Looking for an Evernote alternative? Centrallo might be what you’re looking for

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about why I think Evernote is overrated. Since then I’ve been looking for alternatives and I think I’ve finally found one. Centrallo is an initially slightly confusing hybrid between a Getting Things Done orientated task manager and an outliner application. I was initially a bit baffled by it but within twenty minutes I rapidly understood why this combination is so powerful. Centrallo has an inbox, displayed below, into which all ‘inputs’ are immediately placed. It’s possible to send things to the inbox via e-mail. This is a feature I was sceptical of when Omnifocus introduced it but I’ve come to rely on it. Unless I’m using Omnifocus on the iPad (my favourite device for it) I tend to just send everything via e-mail (which because of autocomplete means simply typing ‘of’) and sort it out later. It’s particularly useful when clearing your inbox, allowing you to forward things that need to be addressed, rather than switching to a photodifferent app and manually adding a note. I could imagine using the e-mail to inbox feature a lot as I get used to using Centrallo. I’ve been obsessed for years with recording every potentially interesting or useful thought I have (with many of them being deleted later but when I’ve had chance to reflect on it). This is what ‘inbox’ functionality is perfect for. You quickly record it and you know that it’s going to be there for you to come back to later.

The basic form of input to Centrallo are rich text notes. The editor isn’t perfect but it’s already better than Evernote. It also allows images, reminders and voice notes to be attached to any particular note. These can also be shared on social media, integration with which is another pleasing feature of Centrallo. I like the fact that my account uses my google ID rather than being another name and password which i have to remember.

Notes from the inbox are then filed away in the ‘lists’ section, either on their own or as part of a hierarchy. Notes can also be marked priorities (“!!!” in the image above) which leaves them accessible through a distinct section of the interface. The ensuing taxonomies make much more sense to me than Evernote stacks. I’m not entirely sure why this is but Centrallo feels like piling up notes in precisely the way I do with paper I have to organise. Whereas Evernote felt like I was trying to create a structure to reflect how I think but they never quite matched. Part of this intuitive feel, once you get past the initial confusion, comes from the interface. It’s a very smooth quintessentially iOS7 experience, which begrudgingly I’m starting to like even if it did break my iPad, as opposed to the extraordinarily clunky interface in Evernote. Even though iOS7 was an improvement, I always found using Evernote a chore. Not least of all because of the absurdly unreliable synching process. Again, the synch in Centrallo isn’t perfect but it’s a big improvement on Evernote. It’s aspiring to the kind of frictionless synching which Omnifocus has mastered, in which the process is so smooth that you never have to think about the fact the devices are synching.

I’ve only been using Centrallo for a few days but I’m already impressed. It’s obviously a very early version of the app but it seems extremely promising. It meets precisely the need that Evernote purported to but didn’t (at least for me): somewhere to store information and lists that aren’t related to specific tasks. So I have writing plans, project plans, funding bid plans and similar things in there, as well as mailing lists and logistical info for upcoming events. Potential ideas for the future and outlines of upcoming projects which will feed into specific actionable tasks but do not do so yet. These are the sorts of things that cluttered up Omnifocus when I used it to store them but that I never really get used to trusting Evernote with. In short, it’s an early version but if you’re dissatisfied with Evernote then I’d really recommend trying Centrallo.

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39 Comments

  1. What about the web page clipping capabilities? What about the search capabilities? What about the capabilities to attach various types of documents? Storage size is pathetic. What about the seamless interface with other apps? These are the kind of issues that really distinguish Evernote from the competition. I am not an Evernote evangelist or a so-called Evernote Ambassador, so I have no ax to grind.
    If you just need a glorified listing app Centrallo may be good for you. But comparing Centrallo with EN is like comparing apples with horses.

  2. Mark. Finally, there is another solution. Really appreciate you finding this app. I have been playing with it and it seems like such a simpler organizer than Evernote. Evernote has loyal users who know nothing else so Peter above seems like a natural hater. I used to be a user and I thought they have lost their way. Selling moleskins? Really? What do they want to be? I will test Centrallo as much as possible and get back to you with feedback. Centrallo interface looks cool on my iPhone.

  3. No I am not an evangelist, just a user. But I am always on the lookout for something better, that’s true. However, I am realistic too, and always try to compare like with like.

    1. But I don’t understand why you don’t see like with like – Centrallo is a lighter weight version of Evernote that has an inbox.

  4. By the way I agree that there are a number of aspects where EN is clunky, to say the least, but show me an app that is not. one thing i have learned in life: nothing is perfect. One can improve it but it will never be perfect. Your 5 points are minor compared to what EN has to offer overall. In fact, if you would want to come up with some real alternatives I would expect you to quote OneNote, or Springpad, or …. who are serious contenders for EN, but not an app that just makes sophisticated lists.

    1. I dislike Springpad even more than evernote! I loved OneNote when I used a PC but haven’t been impressed with the Mac version.

      I find you weirdly belligerent given the subject matter. Are you sure you’re not an evangelist?

  5. Robert – I like it! Perhaps Peter is right that it’s not a direct comparison with Evernote, though the idea it’s just a “glorified listing app” is silly.

  6. Peter. I wanted to respond to your comments as I am a co-founder of Centrallo. To begin, Centrallo is much more than a list app. Centrallo is a place to centralize yourself. Lists within lists within lists is one component, but we built the app because we simply needed a better place to organize, centralize, prioritize, share and search important information. Spend a few days playing with Centrallo and take a serious look.

    To address your comments directly:

    1) Web page clipping is in development. Will be released in a few months.

    2) Unlike Evernote, ALL text in Centrallo is tagged and searchable. Search results are categorized into Active, Archived & Deleted. (Archived means searchable but not displayed – for example a class list that you never need until you need it).

    3) Adding rich content is a snap. Easy to add photos, videos, Dropbox links, web links, contacts, reminders, documents and more.

    4) Storage size seems appropriate for now as every registered referral gets you 25MB of storage for life. So refer away!

    5) No seamless interface yet with other apps, but give us a break, we have not even officially launched!

    A key benefit that’s definitely worth checking out is the ability to share lists with anyone. Invite anyone to share (for free), once they accept your invitation, the list magically appears on their device – including photos, videos, etc. – which by the way does not count against your 100MB account quota. And you do not need a premium account to share, edit, modify shared lists.

    How much time have you really spent on Centrallo? Give it a chance.

    We don’t want to be Evernote, Springpad, Wunderlist, Any.do, Omnifocus or OneNote. These fine apps solve certain challenges.

    Centrallo helps people centralize, organize, prioritize, share and search information, anytime – anywhere – from any device (native Android coming soon)!

  7. Mark,

    Love this alternative. Thank you for writing on it. Looks great on my iPad. Hear they’re launching Android version early June– very excited to have my lists synched up on my Android phone and iPad all at once come June. Thanks again– this is a great find.

  8. Michael, thanks for your detailed reply. Interesting to see Centrallo will be more than a listing app. As the new kid in town it will have to offer things that people need but that the other apps don’t have. I would also be interested, in principle. What is important is the ability to import data from another app, in my case Evernote. But an even bigger issue is storage space. My EN database is currently 700 Mb, which is close to your premium limit. I would definitely not run 2 apps side by side as I want to have everything under 1 roof. But that’s just me.
    If EN is your benchmark then there are certainly a number of things Centrallo could offer that EN offers; you mention tagging text. In EN it is actually possible to tag text, but it is a feature not many people know about & it is not refined enough for some. But there are many others, as you can find out from the various forums there are.
    I understand Centrallo is a start-up, like EN once was, so you need time. But the way Mark presents the app is like it is a glorified listing app, at least that’s how I perceived it. Perhaps it is useful to coordinate with him what he says about it, and make clear also that it is in alpha or beta stage only. Just a thought. And your website does not give much info either, so one has to go ahead & sign up to find out about it at this stage.
    You mention En together with the likes of Wunderlist & AnyDo, which is a misconception because those are just task management/to do list apps, whilst EN is definitely more than that.
    One last point: I am NOT Phil Libin in disguise, I would not even want to. And I am open to a new app that competes with EN, that’s only healthy. But it has to be realy good for me with my 1000-odd notes (never mind those with tens of thousands) to make the move, if people like me are also part of your target group.

    @Mark: no I am not an evangelist & hope you are not afraid of some lively counter arguments, which are not intended to be belligerent but stimulating instead. I hope you can cope with that.

    1. I think an interesting aspect underlying this debate is the very different uses to which these apps can be put. I couldn’t imagine having 1000 odd notes in anything because I use Omnifocus for anything that is connected to actionable tasks, google drive for documents I am working on or have worked on and Zotero for academic papers. Perhaps I should have titled the original post ‘5 reasons why Evernote is overrated if you use it for the sorts of purpose I’ve been trying to use it for’ :p

  9. OK Mark, I understand your point of view now. Let’s leave it at this. I will not hassle you any longer. I will keep abreast of Centrallo developments, who knows what that will lead (me) to.
    In any case thanks for your patience & sorry if I seemed a bit abrasive, that was not my intention at all.

  10. Mark.

    sorry I am late to the party, but because of your post, I discovered Centrallo and as a expat Springpad user I truly like what I see and I am going to use it, but it would have been nice to have a post from you (who have used it a couple of months more) one some “how to’s” in Centrallo, because the free form is a bit confusing for many people.

  11. I have to disagree with most of the cons that you mention in your writing about Evernote. I do understand that this was based on your experience…but I have never had an issue with syncing Evernote since June 2012 and I run Evernote on 4 devices and online. Maybe Evernote was just way more than you needed and that is perfectly fine but I don’t see where it would cause for a bad review of Evernote as to the features that may be more advanced than you need. Centrallo looks like a good program for what it is but much more basic than Evernote. I plan to delve into Centrallo but I won’t compare apples to oranges…I would like to be able to offer it as a suggestion for those looking for just such a program. Thank you for your personal review.

  12. I think critic of Evernote has to do with how your brain organise things, the interface simply does not work for everybody. EN is wrong for me whoa re strongly visual, and I don’t intend to go back after Springpads demise, i actually think I am going to ask them to delete the entire account some time this year. Centrallo came in the right moment, and I think this could be it for a couple of things I used Springpad for.

    1. I updated to Omnifocus 2 and now find this is much more effective for storing the things I was using Centrallo for! I really like Centrallo but would much rather use 1 app than 2 and I’m pretty reliant on OF at this point…

  13. After Springpads demise I have Keeeb and Memit for Content Curation and Centrallo for ToDo and Task Management, I will keep an eye on Mammoth as well. I think Centrallo have come very far, I mean they have not officially launched yet. For me it is all about Clicking with the interface to get things done, not always features. If that had been the case I would still have used Evernote. Memit are aiming for “Everything under one Roof concept” that Springpad had, and I am quite excited about the relaunch of the application in August.

  14. Memit is great now, but when the fuchsia disappears and the new interface/smart phone apps comes it will be a behemoth. ❤

  15. Mark. New updates coming for Centrallo including location based reminders. Feedback has been helpful and your followers have a lot of it. Thank you again for comparing us to Evernote. We are different and a more modern solution. Sync is working great. App is getting better with age.

    1. I might have another go, I’ve cycled through a whole series of other apps since I last spoke to you, some might say I have a problem….

      1. Sounds good. We have our third update coming to the App Store first week of September and a soft launch of our Android beta version. Making improvements to the web experience as well, and finally we have a mobile self-publishing feature that is growing in popularity. This is where you can publish a list containing videos, photos, voice notes, PowerPoint slides, Dropbox links etc together in one URL that can be shared with anyone and password protected at your option. Newest update also has a wizard to help get you going on key functionality of Centrallo. Definitely a better, more modern Evernote – and then some. Feedback based on new user comments and not just my opinion. Looking forward to reading what you think.

      2. Mark. Have you had the chance to give Centrallo another go? This month we are releasing global location based reminders, mobile self-publishing private links and more.

  16. Mark– strongly encourage you to give Centrallo another go… I’ve recently gotten a handful of family & friends on board, and it’s helping everyone from co-workers to moms to kids prioritize and centralize. Quite a few were previous Springpad users and, as Hildegerd mentioned, they have come to really enjoy it for their ToDo’s as well as Content Curation. I now share numerous lists and collaborate on things with both work and personal using Centrallo. Excited to see even more with the updates…

  17. Mark, What do you think of the security of Centrallo? I am looking for a secure version of Evernote, I used to use Dropbox, but now use Tresorit, its a little more limited in functionality but at least I feel comfortable that people aren’t in “my business”

  18. Mark
    sorry about earlier it just posted I don’t know how to unpost, Anyway I wanted to ask if you know anything about Centrallo data security. I dropped dropbox because I know that if someone wanted to see my stuff, they could, so I am now using tresorit. I feel evernote is wishy washy with security, what are your thoughts on Cetrallo? Do they do any encryption?

  19. Mark- lot’s of updates to Centrallo since they officially launched last week. I’ve been a pretty big fan from early on and had the pleasure of testing their beta several months ago. Centrallo has only seemed to get better and improve since then. Would love to see your thoughts on the latest version. I’m a bit of an avid productivity app follower / tester, and love hearing what others find as organization pros / cons.

  20. I came across this wonderful application about two weeks ago and instantly loved it.I migrated all my to do lists etc over from various sources and thought to myself finally I have found something that does what I need it to do. Today I noticed aa redbar at the bottom corner of the webpage interface … and I would seem I am 116 “notes” over my 100 limit ….. essentially making this great solution useless, and its not obvious if this problem could be solved by upgrading … dissapointing

    1. Brian. Free notes are part of the new Centrallo model. Every account will come with 100 free notes and 1GB of free storage. As a user gets closer to their 100 note limit, emails will be sent prompting them to simply upgrade for $5 per month or $45 per year for unlimited notes, or better yet to refer friends to join. B as each referral joins, the user will get 50 free notes. No limits there. When 10 referrals join, user gets a free year of Premium unlimited.

      That said, apologies for the inconvenience. We are upgrading you today to a free Premium unlimited note account.

  21. I like the GTD apps,been using these apps for years, I can say it is promising as GTD app, but it’s great as note taking app, hope to give .edu accounts a special premium update like Dropbox was once offering.

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