Note Taking Apps (Obsidian vs Joplin)

It looks like the Automators crew has settled on Obsidian as the note taking, zettlekasten, and all-around personal knowledge tool for now. I’m looking to make the leap, but Joplin is still out there, beckoning me with its FOSS model. How does The Collective here feel about the pro/con on these two tools?

My brief take

  1. Obsidian’s best feature is its use of plain text files, whereas Joplin uses a database to hold & sync notes, and requires you to “sync” to a local filesystem path if you want the files.
  2. Joplin stores its metadata using database internals, whereas Obsidian uses YAML frontmatter.
  3. Joplin seems to have more built-in features, but obsidian seems to have more plugins.
  4. Joplin seems to talk to more file & note sync services.

I’m guessing the first two are the big items, right? Being able to access markdown files directly, and having the metadata stored in plain text in each markdown file makes working on that pice of information easier, and also accessible by other programs like DEVONThink.

I guess I’ve made my own argument to go with Obsidian, despite my desires to stick with FOSS tools wherever possible. Are there any Joplin fans who have a different view?

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One benefit of Obsidian’s approach – using plain text files as the source of truth – is that, with a little care, you can use other apps simultaneously.

“With a little care,” in my experience (so far) means that you don’t get too dependent on some of the more intricate and Markdown-garbling plugins, like Dataview. (There’s nothing wrong with using those if they work for you, but then your notes may look far less readable in other apps.)

So stick to Markdown and a easy-to-read expansions on Markdown – Obsidian has some great plugins that make tables and so on even easier to read, for example – and you’ll be fine to use FOSS apps, or others, right alongside it. I use Obsidian and two other Mac apps, as well as a non-Obsidian iOS app, all with the same notes.

This is a great point and one that does matter to me. My plan has been to index my notes with DEVONThink, and the plain text files here cements the deal for me. I’ll be this is the real reason that Obsidian is winning right now.

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Obsidian has
faster sync ( you can use icloud drive )
easy access to notes as flat files
more plugins

Joplin
better import/export tools
better web clipping
more metadata for each note including geolocation data and source URL
better note management for searching moving and deleting notes.

I wish the I could merge their best features, but you gotta pick one!