How to gather resources for brainstorming in Curio

How to gather resources for brainstorming in Curio
Quick Mac Tip, 27 November 2011

Do you need to gather ‘stuff’ for a project? Web links, PDFs, snippets of text, emails, apps? How can we possibly create a coherent project with all those things scattered around our computer? Guest author Christine Golden explains the solution she uses: an app called Curio, the ultimate digital notebook.

Christine Golden. Christine Golden often says she was born a couple of decades too early. At 50-something, she has finally found her calling in the magical world of web design and development. She works as a freelancer helping environmental professionals and green business owners find a place for themselves on the internet.

Collect resources

Online information is available to us in all sorts of forms: websites, links, emails, images and many different production apps, such as Pages and Numbers. Being able to gather up everything related to a project or problem into in one place is an incredibly useful first step in project creation and management.

With the Mac-only application, Curio, you can easily collect all kinds of resources on an electronic whiteboard, then rearrange and reformat them to brainstorm the next steps.

Curio Idea Space.

Curio’s Idea Space.

Curio is the product of Zengobi. At the time of this article the price for the standard version is US$120. They also have core, standard and professional versions, an iOS app and academic and family pack pricing. A 15 or extended 60 day trial will let you give Curio a thorough workout before you buy.

How I’ve used Curio

Think about the times you’ve spent in forums trying to get answers to application or coding issues. You know that it often takes 20 comments in a thread before you find that nugget of information that actually addresses your predicament.

With Curio, I can pull out just the text I need, associate it with the link, in case I need to go back, keep screenshots of error messages and write all my notes on one ‘whiteboard’ in front of me.

I keep Curio open in a second monitor and just drag everything into it. Once I’ve come up with a solution, I can store it all in Curio’s versatile Organizer for future reference.

Present and manage a project

Curio has powerful tools for presenting your ideas and managing the project. This MacTip touches on the various information gathering tools you can use with Curio.

Space for ideas

Curio’s main working space is called an “Idea Space.” By default it is a blank white space which you can resize in various ways, and configure to either resize manually or automatically as you add resources.

Curio Idea Space.

Curio’s Idea Space.

Capture weblinks

To capture the link from a website, just drag the link from the browser’s address bar onto the Idea Space. The link remains active and will open the page in your default browser when you double-click it. You can select and drag text from a web page as well.

Keep images

You can drag images directly from a website or you may prefer to take a screenshot of the page or any portion of it. Use Mac’s built in copy-to-clipboard command (⌘⌃⇧4) and paste the screenshot onto the Idea Space.

See 6 great free ways to make a picture or video of your Mac’s screen for more help with screenshots.

If you already have images on your desktop, or anywhere on your Mac, you can drag the image into the idea space from the desktop or Finder folder.

Images are automatically resized to fit in the Idea Space. Recover the original size of the image from Curio’s “Shelf,” which is an Apple-style Inspector. Use the “Display” tab to find the “Natural Size” button.

Link to emails

From Apple Mail’s Inbox view, drag any email to the Idea Space. It drops in as an icon which will open the email even if you’ve deleted the original.

This is great as a ready reference to client comments related to a project. You can, of course drag images or text from the open email directly onto the Idea Space.

You can also select the message, still from the Inbox view, choose Edit > Copy, then Paste into a re-sizeable text box on the Idea Space. The content of the message will be embedded and directly viewable.

Reference application files

Cross-reference pertinent application files such as Pages or Numbers documents by dragging the files onto the Idea Space.

Curio creates an icon which opens the application and file when double-clicked.

The file is embedded into Curio’s Library, which means you can open it even if you’ve deleted the original file. You can “Show as Preview” on your Idea Space if you want to have a small image of the file contents.

Curio can also accept iCal events and Apple Contacts.

View PDFs flexibly

Curio has a special feature for handling PDF documents, which as you know can be created from any other kind of document. It will allow you to view each page of a PDF on a separate Idea Space. This comes in handy as a reference or when you want to include the PDF with other Idea Spaces in a presentation.

The Idea Spaces you have created can also be converted to PDFs.

Dynamic content

Curio will link with and allow you to create, edit and save Google Docs right in the Idea Space. By using what is called “WebViews,” you can download website archive files into the Library, or even open and use the online site in an iframe.

Other ideas

You can also draw on your Idea Space with a pen tablet. With a big enough monitor, a Curio Idea Space could replace your wall-mounted whiteboards.

Besides its whiteboarding features, Curio has powerful tools for presenting your ideas and managing projects. This MacTip barely touches the surface.

Tell us in the comments how this Tip helped you.


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  1. George Browning said:

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up of our product, Curio. One minor correction is that we don’t currently have an iOS version. It’s a popular request so it’s definitely a task we’d love to tackle. In the meantime, we have have lots of customers that use the free Evernote iOS client to take notes and pictures while on-the-go and then send them directly to Curio thanks to our integrated Evernote shelf. Learn more at

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Thanks for setting us straight on the iOS version thing George, and for the info about Evernote.

  2. Derek said:

    Curio looks interesting, although expensive at USD120. The web site also offers “Curio Core” for USD40, with fewer functions. How does it compare to Yojimbo I wonder, which is a lower cost product, with many similar functions, although I’ve not done a systematic comparison yet.

    Christen Golden says Curio is also an iOS app – unfortunately it doesn’t show up in the NZ iTunes store though, and neither does the makers name Zengobi.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      Thanks for pointer re the NZ store, Derek. It’s such a pain when apps are regional like that!

      I’m afraid I’ve used neither Curio nor Yojimbo myself. I’m an Evernote person, but would say Evernote doesn’t offer the same kind of feature set as Curio.

  3. Cheryl said:

    I *adore* Curio — which I purchased a few years back after experimenting with a range of “information control” softwares, including journal apps, link-keeping apps, and of course the old default: millions of folders.

    This is my “brain” — my way to capture disparate information. Though I know I’m not using an nth of its capabilities, I consider it so valuable that I have my Curio files backed up remotely. I’ve business-related Curios: to capture thoughts, images, quotes, ideas about this or that niche site; to organize scripts or plugins I want to experiment with; to remind me of items to incorporate into a newsletter or my business documents. I’ve Curios to collect holiday gift-giving ideas; clothing ideas for sewing projects; improvements for around the home (when we can budget for it).

    It is Lion-capable and simply wonderfully flexible. It leaves things loose enough so that you can organize and capture in a way that’s useful, but with enough structure so you can start immediately.

    Highly recommended.

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