Curio: Organized Brainstorming

Curio IconMind mapping is a technique that quite a few people are starting to use to help organize their thoughts. While some people just write pages of notes, mind mappers make maps of their minds, grouping thoughts together to keep their brain dump more organized. While making a list can be a bit easier, mind mapping pays off as it keeps you organized and makes it much easier to add more information as you think of more ideas. There are many different mind mapping applications and many different ways of approaching the organizational method. Curio is a very powerful and asthetically pleasing mind mapping app.

While most mind mapping programs, like MindManager, are strictly for personal/corporate use or the occasional PDF to pass out to colleagues, Curio was designed to function with the creative presenter in mind.

Curio in action

Curio’s developers, Zengobi, Inc., did an excellent job of creating a functional mind mapping program while still letting the user be creative. Curio has several features that make it rise above other mind mapping apps. Curio allows you to create several “Idea Spaces” in one window. An idea space is a blank page where you can build your maps, lists, etc. Curio allows you to ‘paint’ your background with patterns and images such as cork-boards, paper, and even your desktop backgrounds.

Every mind mapping program I’ve ever used has some sort of style that you can use with your mind maps to make it more friendly to the eyes, but nobody does it as well as Curio. Curio lets you add styles which change the appearance of your mind maps. Styles like chalkboard, blueprint, and handwriting, add some spice to your mind maps to make them look more personal and creative as opposed to a plain white look. The styles are a very cool feature to make your mind maps more presentation friendly.

A presentation friendly mind map? I know I asked the same thing when I started playing with Curio’s Presentation mode. Curio’s presentation mode allows you to put our idea space on the big screen through the use of a projector, external display, or even the display on your laptop. This I think is one of Curio’s biggest selling points. With each idea space, you are also creating a slide to use in your presentation. By enabling your cursor with a quick key command, you can click to highlight certain components as you’re moving through your presentation. Curio uses OS X’s built in animations engine to transition from slide to slide.

Snippets is a great function built into Curio that allows the user to drag and drop images, text, links, emails, from any other app into the snippet bar inside the app. This is handy for dragging web pages into Cuiro to keep the content you’re referencing near by. It’s also good for organizing pictures that you might wish to use for your idea spaces. Snippets are also useful for keeping track of documents related to your mind map.

Overall I feel like Curio could be a very useful application to have in your arsenal, but like all applications, it has some short comings.

I was expecting a little more out of the presentation mode than what it had to offer. When giving presentations I like to give my audience only the information I am talking about. This helps to keep them focused on the topic and also keeps me focused if I turn around to look at my screen. I was hoping that I could build each component of the map piece by piece but I couldn’t seem to figure out how. When asking Zengobi about this, they said that they are not trying to replace Keynote so therefore kept their presentation mode simple.

I am a keyboard freak, in that I like to do as little as possible with my mouse/track pad. If I could pay my bills with Quicksilver I would; so I was a little disappointed with the keyboard shortcuts. Adding child notes to main parent components of the map, require what I consider to be a funky command of Option-Command-Enter.

Lastly, while looking for some help on certain functions, I would turn to Curio’s help function. Unlike most all of the programs I use, who use OS X’s help viewer app, Curio opted to link the help command to a PDF file. This sometimes made searching for a quick solution a more than 10 second endeavor.

Curio is still a powerful application that I think many will find useful. At a price of $149.00 for the professional version and $99.00 for the standard version, it is priced a little too steeply for a college student. Visit Zengobi, Inc. to download a free trial.


21 Responses to “Curio: Organized Brainstorming”

  1. George Browning on October 21st, 2007 10:52 am

    Thanks for the awesome write-up! One quick note: academic discounts to students and professors are available via our online store. The academic price for Curio Pro is just $69. Academic upgrades from Curio 3 are just $39. More info at

  2. Greg Casey on October 21st, 2007 10:55 am

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for the terrific review of Curio. I wanted to clarify for your readers that we DO offer academic discounts to students and teachers. So a college student can pick up the Pro version of Curio for only $69. Hopefully, that’s not too steep!

    Thanks again for the great write-up!!

    Best regards,

  3. Morgan on October 21st, 2007 12:06 pm

    I’m a Curio user – mainly for school.

    Definitely a great visual organizer program with many nice touches that I find “just work” when I need them.

    The flexibiity of the software and the ability to make each idea space have a “feel” to it, helps in the remembering of the content.

    One of the great features for me is linkback — I can embed and update Omnigraffle files very easily and as I use that program for the more detailed models, etc – it is a great fit.

    Curio 4 is a great update to Curio 3, which was already very good.

  4. soho on October 21st, 2007 12:36 pm

    There is a by far more useful (and less pricy) offering _for students_: It allows collaborative working on a mindmap without the limitation of being Mac-only.

    In my opinion, 69$ for a mind-mapping software cannot be targeted at students, when you consider the fact that people already might have Omnigraffle, and iWork ’08, which is quite another beast, costs the same.

    Contrary to the posters before, I’m NOT affiliated with the tool I write about

  5. jc on October 21st, 2007 1:56 pm

    What’s with the prices of these recent software releases? They are way too expensive for what they do. iWork cost $79, Leopard will cost $109 at Amazon, yet for these interesting yet tertiary applications reviewed here recently the prices seem steep for what they delver relative to Apple’s big software releases. $99 for a mind mapping application? c’mon. And being a Mac user, I’m not even all that price sensitive, but the price/value seem way out of whack for most of the recently reviewed application on MacApper lately. I can understand Photoshops prices and Office, but these other developers need to do a little more pricing work before launch.

  6. Morgan on October 21st, 2007 4:18 pm

    Just to clarify – I am not affiliated with the company in any way, other than being a use of the software.

    Also, mind mapping was introduced in version 4 (most recent version). It does to more than mindmapping, so I hope people don’t get the idea that it is a mind mapping only program.

    In Version 3, I typically would mind map in another program and paste those maps (with link back) into my Curio idea space that would contain various notes, maps, PDF files, etc. All placed together on a topic.

  7. DarylF2 on October 21st, 2007 5:19 pm

    I did a HUGE amount of research a while back to find my perfect organizationa;/research tool. I ended up with 3 main products…. I use Circus Ponies Notebook for temporary type stuff: ToDo lists, shopping lists, and quick notes, as well as “light” stuff like notes for games. I use DEVONthink Pro for more serious stuff that I want to keep long-term and that need to search and cross-reference (few programs are even in the same league as DEVONthink Pro when it comes to searching and cross-referencing). I use Curio Pro for brainstorming, prototyping, and general project development (I’m a software developer and do a lot of GUI and OpenGL graphics work). It's a shame that I couldn’t find one app to do it all, but I’m really happy with these three packages. All three are fast and stable, and have strengths that facilitate and simplify the specific set of tasks to which I put them.

    I also am playing with using iGTD as a task manager. Also, for really serious outlining I use OmniOutliner Pro and for serious flow-charting and similar object-based graphics I use OmniGraffle Pro.

    As far as cost, Curio isn’t cheap, but it is well worth the cost in my opinion. Remember that Apple is pretty much guaranteed HUGE sales of OS X, and can subsidize iLife and iWork prices to help push Macs. Small independent companies like Zengobi can’t do that.

    I’m not affiliated with any of these products except as a satisfied user.

  8. Curio: Organized Brainstorming | MacApper | on October 21st, 2007 6:39 pm

    [...] Curio: Organized Brainstorming | MacApper Curio's developers, Zengobi, Inc., did an excellent job of creating a functional mind mapping program while still letting the user be creative. Curio has several features that make it rise above other mind mapping apps. Curio allows you to create several “Idea Spaces in one window. An idea space is a blank page where you can build your maps, lists, etc. Curio allows you to Ëœpaint' your background with patterns and images such as cork-boards, paper, and even your desktop backgrounds. [...]

  9. Vic on October 22nd, 2007 3:13 am

    For those concerned about price, there are many web-based alternatives to MindMeister. These are the ones I know of:,,,,,,,,,

    Some are completely free, most are free if you keep your usage down to just a few maps, and have a subscription option for heavier use.

    The major thing about these is that they are OS-independent and make it much easier to share maps and collaborate than desktop software.

    The master list of mind mapping &
    information management software

  10. Jennifer Goddard on October 24th, 2007 9:35 am

    Is Curio for Mac only..

    I like using imindmap (java based so it works on macs and pc’s) but it is a bit slow for quick thinking.

    how long would it take to put a 5 page presentation together? anyone know?



  11. Vic on October 24th, 2007 10:39 am


    Curio is Mac only, yes.

    Hard to answer about how long for a 5 page presentation with no idea of the content.

    My rule of thumb for formal talks (not off-the-cuff) is at least 8 x the talk time to prepare the material, assuming I know it and there’s no research involved, plus rehearsal time. But that’s just me…

    The master list of mind mapping &
    information management software

  12. Cheryl on November 14th, 2007 7:31 am

    Happy to see the write-up on Curio (I’m just now downloading the new upgrade to v 4.1). The price is not cheap, but I’ve found it a great app — and I haven’t even used the mind-mapping much as yet.

    I use it for collecting bits, pieces, swatches, images, etc. on open or proposed projects. It’s very easy to add to and I get a fast overview of all my material. After having tried a good many solutions and looking at most of the others commonly mentioned, I found this worked best for me. Not affiliated; just a happy customer.

  13. Mike on November 14th, 2007 8:01 am

    Good write up for Curio – I am now using version 4.1. One thing to note is that this is not just a mind mapper. In my work I have to use Windows and use Microsoft’s OneNote product to help me with research, organise my notes and be a scratchpad when on endless conference calls.

    I was looking for a Mac equivalent for home. There are offerings like Circus Ponies and the like – but for me Curio ticked the right boxes – instant lists, snippets plus, of course, the mind mapping built in means that it is a one stop shop for my organisation needs but doesn’t limit me to just lists like some other products.

    I’m just one happy user of a damn useful tool for my Mac

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