Questionable: How Do You Do Brainstorming on the Computer?

Michelle asked:
“Tech geek question, but what program did you use to make the schematic?”

Zengobi’s Curio.  HUGE fan of Curio, I use it constantly.  Unfortunately only for Mac and not yet on the iPad.  Must go harass them about that.  Curio does ten thousand things, and the website does a good job of telling you all about them.  I use it for about as many things, but when it comes to writing, I have two Curio files for each book: Notes and Collage (aka Visual Notes).  

The notes are the big deal.  I doodle on graph paper, but when I get any kind of grasp at all, I go to Curio because I can type in notes and then move them around (huge failing for graph paper).  Plus I can color code them, change the colors with a click, add photos and drawings and anything else I can drag and drop on a computer.  And all my notes are in one place, like a huge file folder of goodness:

See that list to the left?  That’s my list of sections: First Act, Second Act, Character Arcs, etc.  See the little gray triangles to the left of the list?  If I drag a page on top of another page, they stack:  Look at the fifth one down; see how there are six pages under that?  When I click that arrow, they fold up into the top page so I don’t have to scroll through dozens of pages and I can keep similar pages together.  Then look at the top of the window to the right:  See that square with the arrow pointing up that’s labeled “Share”?  If I click on that, it gives me the option to export either a single page as Text, RTF, HTML, Image, or PDF, OR to print or mail it.  If I pick Image, it gives me the choice of JPG, PNG, or PDF.  And I can also choose to export the whole magillah as any of those, so I could have PDF of the entire project.  And the choices within the program are vast and varied.  Any color, and font that’s on my computer, any line width, it’s all customizable.  There’s even a graph paper background (be still my heart) that you can customize so that the graph is any spacing in any color, with snapping or without.  

After that, the collage is easy.  I manipulate the images in Acorn because Curio isn’t a graphics program, but then I usually drop them into Curio because it organizes everything for me, so instead of having pieces of collage all over my hard drive, they’re all in one Curio Folder:

It’s a shame it’s only for Macs, but if you have a Mac, you really should invest.  It’s second only to Word in my Essential Programs list (and Acorn pretty much comes right after that as a great, cheap, easy graphics program).


17 thoughts on “Questionable: How Do You Do Brainstorming on the Computer?

  1. It’s a shame I don’t use a Mac because Curio looks handy.

    Off topic but since this is kinda a Questionable spot, I have a completely different question.

    I run across this phrase occasionally and it annoys me because it doesn’t make sense.

    We, all of us, are …

    Why not say – All of us are …

    What is the reason for the first way of saying it? I’m assuming that the second is bad grammar but I have no idea why.

    1. It’s a way of emphasis. “We” does mean “all of us,” but its very common usage. So if you say, “We agree on this,” it’s a simple statement. If you say, “We, all of us, agree on this,” you’re emphasizing that it was important decision that you all agreed on. There’s nothing wrong with “All of us are” except that it’s the worst of both worlds: common if awkward phrasing and no emphasis until you really hit “ALL” hard.

  2. I don’t need this yet for my writing (I’m still trying to get started, and am enjoying having Scrivener to organize my research on all kinds of subjects, not just writing projects). But what I’d love, for when I have a garden again, is software for iPad or Mac that would let me note down detailed planting layouts. I need to be able to make a template for each bed (probably rectangular, but option for curves would be good), and then plot plant positions on it, by adding plant names. I want to save each year’s planting scheme, for future reference when captioning my photographs.

    It’s time-consuming to do this by hand. Does anyone know of a solution? Preferably inexpensive and easy to learn. (I could use InDesign, but since Adobe stopped supporting Creative Suite, I’m on borrowed time with that; I don’t think I can afford it via Creative Cloud.)

      1. Thank you for looking; but I need something simpler and more customizable than normal garden planning software. I want to add the correct names of the varieties I’m growing on a simple plan. I can visualize the 3D effect myself. I also want to draw the actual shape of each bed to scale, and make the plant names larger/smaller to indicate how much space they occupy (or put them inside scaleable shapes).

        1. You need a graphics program then. I think the learning curve on Gimp is not fast, but it’s free and people seem to like it.

  3. Way off topic, but seeing your collage again made me want to ask: the placeholder for Nita–Aubrey Plaza? We’re (finally) watching Parks & Rec and she cracks me up.

    1. Yep. I like her because no matter what she’s in, she’s strong. (Have you seen her in Legion? Amazing.)

  4. Yay! I use a Mac!

    Thank you for the software info and for the incredible detail on how you use it.

    I went to an executive functioning workshop several months ago. I know that sounds like some sort of business conference, but executive function actually refers to our abilities to organize, prioritize, break projects down into manageable pieces, manage time, etc. Everybody has some issues with executive functioning, but people with autism, ADHD, and the like tend to have significant deficits in one or more executive functioning areas.

    The conference was amazing and I think it could be a game-changer for my family if I could find the time/focus to unravel it from my brain and implement the strategies.

    One of the takeaways was that I struggle with what they called episodic future memory. Most people do sort of a mental dress rehearsal before they do something, but it’s so automatic and happens so fast that we’re not conscious of it. I can do the dress rehearsal part if the thing I’m going to do is familiar to me, but draw a complete blank if it’s something I’ve never done or experienced before.

    They likened it to the difference between understanding what a wedding is and being able to describe a wedding you’ve been to in person. The definition of a wedding – the union of two people or exchange of vows or whatever that is – doesn’t tell you what to wear or what you might experience there.

    There are all kinds of implications to explore here, but I realize this is an area of intense interest for me and my purpose here isn’t to bore you with it. No, really, it’s not.

    What I’m trying to say is that Curio, with all its bells and whistles, would do me no good without a visual idea of what I could do with it. With your pictures and detailed description, you opened a world of possibility for me. Thank you.

    1. This is really me. I mean, I have a good imagination. If I attended a Korean wedding reception, I could easily imagine how to fight off a zombie hoard, with my limited knowledge of Korean ornamental hair dealies (surely some guests would be wearing something useful!), but I may not know how to get through the equivalent of the soup course. (I can imagine spilling something on myself.) I don’t have the imagination for *practical* things like that. I also can’t visualize space very well, so I couldn’t put up a brand new system of shelving — I could copy an existing system, but I can’t create it.

      Luckily, the internet puts me in touch with people can do these things, so it’s a matter of copying, or sometimes if I’m particularly brilliant, re-combining existing systems to take advantage of the best of both (and to discover new and brilliant ways to not-organize my stuff, LOL).

    2. Man, I’d love a workshop like that, and I totally relate to the obstacles in implementation.

  5. I don’t know if anyone else mentioned it & it’s just me being nitpicky but on the last line of the blurb, it should be loose instead of lose.


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