expanded-view-8417935 and https://forums.thebrain.com/post/expanded-view-ever-coming-back-3520-10087896 and https://forums.thebrain.com/post/expanded-view-maybe-9954028 and https://forums.thebrain.com/post/feature-request-v10-with-expanded-view-amply-documented-on-other-threads-9830835?pid=1305270589 )

Happy to take it if we have any further feedback or update for you. FYI, it is possible to copy a portion of a large Brain into a smaller “topic specific” Brain…
This should demo the process…
Matt C.

This would not be a resolution of “our” problem, neither of mines nor of the various problems of the posters in the threads I mentioned, since, as said, it’s really and all about creating “hybrid brains”, i.e. plexes which incorporate “thoughts” (i.e. items) and “sub-trees” of DISTINCT “areas” - at the end of the day, this is the “promise”, the original USP of TB, which, intermittently (i.e. for v. 9, 10, 11, 12 (?), 13 (???)), has not been met anymore. Exporting “sub-plexes” (if I understand your try of help well) is a totally other concept! Again, not willing to sound mean here, just trying to make my point.
(“sub-plexes” = “families”)
(= “intimately connected”

I’m simply letting you know the features that are currently available. Hopefully, you can find a way to make it work for your environment. If not, we document it as a feature request for future consideration.
I do need to be logging out soon. You may be transferred to another rep. If I can get your email I’ll add it to our documented feedback.
Matt C.

And the “live” aspect is highly important: AFTER such “export”, it would not be possible anymore to find, and to designate / incorporate other, “loose”, “far-away” connections. - Reading your intermediate answer: No, my “environment” is, more or less the “ideal” one, once promised by TB, and considering the fact that my items amount to near 1 million (no lie), that’s understandable, I think. - Considering your second intermediate answer: no problem: So let’s finish here, for the time being, and you transfer our chat to your management, ok? My mail address: [my name] i.e. [my mail address]

Thanks [my name]! I appreciate your feedback.
Matt C.

Ok, so please have a nice after-shift, and thank you for your patience! Btw, I’ll publish our little conversation, without your name, notwithstanding, so in spite of your missing promise to transfer our chat, I think TB management would have an interest to get into these matters. Good bye!


Posted by Lothar Scholz
Oct 22, 2020 at 10:36 AM


TLDR;  You want better import and that you can expand thoughts over multiple lines of hierarchy. Import is restricted and expand does not exist.

First to import. You say you are fine with writing a script based import, but can’t reorganize your existing data to have a folder=thought, file=attached structure? 
Ok i see the problem that you can’t add thought notes then. You can, if they have would find some designated file like “.notes” in this import data”. This you should ask.

No expanded thoughts? Thats indeed a missing feature. As a programmer i don’t know what is so difficult to implement it. It’s done manually anyway.
But it’s always the problem that the feature you want might have a different priorities for the company. In the end thats why feature bloated software exists, because different people need different features.

Oh, and for the large 1 million thought database, well “The Brain” is not advertised as a database. So it’s your problem, even when i believe a good modern computer should not have a problem with it anyway.

I get one good thing out of your posting: You made clear that i will never offer a chat as support on my company website.



Posted by tightbeam
Oct 22, 2020 at 10:47 AM


Matt C., I feel your pain.


Posted by 22111
Oct 22, 2020 at 11:24 AM


In broad daylight now

(As said above, at 1 o’clock in the morning, I had been after further info, not after chatting, but since they presented me with their chat window, even though their current page’s url (which they certainly “get”) contained an “old” substring (see above), so I just got the spontaneous idee of some titillating, but then, for JUST coochy-coochy, my time appeared too valuable to me, even after midnight…)

TB Import - Pics

I regularly use html export, by scripts, to extract info, just like I would do with xml export (which I don’t have): > html > csv > Excel > timelines and other charts (once you get the “template”, input of “new” data will be smooth).

(Sidenote: I just trialled “TimelineMaker Pro” (150 bucks plus VAT), both “manually” and with csv import: Big deception, it’s much LESS powerful than the respective functionality in Excel is, so you probably pay the price for this “specialized” tool, then “get” that you can’t even do what you can do within Excel… End of purchase service.)

But I never tried html export for my “regular” stuff (about 10, 15 p.c. of my 1m items contain (little) pics, too).

So I would probably need rtf export > import anyway, or additional scripting, in order to extract the pics, store them as files, create the necessary links… (Wasn’t aware of these additional problems, due to the late hour.)

TB Import - Folders vs. Files

Didn’t grasp the probable “info behind the info”, at 1 o’clock. Most 2/3-pane outliners allow for any item to be parent of other items, AND have “content” (content pane, for text, etc.); NTFS (= Windows file system) does not: It’s either “parent to” (=folder) OR “content” (=file) - leaving alone here the fact that even folders can have ADS in which I suppose you could cramp some “content” indeed.

I said “most outliners” since some do not; I know of (workgroup-ready) MemoMaster (from jbsoftware.de) which makes the same distinction as NTFS does; I suppose this will greatly hamper its sales.

TB works like most other outliners here, and I understand its “text field” (or whatever it’s called) has been greatly improved lately, had trialled it in Java times and commented then how bad it was.

Now, what Marc probably tried to tell me, was, TB html import will import the TITLES of your items, and that’s it. (?) (Of course, I could write a scriptlet that extracted all the titles, for building up just a folder structure, instead of writing a script that differentiates here, together with doubling the “parent” items into folder AND “first” file within that folder.)

It goes without saying that “just title import” of their existant data set would be worthless for almost any possible prospect.


I’m also aware of the fact that you cannot expect retrieval (by my script, yes, but then, not by the target tool also) of “third-dimensional” links, of items or sub-structures (“cloning”), upon import, but since I’d easily get those “out”, by scripting, I would then expect the “target application” being “open” to some external script processing (here: for “link item ID x to item ID y as “oncle” or whatever), in order to not to have to do all this manually, after import; it’s obvious such an API would greatly improve any such tool - lately, more and more file managers allow for external macro processing which would NOT have to proceed by the GUI (and which is systematically unreliable, apart from being extremely slow).

TB - Pricing / Number of implementations

Last night, I spoke of “update costs” when in fact, it’s become even worse, I think: You either rent TB (“subscription”), or you pay full price for every “update” = higher-up version you’ll be interested in, so “update” isn’t the correct term here anymore.

If they don’t have the “personpower” to re-implement their “Expanded View”, in 9, 10, 11, and now 12 (re-read Marc on this: its re-introduction does NOT seem to be imminent…), in spite of their pricing, that could imply they don’t sell/rent* too many licenses, after all, so the necessary funds are simply not there (yet)? *=it’s not “rent”, since I think that after “renting”, you will then preserve the tool, with it functionality at the end of the rent period. (Sidenote: Jetbrains (=software for developers, in high demand) tried to do “real rent”, and their users were so appalled by that that they then reverted to a scheme, IF I understand that well (or then, their wording is just incredibly bad), “when your annuel rent ends, without renewal, our tool on your pc will revert to the state it was at the BEGINNING of the year you paid us” - incredible! With TB, it’s the state of affairs at the END of the year, though, and if I’m not greatly mistaken.)

TB - Promises, Promises

So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the fact that TB, in perspective, is something truly exceptional, whilst currently even having been crippled down from its earlier stages, and in CORE functionality in that - of course, fanpersons could deny that, as they systematically deny anything Apple does against its user base (“it’s not aggression, it’s a feature!” - that’s sometimes highly amusing!), but I invite you again to (re-)read the discussions within the threads linked above, and their unhappiness REFLECTS, I think and suppose, the (relative) lack of funds available to TB staff.

If you don’t look after “real help” with the “overgrown graph complexity”, other, lesser-priced, even free tools are available; if you want a presentation tool, “everyone” already has the one which takes about 90 p.c. of that market (I suppose), so TB, unfortunately, currently doesn’t deliver where it would be without any competition indeed.

I’m aware of the probable fact that a main co-reason for not delivering, for the time being, may be their willingness to not just replicate what had been there in Java times, but to do it even better now… and now they got stuck…

And yes, it’s not just the graphics: A very powerful (and, from the user perspective, easy, fast!) way of filtering out (and “getting into”) the (live) subset would be needed, too - graph tools allowing to quickly get lost within hyperspace abound already, no need to rent TB for that.

(And yes indeed, for years at least, they advertised TB with monster “brains” and for corporate use, and their current db should be much more robust than their Java age one. As for the structure import, it may be possible that Marc was mistaken in his wording - it was 1 o’clock after all, and he was at the end of his shift.)


Posted by 22111
Oct 22, 2020 at 11:25 AM


Oh, sorry, that was Matt, not Marc. (I had abbreviated his family name from the chat where it had been written out.)


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