The productivity market is booming these days. On one side we have modular solutions like Notion, Airtable, and Coda. On the other hand, startups like Roam Research and Obsidian are exploring the second digital brain concept with graphs and backlinking notes. Among them, both Notion and Obsidian are getting popular among early adopters. If you are getting confused between the two then read the comparison to find all the differences.
Notion vs Obsidian
The comparison is based on cross-platform availability, UI, features, sharing, note-taking features, price, and more. Let’s get started.
Notion edges out Obsidian here. Notion is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and web. The software also has platform-specific features such as push notifications and iOS 14 widgets.
Obsidian, being a new kid around the block, doesn’t have a mobile app on offer. You can only access the app on Windows, Mac, Linux, and the web. The company is currently beta-testing its mobile apps with a selected group of users.
UI and Organization
You will start noticing differences right from the UI and then later while organizing notes in Notion and Obsidian. In Notion, you create a workspace and start adding pages to it. One can also add sub-pages inside pages and backlink one page with another.
There is a favorites section as well. You can favorite a page or sub-page and access them quickly from the left sidebar. As for theming, Notion supports both light and dark themes.
Obsidian uses the term Vault. You create a vault and start adding folders and notes to it.
By default, you have an option to save the Vault on the device. As for the look, Obsidian has a light and dark theme support with a translucent effect as an option. It sure looks eye-catching with the default dark theme.
Fundamentals and Note-Taking
Before we start talking about all the features in detail, let’s talk about the fundamentals of both the note-taking apps. So you know what exactly you are getting into with either of them.
Notion works best as a personal database tool to keep track of notes, projects, class notes, meeting notes, and more. You can always opt for Notion templates to create a mini subscription tracker, finance app, or habit tracker in Notion.
Obsidian works as a second digital brain for you. The whole software is designed around the ‘linking your thinking’ concept. It basically mimics how the human brain works to link thoughts in the mind.
As for note-taking, you can use all the usual editing options to design a note. Obsidian has markdown support but you need to know your way around markdown tricks for the desired outcome.
Notion relies on templates to get started. You can use the built-in as well as community-created templates to enhance the Notion page appeal. One can also add third-party Notion widgets to design a custom page based on your preference.
With the use of emojis, banners, and blocks, a basic Notion page will look better than Obsidian’s. Users also have an option to view pages in multiple views such as List, Timeline, Calendar, Boards, and more.
Obsidian has two killer features up its sleeve. The first is backlinking. While adding notes, you can add [[page name]] bracket and link the page to another note. This is game-changing and the implementation is spot on. It’s one of the reasons why writers and researchers prefer Obsidian over Notion.
One can simple open a note, press the Command or Ctrl key and open the backlink in a small pop-up window to quickly take a look at note’s content. As you link one note with another, the software will create a digital graph to view later.
We love how Obsidian offers the ability to view two notes side-by-side in horizontal and vertical view. On a big screen, it makes a big difference while working with multiple notes.
After adding and backlinking all the notes, simply open the Graph view from the sidebar and Obsidian will blow you away with all the notes connections. Hover the mouse pointer on any note and the software will highlight all the notes connected to it.
Sharing and Collaboration
No competition here. Obsidian only allows exporting a note in text or pdf format. There is no way to invite others to collaborate on the vault.
Notion offers seamless collaboration with other members. Invite members to your workspace and you can tag them with tasks and other project details.
Looking at Future
As of now, Notion is working on the much-requested offline mode. The company also promises to bring native apps for iOS and Android. Notion recently released Notion APIs to explore third-party app integration with the software.
Obsidian is working on mobile apps in private beta. It has also added a neat plugin store to enhance the functionality of the software. We can’t wait to see how Obsidian takes the experience further.
Notion is free for personal use. The Pro version with API access and advanced collaboration features is priced at $4 per month.
Obsidian is free as well. The company offers add-on packs such as Sync and Publish for $4 and $8 per month respectively. We found it a bit confusing and hope Obsidian would simplify the pricing structure in the future with a single pro or premium plan.
Wrapping Up: Notion vs Obsidian
The prime difference is as clear as it can get for Notion and Obsidian. Notion is preferable when it comes to project management, task manager, and personal wiki database. Obsidian has the best graph menu to view your second digital brain. It also beats Notion with a proper offline mode, backlinking, and native apps for Windows and Mac.