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
Aquiles Carattino
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