BrainStorm file format

BrainStorm file format

We believe that the BrainStorm file format is ideal as a 'thought sharing' mechanism. Accordingly, we are making the format publicly available for anyone to adopt for use in their own software. Note: the format has changed since the DOS version although BrainStorm will read DOS .brn files, albeit more slowly. It will even read CP/M .brn files. To speed loading next time, make a small change to any entry (you can undo it next time you load the file). This will force BrainStorm to save in the new fast-loading format.

The model specification changes periodically [3.0.25 and 3.0.27 are the most recent]. This means that earlier versions of BrainStorm will not be able to read these files. Although any version of BrainStorm will be able to read older files, even those created on CP/M machines in the 1980's.

All values are hexadecimal. Optional items are bracketed []. Everything else is compulsory.

File format
   Header - A032
   [Model colours]
      [81] - Colour info to follow
         4 bytes Text Colour (Windows RGB COLORREF value)
         4 bytes Background Colour (Windows RGB COLORREF value)
   Structural attributes
      00 - No change in level
      01 - Descendant
      02 - End of file
      [FF to 8F] (1-113 levels higher)]
      [03] followed by a two byte value [0000 to FFFF] (0000 is 65535 levels higher)
   Entry attributes
      [85] - This entry is marked
      [81] - Colour info to follow
         4 bytes Text Colour (Windows RGB COLORREF value)
         4 bytes Background Colour (Windows RGB COLORREF value)
      Text length
         [00 to 7F] - entry length 0 to 127 bytes
         [FF] - entry length >127 bytes - two more bytes to follow
            128 to 65535 (bytes 8000(lo/hi) to FFFF)
      [Namesake/Read only indicator]
      [Namesake/Read only status]
         01 - Unique, non-namesake, Title
         02 - Read-only namesake
         03 - Read-only non-namesake or Read-only Title
         04 - Normal entry
         06 - Read-only entry
         (08 10 20 40 and 80 are reserved for future expansion)
   Entry text
      20 to FF repeated

BrainStorm will also import text files using the Merge file or Open commands. These need to be in an outline format which uses tabs or spaces to signify increasing levels of depth.

One way to create a structured text file out of another program which can print outlines is to print to file.

In 'Printers and Faxes' in Start/Settings or Control Panel, Add printer with the settings Print to File and the Generic / Text only driver. Then when you want to create a text file which can be imported to BrainStorm, simply choose Generic / Text only from the Printer name: in the Print dialogue.

BrainStorm is supplied with a PowerPoint AddIn PPT2TAB. This extracts slide text from a presentation as a tabbed outline.


BrainStorm can export files or save them to the clipboard in a spaced or tabbed text format using the Write text file command. They are then ready for pasting into programs such as Natara's Bonsai for the Palm or the Freemind graphical outlining program or MindManager X5 which recognise such formats. We have provided a Word template (.dot file) with BrainStorm which will convert a tabbed outline into something more exotic.

You can also use the Publish HTML command to output simple HTML which a wide range of programs can read.