Ready for the big comparison? In this article, I’ll examine both tools in detail and advise you which tool is better suited for your specific use case.
What is Notion?
In the grand circus of organizational tools, Notion’s the main act everyone’s talking about.
In 2023, the tool reached the milestone of 30 million users. That’s like the entire population of Argentina. And the cherry on top? The company is also valued at 10 billion dollars.
Not too bad for a tool that’s basically helping nerds (like me and you) to be less chaotic.
What makes Notion so successful?
Notion is often referred to as digital Lego because it is based on blocks, much like the Danish toy.
By blocks, we mean building blocks that can represent texts, images, videos, or database tables. On any Notion page, you can arrange these blocks as per your preferences, creating a workspace that’s tailored to your needs.
This makes Notion highly flexible and suitable for a wide range of challenges. Whether you’re using Notion for task management, project management, or note-taking, this tool is a true all-rounder and can essentially handle all these tasks.
Moreover, it’s more than just a tool for solo players and is also well-suited for team collaboration.
Here is a list of Notion’s main features:
- Pages and Databases: Users can create pages that can, in turn, contain more pages, lists, tables, boards, and other databases. This nesting makes Notion great for creating knowledge wikis.
- Rich Text Editor: Within each page, Notion offers extensive text editing capabilities, including the ability to insert code snippets, images, videos, checklists, and many other media types.
- Templates: Notion provides templates for various purposes. Users can utilize and customize them as they see fit. The range of templates spans from simple to-do lists and complex project plans to shopping list management. As you can see, Notion’s strength lies in its versatility.
- Collaboration: Teams can collaborate on documents in real-time. You can add comments, use mentions, and receive notifications when changes are made.
- Integrations: While Notion is already versatile, it can be integrated with other tools and apps via APIs.
- Access Rights and Sharing: Users can set specific access rights for their Notion pages and databases, making them publicly accessible or sharing them with select individuals.
- Mobility: Notion has both desktop and mobile apps, allowing users to access their content from anywhere.
What is Obsidian?
While every other organizational tool is just trying to be Notion’s less cool sibling, Obsidian stands apart
With Obsidian you will enter the world of decentralized note-taking. Ditch the confines of traditional folder structures and embrace the fluidity of networked thinking.
Hyperlinks, tags, interlinked notes, you name it!
Because why would you box your brain into an inflexible folder system?
Here are some of the main features and functions of Obsidian:
- Linking Notes: Users can create links between their notes, much like they would in a wiki. This establishes a knowledge network that resembles human thought and is considerably more flexible and powerful than traditional folder-based management.
- Markdown Support: Obsidian uses Markdown for text formatting. This lightweight markup language facilitates note-taking that’s readable in plain text and formatted forms and also allows for easy exporting of notes to other apps.
- Local Data Storage: Unlike cloud-based services like Notion, Obsidian stores all your data locally on the user’s computer. There is an Obsidian Cloud, but it’s an additional paid option. Thanks to local storage, Obsidian is very fast. Large Notion databases sometimes suffer from performance issues. Such issues have never occurred to me with Obsidian, as data is loaded locally and not from the cloud. Local storage is also more privacy-friendly. When journaling intimate thoughts in Notion, you never truly know who might be reading. As long as you use Obsidian locally, you can be almost certain that you’re the only one accessing your thoughts.
- Graphical Representation: One of Obsidian’s most fascinating features is the ability to view a graph representation of your notes, visualizing all the connections in your knowledge network.
- Plugins: Obsidian offers plugins, allowing users to add functionalities such as spaced repetition or footnotes. Many of these plugins are also developed by the community, resulting in plugin solutions for nearly every conceivable use case.
- Encryption: Obsidian offers an option to encrypt Vaults (where your notes are stored), ensuring data security.
Thanks to these 6 points, Obsidian is a highly popular app among knowledge workers, students, researchers, and anyone else in need of organizing knowledge.
Notion vs. Obsidian: A Direct Comparison
Both Notion and Obsidian have their distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Sure, there are many overlaps between the two tools, but each has a different primary focus.
- Team and Collaboration:Â Notion is better suited for teams than Obsidian since it makes real-time collaboration and sharing information quite easy.
- All-in-One Tool:Â For users seeking a combination of a notebook, database, task management, and wiki in a single tool, Notion is ideal.
- Project and Task Management:Â With its board and table features, Notion is apt for project management and task tracking.
- Customization and Templates:Â Users who benefit from predefined structures will appreciate Notion’s vast templates and customization options.
- Web-based with Cloud Synchronization:Â Convenient for those who value access from various devices and aren’t concerned about potential data privacy breaches from cloud storage, Notion offers a convenient solution.
- Individual Knowledge Workers:Â Obsidian is especially beneficial for individuals wishing to build a deep, interconnected knowledge system, such as researchers, writers, or students.
- Local Data Storage:Â For users who prioritize data privacy and want to store their notes locally, Obsidian is the better choice.
- Connected Thinking and Zettelkasten:Â Those aiming to establish a Zettelkasten system will find Obsidian very useful.
- Markdown Lovers:Â For those familiar with or preferring Markdown, Obsidian offers a natural environment for writing and formatting their texts.
- Expandability:Â Tech-savvy users who want to extend and customize their system with plugins will appreciate Obsidian’s flexibility.
Conclusion: Notion vs. Obsidian
Overall, the choice between Notion and Obsidian depends on the individual needs and preferences of the user.
Obsidian excels at knowledge management but isn’t ideal for task-tracking or project organization.
Notion can be used for knowledge management and tons of other areas, but as a jack-of-all-trades, it often isn’t the best solution for specific tasks.
However, Notion’s strength becomes evident when you want to combine different areas such as for example knowledge management and task management.
It’s also possible to use both tools in tandem, as I do, to benefit from the strengths of both platforms.
For instance, I use Notion for task management, project tracking, and habit tracking, while I store notes in Obsidian and now also write my texts there.
Do you use Notion or Obisidan, or both? Let me know your experience with those tools in the comments below!