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Discussion of Roam-like Knowledge Managers

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Posted by Luhmann
Apr 14, 2020 at 01:39 AM

 

Opening a thread for discussion of roam-like knowledge managers including Roam, Obsidian (beta app from Dyanlist’s Erica), as well as TiddlyWiki and Org-mode (people have made plugins for both to replicate some of Roam’s functionality).

 


Posted by Luhmann
Apr 14, 2020 at 05:09 AM

 

My big disappointment with Obsidian is that, despite being by one of the Dynalist developers, it is not an outlining app. It is based on plaintext markdown files. I hope that this can be somewhat mitigated by implementing some of the features of the app FoldingText which tried to make markdown files behave more like an outliner, but it seems like a low priority for the developers. I think that being an outliner at heart is one of the great features of Roam, which gives it a lot of granularity in terms of being able to link (and embed) not just to documents but specific nodes in documents. Obsidian seems to plan to replicate some of this functionality using Markdown headers, but only time will tell if this is as functional as Roam.

On the other hand, the fact that Obsidian is based on Markdown files means that your documents can exist in an external folder, sync via Dropbox (or similar), and be edited and accessed by other apps. This offers a lot of advantages that a database based program like Roam can never fully match. For instance, one could programmatically run scripts on your folder using Shortcuts or AppleScript, etc. to add features that Obsidian doesn’t include on its own. And it seems like there is a plugin architecture that might allow third party developers to add new functionality to the app. (In this sense it is perhaps a bit like the app Standard Notes, although that has a limited number of extensions.)

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Apr 14, 2020 at 08:24 AM

 

Absolutely - this is one of the major reasons why I’ve moved away from Ulysses (and Bear, actually), although I’m very fond of it both as a writing but also as an information management app. An organised collection of markdown files is one of info management’s most wonderful things, but needs stringent discipline and a really good search function.

Also, dare I say, I nice, aesthetically pleasing editor or editors (which is where Bear is especially strong). Typora is glorious, but is desktop-based and doesn’t support standard tagging.

Luhmann wrote:
> On the other hand, the fact that Obsidian is based on
> Markdown files means that your documents can exist in
> an external folder, sync via Dropbox (or similar), and be
> edited and accessed by other apps. This offers a lot of
> advantages that a database based program like Roam
> can never fully match.

 


Posted by Paul Korm
Apr 14, 2020 at 09:51 AM

 

In fairness, Obsidian has only had a small handful of iterations, with no significant features posted to testers until four days ago.  Even already it is available on macOS, Windows, and Linux.  The dev call is a “markdown knowledge based app”.  (What is an “outliner” anyway?  I don’t think the definition is settled).  I think it’s great they are doing this with plaintext markdown in the background, and without all the hoo-hah of Roam.

Luhmann wrote:
My big disappointment with Obsidian is that, despite being by one of the
>Dynalist developers, it is not an outlining app. It is based on
>plaintext markdown files.

 


Posted by Luhmann
Apr 14, 2020 at 10:44 AM

 

Regarding Ulysses, it now offers pretty good support for folders of markdown files, with some limitations:

https://ulysses.app/kb/external-folders

 


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