Notion or Obsidian: Which Is the Better Organization Tool for Work?

The popular backbencher or the new, nerdy kid—which should you pick?

In the deluge of organization tools, two contenders stand out: Notion and Obsidian. Notion, a well-established workflow tracker, boasts a seamless user interface (UI), while Obsidian, a relative newcomer, offers a blend of nerdy charm and robust customization options. 

The burning question remains: which one is better suited for your needs, especially when launching a startup and building a team?

Notion: Simple and established

Notion allows teams to manage workflows in one place.

Image by Notion

Launched in 2013 by Ivan Zhao, Notion is a productivity tool designed for seamless workflow management. Reaching a valuation of US$2 billion in 2020, this San Francisco-based startup emerged as a go-to choice for businesses navigating the challenges of remote work during the COVID era. Notion’s versatile design successfully weathered the shift back to hybrid work environments.

Obsidian: New and advanced

Obsidian is an individual note-taking app with multiple functionalities—once you discover them.

Image by Obsidian

Obsidian, introduced in 2020 without external funding, is a new player in the organizational tool arena. Conceived by Erica Xu and Shida Li during the quarantine, Obsidian was born out of boredom and the quest for the perfect note-taking app. Despite its recent entry, Obsidian brings a unique approach to personal organization.

Which is better: Notion or Obsidian?

To answer the big question, we look at factors like functionality, ease of use, accessibility and more. For starters, both apps do share some commonalities. Afterall, they are both note-taking apps at their core. They offer cross-platform availability, feature boards and columns for you to drag around and are free to some extent (you’ve got to pay up for the fancy things).

Now for what makes them different:

1. Getting started

Notion: Easy

Obsidian: Difficult

Notion takes the lead in user-friendliness. A simple sign-up is all you need to kickstart your organizational journey. On the other hand, Obsidian has a learning curve, requiring a download to your personal computer and storage in a “Vault”. However, the time invested in mastering Obsidian’s intricacies can yield personalized and efficient results. There are many plug-ins that can help you customize Obsidian to a point when it feels like a second brain

2. Offline functionality

Notion: Very limited

Obsidian: Unlimited 

Obsidian scores a decisive victory in this category. By storing everything as simple text documents on your computer, Obsidian allows full offline functionality. Notion, while efficient online, has very limited offline capabilities—you can add text and edit, but you will lose any changes you make if you close the window before connecting to the internet. On the contrary, even if you lost Obsidian tomorrow—for whatever reason—you would still have access to all your notes.

Notion does have a desktop app for Mac and Windows, but it offers little on top of its web app. While Obsidian lets users customize their offline tool entirely, Notion simply allows you to use the same platform but in a desktop version. For some Reddit users, this is useful because it helps avoid tab overload

3. Idea tracking

Notion: Present

Obsidian: Present

Both tools earn a point here with the drag-and-drop functionality. Obsidian excels by allowing users to connect multiple ideas in one space, making it ideal for brainstorming and idea development. It also allows users to create constellations of ideas seamlessly and integrate them with other elements. 

4. Collaboration

Notion: High

Obsidian: Low (almost none)

Notion stands out for collaboration, making it an excellent choice for team-based projects. In contrast, Obsidian is more individualistic and better suited for freelancers or those managing personal projects. On Notion, you can set up groups with multiple members, allowing everyone to work and interact in one place. Users can also comment on Notion cards and tag members. If you want to collaborate using Obsidian, you will first need to upload your data to cloud storage like Google Drive or iCloud. 

5. Customizability

Notion: Low

Obsidian: High

Notion offers moderate customization options, while Obsidian takes the lead with high levels of adaptability. Obsidian allows users to transform the tool to suit specific needs, from Kanban boards to spaced repetition systems. With multiple plug-ins to choose from, Obsidian ensures that after a bit of work, you end up with a note-taking app that suits your needs. 

Choosing your champion: Notion or Obsidian?

In the end, the choice between Notion and Obsidian hinges on your specific requirements. Notion shines when collaborative team efforts are paramount. In contrast, Obsidian emerges as a stellar choice for freelancers or individuals tracking their projects, offering the added benefit of offline access to all your data.

For those who simply love organization, a hybrid approach may be the best solution. You could use Obsidian to organize your thoughts, ideas and individual tasks and then use Notion to see them through with your team. This dual-tool strategy ensures adaptability to diverse work scenarios while keeping your projects secure and accessible, even without a constant internet connection. The decision is yours: Notion, Obsidian or a strategic combination of both for ultimate organizational success.

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Header Image by Author


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