A crucial part of your digital Personal Knowledge Management System is your digital brain. It doesn’t matter which of the applications from the list you choose, but it does matter that whichever one you choose you to spend time learning how to use it proficiently. There are two structural designs that developers of each application chose between. A hierarchal or a network structure.
The list isn’t ranked but I will provide you comments about each: Ease of use and how difficult I think it will be to become proficient with the tool. Notion and obsidian have added a back-linking feature to their application so you can simulate networking notes.
- Evernote Easiest to use, Hierarchal, Learning curve 5
Evernote is the oldest note-taking application. The application is currently experiencing a high rate of change to make it more of a general-purpose application, rather than a simple note-taking application.
Evernote has a free version and three purchase plan levels so you can start free. It uses a hierarchal organizational methodology. This is what most of us used to when we filed.
- Notion EASE of use 6, Hierarchal, Learning curve 7
Notion was the next hierarchal application. People described notion as the only application you would need. To use notion you have to build using the building blocks provided and build an application that meets your personal needs. It allows you to do almost anything you want but requires you to define what you want and construct it. They have recently added on back links to allow for creating a network feel.
Notion has four pricing levels with a free starter plan. To set up a second brain in notion will require a planning and setup work. Many of us are willing to help you get started.
- Roam EASE of use is hardest, Network hierarchy, Learning curve is long
Roam is my application of choice since from its initial design it had a network structure and automatic back linking. It’s the most flexible of all the applications but requires a fairly long learning curve. Once you get it, you will find you can do anything you want.
Roam research doesn’t have a free plan. It is costly, and harder to learn. Many courses are available to help you get started, many people who can help you, and a vibrant community of people who are now using roam.
Roam is the only note application built to include linking between notes automatically.
- Obsidian Ease of Use medium, Hierarchal, learning curve is medium long
Obsidian is one of the newer applications to come out. It has added back links for notes and has the hierarchal structure that many relate to.
It’s the latest on the scene and I haven’t worked much with it. I have friends who are using it after completing the building a second brain course so. It’s a viable alternative.
- One Note for the windows world. I have left the windows world a few years ago, so I’m not qualified to express an opinion on this. But, as I understand it, it works well in the Microsoft world environment.
- Apple Note for the Apple & Microsoft worlds. I’m listing a link that compares apple notes to Evernote here.
- ￼Is an application for use in the Apple world.
- Many others such as TheBrain12. ￼I listed this one because it’s unique and intriguing. You enter ideas in the graphical view as parents then add sub-ideas as children. The interesting part of Brain12 is that you add and move your ideas around in the graph and notes are attached to ideas.
How do you choose the best one for you?
The criteria I would suggest you use.
- If you’re using an application for taking notes now focus on it and master it.
- Otherwise, choose the easiest to learn and use—probably Evernote.
- If you’re artistically inclined (like colorful displays and emoticons) and aren’t fearful of learning a new application, you might want to consider notion.
- With a programming background from an era other than mine, 1965-75, then I would recommend Roam.
- Are you enamored with a network design, and not afraid of a longer learning curve, than roam is the choice?
Your digital brain and note applications.
All the applications listed above will allow you to build a viable digital brain full of notes that are retrievable. But to master your digital brain you need to expect to spend time mastering the note application of your choice. Your initial choice doesn’t have to be where you end up because new applications are coming out each year that will make it easier to control your digital brain. Remember that if you choose to change your mind, you will have another learning curve to go through.
So, my recommendation is Evernote for hierarchal thinkers who are building their initial second brain. It’s easy to use and has a free version. It requires minimal setup to get started.
A second hierarchical choice is Notion. It has a free version and for those visual, artistic people who care how it looks, notion shines. Although it’s hierarchal, Notion has added a linking feature.
You may require more help to get started with Notion so you don’t go down too many rabbit holes.
For those intrigued by an automatic linking structure, Have some programming experience, and can pay I choose ROAM for my second brain application.
Again, it’s best to use what you’re already using. But, if you want to change and start fresh, then choose one of the applications above.
Contact me if you have any questions or would like to have help.