A breakthrough concept of “networked thoughts” in the world of note-taking gave birth to numerous apps after the launch and success of RoamResearch. Note-taking took a paradigm shift with ‘markdown’ and ‘backlinks’.
Initially, RoamResearch existed like a ‘proof-of-concept’ but later raised into a fully functional product to serve with more and more extraordinary features. Most of its features were dreamy. It could have easily monopolized the market if it abstained from charging the bulky price of $15 per month.
When they announced their pricing plan, I started looking for other alternatives. Obsidian was in its closed beta (through Discord) collecting feedbacks and growing gradually. Eventually, everyone started to talk about “backlinking” their notes. Notion implemented a partial backlinking feature within the limits of its design ethics.
Logseq entered the market looks like a clone of RoamResearch, but only it runs locally. Logseq mimics most of RoamResearch’s functions and design aesthetics, and it had more. It grew into something more than RoamResearch in some aspects while Obsidian gained more users than Roam with more flexibility and cost point of view.
I started my ‘knowledge gardening’ (I started it even before the term is coined) with many others when RoamResearch was entering silently. It started as testing, eventually, I built more knowledge base with it before I myself aware of it. During those times, Roam introduces more and more features every day, I just stayed there wondering what else they (Conor White-Sullivan) have on their sleeves.
I tried Obsidian side by side with Roam and recently tried Logseq for a couple of months. I couldn’t stay in those apps for long, so I came back to using Roam. My decision may be biased because of my long-time usage. But I have a few reasons why I am sticking with RoamResearch rather than switching to other/new alternatives.
Reason 1. I use multiple devices to access my knowledge garden (collection of notes, linked/networked). Obsidian has a wonderful iOS app, while Roam doesn’t have an official full-functional app. I should’ve gone for Obsidian if multi-platform support is my concern. But, my concern is about syncing my notes and accessing them a few moments after from another device. The loading sequence at the starting is still a pain in RoamResearch but I am willing to take it for the benefit of accessing my notes everywhere. I like cloud-based serving although I understand and accept the privacy risk in it. (I will talk about this later in another post)
Obsidian was focusing on ‘local-first’ but later gave options to sync through third-party file-syncing services before providing its own syncing service which is also pricy ($8/m) but only half of what RoamResearch is charging. Logseq being ‘local-first’ and privacy-focused failed to ease the process of syncing my notes on the go. Here comes the second reason.
Reason 2. In the case of Logseq, I have to set up a few things to make it work and sync. Obsidian being more flexible, has the same requirements of a few initial set up and a few more setups later. Both apps require little maintenance works or at least require few other services to run which I need to check regularly. If not, have to face a few precious data losses which I don’t like. I want it to run for me, work for me. I don’t want to build a tool, customize it to the core, tinkering with plugins and other codes. Don’t mistake me, those things are fun to do, but I just don’t want to explore and play with them anymore. I want an app for real work, that too with low maintenance needs. So that I can focus on working instead of making the app work.
Reason 3. It is pretty much the same as “Reason 2”. I don’t want to do too much customization, but I want to use the features as it is. RoamResearch has everything I wanted. Other apps had them too, but I had to set it up or do something to make it work seamlessly. Roam has a wonderful implementation of features that a real researcher needs. Other apps have them too, but it is more like an addon. This might look biased, but it is not. Roam has a clear vision and knows what users need. It does so far given the right features that no one has ever thought of. I personally feel Obsidian is clumsy. Logseq is quite good, but it still lacks a few powerful features Roam has.
Note: Logseq’s TODO, DONE, NOW states for the task is a nice feature that Roam lacks. Yet I am not looking for a task manager here. Logseq is my second choice to Roam.
RoamResearch is costly (comparatively) $15/m, with an education discount (scholarship) it comes for $7.50/month. Right now I am enjoying it for free because of my early adoption of it. I may subscribe for the subsidized amount or may move to Logseq if I can’t afford it when they started to charge me. I believe I will stick with Roam.
I had written a few more articles on using RoamResearch. Check them here.