Great App for Ideas; No iPad Version Yet

Although it currently lacks an iPad version, there’s a wonderful software application called Curio 8 that offers a remarkable combination of fully integrated features related to the world of ideas. I discovered it recently, and I’m just beginning to understand how useful Curio 8 can be.

Basically, Curio 8 combines these functions in a single package:

  • Note taking
  • Brainstorming
  • Mind mapping
  • Task management
  • Presentation

It’s a little bit OmniGraffle, a little bit Evernote, with some of the functions of Keynote, but it’s also a drawing program that’s also useful for presentations. Although it’s awkward to describe Curio 8 in terms of other software applications, this particular application more than holds its own in each of these categories (and more).

As in Keynote (Apple’s answer to Microsoft’s PowerPoint, very popular on iPads), you begin by choosing an “Idea Space” (in Keynote lingo, a “theme”). You can then drag documents (PDFs, RTF word processing files, image files; also, web links) into the Curio 8‘s Organizer, and assign properties to each of these items. For example: notes, metadata, color, style, size, color. In addition, as you would with Things or any of the GTD apps (“Getting Things Done,” a fancy to-do list), you can assign filters (“hot”,”under peer review,” etc.) You can also assign the name of an Evernote Notebook or an Evernote Tag because there is deep integration between Curio 8 and Evernote.

That’s only the beginning. Once the Curio 8 “project” is established, you can add any of these and more:

  • Basic shape, styled shape, stencil (all similar to OmniGraffle)
  • A list, such as a to-do list (complete with iCal syncing) or a bulleted list
  • A mind map (similar to XMind or any number of other mapping apps)
  • A table
  • An index card (similar to Corkulus)
  • An screen snapshot (similar to Grab)
  • An audio or video recording

Curio-ScreenThese audio and video recordings must be made live–there’s a built-in recorder. In this version, Curio 8 does not support, say, .mov files, but you can paste the link to a YouTube or Vimeo file (requiring Curio 8 to be used with an internet connection in order to see these files).

But wait! There’s more!! The next set of features allows various sorts of sketching, drawing and painting with a variety of pens and brushes.

You can export the Curio 8 project as a .tiff, .jpeg, .png, .PDF, .html, and for selected items, you can export, for example, a .csv file from a table.

Assets used in one Curio 8 project can be easily accessed for use in another (gee, I wish this was a common feature in Pages and Keynote).

In addition, there’s a bit of scripting that will recall, for example, FileMaker. You can assign an action to a specific asset within a project. Click on a shape and Curio 8 will automatically set up a new email message, or open a URL, or open a specific file.

Curio 8 is the work of a very creative guy named George who lives and works in North Carolina. His company is called Zengobi, and so, you can find out more about Curio 8 by visiting In case you’re curious, Zen is, of course, a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism “that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation” and Goby is a small fish that swims in the shallow waters near North Carolina.

Often, George reports to his users via his blog. On March 13, he boasted about the addition of “the #1 requested mind mapping feature: mind map relationship lines.” On March 4, he explained the difference between a Concept Map and a Mind Map (the latter allows only one parent diagram per child). Lots of detail, all very useful and all wonderfully focused on the customer’s needs.

ScrivenerThis is the joy of working with a small software company: the product is terrific, and the company is highly responsive to customer needs. The same can be said about Literature & Latte, makers of the equally useful Scrivener word processor for authors, academics, screenwriters and playwrights.

The frustration, both for the company and for the user, is the amount of time required to build applications. In both situations, users have been patiently waiting for an essential tool: the tablet version of the software. Both of these programs are feature-rich. They have set a very high standard and they now serve a very specific niche customer base that expects an extraordinary feature set and a supremely reliable product.Typically, a small company is doing all it can to manage a Mac version (Literature & Latte recently released its first Windows version, but Zengobi has not). Add an app, and not just an iPad app, but a fully functional Android app as well, and the resource tug becomes uncomfortable.

And so, Curio 8 users do precisely what Scrivener users have learned to do. Be happy with the Mac-based product and its evolving feature set, and wait, patiently, for the inevitable release of the iPad app. In both cases, it’s coming soon. Even larger companies must take their time with app development–learning a great deal from every iteration. I’ve become a big fan of the OmniGroup products, happily using OmniFocus to manage my daily affairs, but only on the iPad and iPhone. Turns out, those apps are now so good that the older Mac app is so far behind that I don’t really understand how to use it. So what is OmniGroup doing? Redeveloping the Mac app so that it works the same way as their iOS apps.

We’re all learning a lot from this new wave of software application development. And, mostly, we’re discovering that this is all a very new way of thinking. Getting it right takes time.

Edward Tufte Kills Two More Kittens

Last night, I was one of two keynote speakers for an innovation event. As a speaker, I’m supposed to be the teacher. Three people in the audience were fast asleep. I am their grateful student.

I spoke for over a half hour. I’m pretty sure we should pass a law, or perhaps, a constitutional amendment, that assures no speech will ever run longer than 20 minutes.

I structured my speech with over 100 clever little slides (I used Keynote, which is cooler than PowerPoint). Every visual cue was carefully tied to specific words in my written script. So I paid more attention to the script and the visuals than I did to the audience. Occasional ad-libs only made the speech longer.

The gentleman who preceded me, a college president, used Prezi. What a cool visual presentation! I remember almost nothing he said. (Too busy looking at the cool imagery.)

So here’s a digital insider take on speeches, the morning after. Just talk to the audience. Tell them what you know. Allow yourself one index card with three key points.

Anybody in the audience who want to see the charts, graphs, photos, etc., tell them to visit your website or blog. In that environment, they can study the visuals in their own time, not in a crowded auditorium. When they hear hear you talk about an important idea, they can visit your website for more information.

Which is to say: speeches are terrific for revving up the audience and introducing new ideas, but they are not very useful for detailed presentation of ideas. Websites are not a good way to rev up the audience and introduce new ideas–there is no personal touch, except, sometimes, with an extraordinary video–but for details and the day-by-day updates, they’re terrific.

I trust the guys in the back row slept well. Last night, they were the most powerful teachers in the room.

For more on Tufte/kittens:

Tufte Kitten Kill Count

Intro to Tufte:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

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