Should you try Obsidian or stick with Notion?

As a long time user of Notion, I recently switched to Obsidian for my note taking and productivity purposes. Truly, I like it it a lot. It’s allowed me more flexibility and freedom than Notion did, in some ways, and it answers a lot of my privacy concerns I’ve had with Notion.

But as much as I love Obsidian, take a moment before you follow suit and dump Notion. Depending on your needs, Notion may still be the better tool for you.

There are a few reasons why you should NOT switch from Notion to Obsidian like I did. You might find that these aren’t deal breakers for you, but make sure you know about each of these before you decide to dump Notion in favor of Obsidian.

You need access to your notes from the web.

In order to use Notion, you’ll need to set up a Notion account and log in. As you take notes, all your notes are stored in your account – which can be accessed from nearly any device and even from the web.

This is one of the Notion’s biggest strengths and weaknesses.

It’s a weakness to someone like me who prefers to store notes in location he controls.

But on the flip side it’s a great strength. Because all Notion notes are stored in a cloud account, the notes can be accessed from any device with a modern web browser – even if Notion isn’t installed.

Even since switching to Obsidian, I’ve found this feature of Notion very useful as I’ve had to refer back to my old Notion notes that I’m still working on transferring to Obsidian. Instead of having to reinstall Notion, I’ve been able to open up Chrome or Firefox, head over to the Notion website, log in and see all my notes.

That’s pretty handy.

Obsidian, annoyingly, doesn’t have a way to access your notes vault from the web. While you can store your notes in a cloud storage location – as I do – there’s no way to access your notes on the web as you would from within Obsidian aside from opening the individual markdown files from Dropbox or iCloud online.

Some people may not care about this, granted. But if this is a feature you have enjoyed or expect might be important to you at some point, Obsidian isn’t the tool for you.

You’re not a fan of markdown syntax.

When I switched to Obsidian, one thing I didn’t love about it at first is the fact that it relies heavily on the use of markdown syntax. While in Notion it’s easy to select text and format it with a click or two, in Obsidian the bulk of that must be done with markdown syntax or through a more obscure menu than what you might find in Notion.

In Obsidian, headings need to be preceded by pound signs / hashtags, and it’s not as easy to format text as I’d like. And formatting options are significantly more limited than they are in Notion.

As time has gone on, I’ve become more a fan of markdown since it’s an open format that’s future proof. The markdown format isn’t limited to Obsidian and can be ready by and imported into any of a number of great tools down the road even if Obsidian should stop being developed or if it were to disappear tomorrow.

But I do miss the easy formatting that Notion provides.

For writing blog posts and planning out longer text based pieces, that’s not a huge deal since, really, there are only a few formatting features I need for something like that. But if I wanted to create a cool, aesthetically pleasing dashboard in Obsidian, it would be a lot more difficult than it is in Notion. By far.

Notion is objectively better at that than Obsidian is.

You don’t store anything super confidential.

As I’ve frequently said, Notion is a wonderful tool. What the team at Notion HQ have built is nothing short of impressive, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a solid productivity tool.

But due to it’s lack of end to end encryption and no way to store notes anywhere other than in Notion’s cloud, I can’t recommend it be used for storing anything that is really confidential. While unlikely, it’s not impossible that someone other than you could access your notes, and for me that’s a bit of a concern – and one of the main reasons I started looking for an alternative program.

I love how Notion works, but I want to make sure that my notes are as secure as possible since I frequently store personal information or notes about my clients that I would prefer not fall into outside hands.

But your needs may vary, and if you don’t store anything that’s really confidential and wouldn’t be bothered by someone accidentally getting a peek at your notes, then that concern is probably not one you share.

To be sure, Notion takes steps to ensure the data customers entrust to it is kept safe, and I do very much appreciate that fact. No doubt. But the lack of end to end encryption is a point of concern for me.

Obsidian gives me the option to either use the official Obsidian Sync service or to store my notes in a location of my choosing – including one that does offer end to end encryption.

But you may find Notion’s promises of security more than enough for your piece of mind, and if so that wouldn’t be a reason to switch to Obsidian.

It would be too cumbersome to switch programs.

There is certainly no shortage of productivity apps out there. And you might, like me, be tempted to fall victim to shiny object syndrome, never settling on any one tool.

It’s tempting, no doubt, to want to use every new tool that comes along, but that’s a great way to lose time and be even less productive.

If you have some down time and want to try out another app, like Obsidian, then great. But if you’re in the middle of things, it’s probably not the best time to try something new.

Realistically, if you’re someone who has hundreds or thousands of notes in Notion, and you’re happy with how Notion works, you probably don’t need to be making the switch to Obsidian – at least not all at once.

When I switched to Obsidian, I started using it full time. But that doesn’t mean I have all my notes moved over. That’s an ongoing process, and I’ll get to the rest of my notes… someday.

In the meantime, I have too many things to get done. There’s no shame at all in sticking with Notion because switching to something else would be a tall order. I get it.

You plan to use databases and tables.

One of Notion’s great strengths is one of Obsidian’s weaknesses: in line databases and tables. When I used Notion, I loved using databases to keep track of my video content and articles. I could categorize them, sort them by status and even nest pages within pages to keep track of my notes for that article or video.

Obsidian doesn’t make that so easy. And while there are plugins for Obsidian for creating tables and databases, that functionality isn’t native to the app and there’s no guarantee that those plugins will always work or be maintained.

Notion’s table functionality is well thought out and not dependent on plugins or other code to work. So it’s arguably the better option for someone who needs that feature set.

Maybe one day Obsidian will be better at this and not require plugins, but at the moment it’s just not the right tool for that job. And that’s something I have certainly missed in moving from Notion to Obsidian.

Notion is a great productivity tool too.

While I prefer Obsidian’s privacy-conscious approach, there’s no denying that Notion is an excellent tool that’s hard to not like. I used it as my main note taking tool for a long time, and I still miss certain features of Notion in Obsidian.

Personally, I plan to keep using Obsidian long term, and I do highly recommend it to others, but Notion is a widely-used, well-supported and capable tool. If someone were to ask me to recommend a well-rounded note taking tool with rich text formatting capabilities, online features and decent security, it would be hard to not put Notion near the top of my list of recommendations.

Don’t think that you have to try out Obsidian just because I like it.

At the end of the day, use the tool that works best for you and helps you get stuff done. That may be Notion – or it may be something else entirely.