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Heptabase - Crimp cured?

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Posted by Tumbleweed
Sep 11, 2023 at 02:43 PM


Hi, so I have/had licenses to many “outliners”, and have tried the following as full-term solutions: KeyNote, Maple Professional, MyBase, EPim, InfoQube, Zoot, OneNote, UltraRecall, RightNote, Watership Planner, doogiePim, emClient, Everdesk, and some combination of those with others.

However, I’ve always had CRIMP, since there are weaknesses in all of these based on my use cases. I used to think this was email handling, but recently I realized that information location and retrieval - and getting an overview of my data - is the chief concern. Information was just piling up and not being useful. Hence, I’ve been exploring the new generation, ie. LogSeq, Capacities, Tana, Heptabase, Obsidian, etc. Since the early days, I’ve always thought something where you could visually see an overview and drill down would be a great idea, but The Brain and mindmapping software wasn’t really fitting my manner.

The winner is Heptabase, and it’s not even close. Now this is of course based on my way of working and what is intuitive to me, but it hits almost every box. The features are so well thought out and integrated, with a small learning curve. It’s really just incredible!

The heart of Heptabase are cards, which are organized via the Map, whiteboards, and sections. Cards can include text, pictures, attachments, code, etc. They are visual and can be linked, resized, etc. Then they can be organized into whiteboards, which may have sections. Whiteboards can contain sections or additional whiteboards, so the layering is up to your imagination and organizational style.

Additional features include: cloud OR local storage only, optional OpenAI integration, Journal, global search, card linking, two-way item links, etc. There is even a built in PDF viewer, so that PDFs can be viewed in the right pane.Speaking of the right pane, if you are viewing a card, you can open the linked card (or the backlink) in the right pane - this allows for incredibly fast access of related knowledge without interruption. It also means that the linking gives a wiki-like potential if Obsidian is more your thing.

There is also a view of Tags, which opens all cards with given tag(s) and allows filtering. Properties are given and these can be added and customized. I cannot overstate how powerful this is, although at first glance it appears to be simple. It can be viewed according to multiple organization levels, and even a Kaban board! You can also view the Map, which overviews your whiteboards and allows for organization of all aspects of your information store.

I am going to use this for basically everything other than email, which I’ll keep in Outlook. But for everything else, I’ll use Heptabase. When I look at my notes, I frequently whiteboard up certain overviews of ie. business and these can actually be reproduced in a vastly superior way in Heptabase. I’ll be using this for all my personal and professional planning, as a knowledge base, to review and organize articles, logging meetings, code snippets, idea dump, project plans and todos, work log, goal setting and review, journal, etc.

My only nitpick is that email as an attachment is not handled well - clicking it prompts a download to your machine instead of just opening it with the default client. However, I contacted them and they are aware people want better email handling. So I expect an update to this soon.

Please check out their examples and docs: https://wiki.heptabase.com/getting-started-with-heptabase  as I’m not really doing the software justice with this brief set of impressions. But this has clicked in a way that I didn’t think possible - after 20 years of the ailment, my CRIMP may be cured!

Best, /TW


Posted by Rausch
Sep 11, 2023 at 04:50 PM


Thanks for this. I was impressed with your earlier enthusiasm and have started my free trial today. I’m not as seasoned in apps as you are, but I found my research needs for clear visualisation and connectable text caught between Scapple and Tinderbox for the past five years, and it could be that Heptabase will be the ‘just right’ option. I plan to keep both Scapple and Tinderbox - I have far too much invested in them - but I’ll start some new collateral projects in HB and see how I get on.

So far the only disappointment is the PDF reader which simply doesn’t work as smoothly and efficiently on a MacBook Pro as Highlights does, and the lack of space doesn’t help - but moving Highlights extractions to HB should be straightforward enough.

I’ll post progress comments if I think any of them could be interesting.

Thanks again. R.


Posted by Lucas
Sep 11, 2023 at 06:01 PM


Heptabase is very impressive and I like their approach to making sense of texts by mapping out the elements. But I’m an inveterate “one-pane outliner” (although that’s a confusing term), meaning that I want each bullet point to stand as an independent unit. Plus I like to be able to add columns/fields to those bullets. With software like InfoQube, Tinderbox, Roam Research, Logseq, Tana, and Remnote, I can brainstorm in outline form and also view all my bullet points in a table view with custom fields. For example, I might want to see a table of bullets sorted by most recently modified, or perhaps sorted by a custom numerical attribute. Plus, I can transclude (“clone”) bullets freely. As of now, the bullet points within a card in Heptabase don’t appear to have such flexibility, but perhaps it will come, and Heptabase is certainly impressive as it is.

(As far as true “one-pane” outliners that also have some of the visual features of Heptabase, some of the top contenders would probably be InfoQube’s Surface view, Tinderbox’s Map view, and Logseq’s Whiteboards.)


Posted by Tumbleweed
Sep 11, 2023 at 06:46 PM


There are a lot of pros to that style of organization, ie. each bullet point or info item (InfoQube) being independent. Also, tools like Zoot or InfoQube (even UltraRecall) are enormously powerful in their ability to add searches/smart folders/grids for new information connections. In Heptabase you can also link to a particular bullet point, although it still isn’t its own info item.

For me though, Heptabase strikes a perfect balance in keep information relevant and visible, as well as interconnected.

I also consider it to be more of a 3-paner, with those powerful features (links or PDF in right-pane).

Also, I don’t use Mac so I think the PDF tools are sensational. You can have the card in the main window (with PDF attached), the PDF in the right-pane, and then highlight the PDF and made embedded links visible in the card. If you open the PDF in the main window, now all your highlights/notes are in the right-pane - you can locate them in the PDF or turn them into mentions that you then can link to from other cards, or just stick to a whiteboard. It’s really sensational!

One more caveat - such as with email, files attached do not open with the default program. Hopefully they address this along with email.

In terms of subscription pricing, I think it’s quite fair as several years ago I realized it’s useful to pay yearly for a valuable program, as they need revenue to keep the app supported. The worst thing is to adopt a great program to see it eventually get abandoned.

Just my further thoughts on the recent comments.


Posted by Dormouse
Sep 11, 2023 at 09:34 PM


Export options are weak, which is a killer for me.
“we have positioned Heptabase 1.0 as the best tool for learning and researching complex topics”, so I suppose it depends on what your use would be. I’d say it’s aimed more at learners than researchers.

I like many aspects, but every time I’ve tried it with a project I’ve ended up by moving it away. Either cumbersome or lacking an essential feature.


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