I used to use TheBrain as my primary data organizer. It worked well on my Windows computer (which is my office machine) because I could drag emails right into the Plex from Outlook to remind myself to deal with them, or so I’d be able to reference the information in the messages in the context of whatever project they applied to. But in one upgrade (version 8 to 9 I believe) it lost this ability. To get an email into the Plex you first had to drag it to the desktop or elsewhere, then drag it into the Plex. Frankly, this was a pain and it caused me to stop using TheBrain as much as I had. I was hoping the inclusion of the BrainBox in whichever iteration it arrived was going to solve this problem, but alas, no.
That feature-loss still hasn’t been addressed, but I am once again considering using TheBrain more extensively due to the great new linking and reference features that have arrived in the notes editor of version 12.
Version 12 is currently in public beta. You can view a summary video of the new features.
Notes. No longer an after thought.
Notes, once an apparent after-thought, is now a central strength of TheBrain.
That notes were not considered all that vital in earlier editions is evident from the way the “World’s Largest Brain” was built, without any attachments or notes: see here.
Where I could once categorize the application as a turbo-charged file manager, I can now perhaps say that TheBrain is also a notes manager on par with Obsidian or Roam Research, applications which clearly inspired the new features in the notes editor.
TheBrain has always been designed for relating information and ideas. It did this visually in the Plex. This new version now brings that same referencing power to the text in the notes. But this begs the question, does this change the types of information-management tasks TheBrain should be used for?
Since almost any kind of file can be dragged into the Plex as a separate thought, the possibilities for linking related information through notes has grown almost exponentially. Here’s a very simple example that might help this make sense:
In your work brain, which includes thoughts for each of your colleagues, you create a thought with a note where you capture the results of a project meeting, in which you reference three of your colleagues who are working on the project with you. The notes editor gives you the option, then, of creating a link to each of your colleagues mentioned, including John Smith. Two weeks later, when you click on the thought for John Smith, in the reference block for his notes, you are reminded that he was mentioned in this meeting. (See the screen captures below.)
Yes, you can do this identical process in Obsidian or Roam, but what is less easy to do is have John Smith’s resume attached to his thought, or have a link that shows he is the CEO’s son-in-law.
So, where TheBrain was a powerful relationship-based data storage application, it has now become more than that. Is it enough to attract new users? Maybe.
I am not suggesting that users of Roam are going to switch to TheBrain. The two applications go about their work in completely different ways. Those hooked on Roam are not going to see an advantage in switching.
However, I do think it is just possible that Obsidian users will find TheBrain suits their needs and adds a lot more. To do so, they will want to consider my tip for how to add dedicated “daily notes” thoughts. If you are an Obsidian user, you’ll only want to make the switch if you find the many other features of TheBrain attractive and worth the price of admission.
One other caveat: I wrote the first draft of this article in TheBrain’s editor. It isn’t the smooth writing experience one gets in Obsidian or any other text application. At times there is a slight delay from key strokes to text on the screen. I suspect this is due to the app searching through its data to uncover potential links in the text to other thoughts in the current Brain. It will be nice if the developers could iron out this issue, but I am okay with this trade off, at least for now.
These are my first thoughts on using TheBrain 12. I will check in later after I’ve put this upgrade through more testing.