Creative Tools 2011: Curation

January 25, 2011

In my creative tools series two years ago, I had a post about my backend tools. (Stop snickering!) The focus of the post was the tools that assist in creative work, but don’t do the heavy lifting of production itself. This year, I’ve gone with a much more glamorous, and much more tweetable, name: Curation.

Besides the glamour factor, the term curation also serves to focus this post more on a specific set of tools for creation. These are the tools where thoughts and ideas are born, captured, or given room to take shape. These are the tools I use to engage with the ideas of others. These are Mac and iOS apps — there will be more iOS apps in this list since the iPad is an especially ideal tool for the curation stage of creative work. I use all of these weekly, many of them of daily, and some of them hourly. They are listed in order of how much use they get in my creative process. I will write briefly about each, with a link to previous mentions for those of you who have equal amounts of curiosity and free time.

OmniFocus (Mac, iPhone and iPad)
previous mentions →
I’m managing more projects for different purposes than I ever have before and OmniFocus is the able protector of it all. This is the hub of everything, as each project is broken down into tasks and contexts for where they need to happen. The iPad app has been a nice addition this past year, though I still spend most of my OmniFocus time on the Mac.

LaunchBar (Mac)
previous mentions →
Perhaps LaunchBar is best categorized as a utility, but it is the most essential tool in my capture process. Within 2-3 keystrokes, I can be capturing a task into OmniFocus, an idea into Notational Velocity, or a project related note into Yojimbo. After pressing return, my focus is back to whatever I was working on.

NVAlt (Mac) and Simplenote (iPhone and iPad)
previous mentions →
This splendid two headed monster has been the most significant addition to my workflow in the past year. The simple structure and instant sync to all devices mean that most text based notes and content have moved from Yojimbo to this platform. I often use it for drafting content, which is how I’m using it to capture these thoughts.

Yojimbo (Mac and iPad)
previous mentions →
Yojimbo moved both forward and backward in my workflow this year. Moving most text related notes into Simplenote meant that I’m not using Yojimbo for quite as much, but the iPad app means that I can at least reference my Yojimbo notes anywhere. I think I’m one of the few remaining hold outs from moving to Evernote, if only because Yojimbo archives webpages better than Evernote, and that’s critical for how I use it.

Instapaper (iPhone and iPad)
previous mentions →
If I see something that looks interesting to read and it’s more than a few hundred words, it’s going to go into Instapaper. There, I can give it more attention when the time is right.

Kindle (some iPhone, mostly iPad)
previous mentions →
I’ve become an ebook junkie, and 90% of the books I read are on the Kindle app on the iPad, and in small bits on the iPhone. I prefer it over the iBooks app because of the ability to capture my notes from the Amazon website, and out of a desire to keep my library consolidated as much as possible in one place.

Logos (Mac, iPhone, iPad)
previous mentions →
My Bible software of choice, and 2010 was a big year as the Mac version finally caught up to the same version as Windows. Though I primarily use it on the Mac, I’m still amazed at the shelves and shelves of reference available to me at any time on my iPad.

PlainText (iPhone, iPad)
previous mentions →My primary use for PlainText is Scrivener extended. Any new project that I create in Scrivener immediately gets synced to the PlainText folder on my Dropbox, so I can capture ideas or review notes in there at any time. I hoped for an iPad version of Scrivener the day the iPad was introduced, but with PlainText sync, I wouldn’t need it.

Reeder (Mac, iPhone, iPad)
No previous mentions! (gasp)
While RSS has been proclaimed dead by some, Reeder renewed my interest in keeping up with RSS this year. It is beautiful, syncs perfectly with Google Reader, and makes it easier to scan for what I do, and don’t, want to read than any other reader I’ve used.

Streaks (iPhone)
previous mention →
Ever since I wrote about streaks a few weeks ago, it’s been an addictive little app to help me track and reflect on my rhythms. It’s helpful to see how my rhythms take shape on a week to week basis. Still hoping for an iPad version…


Most anything I produce, whether it be a website, a writing, or a presentation of some kind, is going to make its way through the apps listed above. (And thankfully for you, there are a lot of ideas that never make it out of these tools.) The final product, though, will be honed for public consumption in the creation/production tools, which I’ll write about in the next post.

Latest Posts