#52Tech Week 27– Centrallo

Here’s a new (very) app and webservice targetting the Evernote (possibly ex-Springpad) market.

Centrallo has the catchphrase of “Your Life Centralised”. I’m not yet convinced, but it certainly shows some promise for several functions I find useful as a writer.


Centrallo Introduction

Centrallo was earmarked in an email to me as the “next generation Evernote meets Dropbox”. It’s currently on soft-launch, so you can pick it up free from the iOS app store (coming to Android soon, I believe). The marketing department appears to have done a good job – there are several reviews appearing on the net recently:

  • Phonedog review – this reviewer takes a planner-organiser look at the app.
  • Mark Carrigan review – looks at using Centrallo as an Evernote alternative for Getting Things Done productivity hacks.

There are a couple of statements in the above reviews which I disagree with, particularly on the declaration that Centrallo has a better editor than Evernote – there are a couple of problems I’ve encountered here after using Centrallo’s iPAD app for two weeks now, which I’ll pinpoint below. But also, the reviewers do pick up on many great points about the app – including sharing, and the structural approach to lists.

So, what you’ll get below is not an organiser or planner viewpoint of Centrallo as it sits in current development, but that of a writer’s review. For writers in the planning or outlining stages of writing projects, Centrallo provides one particularly beneficial feature above Evernote, the tree structure.

Warning: because I remain an Evernote fan, there will also be some comparisons, especially as Centrallo is vying for that market. But there’s room on your iPad for both, so use them!

Centrallo0

Centrallo Features Comparison

This is a very early feature comparison, given Centrallo is only at version 1 at pre-launch.

centrallo icon
Centrallo

Evernote icon
Evernote

Environment:

  • iOS App (Android coming) – free
  • Webapp – free (requires account setup)
  • No desktop apps
  • Auto-Synchronisation between web and apps real-time.
  • Cloud storage
  • Logon identity – use email, Facebook, Twitter or Google+
  • All notes are accessible off-line through your mobile app (provided you have the storage capacity on the device)
Environment:

  • Mobile and tablet apps – free
  • Webapp – free (requires account setup)
  • Desktop apps (only Linux is not supported)
  • Auto-Synchronisation between web and apps real-time.
  • Cloud Storage, and store through desktop apps onto computer.
  • Logon identity – use email.
  • Premium users can nominate notebooks for offline access on mobile apps (provided you have the storage capacity on the device).
Storage and Plans:

  • Free plans only get 100MB of storage overall*
  • Refer friends to get 25MB added per referral
  • Premium plan for $5 per month raises storage overall to 1GB

 

 

*This is a real issue for me, as the addition of images or PDFs or using audio notes means I’m quickly filling my storage up.

Storage and Plans:

  • Free plans – upload up to 60MB of data per month, no limit overall on storage
  • Premium plans – upload per note = 100MB, with 1GB of uploads per month (can purchase additional if you go over for a month), no limit on overall storage.
  • Business Plans – 2GB upload per month.
  • Limits on amounts of notes or tags per account,but you can run multiple accounts also.
Interface, Structure and Sharing of Notes

  • The Centrallo webapp and iOS app look almost identical, with a clean white design.
  • The iOS app also has a black background design you can select.
  • Notes are saved into folders, created simply by dragging a note onto another one. The level of folders seems unlimited – I’ve got to six deep so far*
  • Individual notes  can be shared as public links through Facebook, Twitter or email.
  • Individual notes can also be shared to collaborators via an email address. Collaborators must have a Centrallo account, the note will appear in their inbox, and must be accepted or rejected. Collaborators have full access rights to the note, including editing, setting private, and deletion.
  • There is no auto-save on note content. I found this out accidentally by losing quite a lot of work. I had forgotten to press the “done” button before changing apps (It’s labelled “Save”on the webapp version).

*Viewing new notes can be a little jilted currently. After selecting a note from the left-hand note list, the view panel displays on the right. You then expect to be able to select another note from the same left-hand list, and have it’s contents refresh into the note view panel. Instead, you are taken back to the Centrallo initial notebook and notes list, and are forced to select the lists again.

 

Interface, Structure and Sharing of Notes

  • Evernote apps look different from platform to platform.
  • The iOS app has a choice of three background designs, and Premium users have another.
  • Notes are saved into notebooks. Notebooks can be collected into notebook “stacks” giving two levels of files.
  • Notebooks and individual notes can be shared as public links through to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and email addresses.
  • Premium users can also share to collaborators with owner options over what editing or view features the collaborators have over notes.
  • Auto-save on note data – you can leave or minimise apps without losing data.
Other Features:

  • Individual notes can be made private with a password. There is no check password, so make it correct.
  • Security features are applied to emails into the system – you can nominate email addresses you trust to send in notes from.
  • Prioritisation – notes can be prioritised by simply clicking on an !!! button. This copies them into a separate Priority folder where they can be put into an order.
  • Reminders – notes can have reminders set – date and time. But you will need to go into settings for these to work, as the default is to have no notification. A simple alarm message pops up at the time set.
  • Archive notes – notes can be archived. This does not delete them, but takes them out of view until you choose to turn “done” items on in search. The archived notes then appear with strikethrough titles. They can be edited etc even when archived, or made unarchived again.
  • Deleted notes appear in a trash folder you can find under general settings. They can be undeleted by unselecting the trashcan icon.
Other Features:

  • Text within a note can be encrypted with a password to access.
  • OCR technology reads images for text content, making the image notes searchable.
  • Security features include two-step authentication when accessing the account via a new mobile device.
  • Prioritisation and Tagging – there is no prioritisation function specifically inside EN, but you can setup your own Priority folder, or use a set of tags and filters to run a GTD system each day.
  • Reminders – notes can have reminders set. These notes then appear at the top of the notebook list. Alarms popup or you can have email notifications through to your inbox every day.
  • Deleted notes appear in a trash notebook. They can be restored to the relevant notebook folder with one click.
  • Info – EN provides the ability to set and search by tags. Webclipping originator links and location data can also be set against notes. These are found, alongside note change data, in the note info panel.
Getting Notes In:

  • Notes can be created via the text editors inside the webapp and mobile app.
  • Notes can also be emailed in via a special email address into your Centrallo account. These arrive in an “inbox” folder kept separate from the working folders.
  • The mobile IOS app also is integrated with you contacts list and Dropbox on the device. Inside a note in the Centrallo app, you can click on relevant icons for these, to insert links to particular files or contacts.
  • Rich text media contents include – images, links, PDFs and documents, videos, and there is a audio recorder function.
  • Note – larger images and PDFs etc appear in a note as an attachment line, which must be clicked to view.Smaller images do appear inline in the note. There is no way to delete these attachments once inserted, without deleting the entire note.
  • Notes with media are shown with various icons (file, camera) etc in the note lists. The first line inside the note is also supplied in the note list view.
Getting Notes In:

  • Notes can be created via the text editors inside the webapp and mobile app.
  • Notes can also be emailed in via a special email address into your Evernote account. These arrive in your default notebook (I’ve always called mine “inbox”) or via header text you can send the email directly to specific folders.
  • Evernote has many third party integrated apps for various methods of inputting and outputting notes.
  • Evernote also supplies browser addons for clipping portions or whole webpages into notes. There are many third party apps which supply webclipping functions* too.
  • Rich text media contents include – images, links, PDFs and documents, there are special cameras in mobile apps, and there is an audio recorder function, and integrated hardware such as scanners and pens to take document images as notes – these are read using OCR technology.
  • Images appear inline. Some EN apps also show PDFs inline with a PDF reader available. Images are annotable via the EN app – Scitch, with the functions now available through native EN apps. Premium users can also annotate PDF documents.
  • Inline images found inside notes also provide thumbnails for the various views possible for EN notebooks – you can view snippets, gallery (square) images, or simply titles.

* I believe webclippings are an important function for most writers looking for an overall notes database.

Text Editor:

  • Rich text notes can be created with bullets, numbered lists* italic, bold, or strikethrough. There is no font choice, but the webapp has an H1 or H2 selection box to create header text. (The iPad app does not, although does have specific Contacts or Dropbox buttons for link inputs).

* On the current iPAD version bullets and numbering are frustratingly buggy, with linewrap not working as a bullet, and bullet selections dropping down to the bottom of notes.

Text Editor:

  • Rich text notes can be created with bullets, numbered lists, checkboxes, italic, bold, strikethrough or underline. Font choices select from all your installed fonts. A highlighter and line function, plus tables.
  • EN supports notes created in Markdown in compatible apps.

Okay, My Verdict

Thumbnail gallery - click to enlarge.

Centrallo is at very early stages yet, and still has some UI and functional bugs to iron out. It’s storage capacity and plans do not make me particularly happy to use the system to centralise my overall life and work with either.

However, in using it over the last two weeks, I grew very much in love with the promise shown – that’s solely because of one feature – the structural tree-like organisation of notes into multiple levels of folders. I tested this out by making a Fictional Series Bible. I wanted to include everything from note templates, to multiple levels of various elements to track through the writing of a novel series.

My brain works in structured trees, possibly because that’s how Microsoft designed Windows Explorer. I like to be able to drop notes into lists and folders, and then have sub-folders and more, to categorise those sub-sections. Evernote allows for only one level of structure – the notebook stack, and forces me to arrange via tags or to create many more notebooks to cover my bases. Centrallo comes though with flying colours in allowing me some natural structure to my work efforts.

So, I give it a big three thumbs up. Take a look at my gallery of images, for a quick view of some of these elements.

 

Links:

Centrallo – this is a referral link, which will give me an extra 25MB of storage. Please gift me, as I will run out.

 


#52Tech: This was Week 27 post in the #52tech goal – to investigate and share one technology post once a week for 2014. You can find all the posts indexed via the #52tech tag, or top menu option at hunterswritings.com

2 thoughts on “#52Tech Week 27– Centrallo

  1. Hunter: I am an Evernote subscriber, but not a happy one. Regarding Centrallo, besides bugs, the biggest negative I see is the premium limited storage – total 1 GB vs. EN’s 1 GB / mo. Appreciate the details of your article.

    1. Alan- I’ve personally grown to love Centrallo. If you’re an Android user, you can use the promo code “androidheadlines” and receive 6 months of free premium storage. Thought I’d let you know in case you wanted to take another look at Centrallo & its storage capabilities. I’m an avid productivity app user and I’m really loving what Centrallo does.

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