I think no one would argue that the Obsidian graph view is far superior to Roam’s graphing at this point in time. 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. As long as computers exist, there will be programs able to work with markdown. The cult mentality of the online community became a bit jarring. 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. These led me to Obsidian.md. It provides a lot of the strengths of Roam, expands and improves on other parts (e.g. 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. Amplenote. I’m told the Obsidian Community Discord is also lively and helpful. Users may also apply themes created by members of the Roam community. At one point, after opening and editing a document in iAWriter on my iPad, I found I couldn’t save my changes because the file was still open in Obsidian on my Mac. (Technologies exist, though, that can make Roam look and feel more app-like. 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" Even in this brief time, Roam’s impact on my life is much broader in scope that I ever anticipated it could be. Because users interact with Roam Research through a browser, their notes are available to them on any internet-connected device. 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. I can tag individual sheets as drafts or tag them as complete when I’m done revising them. 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. However, you can always host your notes on any cloud service of your choice and not utilize Obsidian’s own service. (Obsidian users can achieve similar results with the Daily Page plug-in. Obsidian works with separate markdown document files sitting on your own hard drive. A note-taking tool for networked thought. Outside of Obsidian, many of the features that make thought processors so powerful — the links, the graph — have limited functionality or become unavailable. 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. In this sense, Roam is more opinionated than Obsidian. The first, familiar to anyone who has used a wiki, involves creating a reference link from one note to another. Choose up to 4 apps for comparison (4 apps currently selected):. 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 Obsidian.md. Do they have the same detailed functionality of Roam? There is also full support for tagging with autocompletion. On the opposite end, being able to query at the page level also has its benefits, particularly for general knowledge work. Overall, block references are now possible in Obsidian. Scanning the graph for a particular node among hundreds of connections grows tedious. This means that every new line (every time you press return) becomes its own block and bullet point. Oh, and the #RemNote chrome extension side panel #academia #student #learning #spacedrepetition The application is web-only (outside of local storage in browser cache for 5-year subscribers) and has a minimalist appearance. As I see it, this is where Roam and Obsidian stand at the current point in time. These will often be a mix of hashtags and true page links, given there is no functional difference between these two in Roam. Obsidian is in that sweet spot in the middle. Disambiguate Obsidian vs Roam. Unlike Roam, tags and page links are handled separately, meaning they both serve unique functions. I live in a rural area, so I occasionally wander into regions without cellular data coverage. 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). Roam is an outliner with a central database. Tend to your notes like a gardener; at the end of the day, sit back and marvel at your own knowledge graph. For example, coming from Roam, I did miss the outliner feature for some of my note-taking needs, as I often like to start with outlines, then convert to full form writing. Roam’s privacy policy acknowledges that its staff can see your data. 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. On migrating to another platform, those “reference pages” will be blank. From then on, in other notes, I can surround any instance of the word “Snowpiercer” in double square brackets, like this: [[Snowpiercer]]. 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. 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. If you haven't checked out @rem_note yet do yourself a favour - you can thank me later . 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.). For example: Roam incorporates a feature called the Daily Page. I’ve been saying “at least 2x”. Block-level, outliner based structure with second-to-none contextual linking capabilities. This is something that is incredibly handy, especially when writing long-form articles in Obsidian. That alone was worth any other issues with the application (even the potential risk of data loss and lack of local storage). I’m writing more. Obsidian is the brainchild of Shida Li and Erica Xu who have worked together on Dynalist. Obsidian performs these searches at the page level. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then this app isn’t for you. I hope this post gives you some useful insights as you identify your own best thought processor, and that you’ll be inspired to share with me what you learn along the way. As an example, I could load my entire vault into The Archive, Bear or even Roam and more or less pick up exactly where I left off. 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. 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. Shift-clicking will open the exact spot in a new panel. Or you can perform a global block search of your entire Obsidian Vault (helpful for when you don’t know what page the text of interest is on), by typing: you can then start typing to find the block of interest. 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. I expect both to get better but for now will invest in Roam. When a block reference is made, Obsidian will automatically generate and add a block ID to the end of the referenced text. Roam is $15/month or $500 upfront for a 5-year subscription. In fact, Roam’s ability to gather and organize research made writing this very post much easier. (They can, of course, be copied and pasted, with manually appended links back to a source.). What the founders are doing with block-level text manipulation has turned it into a ground-breaking tool for writing and knowledge-work. “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. If you become what the #roamcult refers to as a “believer,” you can sign up for five years of service for $500.00. In a sense, I was censoring myself a little bit every time I wrote. Early this year, Conor White-Sullivan introduced me to the Zettelkasten method of note-taking. This will show you the exact CSS code you need to edit to get whatever effect you want. Panes can be pinned to keep its content or linked together so they can show different views of the same note. This third-party editing strategy can be perilous. But every day, I come across new functionality. The center pane displays the note currently in use. Previously, Obsidian only allowed for page-level linking or heading-level linking. I’m now around 2–3 months into using Obsidian and over that time, it has slowly become my daily driver for note-taking, knowledge management and writing. 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. Its Introduction to Roam and Getting Started links provide most, if not all, of what a beginner wants to know. Well, there is a CSS block that adds the drop down lines to show relationships between bullet points. 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. Unfortunately, this interaction is limited to creating new or editing existing notes. Roam can use this block nesting to generate relationships between thoughts and a contextual framework for ideas. 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. But, I don’t think I can live without Org mode. For another thing, Roam’s development is a bit haphazard. Just open the help menu, click the themes link and with a simple click you can apply or preview any of the available themes. And since the Obsidian roadmap is publicly viewable and kept up to date, there is never a question as to what is coming down the pipeline. But I’m not just producing more text; I’m producing better structured, more thoughtful text … and sharing it more frequently with others. Obsidian:Amazing product, free, local support, markdown based and therefore portable data, privacy-focused. tired of shoving notes into anything boxes, How to Take Smart Notes | Zettelkasten Method in Roam Research, Obsidian: Getting Started, Facts, and Pricing, I loaded more than a hundred entries from my dream journal into DEVONthink for analysis, I Fed DEVONthink My Dreams and Found a Stalker, Using Readwise to Supercharge Roam Research. Linking notes is a game changing feature. Any note in your collection can be connected to any other (or to many others). Now, it’s Org-roam vs Obsidian. Most of the note-taking apps like Roam Research allow you to export all your notes as MD files, so you can use them to visualize all your ideas in InfraNodus. Obviously, another benefit that comes with a local-first note-taking system is lack of data loss and easy backup options. Obsidian is a powerhouse note-taking and knowledge work application at a ridiculous price point (free). Roam Research is unapologetically a web-first app. 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: https://notes.andymatuschak.org/About_these_notes). Once I began thinking about documents in more granular terms, my productivity increased, and my work became easier. Obsidian: NEW BEST Note-taking App Student Overview – YouTube. Still the best out there when it comes to contextual backlinking, though Obsidian is not far behind. When you open Roam, it greets you with a blank daily notes page. The Note Outline plug-in creates a side-panel that shows a structured, hierarchical outline of the note you are working in based on the headings included on the page. The Obsidian app environment is busier and more complicated. The lack of a block-level base structure limits the contextual benefits of backlinking to some degree. Step 2: Gather the files with your notes. One advantage with Roam is that you can open the url inside of DT and create notes from there. Blocks can contain links to other pages, but also to other blocks. At first, I was disappointed. So when I first looked into Obsidian, I actually thought you needed to do one of two things to use the application successfully: Coming from Roam, where the writing and navigation experience is frictionless, this was a huge turn off. In conversations, I’m sharper. Everything I needed to write this post came together without the usual last-minute sifting and searching. You can also choose whether you want the graph to include or suppress nodes associated with daily pages. You can access either from this webpage: https://obsidian.md/community. When I pasted the same link into Roam, it expanded automatically into a beautifully-rendered embedded tweet. Edits in embedded blocks populate back to all instances where the block is embedded. A complete accounting of their respective strengths is provided below. 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? This is the power of local-first storage. 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. Obsidian: Obsidian is a markdown editor. In Roam, the basic unit of thought is the block. With a right-click of the graph, you can toggle between one of two layouts: Cose (more spherical) or Dagre (flatter and wider). You would have to convert “genius” into a link and then convert all the unlinked mentions into links as well. Of note, unlike Roam, pages are not automatically generated in Obsidian until you actually click the link. There is a Roam Scholars program where you can apply for a discount or even free access, depending on your situation, and many folks have been able to get access through that program. I’ll disclose more about my process later; for now, I’ll just say that combining Roam’s insights with Ulysses’s text management system has launched a new phase in my life as a writer. That being said, I also think Roam has its issues. There is a longevity implied to anything you write down in Obsidian. 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. 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. (Double-click to jump to the related page.) This allows you more flexibility in how you break ideas down and mix and match thoughts. 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. This includes functions like task management, CRM work and linked journaling. Roam seems ripe for that kind of exploration. In Obsidian, making and following [[connections]] is frictionless. Saved by Cajun Koi. 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). 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. I’m tired of shoving notes into anything boxes (and never seeing them again). This will be a long read, but hopefully a helpful one for folks trying to decide between these two applications. If you use local-only storage alone, you can be sure your data stays private. Links to pages that have not yet been created will appear gray in View mode to delineate them from pages that have already been generated. 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. Feel free to drop me a line via twitter (@markmcelroy) or via email at mark@markmcelroy.com. In order to choose between them, I needed other points of comparison. Two of my favorite plug-ins for Obsidian are note outlines and the tag panel. Their dedication to the application is readily apparent. The structures I’m using to record thoughts in Roam enhance my memory of the material I read, listen to, and study. Most of all, I want note taking to be about creation, not collection. 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. 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. 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. 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. It’s very nicely done and you can see an example of what Obsidian Publish looks like here: https://publish.obsidian.md/santi/welcome. As for block references, exporting your vault will retain the referenced text on the page, but no link or notation displaying the source will come with it. Clicking any note in the graph highlights its connections. However, the developers have done an amazing job allowing expanded visualization of text around the backlink to provide additional context. Constantly cycle between Edit and Preview mode using “cmd-e” in order to fully utilize and navigate your database. Graph functionality is second to none and blows Roam out of the water. When scanning the unlinked references list, I frequently rediscover forgotten notes or spot surprising linkages among other notes in my knowledge graph. I mostly didn’t care about any of the new additions. Occasionally, Roam simply will not load in the Safari browser. 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. The more I learn about last week, the angrier I am. A syncing service is also planned, but given that Obsidian files sync just fine via Dropbox or iCloud, paying $4.00 per month for this would seem to be less a matter of necessity and more a matter of supporting further development. Oddly, neither Roam nor Obsidian offer a search feature that works in graph view. This makes filtering tasks (particularly filtering out, since you would exclude the entire page) significantly less effective in Obsidian. Obsidian.md saves all content as markdown files on local storage. To avoid the trap of paralysis by analysis, I gave myself two weeks to find a solution. Blocks from one page can be referenced (which allows them to be seen) or embedded (which allows them to be edited) in another page. This does not need to be generated ahead of time at all. Clicking a block selects it and activates it for editing. The block level structure provides much better support for things such as task and project management, building a CRM and interstitial journaling. Apple Notes Very handy for looking at tags you are using and which ones are most active versus which ones are getting dusty. Users familiar with outlining apps will appreciate that blocks can be dragged and dropped with ease. 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. 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. (Since I tend to travel with an iPad exclusively, this is a problem for me.). Both problems can be mitigated by responsible practices. This provides additional context between pages, but also allows for impressive, block-level filtering capabilities. 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. Similar coverage from a slightly different point of view can also be found in Justin DiRose’s Obsidian: The Basics of Note Taking. The process was (to put it mildly) extremely painful. They have also delivered every time on promises made for Obsidian’s future and even on parts previously thought not possible (e.g. 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). Both Roam and Obsidian present a map or graph of pages and their links, displaying a these ideas in a constellation of relationships.