Alternatives to Obsidian for basic PKM (Craft? Ulysses?)

I’ve used Ulysses for blog posts and Bible study for years. My wife uses it too now, so the subscription is becoming indispensable for us. It does a lot of things right.

I also use Obsidian for my knowledge management. I’m a freelancer with a bunch of clients and tons of work happening at once. Mostly, what I keep track of is a daily log, my meeting notes, normal notes, and client indexes. I am bad at keeping up with the indexes, though.

Yesterday, I went looking for a meeting note in Obsidian and couldn’t find it. The search just killed me. I couldn’t remember the name of the file — just the person at the meeting. That person has been at many meetings, and Obsidian just refused to show all the results for their name.

I also tried the same search in Craft (where I had a duplicate of this note and several others during a 3-month experimentation period), and I found the note instantly. The search was 10x better.

This made me realize something important: I like Obsidian conceptually, but I don’t like the software itself (I never have). I begrudgingly used it because it seemed useful as a knowledge tool. But for the way I use knowledge tools, it tripped over itself yesterday. Therefore, I’m either using it wrong or it’s not meant for me.

So now I’m considering my other options.

Here’s my basic folder structure:

  • Daily Notes
  • Meeting Notes
  • Notes
  • Potential Projects
  • Active Projects
  • Completed Projects

I thought about just creating a folder for each project with a subfolder for meeting notes for that project, which would have solved my problem yesterday. However, some meeting notes may not relate to a specific client or project, or may relate to more than one client or project. So I need tags for this feature.

For that reason, I can cross Craft off the list (no tag support), which is a bit of a bummer because it’s a lovely application. (I also am not considering Noteplan, for a couple small nitpick-y reasons, but the big one is that I don’t need task management in my notes.)

That leaves Ulysses. I could use a mix of tags and groups to make “folders” of meeting notes for each client, while still having all the meeting notes in one directory. Ulysses also lets you independently sort each folder, so some (like normal notes) can be sorted by date created, and some (like daily journals) can be sorted by title (so 2022-09-23 also comes before 2022-09-22, even if I forget to make a daily log one day and need to make it the following day).

A directory structure within Obsidian looks like this:

  • Daily Notes
  • Meeting Notes
  • Notes
  • Active Projects
    • Client / Project Name
      • Smart group of notes tagged with Client Name
      • Smart group of meeting notes tagged with Client Name
  • Etc

If I abandon Obsidian, I know I’ll miss wiki links and Markdown support for checkboxes. Is there anything else I’d miss? Is there another app I should check out? Is there simple some sort of PKM technique I’m missing?

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Would this workaround in Craft meet your needs?

Tags workarounds

It’s not quite the same as actual tags, but it might serve essentially the same purpose, and you’d get to keep your wiki links.

It feels a little fussy to me somehow. (Alternatively, one could just use the # sign and then type your tag name, then use search in Craft, i.e. “#People/JohnDoe”).

Given how much text I already store in Ulysses, I am tempted to leave everything in there and sacrifice easy wiki links (which I mostly only use in the daily log). I use those wiki links in my notes too for dates and the like, but I also put the dates in the note titles, so it’s really not that big of a deal in that regard.

I will also admit that I’m fearful of Craft shutting down one day and leaving me without plain text versions of my documents.

As you can see, I am wiffle waffling.

Edit: if anybody has tried Ulysses for this use case and has thoughts, I’d love to hear that. Talk me out of this, or into this. It would take a substantial amount of time to move my documents into Ulysses is all, and I don’t want to waste it.

Edit edit: Another thought: Craft might be a good solution for me if I want to share any of these documents with clients. Really easy to share meeting notes, project status, or even to put together documentation and send it along.

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You could always just use HoudahSpot for your search engine. Obsidian is just a folder of text files, after all.

With the recent update to IA Writer, I have moved my PKM system there. Search is good and while it may not have all of the features offered by Craft, Obsidian, etc… I find the simplified system works better for my needs.

For document templates, I created a dictionary of templates using IA’s URL Scheme that I run through Shortcuts.

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iA Writer is an excellent option! I love the app and have played with it a bit, but it won’t quite achieve what I need with a set up like this. But I wish it would! I’m an aspirational iA Writer user.

You might want to test-drive Notebooks.app. I use it in conjunction with both Obsidian and Devonthink Pro to work on a set of markdown files (plus PDFs and image files where relevant) stored on Dropbox.

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Are you using notebooks on IOS/IPadOS or just Mac. I actually find DT fine on Mac (but obsidian a little quicker) on mac. DT to go sucks on iOS Devices which is only reason I use obsidian sometimes. Still looking for a mobile companion that has a little more than apple notes and this might fit the bill. (If apple notes had templates, wiki links, or allowed link names to display correctly without lots of extra work I would be all Apple notes).

The idea of notebooks app on iOS seems like a good option, but not sure I want to spend the money to demo it. Why are you using it over obsidian? Does it work well for quick input? Does it show backlinks? How do you integrate with DT and obsidian?

Craft’s export of all my work is excellent. And they’re adding more options. I’ve been using Craft as my full time workhorse for two months now and don’t miss, notion, workflowy, evernote or obsidian. Even Bear and Drafts won’t be renewed.

Craft is extremely beautiful, has all the linking and sharing I need, just the right amount of formatting, looks great on all devices, syncs real fast and is a joy to use. Never liked the markdown plaintext approach.

It’s also great at creating rich text email and sharing rich text documents or simply creating an online webpage. I’ve added audio lectures, pptx, word, etc. It all works. I’ve never been as satisfied with a notes app as I am with Craft. I don’t need to sort workarounds, faff with stylesheets, create complex shortcuts to do what I need.

For me Craft has ended my notes CRIMP journey.

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Wow, Notebooks looks really nice! Why is it not more popular?

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I am very tempted by all this. I love the markdown plain text approach, but there are advantages to a tool with a little more finesse — especially for sharing things with clients, which I could potentially use a fair bit.

This philosophical debate — local plaintext, which I have always loved, vs. a cloud-based app — rages in me. I am a restless soul on this topic.

It all depends on your needs. I use several devices and need to share stuff that looks good. Craft fits that bill well. Plaintext and markdown may be a safe format, but useless for final rich text output without some shenanigans. After years of messing with stylesheets, or someone else’s coded plugins or cobbling together your own code or having to run it through the commandline, I’m finally happy that’s behind me.

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Id say it’s not more popular due to lack of marketing. With a one time payment you get a nice note organizer on top of any plain folder structure (iCloud included) plus a mobile app (also one time payment)

I would not dare to compare it to DT but it’s playing in the same league as KeepIt.

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I use Notebooks.app on both my Mac and iOS devices, but I’m particularly glad to have it in my toolbox for iOS. DTTG is clumsy at best. Syncing Obsidian between a Mac and an iOS device requires storing things in iCloud Drive. Since I use Dropbox, Obsidian is a non-starter for me on iOS.

It’s great for quick input. It’s got backlinks.

I keep all of my md notes and associated documents in an organized hierarchy of Finder folders synced to Dropbox. I point all three apps at that set of folders and use whichever one is best for the task at hand. DTP is phenomenal for search; Notebooks.app is better than either DTP or Obsidian for reading and writing; Obsidian’s Daily Note and template functionality make it a starting point of choice.

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Yes. If DT is more than you need, Notebooks.app may hit the sweet spot.

DTTG only gets used to make a markdown link to the source file for me and to “share to” DT. As heavy ios user more than mac makes it a pain to use.

Dropbox sync opens the questions of what other services does it support, specifically does notebooks.app support webdav folders natively? I have been trying to come up with a process to use my synology setup with webdav (or even synology drive aka synology’s private dropbox) with a notes app, but obsidian only allows use of icloud. It might be worth my money to use notebooks if it supported this……

Apparently.

Thanks. Will give it a go!

Replying to my own thread here. I think, for my use case, @svsmailus might be on to something with Craft.

Craft doesn’t have to be repository for everything. This isn’t a Craft or situation. It’s more like a Craft and. Craft makes it really easy to export everything, so once I’m done with my meeting notes I could export the text to Markdown, dump it into Obsidian, and boom, I’ve got a backup.

I could write my own documentation for clients (in fact, I was planning to with Material for MkDocs), but I haven’t had the time to learn Material and that time doesn’t look like it’s going to open up soon. Craft isn’t as nice as a custom solution like that, but it gives me a place to quickly write documentation. And again, I can always grab the plain text files and store them elsewhere. It’d be easy enough to transition to Material for MkDocs when I have time.

Anyway, really thinking about using Craft as my starting place and then dumping the final text elsewhere. (Heck, it could even live in Ulysses if Craft is handling my wiki link needs.)