Visual Tools for Thought (Curio, Milanote, Muse)

Hi I am new to Mac and trying to find an effective workflow. I plan to use Roam/Obsidian for knowledge management, but I’d like to lay out all the pieces to analyze before commuting the knowledge. I have looked into a few visual note taking softwares like Milanote, Muse, and Curio. Does anyone here have any suggestions or experience with these or other more visual apps?

The only one I have any experience from is iThoughts, I find using mind maps useful.


First, there is pen and paper, or a white board. These are underrated in my opinion.

One you didn’t mention is Literature and Latte’s Scapple. It’s simple and it doesn’t give you a lot of opportunity to be distracted by “fiddling” with it. It is fairly inexpensive.

Another is Cmap. It is free, and again, doesn’t have so many things to distract you.

Also, and you may already know, there is a difference between concept mapping and mind mapping. Concept mapping is more free form (this is my preference, and both the tools I mentioned above do this), while mind mapping is more hierarchical and has a very outline-like feel.

Edit: lots of good documentation on the Cmap site.

theory of concept maps


There’s another concept mapping app that I really enjoy – but it is clearly abandonware. Even so, it still works perfectly well on Catalina: Delineato Pro

Delineato is also available on iPad – one of the few cross-platform concept mapping apps I am aware of that doesn’t depend on storing your data on someone’s website.

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I did not know the difference! Thanks for informing me. I’ll definitely look into it more. I was debating the Scrienver and Scrapple combo since it seems so highly rated. But I was worried it might be too “writing based” which is what I planned to use obsidian for.

I think I wanted something a bit more flexible? Like Milanote you can add checklists, all kinds of documents, and access from the web. Muse is super interesting and flexible- with the ability to read and bookmark PDFs in the app (and it saves your page). But it doesn’t have a Mac nor mobile app.

Definitely have a look at Curio then. I’ve used it for several years, not for concept maps, but to create figures to show my advisor when we meet. It is so much more capable than what I use it for.

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It doesn’t seem to have s a mobile app. How do you get things from your phone in there? Also the forms seem pretty dead, do you know if they have a more active community on a different platform?

You’re right there is no mobile app. You might find how people work around that on the forum.

The forum is linked below. Is that where you looked?

I think Muse is a great app and the one I’d pick of those you listed.

Like some of my favorite apps (cough, Tinderbox, cough), it claims a platform (in this case iPad) and very thoughtfully works within it to get out of the way and help you think. You may want to consider claiming a suite of thinking tools instead of a one-stop-shop or silver bullet approach.

Speaking for myself, I need a white board for some thoughts, paper for others (sometimes lined and fancy enough for a fountain pen, other times blank and ready for a Sharpie). Sometimes the iPad is exactly what I need, other times it’s my laptop or my laptop with an extra monitor. There are even times when my phone or watch is just the thing I need in the moment. And then there are many, many times that get lost in a thought or moment or distraction.

IMO the “second brain” marketing/movement is making us all a little crazy. It makes it seem like if we don’t have everything we’ve ever consumed or thought captured in a single system, we’ll regret it later. The truth is that companies benefit from our information stored in their systems. And regret/grief/losing things is a part of life.

My litmus is this: am I enjoying myself while I’m using the tool? Do I feel I’m getting better at something or becoming/being more of myself in someway? If so, I dive in. I agree with @JohnAtl that more often than not, that’s a piece of paper or whiteboard.

Disclaimer: Ooh, “DEL-I-NEAT-O!” Shiny new tool! Click click.


You may have seen macosxguru’s comments on Curio

2019 Review

Zengobi Curio - Note Taking, Mind Mapping, Brainstorming was updated to version 13. Including the goodness of MultiMarkdown it is an application which gets used all the time. Whenever I have to think things through, Curio is the application I go to. It has all the tools to help me make sense of the topic I am wrestling with. A unique tool to help me think.

Favorite Mac Applications for 2017

I live in Curio. I use it whenever I have to think things through. I use it when I find myself stuck. I start thinking in it, and having no clue where I am going I start putting the random thoughts in my mind in to Curio. Over time, the picture clarifies and if I am lucky, a path comes out of this exercise. There are times when I am not stuck but it is just the opposite, I have too many ideas. It is as harmful to my productivity. I use Curio to show me the way. I start writing in it, I don’t think too much, I use the tools to get into Curio the random ideas in my head. The act of writing them down in Curio, clarifies them, simplifies them, helps me break it down to the essence and that gets my mind sorted out and gives me direction and clarity.

Curio is better than a mind map solution like MindNode or iThoughtsX because it does more. It doesn’t restrict me to mind maps only, it gives me tools like lists, tables, index cards and others to fit my thinking into. That makes the process easier for me. I can make lists in Curio, I can make mind maps in Curio. Sometimes what I am thinking about is better handled by a table. No problem. Curio does that for me. I love Curio.

Curio Helps You Think Things Through

If you are a person who is producing content. Any content. If you feel that your content can be improved by thinking things through, you should try out Curio. It has all the tools necessary to help you in the process of thinking, producing and managing your content related workflow.

The developer makes the following claim about Curio:

The key point is that everything related to your project is stored, managed, and tracked within a single project file using a single, well-integrated application. You’re not juggling a mess of files scattered about your hard disk with a disparate suite of apps.

Curio delivers. It helps you manage your projects. It also helps you be more creative, more incisive, more efficient in the production of the content which is the central component of your project management. I have just started scratching the surface of this product and I am excited by the potential it shows.


I am excited by Curio. I recommend it heartily.

I’m trialling it to see if it can help with visual thinking.


Curio’s use of the term “Idea Space” is spot on.
An underrated and underutilized app (including by myself), in my opinion.

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Curio 14 is out and has a number of feature additions.

Year after year I am gratified to see the feature expansion in Curio – meaningful new things, not tweaky eye candy and chrome. Curio comes about from the efforts of one person – George Browning – who talks with, listens to, and gives priority to customer requests and suggestions.


I too am a big fan of Curio. Been spoiled with the flexibility (when I try to experiment with Notion and other note taking options, I seem to always come back to Curio). Nothing else quite like it out there (OneNote is the closest but it pales in comparison).

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Might not meet all of the OP’s original requirements, but I’m lazily beta-testing Project Meta. I say lazily because (last time I checked) it works best in Chrome or Edge, which requires me to fire up my MacBook, which doesn’t happen very often. But it’s already very functional, under active development, moving at a clip, and could be a really valuable addition to a knowledge management / research / note-taking toolset if you need something more visual.


This looks really cool, thanks for sharing!

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The description of Meta looks very interesting.

I am curious about their specific requirement for a “laptop” computer. Is that because their GUI works better with a trackpad than a mouse? Can you use a desktop Mac with a magic trackpad? I am struggling to figure out any other reason why software would work only with a Mac laptop and not a Mac desktop.

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Just got a message on Discord from EthanW confirming that desktops are fine.