The computer is a wondrous invention, but sometimes it forces us to do things the way it’s programmed to, rather than in a way that’s more natural to us. For example, computers file documents inside folders that are located inside other folders.
I have a folder titled Travel, which contains folders by trip and client. Within each folder are confirmations, receipts, travel plans, trip objectives, etc.
But the brain works differently. It doesn’t think of things as documents filed away in nested folders.
We think about a variety of subjects throughout the day and, when we dwell on one of these subjects, our brain immediately brings up associations.
As an example, suppose I’m thinking of an upcoming trip to China on behalf of several clients. That’s the subject of the moment.
But with this subject, “China trip,” my brain associates related topics including activities for each client. For one client, it’s locating a manufacturer and for another, it’s checking up on a product. Other items are making reservations, renewing my visa and researching a side trip to another country.
Then instantly my brain might go to another subject such as a vacation planned for Hawaii. And that triggers related thoughts such as redeeming miles, finding a hotel, etc.
Multiply this by the scores of subjects we think about each day, both personal and work related, and it’s easy to see how we can get overwhelmed with all the information on our computer and with trying to keep track of where it is when we need it.
Wouldn’t it be useful if the computer would let us organize information in the way our brain works?
PersonalBrain is a software product that does just that. It doesn’t replace the computer’s existing file structure, but presents a graphical picture of any subject and displays the related information — including files, notes, to do lists or documents — as connections to it. (While it looks like a mind map, it works differently).
And like the brain, it’s designed to let you click on another subject and immediately see a new picture of your central thought, surrounded with information related just to that subject.
PersonalBrain is easy to set up and works well for travel-related activities. I created a central topic called My Travel. Associated with this are topics called work travel and personal travel. Associated with work travel and personal travel are topics called planned trips, past trips and future trips. Linked to each are specific itineraries, receipts, reservations, etc. All of this took about 30 minutes to set up.
If I now click on work travel, it goes to the center of the screen with all the work-related itineraries surrounding it, mimicking connections I might think about.
If I then click on a specific itinerary, that folder goes to the center of the screen with related details surrounding it including flights, rental car, hotel, etc. My other itineraries are off to the side, relegated to the shadows just as they are in my mind.
The related information can be any number of files, notes or even a calendar, regardless of where they’re stored on the computer. As a result, it’s easy to find and work on what you’re looking for. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it really is a very simple yet powerful program. Its appeal is its ability to help us visualize and organize information by association rather than the traditional method of separating information into lists and folders.
PersonalBrain is available from TheBrain Technologies LP of Marina del Rey (www.thebrain.com). It costs $150 for the Core version and $250 for the Pro version. Pro adds integrated calendars, more printing and exporting options, and integration with Outlook. There’s also a free version (primarily for mapping of Web pages and ideas) and a 30-day free trial.
It’s one of the most innovative products I’ve seen in a long time, and finally gets the computer to think like we do.
Looking for more about travel tech? Don’t miss our Travel Gadgets section.
Previously by Phil Baker: