A Metaphysican Looks at Algorithms of Thought. What is Roam Research? Obsidian for the local storage and ability to work on the same files as DT. These blocks can then be nested indefinitely underneath each other and they can be collapsed or zoomed into/out of. 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. Occasionally, Roam simply will not load in the Safari browser. So take this with a grain of salt. Encountering a random note and considering how it might relate to the question at hand can generate valuable insights. 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. 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. By contrast, after installation, Obsidian’s basic feature set requires no internet connectivity at all. Boolean search is also capable of multiple unique combination searches, unlike queries in Roam which are limited to links alone. On the surface, it's a note taking tool that anyone could use in that capacity. Blocks from one page can be referenced (which allows them to be seen) or embedded (which allows them to be edited) in another page. But with persistence, I found video like these: The Keep Productive YouTube Channel’s Obsidian: Getting Started, Facts, and Pricing. Exploring the resulting constellation of relationships reveals existing connections and suggests new ones. In addition, I’ve been using Roam to write corporate video scripts and create the outlines I use in the online classes I teach. Both problems can be mitigated by responsible practices. Obsidian.md is free for personal use. ... 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. 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. For example: Roam incorporates a feature called the Daily Page. If you don’t care to think about it at all, Roam might be the better option. Yes. This makes filtering tasks (particularly filtering out, since you would exclude the entire page) significantly less effective in Obsidian. If you then delete that link prior to generating the page, it will disappear from your Vault entirely. I, however, personally do not mind. If you use local-only storage alone, you can be sure your data stays private. I find that if you enjoy spending time in an application, it definitely makes it easier to be productive. In Obsidian, this is not the case right now, though WYSIWYG is on the roadmap and coming soon. If the Obsidian-based sync service is not something you are interested in pursuing, you can stick to local only storage of your notes (free) or use a cloud-based service of your choosing (pricing depends on your choice). If you’re obsessed with privacy, Obsidian might be the better choice for you. As with Roam, users can apply custom CSS or any of a library of user-submitted themes to tweak the way the app appears. 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. The navigation and linking experience is frictionless. Disambiguate Obsidian vs Roam. On migrating to another platform, those “reference pages” will be blank. The second (and, for me, more interesting) list collects all my unlinked references — instances of a word or phrase that match the title of an existing note, but that aren’t yet linked to that note. The separation of edit and preview modes. Have two panels open for each note you worked on: one in Edit mode and one in Preview mode, or. This added a subconscious level of friction to my writing. As a result, blocks cannot be referenced or embedded. Be aware, too, that both Roam and Obsidian are being developed at a furious pace. These are not just searches of the page titles, but searching within the pages themselves. Supporting references to blocks may, in fact, be Roam’s single most important feature. I was using Roam for the outliner functionality, block level referencing and frictionless linking and writing experience. I believe Roam’s decision to make blocks the smallest possible unit of thought make it a superior tool for knowledge work. During downtime, I’m more present. As noted above, WYSIWYG is coming to Obsidian in the near future and when that occurs, there will no longer be any need to cycle between viewing/editing modes at all and this whole section (other than the keyboard shortcuts portion) will be a moot point. Do they have the same detailed functionality of Roam? 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. I visited my “Roam Research” page, browsed linked and unlinked references, pulled relevant material into Ulysses, and then polished it there. 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. 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. You can access either from this webpage: https://obsidian.md/community. Unlike Word, Ulysses allows me to break down a long document into a series of short sheets. For one thing, it is expensive. If a similar function is available in Roam, I haven’t found it.). Each time, resolving the issue (which involved clicking around to find invisible, offensive line breaks and backspace over them) required several minutes. Very handy for looking at tags you are using and which ones are most active versus which ones are getting dusty. What the founders are doing with block-level text manipulation has turned it into a ground-breaking tool for writing and knowledge-work. There are a few main differences and subtle limitations in Obsidian to be aware of though: All this being said, there are some benefits over Roam’s system as well. During this past month of use, I’ve come up with two features I hope to see in future updates. Clicking any note in the graph highlights its connections. It is possible that Roam might someday suffer a catastrophic data loss or be acquired by a user-hostile company? I’m tired of shoving notes into anything boxes (and never seeing them again). The lack of a block-level base structure limits the contextual benefits of backlinking to some degree. 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. Because there is no proprietary formatting, you can open and access your notes in any other text editor or note-taking application available. Knowing nothing about CSS, using this trick allowed me to edit my personal favorite community theme (Warmth, dark mode) into exactly what I wanted. Roam is a little like that. Each time the user presses Enter, he or she creates a new block, which appears as a bulleted paragraph on the page. More concerning, however, is what happens on re-importing your dataset, for instance in the case of data loss. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network. With a simple filter, I can enhance focus and see progress by displaying only the bits and pieces of the work that still need attention. Opening multiple notes is more flexible and usable. This allows you more flexibility in how you break ideas down and mix and match thoughts. It provides a lot of the strengths of Roam, expands and improves on other parts (e.g. I think no one would argue that the Obsidian graph view is far superior to Roam’s graphing at this point in time. Block references cannot pull in adjacent nested text automatically, since Obsidian doesn’t operate on a block-level structure. Their dedication to the application is readily apparent. I must also thank Mike Schmitz, whose off-hand reference to Roam Research during a recent episode of The Sweet Setup webcast caught my attention and launched this entire odyssey. (When my two-week trial ended, I had zero buyer’s regret associated with ponying up my $15.00 per month.) 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? I can also share that any time invested in exploring Roam is time well-spent. 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. Once notes go in, the system should help me link my ideas together, spark insights, and produce something new. You would have to convert “genius” into a link and then convert all the unlinked mentions into links as well. Let me start by saying, I think Roam is amazing. Roam is built around a block-based, outliner structure. Once the API goes public, community generated plug-ins are likely to rapidly expand the offerings of Obsidian functionality. Oddly, neither Roam nor Obsidian offer a search feature that works in graph view. But your local hard drive could also suffer catastrophic failure. Tend to your notes like a gardener; at the end of the day, sit back and marvel at your own knowledge graph. In addition, more than once, I found myself wrestling with an outline in Obsidian that looked fine in editing view, but that failed to indent properly in preview mode. The block level structure provides much better support for things such as task and project management, building a CRM and interstitial journaling. With Roam, it’s quick and easy to export your notes to a local folder. I began to experience this constant presence in the back of my mind anytime I wrote something — would I be okay if this somehow became public? 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. As I see it, this is where Roam and Obsidian stand at the current point in time. For example: on my “Snowpiercer” note, the list of unlinked references displays every other time I’ve used the word “Snowpiercer” without creating a link. There is also full support for tagging with autocompletion. It is a note-taking tool for networked thought As easy to use as a document. 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. 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. When you own your data, the options are essentially limitless. 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. As a result, even though the terms Mr. Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, and President Lincoln all reference the same individual, Roam sees these as three unique and not necessarily related references. If you’ve made it this far, wow. I Asked Roam Research, “What Do I Want?” The Results Devastated Me. A search feature capable of highlighting nodes that match search teams would make a nice addition to both applications. NOTION vs ROAM vs OBSIDIAN vs REMNOTE (How to choose the BEST FIT note taking app for you!) 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. Instead of thinking of an entire chapter — or even an entire page — at once, I can focus on smaller “scraps” (or blocks) of text. 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. Previously, Obsidian only allowed for page-level linking or heading-level linking. 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. The tasks will not be parsed individually, unlike in Roam where each task would be made up of its own block. There are also amazing CSS hacks developed by the community that allow you to do certain unique things with Obsidian. But every day, I come across new functionality. 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. As Shu Omi recently illustrated on Twitter, this structure allows your thoughts and ideas to swirl in a volatile mix versus being sectioned off in tight little boxes: Can you guess what I’m trying to say? 3. 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. 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. 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.”. Bottom line? I can certainly live without founders I’m uncomfortable with. I’m writing more. The application is web-only (outside of local storage in browser cache for 5-year subscribers) and has a minimalist appearance. Also, unlike Roam, they have really well communicated the fact how they will support the free version of the app and keep all … Users familiar with outlining apps will appreciate that blocks can be dragged and dropped with ease. I can drag and drop these, re-ordering them at will. A major difference between Obsidian and other applications like Roam, Evernote or Notion is that Obsidian is just a shell application. These days, I write in Ulysses. I think this is why people feel so free in Roam. Once, I used to write entire books in Word. Amazingly, the Obsidian team is only a two-person show: They are extremely impressive coders and have a history of successful projects, having worked previously to create Dynalist. A search employing fuzzy logic, capable of finding near-matches or even synonyms, could be very useful. The cult mentality of the online community became a bit jarring. 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. “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. 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. (I’m just starting to understand how I might use queries, for example.) 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. Obsidian is great if you have large screens and atomic short notes. Clever users offer extensive tutorials on how to use CSS to customize Roam’s appearance. Roam Research is currently more a service than an app. Can turn away For another thing, Roam’s development is a bit haphazard. Most of all, I want note taking to be about creation, not collection. Otherwise, a clear choice for folks who have a strong interest in privacy and future-proofed knowledge. Each of these tags is also clickable from this panel, which then automatically pulls up a search for all the notes with that tag. 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. 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). Some of the more noteworthy ones, include: Currently, the Obsidian team is working on creating their beta API. Their implementation of markdown doesn't deviate from the standard form of markdown and so the same files can be used by other markdown programs without any consequence. I think the pricing differences between Roam and Obsidian speak for themselves, so I won’t belabor this point. This is frustrating, but it’s definitely a first-world problem. 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. I can tag individual sheets as drafts or tag them as complete when I’m done revising them. Tutorials more than a few months old remain useful, but will not cover the latest features. A tabbed left-hand pane can display either a list of folders and documents or the search field. 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. I can live without block-level transclusion and queries in Roam. You can also choose whether you want the graph to include or suppress nodes associated with daily pages. When comparing Evernote vs Roam Research, the Slant community recommends Evernote for most people.In the question“What is the note taking app for Amazon Alexa?”Evernote is ranked 12th while Roam Research is ranked 25th. Pages are made up of blocks. First: fuzzy searches. 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”. In the end, only you can decide whether or not access to Roam is worth $180.00 a year. 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. In Obsidian, I can query any combination of page links, hashtags and random words or phrases. 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. A right-hand pane displays a list of linked and unlinked (but potentially related) documents. 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. Block-level, outliner based structure with second-to-none contextual linking capabilities. Roam works equally well on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. With Obsidian, you could save notes to a cloud-synced folder. That's my mood today. In total, we have documented 88 features in Obsidian vs 97 features in Roam. And ultimately, I went looking for other alternatives that could meet my day-to-day needs without any of the additional background noise. 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.). 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