I’ve wanted to get into knowledge management apps for years but every time I tried they missed something. Obsidian is the closest but doesn’t hit the mark for me.
I want something that’s polished and simple to use. I don’t need infinite features or settings. But, all of the “dumbed down” apps like Evernote have problems of some variety.
You don’t own your data, too hard to get out, proprietary format
Not cross platform
Required data to be on the cloud, no option for local storage only
If it’s on the cloud, it’s not zero knowledge encrypted
Specific Apps I’ve tried:
Apple Notes would be perfect if it was cross platform.
OneNote would be perfect if it allowed local storage of files on the iOS/Mac apps (they offer it on Windows)
Standard Notes would be perfect if it allowed images to be embedded
Scrivener would be perfect if it didn’t locked you into the format and structure that’s meant for writing books like you must have the manuscript folder, even though you can rename it, the artificial structure requirements feel limiting
The issue I haven’t seen addressed in many of these apps, except maybe Apple Notes has a “lock” function is I want to separate the functions of editing/creating notes and viewing notes. These are two totally separate and distinct activities for me.
I accidentally delete a chunk of text from a note while I wanted to read info at least once a week. In an ideal world I’d have two totally separate apps. I don’t need to edit my knowledge management while I’m on my iPhone or iPad. If I want to take notes, that’s what a note taking app is for.
Knowledge management should be like Wikipedia, where there’s some kind of change control process. 99% of the time you’re reading Wikipedia. Less than 1% of the time you are editing it, and so that should require a different path.
There is no perfect software. There is no perfect software because there is no perfect idea of what features software should have. There is no perfect idea of what features software should have because the siren song of “knowledge management” is sung by influencers out to make a dime from telling us a different story every week about what perfection is. The answer is to sit in a comfy chair with a comfy pot of tea, and just start reading and writing and enjoying both. Stop fiddling and trying new software. Block all forums and videos – except maybe the occasional cute cat.
Obsidian does that in the difference between view and edit mode. I have my mobile apps set to View only I can switch to edit if I have to but all notes come in showing the view version initially.
I am not using Git on my whole vault but for some sections where I want versioning and documentation of changes I do have individual folders set up as separate git repos. Some are local to my machine only, some are public and some are private but on GitLab.
Yep, So my take is decide what you features cannot live with and what features you cannot live without and then from that short list of possible apps try them until you find one that causes the least friction/hassle/angst. Note: there will be something you don’t like about every piece of SW for every task so unless you want to roll your own you have to make tradeoffs.
Agree with Katie @KVZ. I also started with a bunch of criteria (non-proprietary, searchable, editable, accessible, supports images/tables, etc, linkable). Ultimately Obsidian was the closest I got (and it got closer with new features, eg live preview), but then I just picked one and ran with it. The limitations become manageable.
As an Apple-only user that isn’t a problem for me. I use Notes on my Mac mini, MacBookPro, iPad Air and iPhone that’s cross platform enough for me.
I use Scrivener for taking notes. In my notes collection the folders are rather haphazrd but have long meaningful names. Pretty much ignore the “mandatory” Research folder. Again I have it installed on the same devices as Apple Notes. Each note is a Scrivener document and placed somewhere in the heirarchy but with no real care about where it ends up although on the Macs I am a little more careful about where it goes. Later I can move notes to a more sensible location. As I review the note there is the option to add metadata and keywords. The one thing that stops me using it as my only notes application is the interminable wait for the iOS and iPad versions to start up by which time I have invariably forgotten what it was the note was about. Though since upgrading to the iPad Air (4th gen) and the iPhone to a 14 the initiation speed may have improved I just haven’t tried it.
Many markdown editors let you differentiate between editing and viewing – the edit pane and the preview pane are different. If you only have one open, you’ll be doing that. The trade off is you don’t usually get a WYSIWYG editor. Check out The Archive, MMDComposer 5, nvUltra (when it’s out of beta), and many others.
Other than this dichotomy between viewing and editing, I’d recommend NotePlan. It’s beautiful, it doesn’t have all the features but it has a lot (and it’s always getting more thanks to a very active dev and a strong plug-in eco system). It’s highly customizable (not only themes, but also custom syntaxes – you can extend markdown yourself, and/or adjust it to be more like GFM or more like MMD, or whatever flavor you prefer. Images are embeddable. It’s a native app on Mac, iPhone and iPad. Downsides: no shortcuts or widgets yet, and formatting is based on Apple’s system, not CSS, so it isn’t quite as versatile as HTML based systems.
After trying Obsidian I was also unsatisfied and have settled on Logseq. I advise taking a look and seeing if it suits your needs.
I currently use it on Mac and iPhone and the only real gripe I have is that the iCloud sync can be slow on the phone sometimes. They do have a native syncing feature that is currently in beta and supposedly excellent but you have to be a paying ‘supporter’ to use it. I’ll probably go for it soon as the tool becomes more integrated in my workflow.
I find it less confusing than Obsidian and use it mostly for keeping notes and logs throughout the day as well as frequently referenced information.
It also has quite a few useful plugins developed by the community that you may find useful.
May I humbly suggest Notenik, if you haven’t yet tried it? All of your data is stored in plain text files. Notenik the app runs only on the Mac, but the files can be read and synced anywhere (or nowhere, if that’s what you want). And Notenik has an Edit tab and a Display tab. You’re not editing unless you click on the Edit tab (and that looks very different from the Display tab, so you won’t be editing by accident). Notenik is free, and available from the Mac App Store, and has its own website at Notenik.app. Users have commented that it is simple and straightforward to use, but has lots of power under the hood, should you want or need it.
Hi everyone! I’d love to know more of your opinions regarding Heptabase for PKM. It is such an intelligently designed app! I don’t use it yet, but as soon as I have the time (next year…!) I’ll certainly use it.
Regarding privacy: if you don’t need sync, it looks like the info is always kept local on Heptabase.
Today my PKM system is comprised mainly of three apps, which are all very, very stable and powerful:
Obsidian (e2ee synced b/w Mac and iPhone)
Scrivener (I only use local files)
Numbers (I only use local files, password-protected)
I need E2E encryption when I sync files with the iPhone, and I need local file storage always. I plan to move vast parts of my PKM into Heptabase (mostly, info that don’t need much privacy. I’d love if Heptabase’ one day implements full E2EE and Password-protection of files…). Since I don’t know if they will do it, most probably my PKM will still be a combination of these four apps.
I’ll also implement an idea that I saw Tiago Forte talking about, which is to standardize the same folder structure inside all of these apps. For example, infos regarding “Technology for work” will always be on “area 06”. (I’ll create sub-areas such as “06.01 PKM design ideas”, “06.02 Software”, “06.03 Hardware”, etc)