Bonnie Cha

Organization Apps for the Visual Thinker

To many people, a messy desk represents complete chaos. But another school of thought believes that a messy desk is a sign of genius: Every piece of paper is right where it’s supposed to be, and every scribbling on a Post-it note makes some kind of sense. To some, the visual approach with objects in front of you is a more effective way of organizing thoughts and projects.

That’s the goal of two mobile productivity apps I checked out this week, called Grid by Binary Thumb and Corkulous Pro by Appigo. Both apps allow you to organize projects and plans by gathering all your notes, lists, photos and more, in one central place. I used them to plan trips and home-improvement projects, and it was nice to be able to see everything at a glance. I liked Grid more for its neater presentation. But both are limited in the types of services and apps with which they integrate.

Grid provides a blank grid for organizing ideas and projects. You can create anything from a simple to-do list to something more complex, like a storyboard for that graphic novel you’ve been meaning to write. There’s also a collaboration feature, so you can share your grids with others and work on them together. But it does require that the other person use the Grid app, too.

The app is free, but it’s only available for the iPhone and iPad right now. The company is looking at launching a desktop and Android version. One other thing to note is that if you want the ability to share grids, you need to sign up for an account.

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After you install the app, Grid immediately launches into a quick tutorial, walking you through the steps of creating a grid. It took me a couple of practice runs to nail down the actions, but after that it was a breeze.

To start, you tap on a square, and then you can drag your finger to select adjacent squares until you’ve created whatever size block you want. Once you’ve done that, you swipe up to select what type of content you want to add to that block. You have four options: Text, photo, contact or map.

If you ever want to resize or edit content, all you have to do is tap on the desired block and repeat the moves mentioned above. You can also reposition an entire block by doing a long press and then dragging it over to a blank spot on your grid.

I created several different grids during my week with the app, including one to help plan activities for my brother’s visit to San Francisco and one to plot out some interior decorating projects.


Overall, I found Grid offered a neat and graphical way to organize all my ideas. For my brother’s trip, I created various columns, such as places to visit and places to eat and drink, and filled them with maps, images and notes.

Using the “Share Via Email” feature, I invited brother to take a look at the grid and add his own ideas, which worked well. Whenever I had the grid opened and he joined in, I got a notification saying so, and I could see him making additions in real time.

All that being said, the app has some limitations right now. For one, it would be great if Grid could integrate with the Web. As it is, it was a pain to have to look up a restaurant on my iPad’s Safari browser, copy information from the website, and then paste it into Grid.

Also, while the app pulls mapping data from Apple Maps, it only surfaces results for cities, major landmarks and specific addresses. You can’t search for a business just by name. For example, when I typed in, “Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, CA,” I got a message saying, “We couldn’t find anything at that location. Give it another try?”

Grid is relatively new (it launched on July 18), and the company says it plans to continuing updating it with new features, including more integration with other services and apps.

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The idea behind Corkulous is very similar to Grid, and it also is an iOS-only app. There’s a free version and a Pro version for $4.99 that gives you an unlimited amount of boards, passcode protection and sharing features via Dropbox or iCloud. For my tests, I used the Pro version.

With Corkulous, rather than plotting your ideas on a grid, you do so on a digital corkboard. The user interface is simpler, but the presentation isn’t as neat as it is on Grid.

In the bottom left-hand corner, there’s a file cabinet that you can tap on to access all your various tools for pinning items to your board. You can add Post-it notes, index cards, checklists, photos, contact cards and more just by dragging the item from the file cabinet to the board.

I created the same projects that I did in Grid in Corkulous, but the process was more cumbersome. For example, to increase the font size, you have to continuously press an arrow button, whereas Grid provides you with an easy dial. Also, without having that grid layout to guide me, I was constantly dragging items around my boards to line them up under the right columns or to make room for other things.

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Also, Corkulous’s integration with other services and apps is even more limited than Grid’s. You can only add photos, so if you want maps, you have to take a screenshot first and then import it to your photo gallery. The company told me they are exploring the possibility of adding more support for other apps.

With Corkulous Pro, you can sync your boards across all your devices via iCloud or Dropbox. I do like that you can share boards via email as a PDF or JPEG, so your recipient doesn’t have to install the app to view them. But if you want others to be able to collaborate on your boards, they will need to download the Pro version.

If you think better in visuals, and the traditional note-taking and to-do-list apps aren’t cutting it for you, Grid and Corkulous Pro are good alternatives. But Grid is the better app, with a cleaner presentation and more features. Plus, it’s free.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus