A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Folders

March 3, 2010
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   The Power of Multidimensional    Information Organization for    Visual Thinkers



There are a wide range of information management tools that can help you get organized. Even just creating a folder of all key documents and web links is helpful for any project manager. However, the problem with your computer’s folder structures is that they are very linear and incapable of representing your multidimensional thought process.

TheBrain moves beyond folders by letting you create a network of information, organized the way you naturally think about it.  Furthermore this network’s visual interconnected links let you see all related information and thereby assimilate context instantly.

 Almost all interfaces today, with the exception of TheBrain’s visual user interface, are limited to organizing information into hierarchies, where a piece of information can only be categorized in one place. 

Flexible Knowledge Mapping: Networks Versus Hierarchies
However, in most cases a topic may have a variety of implications, attributes, and contingencies – with folder hierarchies you cannot see all these relationships without multiple copies of the information. This makes it impossible to see a complete context for each case and makes discovery of new information cumbersome.

TheBrain’s visual interface provides ideal knowledge capture because you can visually convey all scenarios and the relationships for your ideas.


For instance, in the Brain above “Camping” is organized under Hobbies, Outdoor Activities, and Vacation and Travel. If you were to store this information in a folder, you would be forced to decide which category it would go under and thereby limit its context.


Normal, Distant Thoughts, Expanded and Outline Views
Visual thinkers will benefit from several different information viewing options within TheBrain. Here are some tips on how and when to use each view:

  • Normal View is a dynamically centered, multiple purpose navigational view, that offers rapid visual navigation and an easy to understand spatial display. All relationships in this view are always relative to the Thought in the center of the screen.  (For more information on Thought relationships see “Parent Child Jump which relationship should I choose?”)
  • Normal View with Distant Thoughts is like normal view but with an additional generation of Thoughts visible. So if you like seeing a little more data on your screen you can simply click the expand all button, next to the switch view icon, to show these Thoughts. 


  • Expanded View lets you expand and collapse any number of connected Thoughts and move the Thought clusters around your screen. This view is great for a broader look at all your Thoughts or to analyze interrelationships.


  • Outline View lets you see a dynamic hierarchy based on the active Thought. In this view you can expand and collapse sets of Thoughts like a conventional outline. If you want to see more Thoughts but prefer a simple, more directed layout, try using outline view from time to time.


For a video tutorial on all TheBrain’s views watch the  Thought Display Options Tutorial.


Images and Thought Types for Instant Identification
In addition to visual connections you can also add an additional level of instant recognition to information sets by color coding your Thoughts and Links, or even better doing this systemically through Thought Types. By setting a Thought Type for certain information you can quickly specify both a color and an icon.  This way when you are looking at large groupings of information key types will stand out. Thought Types can even be used to signify status or urgency of certain Thoughts and can readily be changed.


The above Brain uses classification oriented Thought Types to show Phylum (orange), Class (purple), Order (blue), and Family (green) in the Linnaean Taxonomy. Note that by using Thought Types you avoid the need to create additional Thoughts for these classifications.


In the above example Thought Types give prominent ideas salience and are readily identifiable.

For more information on Thought Types see: Thought Types and Thought Tags 


Bottom Line: Why Visualize Information Relationships?
Associative information networks can capture and make visible key relationships that cannot be made explicit in standard information lists or folders. By gaining a complete picture of all information resources you can improve your thinking and dramatically affect your productivity and innovation.

Visualization can:

  • Facilitate discovery of information that would be overlooked
  • Simplify and capture complex business processes and perspectives
  • Leverage existing information assets
  • Help employees get up to speed faster
  • Foster understanding and new learning
  • Decrease incident handle time for support centers
  • Reduce time to resolution for helpdesk and IT issues
  • Help sales personnel gain more business by leveraging their full network of contacts
  • Provide a meaningful context for collaboration and project management

TheBrain’s network interface provides a comprehensive view and new level of understanding that instantly broadens your perspective. Organizing information in a manner that more directly matches and captures your thought processes will open up a new world of insight and personal productivity.

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Filed under: All Entries | Posted on March 3rd, 2010 by Shelley Hayduk

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