Notion for Research?

It’s come up here and there, but is anyone using Notion to gather research (web links, PDFs, etc) and to make notes? I’m using Apple Notes now for that but want a separate place for research. Any thoughts?

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I think Notion is an open-ended, powerful personal wiki app, but it leads itself to time-consuming customization and tweaking (just check out the endless ‘show me your Notion setup’ posts on the fora) and requires manual housekeeping. I’m not a huge fan since I like apps with more structure that let me get to work, but it definitely has its appeal.

For the type of research info you listed I’d consider investigating Scrivener, or Notebooks, which like Notion are also Mac/iOS.

When I research I tend to take notes in outline form, so I end up having to use an outliner app (OmniOutliner usually, sometimes Cloud Outliner Pro) in addition to other apps. Notebooks leverages QuickLook so I can read my outlines inside it (as well as Markdown, PDF, iWork, Office, RTF HTML documents, images, movies, web archives, email messages). It also has built in some task management features which includes making task lists and applying due-dates and alarms (very interesting, but I haven’t used it yet).

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Curio is probably the best app, but only for Mac. Margin Note 3 is also interesting. If you fancy outline, take a look on Dynalist. Their free tier is by far the most capable of the outline apps.

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For collecting and note taking, better options are:

Devonthink - provides a database of collections of all types, has note taking, Mac and IOS. More a repository than anything else
Curio - fabulous for collecting and organising, annotating and publishing. Mac only
Notebooks - as good as Curio for collecting, annotating, Mac, IOS, Windows.
Aquaminds Notetaker - very good notebook metaphor (think Circus Ponies) Mac only

All but Aquaminds have trial versions.

I would not use Notion for research - it is nice for notes though

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I had not heard of this “Notion” app before today, when some guy named “Myke” talked about it on:

He starts talking about it at the 1 hour, 12 minute, 14 second mark after explaining why he finally quit Evernote for good.

Maybe you could reach out to him and see if he’d be willing to share his experiences with you.

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I have heard great things about Notion, and I love the idea of it. There are a few things with are holding me back though:

  • No API, which means no integration with things like Zapier.
  • Poor iOS Apps.
  • No offline support.

That aside, I like how you can have a variety of forms of data in it, and pull those together to make a dashboard. There’s a subreddit which has lots of examples of how people set their systems up which I am really enjoying looking at!

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For me, Notion is a fine place for collecting links, documents, organizing them, adding comments, creating notes, building a research plan and tracking my research activity, and having the tool available on multiple platforms. Like anything else, customization and tweaking depends on the user’s preferences and focus – out of the box, there’s no need to do any customization. Just use it.

Since the Notion free account level is very functional and open ended, why not start with that and see how if it works for you? Nothing lost by testing.

Katie

I definitely think it’s worth trying! I found that it did too much. It’s one of those tools that when I’m not using it to it’s full potential I feel like I’m using it wrong…and then I end up focusing more on using everything the tool has to offer rather than finding what works for me.

I agree. Although it looks nice on iOS, I needed to keep going back to the Mac app to get things exactly the way I wanted them to look before syncing them to the iOS apps. Being unable to use an iOS device as a primary input point is a big no-no for me.

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I started using it after Myke mentioned it on Cortex, but this is a big issue for me. I want to replace Evernote with it, but Evernote’s Zapier integation is key to my workflows.

That said, if you’re not connecting it to anything and just using it as an info repository, I think it’s a great tool.

It’s both increasingly customizable, but also very restrictive. I wanted to use it for combining a reading/writing workflow, personal wiki, and short/long-term goal management. I can’t justify using it beyond goal management.

A couple points:

  • No local URL support - can’t open a DEVONthink-item URL for example
  • iOS app is less capable
  • can’t select multiple “blocks” on iOS easily
  • not so secure (but for research, not a big deal)
  • no drag-and-drop support on iPadOS - without headaches.

Biggest Fear: Data Loss! Because of the lack of real offline support, if you make changes to anything, and for some reason it doesn’t get updated, you will lose it upon the next refresh. This has happened to me multiple times - usually when I am using cellular data, but not exclusively. I have heard of many people losing hours of work in this regard. I have only lost minutes of work, but for me that is too much.

I love it for:

  • goal management
  • the databases are particularly effective for the above
  • it could be great for task management, but you will only get value out of it if you integrate Notion into your overall workflow.
  • a kind of web clipper (though DEVONthinks is superior)
  • workflow/process organizer.
  • example: see how Tiago Forte uses Notion for his blogging workflow.

Best Tools:

  • DEVONthink or KeepIt (but KeepIt’s sync is at best unreliable between devices)

EDIT: Added biggest fear

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Thanks for all the replies. I was quickly overwhelmed by all the options in Notion so it’s probably not for me.

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My reaction as well. I try it occasionally and barely last more than a minute with it.

I’m curious what you’re working on. “Research” covers a lot of options. Researching could be journalism, a personal project, academic, a book, a produced podcast a la Serial — all different requirements. A good segment or whole episode of the podcast, I should think.

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If you’re looking for something pretty straight forward, for notes, clipping URLs, images, and files, then consider Dynalist. Available on all Apple platforms. On Mac, there is a clipping extension for Chrome.

Katie

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Dynalist (which cloned Workflowy, and is similar to both Checkvist, Transno and others) is a good service, but way expensive at $96/year. And file/image attachments are only in the paid version (as are Capture-To-inbox, the tag pane, daily Dropbox/GDrive backups, and other features).

It’ll end up on the show at some point, but it’s mostly random bits of info for future 512 articles or videos.

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Dynalist is also more powerful than the other mentioned apps. The free tier is very generous and most people will be happy with it. So if someone wants the pro features but uses the app only a few times a week, he should probably use a different software.

But once I started using Dynalist more, I see the price as justified. It is a great app.

@TheMarty @bowline @ismh

Is there not as much resistance to web apps these days? Particularly if you are prone to iOS, although I know the OP is not in that vein (as far as I know).

Dynalist is good, but it’s features are more designed (imho) outline and writing. I am of the opinion that the UI/UX doesn’t serve the OPs purpose as well as others might.

Wouldn’t KeepIt or DEVONthink be a better solution for the collection of media AND writing? With the added benefit of iOS features.

I suppose my historian brain is also just concerned with longevity of the research (10+ years) which depending on the OPs intent, might only be specific to my use case.

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I agree. Many people recommend the same app that works for them, though. (Welcome to the internet.)

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I recommended Curio :slight_smile: Dynalist was more of a side note in case the OP likes outlines.

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