Blocks from one page can be referenced (which allows them to be seen) or embedded (which allows them to be edited) in another page. is free for personal use. Obsidian also has all it’s files synced locally. A major difference between Obsidian and other applications like Roam, Evernote or Notion is that Obsidian is just a shell application. I’d like to load those same entries into Roam, link themes and symbols together, and explore them further … but I hesitate to upload such intensely personal data to the cloud. I think the pricing differences between Roam and Obsidian speak for themselves, so I won’t belabor this point. 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. Now you can link to individual paragraphs, without having to create a heading just for the explicit need of creating a linkable portion of a page. Most of all, I want note taking to be about creation, not collection. Each of these windows can display multiple views of the same document, multiple different documents, or any combination of these. To give a voice. When a block reference is made, Obsidian will automatically generate and add a block ID to the end of the referenced text. Let me start by saying, I think Roam is amazing. If you don’t care to think about it at all, Roam might be the better option. Once, I used to write entire books in Word. That bit of magic got me exploring the help menus for other tricks. Clicking any note in the graph highlights its connections. There is a base-level of functionality that the application offers. Tutorials more than a few months old remain useful, but will not cover the latest features. Your hard-earned knowledge and writing is future-proofed. Now, block references and embeds not only exist in Obsidian, but function nearly as effectively as in Roam. These will often be a mix of hashtags and true page links, given there is no functional difference between these two in Roam. A tabbed left-hand pane can display either a list of folders and documents or the search field. Concerns over privacy, whether founded or not, grew. Roam is $15/month or $500 upfront for a 5-year subscription. Since you are essentially querying the entire page of notes, you don’t run into the current issue that Roam has where you can’t query multiple separate lines of attributes or links at the same time. This is admittedly not as strong as the contextual backlinks seen in Roam (see the next section for more details), but is a very nice adaptation for a markdown-based application. In Obsidian, you can search your graph to narrow down the view to specific pages or tags, view orphan nodes or adjust the link distance between pages displayed, among many other features. In addition, I’ve been using Roam to write corporate video scripts and create the outlines I use in the online classes I teach. You would have to convert “genius” into a link and then convert all the unlinked mentions into links as well. Ren gives a great introduction for students, in the context of a comparison of features with Roam. This functionality of Obsidian helps avoid what Nick Milo calls “link dilution.” It also allows for spur of the moment searches and unlimited flexibility when calling up notes from your Vault. This is something that is incredibly handy, especially when writing long-form articles in Obsidian. If you become what the #roamcult refers to as a “believer,” you can sign up for five years of service for $500.00. This is a fairly new tool, so we’ll keep you posted on this! 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. Roam’s privacy policy acknowledges that its staff can see your data. 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. 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. That's my mood today. On the surface, it's a note taking tool that anyone could use in that capacity. There is also a CSS block that allows you to access “Andy Mode,” which allows for scrollable panels of notes based on Andy Matuschak’s online note system (see: This comes with its own downsides and risks of data loss, meaning backups become even more important. If you like, this pane can be split horizontally … or vertically … or both … multiple times. 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. As a result, blocks cannot be referenced or embedded. The most important reason people chose Evernote is: Previously, Obsidian only allowed for page-level linking or heading-level linking. For another thing, Roam’s development is a bit haphazard. There are also amazing CSS hacks developed by the community that allow you to do certain unique things with Obsidian. Apple Notes In Roam, text is presented as a series of bulleted paragraphs or blocks. A wider center pane displays the note currently in use; by default, this appears as a page of bulleted black text on a white screen. As I understand it, Roam currently takes an “all or nothing” approach to sharing and collaboration. Once I started looking for information on Roam, I found many videos comparing Roam to other options. Obsidian is developing so quickly that at the initial time of outlining this article, block references did not exist in the application at all. In Obsidian, making and following [[connections]] is frictionless. a second brain. Otherwise, a clear choice for folks who have a strong interest in privacy and future-proofed knowledge. 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. Note management: Notes (iPhone), Catch, Workflowy, Evernote, Google Keep, Notability, Outlinely, Milanote, Notion, Bear, Slite, and Roam Research My Experience with Obsidian so Far and a Rebuttal Regarding Obsidian, I have been enjoying the experience so far. block references). When you own your data, the options are essentially limitless. When this happens, I lose access to my notes. Panes can be pinned to keep its content or linked together so they can show different views of the same note. Each of these tags is also clickable from this panel, which then automatically pulls up a search for all the notes with that tag. For all I know, a clever embedded code block might add this functionality. As a result, my journaling practice — ragged at best, when I was using Day One — has become thoroughly integrated with my daily routine. (Hint: #notetaking) I’m trying to come up with a good title for it The main hindrance? That being said, I also think Roam has its issues. 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. A search feature capable of highlighting nodes that match search teams would make a nice addition to both applications. Once the API goes public, community generated plug-ins are likely to rapidly expand the offerings of Obsidian functionality. If you’re a budget-conscious person, might be the better choice. 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. 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. This provides additional context between pages, but also allows for impressive, block-level filtering capabilities. When inspiration lags, a few clicks through random notes can get creative juices flowing again. Now, I know there are export features in Roam and that users report no lock-in because of this, but if you’ve ever actually tried to get your data out of Roam, you will know that this is not entirely true. This does not need to be generated ahead of time at all. The page will also still appear in your graph view and search, even when not clicked yet. I will be the first to admit I was never too concerned with data privacy when working with Roam — at least when I first started using the application. I’m aware that these are just baby steps. I expect both to get better but for now will invest in Roam. It was easy to keep up with changes and additions and I didn’t need a course to help me get up to speed with new functionality. Roam is a little like that. 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. 2. Users create and interact with notes in the browser. Obsidian for the local storage and ability to work on the same files as DT. Before starting my quest, I set some boundaries. 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. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network. When you open Roam, it greets you with a blank daily notes page. 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.”. These CSS “hacks” and many others are readily available on the Obsidian forum for viewing and use: You can also easily modify the CSS of the base theme or any community theme yourself to get Obsidian to look how you want. Can make a choice So take this with a grain of salt. You create these connections in two ways. saves all content as markdown files on local storage. When I first pasted a link to a tweet into Obsidian, it appeared as a link, rendered in tiny grey text. 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. Overall, block references are now possible in Obsidian. The first, familiar to anyone who has used a wiki, involves creating a reference link from one note to another. 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 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). Blocks can contain links to other pages, but also to other blocks. To get access to it currently, you have to be on the Believer Plan, meaning you have to be willing to pay $500 up front. For example: Roam incorporates a feature called the Daily Page. Nodes can also be clicked and dragged, stretching the web of ideas in interesting ways and making connections easier to explore. Once I began thinking about documents in more granular terms, my productivity increased, and my work became easier. Alternatively, being able to set up a table of associations matching terms to their cognates could greatly expand the value of search, linking, and backlinking. Now, when I take notes on a YouTube video, I embed it into the top of a page and type my notes beneath it as I watch. Any note in your collection can be connected to any other (or to many others). Occasionally, Roam simply will not load in the Safari browser. During this past month of use, I’ve come up with two features I hope to see in future updates. Graph functionality, local storage, privacy), has a rapid development pace and a high ceiling for future improvements. I can then convert any interesting unlinked references into linked references with a single click. Finally, I’d like to be able to share individual pages (or a collection of pages) from a knowledge graph with the public (and perhaps even invite participation in creating and updating those pages) without having to share the entire graph. I’m writing more. Blocks can be indented, making them subordinate to unindented blocks above them; once this is done, subordinate blocks can be collapsed into or expanded from their parents with a single click. (More on this later, in the Accessibility section.). This means that your data is yours for life. When I want to refer to a brainstorm for a story that I created in a MindNode mind map, I generate a PDF, embed it in the related note, and refer to it as I write. But you can modify the structure of the panes however you like. Then Twitter, too, ... 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. So: lots to learn … and lots to share. 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.). There are 23 currently available plug-ins. Everything I need to do to write and utilize my Obsidian Vault, I can do from Edit mode, with the exception of visualizing images and embedded text, which do still require switching to preview mode currently (or having a second panel up). These are the same complex searches you can run on your Vault, which you can also run from within graph view to help narrow down the nodes you are seeing at any given time. This has the potential to make Obsidian vastly more powerful and customizable for your note-taking needs. The thoughtful little touches and frequent innovations delight me. Because Word struggled with long files, I had to create files for each chapter and use arcane magic to knit them together. I’ve also come up with my own structure for documenting notes — inspired by, but not bound by, Tiago Forte’s PARA concepts — and organizing those notes in ways that spur creativity and action. This means that every new line (every time you press return) becomes its own block and bullet point. I can live without block-level transclusion and queries in Roam. Your second brain should work the same. How does Obsidian (launched 2019) compare to Roam (launched 2019) over 200 features? No, but they work well, are easily added to your notes and provide a key functionality to Obsidian that was: If nothing else, this should prove that the Obsidian developers are exceptionally talented and that there are few limits to what this application will be capable of in the future. DEMAND a full investigation. On the backdrop of plain text/markdown files, Obsidian is built around a plug-in methodology. Linking notes is a game changing feature. Boolean search is also capable of multiple unique combination searches, unlike queries in Roam which are limited to links alone. 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. While this may or may not be the case, I get the impression Obsidian has been developed with an eye toward cloning Roam’s feature set in a free, open-source application. Mark McElroy: lives in Mississippi | is blogging again | is author of a dozen books | works as a professional storyteller | has a husband | is working on a novel | is an engaging public speaker | lost fifty pounds in 2017 | is a little obsessed with pizza. Obsidian – The Power of Backlinks and the Knowledge Graph – Effective Remote Work – YouTube From this outline, you can click on any of the headers and automatically be taken to that section of the page. 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. Obsidian also has many community-developed themes, which are very easy to access. Users may also apply themes created by members of the Roam community. I had been using Roam for a long time and knew it well. (They can, of course, be copied and pasted, with manually appended links back to a source.). Features useful to beginners and pros alike appear suddenly and frequently. There is a longevity implied to anything you write down in Obsidian. Can turn away (If you’re not sure, be sure to use the thirty-one day free trial before signing up.) Obsidian’s insider build 0.9.10 now has support for third party plugins. The human brain is non-linear: we jump from idea to idea, all the time. I then tried various 'outliner' applications (Dynalist, Roam, Workflowy). 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. [Epistemic Status: Scroll to the bottom for my follow-up thoughts on this from months/years later.] In the end, only you can decide whether or not access to Roam is worth $180.00 a year. Roam is built around a block-based, outliner structure. Some of the more noteworthy ones, include: Currently, the Obsidian team is working on creating their beta API. It’s very nicely done and you can see an example of what Obsidian Publish looks like here: Just open the help menu, click the themes link and with a simple click you can apply or preview any of the available themes. Because Roam stores data in the cloud, questions of privacy arise. But that would be missing the true purpose of this tool. 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. Even in this brief time, Roam’s impact on my life is much broader in scope that I ever anticipated it could be. I’m looking forward to learning more about Roam. I was using Roam for the outliner functionality, block level referencing and frictionless linking and writing experience. Oh, and the #RemNote chrome extension side panel #academia #student #learning #spacedrepetition Imagine a world in which the attack on Pearl Harbor had been a complete failure, and the next day, the Emperor of Japan was demanding that we all focus on "Unity" and "Getting Along" As someone who knows essentially nothing about CSS, this was initially very daunting. Often spoke about in the same line as Roam Research, Obsidian refers to themselves as a note-taking platform with “links as a first-class citizen”. And while block-level manipulation is highly effective for knowledge work, when it comes to searching across your database, I find “querying” at the page level to actually be more effective when it comes to parsing connections across your second brain. Instead, your entire database gets stored in the cache of your web browser of choice. There is no equivalent feature in Roam at the moment. When I want to illustrate a journal entry with an image, I just drag one in. Roam seems ripe for that kind of exploration. This can, however, be individually modified in Obsidian manually, Block references in Obsidian cannot be created using “alt-drag,” something that I do miss a lot from Roam, Block references can only be viewed in Preview mode at the moment (this will change once WYSIWYG is added to Obsidian), Unlike Roam, there is no number next to the original text to show how many times the text has been referenced and where each of those references are located. 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. “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!) Links go to pages, not to specific blocks within a page. It is a note-taking tool for networked thought As easy to use as a document. Obsidian is in that sweet spot in the middle. Both Roam Research and support reference links and unreferenced links. The referenced text is embedded in the other page with a link that can navigate back to the original source text. The larger the project, the harder it was to maintain a vision of the project as a whole. This will need a Special Counsel. Roam Research, by default, offers a simple, uncluttered presentation of content. Nowadays, I spend around 90+% of my time in Obsidian in Edit mode. Now, it’s Org-roam vs Obsidian. Large title cards display the related page or block title. (When my two-week trial ended, I had zero buyer’s regret associated with ponying up my $15.00 per month.) 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. (They promise not to peek without permission unless law enforcement comes knocking.). Obsidian works with separate markdown document files sitting on your own hard drive. I’ve been on a quest for a personal “thought processor” — one place to put all my notes, journal entries, and research. If you enjoy tweaking settings until an interface is just right, both Roam and Obsidian will indulge you. The lack of a block-level base structure limits the contextual benefits of backlinking to some degree. I believe Roam’s decision to make blocks the smallest possible unit of thought make it a superior tool for knowledge work. Obsidian: NEW BEST Note-taking App Student Overview – YouTube. The major difference between Roam and Obsidian and by far the most talked about distinction. This third-party editing strategy can be perilous. Constantly cycle between Edit and Preview mode using “cmd-e” in order to fully utilize and navigate your database. This is what a simple query in Roam looks like: {{[[query]]: {or: [[learning]] [[mindset]]}}}. Roam Is a Note-Taking Tool, and a Dream of a Better Self. In any case, after a few weeks, I stumbled upon Obsidian. I can tag individual sheets as drafts or tag them as complete when I’m done revising them. There is also full support for tagging with autocompletion. Choose up to 4 apps for comparison (4 apps currently selected):. On the opposite end, being able to query at the page level also has its benefits, particularly for general knowledge work. These are not just searches of the page titles, but searching within the pages themselves. If you’re obsessed with privacy, Obsidian might be the better choice for you. Not only is Obsidian beautifully designed, structurally-sound and premium-appearing, it’s also just a joy to work in. Oddly, neither Roam nor Obsidian offer a search feature that works in graph view. 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. That alone was worth any other issues with the application (even the potential risk of data loss and lack of local storage). Since content is stored locally, it’s always available — provided you have a Mac, Windows, or Linux laptop capable of accessing those files. Obviously, another benefit that comes with a local-first note-taking system is lack of data loss and easy backup options. Roam finds exact matches to text I enter in the search bar. The center pane displays the note currently in use. This post is a way to explore, in probably too-great detail, the differences between Obsidian and Roam and why I think Obsidian, like Roam, is a truly revolutionary writing and note-taking platform — one that will likely explode in popularity in the coming months. The tasks will not be parsed individually, unlike in Roam where each task would be made up of its own block. At the time of this writing, I’ve been using Roam daily for about a month. In my experience, Roam has proven more reliable and more convenient to use. The structures I’m using to record thoughts in Roam enhance my memory of the material I read, listen to, and study. Therefore, this lacks the bullet structure that Roam and RemNote has. Boolean search is the Obsidian equivalent to queries in Roam, only I find them easier to use and, in some regards, more powerful. More concerning, however, is what happens on re-importing your dataset, for instance in the case of data loss. Honestly, RemNote is one of the most promising note taking apps I have seen, especially with the amount of updates and support its getting recently. (Obsidian users can achieve similar results with the Daily Page plug-in. 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. 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