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Outlining is no longer reserved for writing school term papers; whether you're maintaining important lists of information or managing complex projects, hierarchical outlines offer a flexible structure for organizing everyday data. Aportis Technologies' BrainForest brought outlining capabilities to Palm devices, and now BrainForest Professional 1.0 brings them to the desktop. With the exception of some version 1.0 quirks, BrainForest Pro is a useful outliner, even for those who don't own a Palm.
BrainForest's name comes from the metaphor it uses to organize data: outlines are trees, which contain branches of items and subitems, ending with leaves, the deepest level of the hierarchy. Each branch or leaf exists as either a normal item or an action item; a check box indicates whether the item has been completed.
Beginners may think that they've missed the forest altogether when they first open the application. A new BrainForest tree is the essence of Macintosh minimalism: a blank window labeled Untitled. Although Aportis is deliberately echoing the Palm OS's sparse interface, a small tool bar or floating palette containing basic controls would be a welcome addition.
You can use BrainForest outlines for scheduling by switching the tree's type from Standard to Project. The check boxes beside action items become bar indicators, measuring completion in percentages that you can change by clicking on them and selecting from a pop-up menu. You can assign start and end dates and a priority level, and specify the item as a repeating event or task.
BrainForest's approach to synchronizing data with the Palm is a bit awkward: instead of updating data on a record-by-record basis, as the built-in Palm applications do, BrainForest stores its files for installation when you perform the next HotSync operation. This method was the only one available to users of the original MacPac software, but given the open-conduit architecture of the current Palm Desktop 2.1, record-level synchronization should be a priority in the next release.
Macworld's Buying Advice If you already use BrainForest on a Palm, you'll appreciate being able to enter larger quantities of information by keyboard with BrainForest Professional. For those who don't own a Palm, BrainForest Pro offers an inexpensive outlining solution. When Aportis adds record-level synchronization and expands the minimalist interface, BrainForest Pro will be indispensable for keeping your life's data organized.
RATING: PROS: Flexible outline creation and editing; integrated project-management features. CONS: Sparse interface; no record-level synchronization. COMPANY: Aportis Technologies (888/276-7847, http://www.aportis.com ). LIST PRICE: $40.
June 1999 page: 60