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 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
- 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
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).