Apr 24, 2022

Migrating from Roam to Obsidian

Migrating from Roam to Obsidian
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Apr 24, 2022
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🧠 Second Brain
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I started using Roam in 2020 when it was becoming the rage. Then earlier this year, I decided to fully switch over to Obsidian. Here are the reason why.
The 2 biggest reasons for me: offline with local files, and fast mobile app. Obsidian is also free, besides the cost for Sync for it to work on multiple devices (though some people don't even need this when it's set up with iCloud sync). Some other reasons for my switch:
  • Roam still can't parse mixed markdown formatting well (like bold with highlights, or bolt/italics with external links)
  • Roam's development has slowed significantly without many meaningful updates. They have recently released the official mobile app, but it still doesn't work as seamlessly as Obsidian.
  • I was not a fan of Roam's leadership or pseudocult community. Obsidian developers listen to the community instead of brushing them off, and put out consistent updates.
  • Obsidian provides a nice balance between Notion's page hierarchy and Roam's linking.
  • Obsidian has community plugins and themes built into the app for easy search and install. I loved this kind of customizability in Roam, and Obsidian seems to have more community creations in this regard.
This also lays out differences for the type of notetaker you are: Why Obsidian Will Overtake Roam - YouTube
However, the transition was not as seamless as I would have expected. There is still a bit of a learning curve.
  • Obsidian can import Roam's pages and convert its unique formatting to Obsidian's flavor of markdown. I have not gone through this yet, and still use Roam as an archive. I just haven't gotten around to it since I decided to fully commit to Obsidian. (I was trying it out for a few months to understand all the differences.) Images and file attachments will not carry over, and will instead still link to Roam's firebase storage.
  • Obsidian is a text editor. It's more like Evernote or a Google Doc in how it doesn't work with blocks like Roam and Notion do. This was the biggest hurdle. I can't indent or move bullet points around as freely as I was used to. There are some community plugins to make Obsidian behave more like Roam though.
  • I've learned to work with Daily notes differently. There is no historic scroll like in Roam. Instead of putting all my notes on the Daily Note like I did in Roam, I changed my workflow a bit to create new pages and link accordingly. More explanation here: https://forum.obsidian.md/t/using-daily-notes-as-a-convert-from-roam/15393
  • [[Links]] and #tags are different in Obsidian, so you have to make a conscious choice of which to use for each circumstance. Tags can't have spaces, but they can be nested with / (I believe importing tags from Roam treats them as links)