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 different 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.