Two Things to Keep in Mind When Evaluating Note-taking Apps

I sometimes read about folks struggling with choosing a note-taking app. They’ve probably heard about apps like Notion, Roam, Obsidian, Craft, etc. and want to know how they compare to Evernote, Apple Notes, OneNote, or whatever they’re currently using.

Adopting a new knowledge management system feels like a momentous decision. You won’t really know if the app is right for you until you’ve used it for a while — i.e., until it’s become a “trusted system” you can turn to knowing how to do and find things.

Getting to that state takes time. Migrating from other apps isn’t easy, and you won’t build a new repository overnight. So, you can waste a lot of time by picking the wrong app.

I’ve tried several such apps during my career. Some supported straightforward import/export processes. Those were easy to try, but I still couldn’t evaluate them properly until I’d integrated them into my workflows.

This requires not just learning a new app, but developing new mental models about many day-to-day tasks. The process can be disruptive and inefficient. It requires commitment and patience — not the normal mindset for a “trial.”

So, two things to keep in mind when evaluating a knowledge management app:

  1. Give it enough time to see whether it’ll work for you. But…
  2. Beware of sunk costs.

You want to give the app a fair shake, but don’t want to end up stuck with a suboptimal system through inertia.