Pages are made up of blocks. These blocks can then be nested indefinitely underneath each other and they can be collapsed or zoomed into/out of. I can then convert any interesting unlinked references into linked references with a single click. While there is a local-only version of Roam, there are a few issues there: The Roam team has said that a local-based application is on the roadmap, though the timing of this is unclear, as other advances are taking priority: public API development, mobile application, etc. During this past month of use, I’ve come up with two features I hope to see in future updates. I’m told the Obsidian Community Discord is also lively and helpful. These plug-ins will also allow users to fine-tune Obsidian to work exactly how they want without having bloat features that otherwise would have to be released to the entire community. Since Obsidian is based on local files and markdown, E2E is not only possible, but is a planned implementation for when they start offering sync services between local and mobile devices. A narrow left-hand navigation pane offers a means of switching from database to database and provides access to daily notes, the interactive graph of links, a list of all pages, and a list of shortcuts to favorite pages. Because there’s no iOS app, Obsidian users on iPhones and iPads must use a third-party editor (like iAWriter or 1Writer) to interact with their notes. Most of all, I want note taking to be about creation, not collection. In total, we have documented 88 features in Obsidian vs 97 features in Roam. This will need a Special Counsel. But if you were looking for a similar alternative to Evernote or Bear or even Apple Notes, you might give Roam a quick look and think it's a little odd. Obsidian, of course, is free to use. They have the strengths and weaknesses of their approaches. While you’re likely to have criteria of your own, reflecting on the factors I considered might help you make the decision that’s right for you. I visited my “Roam Research” page, browsed linked and unlinked references, pulled relevant material into Ulysses, and then polished it there. Its Introduction to Roam and Getting Started links provide most, if not all, of what a beginner wants to know. This is not necessarily a reason to leave Roam, as with their current ARR and recent funding valuation they are likely to be around for a long time, but certainly something to be aware of when using the application. (Since I tend to travel with an iPad exclusively, this is a problem for me.). If you are interested in hosting your notes online on a personal webpage, that service (Obsidian Publish) is currently $8/month. There is so much to love about both Roam and Obsidian. But that would be missing the true purpose of this tool. However, the most impressive feature of the graph view is that you can perform Boolean searches from within the graph search! Such a great knowledge building application. In Roam, text is presented as a series of bulleted paragraphs or blocks. To avoid the perfection trap, I reminded myself that all solutions have pros and cons. I don’t think I’ll ever learn to use every function available to me … but I don’t have to. Blocks from one page can be referenced (which allows them to be seen) or embedded (which allows them to be edited) in another page. Roam is $15/month or $500 upfront for a 5-year subscription. For me, though, the fact Roam opens to my daily page — versus forcing me to click a link to create one — reduces friction and makes the daily page habit more addictive.). My experience with Ulysses taught me that taking a more granular approach to individual units of thought increases the resolution at which all thoughts can be explored. Apple Notes Clever users offer extensive tutorials on how to use CSS to customize Roam’s appearance. But if you’re accustomed to working in a Markdown editor and switching frequently from editing to preview mode, you might prefer Obsidian. From then on, in other notes, I can surround any instance of the word “Snowpiercer” in double square brackets, like this: [[Snowpiercer]]. The same query in Obsidian could look like this: Other than the easier to use syntax, I also find Boolean search more powerful than queries since you are not limited to searching for previously defined links. Obsidian is great if you have large screens and atomic short notes. I live in a rural area, so I occasionally wander into regions without cellular data coverage. Filtering by backlinks and block-level support for contextualized backlinks is smooth as butter. The main one being that Obsidian now has the ability to “query” at the page level, but also link at the block level, which provides a substantial amount of added flexibility to the system (see Boolean Search section below for benefits of page-level querying). Re-importing your database back into Roam also currently fails to retain these links, meaning the referenced text will still be present, but you you will lose all the connectivity you previously set up via block references. I tried using Obsidian, but I could not resolve the uncertainty of what should be a separate note file vs several items inside a note file. I’ve been saying “at least 2x”. What is Roam Research? AND searches for pages that have both terms, OR searches for pages that have one or the other, If no term is delineated, two phrases or words separated by a space automatically infers the AND syntax, If you want to search for exact text, enclose the word or phrase in parentheses, If you want to search specifically for a tag, use “tag:” syntax or enclose the actual hashtag in parentheses, If you want to exclude text, use “-” followed by the word/phrase/tag. On the opposite end, being able to query at the page level also has its benefits, particularly for general knowledge work. Therefore, this lacks the bullet structure that Roam and RemNote has. Obsidian: NEW BEST Note-taking App Student Overview – YouTube. Because there is no proprietary formatting, you can open and access your notes in any other text editor or note-taking application available. I have never been one to store personal or protected information in note-taking applications and so why should I care too much about a web-based platform versus local-only storage? a second brain. If you then delete that link prior to generating the page, it will disappear from your Vault entirely. Additionally, I can search and access any file from my Vault using Alfred or even command line prompts. It operates by association.” These days, I write in Ulysses. It’s not a true offline application. I can certainly live without founders I’m uncomfortable with. Overall, block references are now possible in Obsidian. Clicking any note in the graph highlights its connections. Whether I am one of the lucky few or whether data loss is actually in the minority of users, I cannot say (though probably the latter). Since I had an account prior to the release of their subscription model, I was grandfathered in, so to speak. Here is a screenshot of the application settings, where you can modify any keyboard shortcut you want: As examples, here are some of the shortcuts I use frequently: By learning and understanding shortcuts within Obsidian, I have been able to achieve a workflow that is both smooth and seamless. Graph functionality is second to none and blows Roam out of the water. Linking also automatically generates backlinks to the original source, similar to Roam (and now Notion). As part of my effort to go from dabbler to do-er, I’m making a conscious decision to adopt fewer tools and commit more deeply to each. Any note in your collection can be connected to any other (or to many others). I can live without block-level transclusion and queries in Roam. For one thing, it is expensive. It gathers users' notes, drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries. Still, the issue has been vocalized enough by the user-base to discuss it here. You can reference by wiki-linking to a page and then typing ^ to pull up a list of all the searchable blocks from that page. I can drag and drop these, re-ordering them at will. Coming in at $15 per month — or $500 up front for a 5-year subscription as part of their “Believer’s” plan — Roam is more expensive than any other SASS application or knowledge tool out there. The short of it is this: the longer you stay inside a proprietary note-taking application, the harder it is going to be to leave with all your data intact. Unlinked mentions — showing any other text that isn’t a true link, but matches the note title — are also supported and automatic in Obsidian, as they are in Roam. The linkages in Roam encourage me to see this material in surprising contexts. I'm hooked! Users create and interact with notes in the browser. As with Roam, users can apply custom CSS or any of a library of user-submitted themes to tweak the way the app appears. Every day when I first launch Roam, I’m greeted with a dated page that’s perfect for recording journal entries and planning my day. The best part is that all of these shortcuts are entirely, 100% customizable, meaning you can change them to suit your own personal workflow and style. Bottom line? On my iPhone, I quick capture tweets, posts, articles, and video links of interest, and these appear on my Daily Page as well, making it easier to track when I first encountered certain ideas. A Metaphysican Looks at Algorithms of Thought. Boolean search takes advantage of easy to understand syntax: As a brief example, here’s what a query looks like in Roam and what the same Boolean search would look like in Obsidian. (They promise not to peek without permission unless law enforcement comes knocking.). Beyond these differences in syntax and flexibility, the other main important difference between queries in Roam and Boolean search in Obsidian is at what level the searches are functioning. Not only is the graph more visually pleasing in Obsidian, but it comes with a significant amount of added functionality that actually makes it useful. As a result, even if you learn the basics from Roam tutorials, you’ll feel very much at home the first time you launch Obsidian. Do they have the same detailed functionality of Roam? Tags can be used to provide an additional level of structure or denote certain types of pages, whereas links typically serve as the primary method of connecting pages together. If you become what the #roamcult refers to as a “believer,” you can sign up for five years of service for $500.00. Both Roam and Obsidian present a map or graph of pages and their links, displaying a these ideas in a constellation of relationships. This makes filtering tasks (particularly filtering out, since you would exclude the entire page) significantly less effective in Obsidian. The lack of a base block-level, outliner structure is the main differentiator and may be a limiting factor, especially for those currently entrenched in the Roam ecosystem. Step 2: Gather the files with your notes. In Roam, I would open my graph from time to time to admire how my database was growing. Once I began thinking about documents in more granular terms, my productivity increased, and my work became easier. Well, when you create links between pages, the nested blocks are also automatically shown in Roam along with the breadcrumb, block-level links that lead up to the selected block of interest. Concerns over privacy, whether founded or not, grew. Once the API goes public, community generated plug-ins are likely to rapidly expand the offerings of Obsidian functionality. Obsidian is simply a tool that allows you to effectively work, manage and manipulate your own, personal, locally-stored markdown files. I’m aware that these are just baby steps. However, the community is extremely helpful and there is also the ability to access the developer window from within Obsidian by pressing “cmd-option-i.”. A search feature capable of highlighting nodes that match search teams would make a nice addition to both applications. When inspiration lags, a few clicks through random notes can get creative juices flowing again. In conversations, I’m sharper. A major difference between Obsidian and other applications like Roam, Evernote or Notion is that Obsidian is just a shell application. I find that if you enjoy spending time in an application, it definitely makes it easier to be productive. A note-taking tool for networked thought. I had been using Roam for a long time and knew it well. Boolean search (the equivalent of queries in Roam) searches at the page level, which is weaker for things that need to be parsed individually (like tasks), but can be stronger for filtering knowledge work. Obsidian is new and will get better. The major difference between Roam and Obsidian and by far the most talked about distinction. This is the power of local-first storage. The developers have enable additional surrounding text to be shown with the backlinks, though it cannot completely duplicate the nested structure seen in Roam. Obsidian works with separate markdown document files sitting on your own hard drive. I enjoy tracking work in kanban boards; with a keystroke or two, I can embed one. I’m tired of shoving notes into anything boxes (and never seeing them again). Some of the more noteworthy ones, include: Currently, the Obsidian team is working on creating their beta API. For example: Roam incorporates a feature called the Daily Page. The page level structure provides a more universally-supported linking structure, while the new addition of block references now also allows for embedding text at a more atomic level. They are also very active in the Obsidian community, frequently responding to posts in the forum or on the public Discord personally with long, detailed replies. Once notes go in, the system should help me link my ideas together, spark insights, and produce something new. Feel free to drop me a line via twitter (@markmcelroy) or via email at Folks who are using Roam for their entire life (e.g. The most important reason people chose Evernote is: The Obsidian app environment is busier and more complicated. Unlike Word, Ulysses allows me to break down a long document into a series of short sheets. There is also currently no way to filter backlinks in Obsidian. Definitely have to applaud Roam for putting this into play. I, however, personally do not mind. Can turn away If you enjoy tweaking settings until an interface is just right, both Roam and Obsidian will indulge you. Similar coverage from a slightly different point of view can also be found in Justin DiRose’s Obsidian: The Basics of Note Taking. Combinations like these are not possible in Roam. (When my two-week trial ended, I had zero buyer’s regret associated with ponying up my $15.00 per month.) I Asked Roam Research, “What Do I Want?” The Results Devastated Me. I then tried various 'outliner' applications (Dynalist, Roam, Workflowy). Fiddle with the graph views in both apps, and decide which approach to illustrating the connections between thoughts feels right to you. I would be remiss to not at least briefly talk about the Obsidian community. Of course, these are just my personal opinions and are unlikely to be reflective of everyone in the community. Unless you’re deliberate in your choices, this can quickly become bewildering. Now, block references and embeds not only exist in Obsidian, but function nearly as effectively as in Roam. It’s fast and seamless, rising up to the frictionless writing standards even of Roam. The separation of edit and preview modes. Blocks can contain links to other pages, but also to other blocks. Like @PaoloAmoroso , I tend to default back to simpler means of note taking and task tracking (google G Suite) when push comes to shove. (Obsidian users can achieve similar results with the Daily Page plug-in. The process was (to put it mildly) extremely painful. Linking remains the basic building block of connectivity in Obsidian, though use of a folder structure is also possible. So take this with a grain of salt. block references). It is a note-taking tool for networked thought As easy to use as a document. There is a longevity implied to anything you write down in Obsidian. For another thing, Roam’s development is a bit haphazard. At first, I was disappointed. During study time, I go deeper. The block level structure provides much better support for things such as task and project management, building a CRM and interstitial journaling. Bottom line? This has the potential to make Obsidian vastly more powerful and customizable for your note-taking needs. Medical Information Medical Advice Hard Questions This Or That Questions Spaced Repetition Loaded Question Simple Camera Knowledge Management Music Beats. 2. Many of the videos about Obsidian lacked depth, covered the same material over and over again, or had been produced by individuals who had about as much exposure to Obsidian as I did. (I wish I’d found the site earlier in my search!) The center pane displays the note currently in use. I can also access or edit my files using any text editor on my computer or iPhone, with changes automatically synced by my cloud storage. With Roam, it’s quick and easy to export your notes to a local folder. It has also enabled other users to create truly amazing visuals within Obsidian: From a modifiable standpoint, I think Roam and Obsidian are on similar levels, though I personally think Obsidian is a more visually pleasing working environment. Everything I needed to write this post came together without the usual last-minute sifting and searching. Unlike Roam, tags and page links are handled separately, meaning they both serve unique functions. Block references allow you to embed content from one page into another, but at the atomic level of a single block (or in the case of Obsidian, at the level of a single paragraph). Extremely friendly, helpful and active. Supporting references to blocks may, in fact, be Roam’s single most important feature. Obsidian also has many community-developed themes, which are very easy to access. With Obsidian, you could save notes to a cloud-synced folder. A right-hand pane displays a list of linked and unlinked (but potentially related) documents. As long as computers exist, there will be programs able to work with markdown. First: fuzzy searches. But Obsidian also allows you to open multiple notes, plus you can move them around and lay them out however you prefer (see the screenshot above) Obsidian's graph view is a lot nicer to use as well As someone who knows essentially nothing about CSS, this was initially very daunting. For some background, I am a fairly long-standing Roam user, having used the application since around February 2020 up until the last few months. I mostly didn’t care about any of the new additions. Obsidian’s graph looks more fragile and spindly, but the animation associated with dragging nodes or zooming in and out is smoother and, to me, more satisfying. Still, the more I worked in Roam, the more information I wanted to include in my database, the more I wanted to incorporate into the system I had built. As a result, my journaling practice — ragged at best, when I was using Day One — has become thoroughly integrated with my daily routine. This added a subconscious level of friction to my writing. For me, this proved irritating, as I often clicked and clicked and clicked a on document in preview mode before remembering to switch to edit mode. My goal here is not to be inflammatory or to build up one note-taking application over another, but instead to highlight my experiences over time with Roam and why I went looking for alternatives. Edits in embedded blocks populate back to all instances where the block is embedded. Block-level, outliner based structure with second-to-none contextual linking capabilities. There need to be consequences for everyone who was part of this. Two of my favorite plug-ins for Obsidian are note outlines and the tag panel. Help is spread out amongst an online forum, YouTube videos, Twitter, a Slack channel and a multitude of community-run websites and pricey online tutorial courses. If you want a clean, minimalist look from the get-go and have little interest in arcane configuration, Roam might be the better choice. Tend to your notes like a gardener; at the end of the day, sit back and marvel at your own knowledge graph. This comes with its own downsides and risks of data loss, meaning backups become even more important. Roam can use this block nesting to generate relationships between thoughts and a contextual framework for ideas. Nodes can also be clicked and dragged, stretching the web of ideas in interesting ways and making connections easier to explore. “cmd-w” to exit/close out of the currently selected note, “cmd-shift-d” to jump to or create the Daily Note for the day, “cmd-shift-r/l” to open/close the right and left navigation panels, “cmd-forward/backward” to jump to end of lines and exit out of markdown/brackets, “option-forward/backward” to skip between words in a line, “cmd-up/down” to jump to start or end of a page, “cmd-shift-forward/backward” to jump forward and backward between notes, The lack of distinction between pages and hashtags. offers links to high quality Roam-related resources. I would be amiss, however, not to thank Anne-Laurie Le Cunff (A Beginner’s Guide to Roam Research), Shu Omi (How to Take Smart Notes | Zettelkasten Method in Roam Research) Nat Eliason (Roam: Why I Love it and How I Use It), and Anonym-s (for the video series From Beginner to Superuser). That said: portability alone is not the only factor to consider when deciding how you feel about where an app stores your notes. Obsidian is a fairly new competitor to Roam Research, with its offline, markdown based application designed to link up your notes - designed and built by the team at Dynalist. The structures I’m using to record thoughts in Roam enhance my memory of the material I read, listen to, and study. In my experience, Roam has proven more reliable and more convenient to use. Constantly cycle between Edit and Preview mode using “cmd-e” in order to fully utilize and navigate your database. “The human mind does not work that way. NOTION vs ROAM vs OBSIDIAN vs REMNOTE (How to choose the BEST FIT note taking app for you!) I’ve been on a quest for a personal “thought processor” — one place to put all my notes, journal entries, and research. About which folks (I’m just starting to understand how I might use queries, for example.) The only true way to get around this is with local-first file storage, like Obsidian, or with true data-privacy based encryption, like E2E. Have two panels open for each note you worked on: one in Edit mode and one in Preview mode, or. Roam gives you the sidebar to open pages alongside the one you're working on. Coming from Roam and other note-taking applications like Notion or Evernote, I was used to a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) writing experience. So: lots to learn … and lots to share. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network. You can then click the pointer in the top left corner of the developer window and highlight any part of the application you are interested in. Obsidian, because it is structured at the page-level, and not the block-level, is not as adept at providing this contextual information via backlinks. This is made possible by a multitude of keyboard shortcuts for nearly everything you can think of, including opening links (cmd-click), opening links in a new panel (cmd-shift-click), and opening links under your cursor without needing your mouse (cmd-enter and cmd-shift-enter). In Obsidian, the basic unit of thought is the page. After fourteen days of googling, reading blog posts, listening to podcasts, and putting various candidates through their paces, I found only two options I felt could meet my needs: Roam Research and You would have to convert “genius” into a link and then convert all the unlinked mentions into links as well. I think this is why people feel so free in Roam. Tutorials more than a few months old remain useful, but will not cover the latest features. From this outline, you can click on any of the headers and automatically be taken to that section of the page. By essentially “querying” your graph, you can much more easily visualize specific topics or trains of thought and see how you might create links between previously unconnected nodes. The cult mentality of the online community became a bit jarring. Queries are also limited to links alone, though a database search function can catch non-linked searches to some degree. The Discord forum is the main hub where the most active members are at any given time, though there is also an official forum that is active as well. Roam works equally well on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You can also pin certain notes to the side panels, as some Obsidian users do with a calendar note or with the local graph view. This may not be a huge priority for most people, but Obsidian is beautiful. A complete accounting of their respective strengths is provided below. (Technologies exist, though, that can make Roam look and feel more app-like. Block references cannot pull in adjacent nested text automatically, since Obsidian doesn’t operate on a block-level structure. If you haven't checked out @rem_note yet do yourself a favour - you can thank me later . I would say that this significantly increased my research productivity. This means that your data is yours for life. Roam finds exact matches to text I enter in the search bar. (More on this later, in the Accessibility section.). ... There’s also Apple’s Notes, Bear, Todoist, OneNote, Obsidian, Ulysses, TiddlyWiki, Workflowy and many others that, all in their own ways, try to help people stay more organized and efficient. There is a base-level of functionality that the application offers. These things really didn’t bother me over the short term for several reasons: But over time, these issues did begin to wear on me. In Insider build v0.9.5, Obsidian launched block references How does this work, and how does it stack up against competitor apps like Roam Research? Once, I used to write entire books in Word. Obsidian:Amazing product, free, local support, markdown based and therefore portable data, privacy-focused. The last subtle trick of Obsidian is being able to move any panel and pin them to different places in each of the side bars. Roam’s $15.00 per month subscription raises eyebrows, but I’m in the camp that believes sustainable pricing is vital to the long-term viability of any product or service. Of note, unlike Roam, pages are not automatically generated in Obsidian until you actually click the link. As it stands, Roam has already said that it will be extremely difficult to incorporate E2E encryption across databases, as this would hamper the way in which the linking within the application works. Even in this brief time, Roam’s impact on my life is much broader in scope that I ever anticipated it could be. You end up relying on the longevity of the note-taking application, itself, instead of the longevity of your own thoughts. By contrast, after installation, Obsidian’s basic feature set requires no internet connectivity at all. Previously deemed impossible for an application not based on a block-level structure. This automatic creation of backlinks is a game-changer, making it easy to form and navigate connections between notes with minimal effort. But your local hard drive could also suffer catastrophic failure. Obsidian is a powerhouse note-taking and knowledge work application at a ridiculous price point (free). In Obsidian, I can query any combination of page links, hashtags and random words or phrases. Encountering a random note and considering how it might relate to the question at hand can generate valuable insights. Roam is built around a block-based, outliner structure. When scanning the unlinked references list, I frequently rediscover forgotten notes or spot surprising linkages among other notes in my knowledge graph. In a very short time, I’m already seeing ways Roam can assist with writing everything from blog posts to video scripts. Additionally, since the lack of distinction between hashtags and page links is unique to Roam, these will be parsed differently when imported into any other application, breaking the continuity that was present in Roam.

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