Quick feedback about Obsidian

(Pinging @anon41602260)

So I’ve requested beta access for Obsidian, which is supposed to be a Roam competitor, but prettier. I got my access and started to play along with it.

Unless I’ve missed something, I’m very underwhelmed. Bear in mind, though, that it’s still a very early alpha (0.3) and is thus far from feature-completeness, but I haven’t seen anything in there that made me want to use it or that seems ground-breaking.

Let’s start with the good stuff:

The Pros

  • The app exposes file structure (no proprietary database) and updates instantly whenever you change something on disk. Very impressed with how that works and if that’s important for you, then you will be very happy.
  • E2EE is promised
  • You can use file embeds in your notes
  • Markdown
  • Knowledge graphs and bidirectional linking (… I don’t really care about that, but I know it’s important to many people)
  • It’s reasonably pretty (at least it’s not plain ugly), although the default to dark mode irks me
  • Plugin architecture to expand or remove features you use or don’t use

The Cons

My problem with Obsidian is… well, once again, unless I’ve missed something, this app does nothing new that others do not do better at this stage. I never thought once when playing with it “wow, this is cool and new”, only “ah, it does this, cool, but… worse than others”.

  • Roam is far more powerful in terms of structure and embedding notes within notes within notes (but I guess you can’t really do that with a classical file structure). Roam is ugly as hell in my opinion but it’s far more powerful at what it does (and what Obsidian tries to emulate)
  • The link titles to notes do not update in real time like Bear or Notion do, which I find very important as your knowledge graph evolves
  • It’s far, far less versatile than Notion

Overall, the experience is just… meh. It feels like Simplenotes with a touch of internal linking and knowledge graphing sprayed on top. It’s not the versatility of Notion, it’s not the prettiness and ease of use of Bear, it’s not the deep knowledge graph capabilities of Roam, it’s a typical “jack of all trades, master of none”.

Bear in mind, once again, this is very alpha software, but I fail to see the interest of the product at this stage. It does worse what others do. No fresh ideas apart from the file structure access and E2EE. I’ll be staying in Bear and will probably not even follow the development of the product.

Once again, if I have missed anything, feel free to correct me (… I’m kind of hoping I have, actually).


I don’t know anyone who said that. It’s in much earlier form than Roam and even Erica the developer conceded that Roam is more polished.

Maybe I read that elsewhere – I will amend the less “beta” part.

Still, the impression remains. At this stage, I fail to see the direction of the design or what this app tries to be. The current set of features leaves me very indecisive. What is this app trying to bring? It’s not bringing anything new, better implemented that the competition, nor a ground-breaking paradigm, that’s for sure (apart from direct file access, but that’s a bit… thin?)

I agree the features are few and limited at this point. But it’s also the third alpha release in about as many weeks, thus far. So we’ll have to wait and see.

The main thing is that Obsidian relies on .md files on your machine (or your cloud, your Dropbox or whatever). I think they will offer a tier where they host the documents, but that’s optional.

It’s good they have engaged a lot of people in the dialog – it’s also just Erica and Shida, and they both have day jobs, so it’ll be interesting to watch how this plays out.

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The website says they support (or will support) plug-ins. Can Roam do that? If not, that would be a major competitive advantage.

Plugins work so far like many so called « plugins » in notes apps: they work like features toggles (do you want to use tags, for instance). If indeed they end up having some kind of open architecture, that might be interesting, but my problem remains - at the moment, I fail to see the value proposition of the project compared to the existing competition (beyond having files accessible on your disk, which, frankly, is an edge case).

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For the sake of completeness, had a quick and charming exchange over emails with the devs. They are actually going for something that is indeed not opinionated and local file storage is one of their main selling points. That means I’m definitely not the target audience, but I wish them well of course and hopefully some other MPU listeners will find joy in such a tool.

Depends. For me, files on my own disk is not an edge case, it is the required case. I don’t trust my beloved data to anyone’s cloud without a local copy outside of a database – e.g., plain text, or RTF, .docx, etc.

Edit: BTW, notes exported from Roam as markdown work fine in Obsidian, with backlinks recognized and intact. (No reason why this wouldn’t work – but it’s nice to know.)

I’m certainly not saying having files on disk is not useful to people, just that this is very much a power user feature.

Thanks for this. It has been frustrating to hear this app mentioned but be unable to find out anything about it. Until now.

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Out of fairness for the devs, I wanted to check back and say that, through an impressively quick management cycle, Obsidian has truly become an impressive powerhouse of networked thought – and completely free for personal use! It’s amazing.
Just shelled out the $100 of a VIP license. It has truly become excellent in the recent months.


Agree 100%. Also VIPed several months ago – feels like a good investment in talent.

Worth mentioning that Obsidian devs run two (two!) highly active forums for the product – and the Obsidian Discourse forum is full of very interesting use case discussions alongside the feature request discussions. Next to this MPU forum, one of the most attentive and well-informed group of users I’ve seen. And the devs participate actively in the Discourse and the other, Discord, forum. (Frankly the topics between the two forums merge and overlap.)


I agree, and VIPed a couple of months ago.
Good investment, I think.