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

Textbundle is a neat idea that seems like it could be useful in some situations. It reminds me of Microsoft’s approach with their “.docx” file format being a zipfile of assets, although they went with XML rather than Markdown and JSON.

The added complexity does undermine Markdown’s claim of simplicity. For now, I can’t see using textbundle files unless my needs change significantly.

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Alas, it’s not like many apps support it so it didn’t look that future-proof to me. Looks to be a conveniently packed Markdown format with embedded attachments.

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That’s exactly what it is. Unpacking it is trivial if you wanted to convert to markdown + external folder. It’s not proprietary packaging/compression. There’s a very low chance of actually losing data/files - it just needs to be unpacked using widely available tools.

As @karlnyhus says, just like docx. It would be weird to have image files littered around and separated from a Word file which is the situation with conventional markdown files.

It would be more work if you did decide to switch to another tool that doesn’t offer support, like Obsidian as you would have to extract then transfer. So it’s weighing up the neatness of a format that has all elements ‘packaged’ together with rapid transferability to unsupported applications.

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I’m not trying to sell you on staying with Obsidian, just offering two things that might help:

  • DevonThink to index Obsdian - I don’t do this but others seem very happy with it.
  • OmniSearch an Obsidian plugin that has noticeably better search than the built-in option.

Aside from that you empathy and some interest from me, since my wife wants a notetaking tool and the UI of Obsidian is just wrong for a normal person.

That’s exactly my point. Before going all in with Textbundle for my stuff I would need to see more extended support, if not as native format, at least in the form of import/export tools.

This looks very interesting. I understand that it’s purpose is portability and ease of use between Mac and iOS markdown applications. Can it support multiple Markdown documents within a single bundle? If not, the appeal to me diminishes. I can imagine it’s value as a “self-contained” collection of plaintext files and media.

:man_shrugging: I do not know for sure but it looks like there is only one plain text file allowed per textbundle.

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another option, the one I used, is to use Eaglefiler to index the Obsidian Vault. I mentioned in this post. Eaglefiler should be one of the most powerful search facilities

Yeah. I’m under the impression that it’s usefulness is restricted precisely to how it’s described on (sharing individual documents between sandboxed apps on Apple devices).

Would be interested to see it extended in an open format, cross-platform with multiple documents. But that would require a readdress of its intent. It’s an interesting format nonetheless.

A little more on the topic at hand:

I tried out Logseq yesterday in an effort to make sure I wasn’t missing something (I would love to have reference lists for each block in a file a la Roam or Logseq), and it was also not for me.

It’s a great outliner (that is obvious from the get-go), but if your goal is Markdown, it falls flat on its face when it comes to tasks and interoperability with other apps.

For Orgs mode fans, though, Logseq looks awesome!

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OP, what app did you end up going with? Obsidian looks nice, but syncing your Mac app with the mobile app is a no-go unless you are a wealthy person.

iCloud Sync is free.

It’s probably also worth pouring out that Bear 2.0 is due out in the next month which will include PKM functionality.

I’m not on the beta so can’t say what it’s like but as an old-school Bear fan, I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with.

If you’re an “an old-school Bear fan,” you’ll probably find much to like about Bear 2! I also liked Bear a few years back, but it seemed to increasingly lack functionality compared to more recent apps, and the pace of development seemed glacial.

Fast forward to 2023: I’ve been using the Bear 2.0 beta for a couple of months and find it to be a really nice app for PKM/commonplace book for my purposes. (The beta seems polished, functional, and essentially finished for me, but a TestFlight update rolls in every few days.) I’ve tried keeping this kind of note resource over the years in Craft, Drafts, Obsidian, and DEVONthink, and it seems like Bear is the one that will stick for me for my purposes of collecting quotes and ideas I encounter in reading, something important for me both personally and professionally. Drafts, Obsidian, and DEVONthink are all useful and part of my “tech stack,” but seem more effective at other use cases for me. First of all, one of the reasons I like Bear is because the iOS/iPad OS app is really nice, and that’s the primary way I will engage with content on this app. (I work on a Mac at home, but an iPad at work, and really prefer apps I can use with equal effectiveness on both devices.) In particular, I can adjust the typography on a per device basis, something that I can’t do with Craft, which was an issue for me. Otherwise, and perhaps more significantly, wiki linking (and backlinking) work well in Bear 2, and it has extensive Shortcuts support. Anyways, from what I’ve seen so far, I really am enjoying using this app.


Obsidian with iCloud sync, and sometimes I use iA Writer on top if I ever want a more traditional UX. That being said, if Ulysses ever added wiki links, I’d be more than a little tempted to use that instead.

And unreliable. I set up 2 vaults with identical files but different sync methods - Git and

Git (obsidian-git and working copy app) syncing was instantaneous.

iCloud made me wait to use the app with the “Waiting for configuration files to sync” message every time that I opened the app. Often it was missing files that had not synced yet.

Additionally, if you need it to sync with devices that don’t have iCloud, then you are out of luck!

The Apple shortcuts automation I set up to automatically push-pull git changes wasn’t perfect either. It seems to be working, but it throws an “automation failed” because it “took too long” message when doing a git push or pull.

That leaves you with Obsidian Sync for

I will say I’m at the point with Obsidian where Apple doesn’t love how many tiny files are in this app’s directory. Sometimes it takes a while to sync. But this issue is also the reason developers use Git — tracking changes against thousands of files is difficult and requires more effort than a few big files.

Anyway, I can see why Git is a better solution, but like you, I’m not sure I want to futz with it.

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I would also suggest Bear 2. Excellent pkm app.

I posted this in another thread, perhaps it is helpful here as well.

One of the frustrations in using Obsidian is that many plugins don’t work on mobile, including Pandoc. If one uses an iPad for writing, research, etc., and needs or desires to use plugins, Obsidian is a poor option, in my opinion.

My solution is to store my research articles in DEVONThink and use an external folder in Ulysses to access all of my book notes, highlights, and atomic notes, all of which are in markdown. This works seamlessly across my devices. I can also create links to and from DT <–> Ulysses if and as desired. Although I don’t get the backlinking capabilities of Obsidian, I’ve discovered that I seldom need them. Manually setting up the links between Ulysses and DT works well enough. This approach results in one less application and less friction and fiddling.

I’m now using Logseq for my research, brainstorming, note-taking (atomic and meeting), planning and journaling, having tried everything :grinning: . Their dedicated sync is coming which will handle multi-way merge across devices.

I like outlining before I get to longform writing, so it works better than Obsidian or Bear for that. I tried Workflowy but it is poorly documented and expected features - like being able to export well - are underdeveloped despite its longevity. Dynalist… well it’s not being developed and it’ll be supported only until it breaks.

I also use Eaglefiler (still!) as my file repository. It’s something that has stuck around longer than anything else. Omnivore is a relatively new addition for my Read-it-later workflow, which integrates neatly with Logseq (and Obsidian).

Logseq still has bugs, but I don’t encounter them often.

Being cross-platform is important to my choices having found myself on an Android phone earlier in the year. And iCloud (like OneDrive, it seems) is terrible.