Susan Pigott, May 11, 2010
Curio 6 by Zengobi is, simply put, an idea space program, but, in all honesty, it is that and much more. What can Curio do? Really, the possibilities are endless: mindmapping, brainstorming, project management, scrapbooking, outlining, calendaring, and organizing are just some of the many uses for the app. It is a powerhouse application for creative people, offering a limitless canvas and removing the constrictions that other programs place on their users. Retailing for $99.00 (standard) or $149.00 (professional), the program is fairly expensive, but considering the flexibility and multiple options provided by the app, the price seems reasonable. Family ($!99 for a pro edition family pack) and academic ($69 for Curio 6 pro) prices are also available. Back in August, Corey Harris did a video review of Curio. This review is intended to supplement what he did and provide additional information and screenshots.
On the left-hand side is the organizer where the “idea spaces” for each project appear once they are created. The user can choose to close the organizer to reveal more of the central canvas or idea space. The idea space is blank initially. The user can choose from a variety of backgrounds for the canvas, including various backdrops and collections of paper, fabric, and lines.
You can even use your own images for the backdrop or choose from the desktop images that come with your Mac. As with everything in Curio, backdrops are completely configurable in terms of opacity, color, etc.
An Idea Space is like a huge whiteboard where you can draw or write anything you like. But, because Curio is a digital whiteboard, you are not limited to text or drawings. You can put anything you want onto the Curio canvas, including website links, documents, audio and video files, tables, mindmaps, contacts, email messages, and iCal events. These can be rearranged however you like
Across the top of the screen is the toolbar which can, of course, be configured as the user wishes. Below that is the inspector bar which allows easy access to fonts, shapes, fills, and various assets like flags, checkmarks, and due dates. The inspector bar can be hidden if the user prefers.
Some other tools Curio includes in the toolbar are a button for recording audio and visual clips, a screenshot button for taking snaps of entire pages or portions of pages, and a presentation button which turns your idea spaces into a presentation for sharing with others.
In addition, Curio features its own search engine called Sleuth which allows you to do research without ever having to leave the app. Sleuth can search multiple web pages at once or you can choose selected engines to do a more focused search. And, of course, you can save any information directly into your scrapbook for use in a project.
Perhaps the best way to explain how Curio works is to show you some examples of how I’ve put it to use. I am using Curio to keep track of the courses I’m currently teaching, to plan a lectureship at my university for next fall, and to take notes on some novels I’m reading.
Project 1: Spring 2010 Courses. I chose to use Curio this semester to keep track of the courses I’m teaching, including the books I chose to use, the documents relevant for each course, and, most importantly, notes on how the semester went so that when I teach the course again, I can make changes based on this semester’s successes and failures. This screenshot shows several helpful features of Curio: document links, Amazon links for the books I chose, and the notetaking feature.
Project 2: Lectureship Plans. I’m keeping up with a project I’m in charge of for the fall: The George Knight Lectures at Hardin-Simmons University. I created several idea spaces for this ongoing project which includes information about our speaker (Dr. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld from Princeton Theological Seminary–yes, I’m pumped about getting her!), important to dos related to getting things ready for the lectureship, and the schedule of events. This idea space demonstrates the project planning capabilities of Curio.
Project 3: Reading Notes. I can’t remember anything unless I take notes on it. I’m reading some novels a colleague in the English department recommended to me. So that I won’t forget what I read, I decided to create a project for reading notes. I recently completed Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann (I highly recommend this terrific book). For my notetaking, I included the relevant information about the book, author information, and a mindmap of the important characters. In addition, I am in the process of outlining the contents of the book. One of the things I really love about Curio is the ability to combine a variety of notetaking approaches (outlining, mindmapping, simple text notes) in order to create a comprehensive overview of a subject.
What’s Macgasmic: Curio is an amazing program. I can’t think of another application that offers so many features and so much flexibility. Sure, you could use separate, stand-alone programs to take notes, plan projects, and create mindmaps. But what’s wonderful about Curio is that you can do all those things in one place. I love that I have an endless canvas that I can configure any way I want. I don’t have to put things in to a format that is predetermined for me. For example, while I am a fan of Circus Ponies Notebook, I don’t like that I am constricted to the notebook format and I am limited in how I can insert information. And, although I love OmniOutliner for taking notes, that is all OmniOutliner does. With Curio, I can insert notes, photographs, websites, mindmaps, outlines, anywhere I please. And, since I love OmniOutliner, I can even create an instant document in Curio that will allow me to type up my outline in OmniOutliner and access it from Curio. I really like having that flexibility. Curio also allows me to do all my research from within the app. So, I can use Sleuth to research all sorts of sites and insert any information I want for safekeeping in my Scrapbook. I can use Flashlight to search documents on my hard drive. I never have to leave the application to do what I need to do.
What’s Not: I’ll be honest. When I first tried out Curio for Mac, I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I found myself overwhelmed by all the choices and configuration options. I was intimidated by the blank canvas and the lack of structure. And, after playing with it for a few days, I gave up in frustration. I also found myself underwhelmed with the outliner and the mindmapping functions. After using programs like Novamind Pro and OmniOutliner, I found Curio’s versions to be less impressive. In fact, one of the criticisms I’ve read about Curio by other reviewers is that it is “jack of all trades, but master of none.” Initially I agreed with that assessment, but I don’t any longer. Curio doesn’t attempt to be a sophisticated mindmapping program like Novamind; nor is it supposed to be a feature-rich outliner like OmniOutliner. Curio isn’t a replacement for stand-alone drawing programs or word processors. Rather, Curio is an idea space program. It is an application for brainstorming and creating. It is a tool for project planning and envisioning. It is a researcher’s dream tool; an artist’s creative palette, and a writer’s inspiration garden.
If you are looking for a tool that will help you be more creative, free you from the restrictions of typical note-taking, research-based, idea creation tools, then Curio 6 for Mac should be on top of your list. Take advantage of the free 15-day trial Zengobi offers (and you can even request a 60-day extended trial if you need it), and explore the rich features of this application. This review only scratches the surface of all the capabilities of Curio. Be sure to read the User’s Manual–I think you will be impressed at how much this application has to offer. Be sure to check out Zengobi’s website which covers the features in more detail and explains the differences between the standard and professional editions of Curio.