Heptabase for thinking and knowledge management

I just went through the onboarding with Meta’s founder, Yu An (Alan) Chan, and Ethan W.

Meta is currently in the early alpha stage, but the features are impressive. Alan uses Meta itself to handle the Meta project. It’s also well researched and thought out. I’m impressed with the amount of work and research he has done on the project, and thinking through how people will use it.

I also liked the way they conducted the onboarding session, first learning about me and my expected use of the program, then having me share my screen and watch me use it as a new user, and finally showing me how he uses it himself.

Meta allows you to create markdown notes on what are called cards. These cards can arranged and connected together on a whiteboard to show relationships between them. Multiple whiteboards can be arranged on the Home space, where one can drill down into a whiteboard, work on some cards, then go back to the Home space. Cards are kept in a library, and can exist on multiple whiteboards.

They just released their desktop apps for Mac and Windows (Linux on the way).
Data is stored locally. There is a Backup Everyday button that exports everything to markdown files. You can also import md files.

Looks like there is a lot of potential here!

You can join the waitlist for an onboarding session at their website.



Looking forward to more dispatches from your Meta journey. Just the screen shots alone whet my appetite.

Is it possible to share the cost?

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They are deciding on pricing for the app.

He did say they will have a sync and publish service, which will be subscription-based.

I imagine it’s browser-based? Or is there hope for desktop/mobile client apps?


I didn’t ask about mobile.

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Sorry! Missed that line.

‘s okay, I made a lot of words.


Here’s a screen cap from their website (used with permission).
Was going to post more, but it’s a bit overwhelming with the motion from four at once.

read - 01 - 01

So, OK, the app draws lines between figures on the page. Lots of apps draw lines between figures. But is there some intelligence represented by the line? Or, more importantly, by the arrangement of the pages on the path.

That’s kind of up to the user, how or if you label the lines, spatial arrangement, color coding.

There’s more to it that than this gif relates. You can see other things on their website. They’re a start, but I think a YouTube video is in order when the features stabilize a bit.

Alan Chan, the person behind Project Meta (the thinking app, not the new evil empire) posted this recently detailing his vision for his goals, and for the app. He’s obviously putting a lot of thought into the app (using his own app, 'natch).
It’s interesting to read his motivations and thoughts as the app develops.


Can’t remember if I’ve said this somewhere already, but I’m really excited about the possibilities Meta presents. In its current incarnation, it embraces canvas based thinking, placing an emphasis on spatial or visual ways of working, but still providing the kind of base knowledge management functions we’re coming to expect from this modern generation of tools (back-linking, reusable information elements etc).

While I’m still Roam-curious, this kind of visual first thinking appeals to me more than Roam-like network graphs do.

That said— I was onboarded a while back but haven’t used it much since. Hoping for a mobile client or at least a web version that works well on mobile devices before I lean in further…

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This looks really interesting and easy to use/configure. Meta seems to be more approachable than Tinderbox but shares some of the same concepts. I’ll definitely give Meta a spin when it goes into beta.

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Meta has been renamed to Heptabase to avoid confusion / unintended association with Facebook’s parent company which is now Meta.

Here’s a link to the new website.

And there is a new on-boarding video posted just today (2022-01-02).

I love that new name. Why hepta, though, other than that it’s verbally pleasing? I can’t seem to find an association with seven in the design or marketing copy or Medium post.

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This is what Alan said on the Discord:

I’m not familiar, but found this summary of the story:

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Ah, sure! I’ve read most Ted Chiang stories and that particular one is among my favorites. It’s definitely worth seeking out. I thought there was a site where it could legally be read freely but can’t find it now, but this collection has all good stories and is worth $10. Amazon.com: Stories of Your Life and Others eBook : Chiang, Ted: Kindle Store

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Thanks! Sent a sample to my iPad.
That’s my way of introducing a little friction before buying more books, because I am book poor.


Worth noting that Story of Your Life is the basis for 2016’s Arrival:

More on-topic, I recently realized that Heptabase reminds me a lot of Plectica:

I used Plectica a bunch when it was free, but switched (back) to doing these kinds of maps in OmniGraffle.

So in this specific arena, there’s Heptabase, Plectica, Clover, TinderBox…

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For those interested, Heptabase has sunsetted their onboarding requirement, and is opening 50 slots per week for subscribers.

Also, Plectica’s low contrast website is off-putting.
Hold on, I think someone’s on my lawn…

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