By now I’ve accepted the fact that there isn’t one text editor that I’ll stick with forever. You have to choose what works for you today, and as your requirements change over time, your editor of choice will change too!
A couple of years back I switched from using Notion to Obsidian. I loved the fact that it was all just Markdown files sitting in a folder on my local machine. I thought of wild plans to analyse all the knowledge I poured into it.
I liked the whole graph visualisation bit, although I never really used it to my advantage. I can see that visually connecting things is powerful, but I want to be the one creating meaningful or unexpected connections, as a creative act, not just based on hierarchy or tags things have in common.
When I was more actively trying to do spaced repetition using Obsidian, I really wanted this to work on mobile too. But I experienced trouble using Obsidians sync feature back then (loss of data kind of trouble!).
Eventually I got fed up with it and switched back to Notion (which I used before, and Bear before that, and IA Writer before that).
So I was back at using Notion. It still wasn’t quick like I wanted it to be (TextEdit being the golden standard).
And, looking at its features, it had become a bit of a Swiss Champ. It’s really handy, but for most of the things it does there’s a better dedicated tool out there. And this doesn’t have to be an issue – if you are happy using a subset of the functionality it offers, all good with me.
But, often it still feels slow. And yes it is relatively performant for an Electron app, but I’m comparing it to my go-to Scratchpad (TextEdit).
And then there’s the thing where Notion acts funny sometimes when you’re trying to select all text in a document, or skip between different sections, and it does counter intuitive things. This has to do with the way the architected the app using Blocks. The amount of features leads to complexity which leads to a degraded UX.
And ownership is still a thing to me. I don’t mind the Subscription model, they offer plenty of value, a good way to sync your data and really good integrations (save to Notion from iOS).
But I want to be able to access my files instantly, not just through Notion, but through any way I want to. And plain Markdown files offer exactly that.
Yes Notion has an extensive API, I’ve built things with it before, but it would be so much simpler if you did not need an API.
Long story short; I feel I can do without the complexity and I want to regain control over my data again.
And then Obsidian had some new shiny features, a polished new logo even, my curiosity was triggered.
And there it is:
The simplicity. It’s just Markdown files, sitting on your machine. I can parse/manipulate them using a Programming Language of my choice. And my fluency on the command line has grown quite a bit as well since then.
I have been looking to build a Canvas/Whiteboard solution of my own, and there you have it, Obsidian has one now! 🎉
The Markdown support is ‘invisible’. It only shows the Markdown markup in the active line of text, it hides it if goes out of focus, it’s really clever!
And my need to sync across devices is gone. I use a single machine, and the only thing I want to solve is how to quickly save stuff from my phone to a Note in Obsidian. That’ll be a different (fun!) project – for later.
Notion has export to Markdown functionality. 1150+ pages exported including their image/file assets. About 500MB.
But I’ve started to migrate more things, I had a handful of Canvas/Boards made in TLDraw, which I’ve recreated in Obsidian. I love the fact that you can integrate your existing Obsidian notes in a canvas. I’m still very much itching to roll my own canvas app, but, another post on that soon. It’ll be a proper build.
I need to find a structure I’m comfortable with. It’ll be super simple for now, no PARA or whatever. I just want to be able to have an instant overview of the notes I’m working on right now (could be 10-15), and a good way to archive/search the rest of them.
I’ll also build up my Feedback Bank in an Obsidian Canvas too.
And I need to find a way to integrate my blog writing workflow to go from Obsidian to my MDX based blog. It’ll probably be some sort of one-way sync shell script that creates an MDX file out of an Obsidian MD file. Actually, both use Front Matter (just add properties in Obsidian), I’ll create a template out of it — perfect!
Gosh, how little things that happen in your computer life can be so exciting.