Aquiles.me

# Choosing between Zettlr and Obsidian

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When I decided to start this digital garden , I had to look around for the tools I felt confident using. I fell for roam research , and liked their approach, but didn't like the fact that it is a subscription-based product , plus I had several concerns about the privacy of my data. At that moment I found Zettlr , and started using it.

I really like the open source nature of the project, that its author is very vocal about what he is trying to accomplish. However, I found it too geared towards academic publishing. It has a great way of dealing with bibliography, and it renders markdown beautifully. However, I was not looking for a markdown editor, I was looking for a note-taking program.

Serendipity brought me to Obsidian , which defines itself as:

Obsidian is a powerful knowledge base that works on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files.

It works on plain markdown files makes, therefore it is interchangeable with Zettlr. I have to acknowledge that it has a very low friction to get started, and does not focus that much on rendering and keeping a bibliography record. It lacks some features such as multi-lingual support, but it really helped me getting started. Just a blank screen, my thoughts and a keyboard.

The biggest question, as always, is choosing the proper tool for the job . If you only want to take notes, Obsidian is great. Quick to get started, bi-directional linking, uncluttered interface. BUT is not open-source, which is a very big limiting factor (see: Choosing technology based on their incentives ). Zettlr , on the other hand, is a great tool for more complex projects beyond note-taking. You can confidently write an entire book on it, your thesis or your research papers. It is open source, and it has an interesting community around it.

I briefly explored other options but, to be honest, nothing even reaches the bare-minimum of what I wanted for a writing tool:

What I am missing, overall, are template-based notes, i.e. that I can start a note with a predefined template. Support for more complex linking, such as being able to use  @  to refer to a person. Compiling to-do's , to-reads , etc. Being able to centralized notes to easier exchange between daily notes and my digital garden .

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Aquiles Carattino
This note you are reading is part of my digital garden. Follow the links to learn more, and remember that these notes evolve over time. After all, this website is not a blog.