My number one rule when switching to any new tool is:
How easy will it be to get all my data out, in a usable form, in three years time when I want to switch again?
This is especially the case when it’s something as important as my main note-taking and knowledge system, and I know it’s a good question because my data has moved from VoodooPad to Apple Notes, to Day One, to some hand-coded scripts, to Bear, to Obsidian in the past (and several more before that that I can’t immediately remember now). If I adopt a new app like Craft (which I admired when I tried it some time ago), but it offers new features like an unusual block structure, or hand-written annotations, I have to wonder what happens to those when I next switch. Markdown is a great lingua franca, and had enabled much of this flexibility, but it’s also a fairly low common denominator.
This freedom to do a quick and complete move when wanted is doubly important for any app that wants to charge me a subscription!
The second question is:
Will it sync, and be accessible, across both my Macs, my iPad and my iPhone without needing some external service? (beyond the iCloud, SynologyDrive and Dropbox I already use).
I tend to use things with real keyboards for writing, but if somebody calls me while I’m walking the dog, I need to be able to look things up easily on my phone.
At the moment, I use and like Obsidian, but can’t help feeling that the vast number of features can be a distraction from the task in hand. I switched to it because I thought automatic reverse-linking would be a really useful feature, and I’ve almost never used it.
I don’t find it nearly as nice a place actually to write notes as, say, Bear was. A friend of mine who writes a lot of long-form stuff and, like me, uses Ulysses to do so, was delighted when I pointed out that Ulysses can be pointed at external folders, and so you can include your Obsidian data in your Ulysses world, and write any given chunk of text with the tool of your choice. This is only possible, though, when your tools use the filesystem instead of a custom database, and Markdown instead of a custom format. If they can just export to Markdown, that’s a halfway point, but it’ll normally only take you in one direction, and to fulfil my first criterion, they need to be able to do that with all your data in a single operation.
So I’d be interested in alternatives to Obsidian, but I do have some pretty strict requirements! Suggestions welcome!