What I Don't Like About Obsidian

(And a few things I do like)


I've tried so hard to like Obsidian. I really have.

And it's great app with incredible funcitonality. But it just is too frustrating for me to use. Let me elaborate a little.

Markdown

I've used Bear for so long for notes and loved it. It's gorgeous, the typography is amazing, everything is well spaced down to the exact pixel. It has more of a "Markdown lite" mode instead of true markdown. I like that.

After having used Bear for a while, jumping to Obsidian was a bit strange. Obsidian uses full Markdown and not a "Markdown lite" like Bear. Many will love this, others will not. I don't.

There are a few things I'm running into where this is literally no way to fix it because "that's just Markdown".

  1. I like to indent under headers a lot. This was always easy in Bear and even in Typora. It is literally impossible in Obsidian. Again, I know, "that's Markdown". But that's what is so frustrating. If I just want to indent under a header...nope. Not in Obsidian. I can do it Roam, Workflowy (I know, those are outliners, but still), Craft, Bear, Typora, etc.
  2. If I want some extra whitespace between sections in Obsidian it's a huge pain. Standard Markdown doesn't recognize multipe line breaks.

People have suggested workarounds for these things, but I don't want to work with a bunch of "workarounds" for super basic things that I can do in a bunch of other apps.

Aesthetics

When you use apps like Craft, Things, Ulysses, and Bear's beta version of their new editor called Panda (likely to be released along the iPhone 18 at the pace they are moving...) and then you move to Obsidian...it doesn't visually hold up.

Things are not aligned properly and spacing just seems inconsistent and random.

There seems to be no method to what lines up and why.

Here's what Preview Mode looks like (another thing I'll get to):

Again, nothing lines up properly.

This isn't the biggest thing in the world, but it contributes to the overall feeling of sloppiness that I get while using the app.

But a weird part of it is that I think people sort of like the feeling of Obsidian and how it feels like something they can mold and shape to their liking. There are tons of themes to download and try, but outside of Red Graphite, Yin & Yang and California Coast, they all look awful to me.

They remind me of the old Winamp skins.

Again, I think this is why some people like it though, which is totally fine. But I like to jump into a new app and have it already look amazing.That's what's appealing about Craft. It's gorgeous and I don't have to do a thing. I definitely like tinkering with CSS, but I want the app to look good without having to do that. CSS should just be the gravy on top.

Block References

This is the killer feature for me in Roam. If I want to take a block from one page and reference it on another, I just hold down option and click and drag it over. Bam. That's it. And when I click on it I get a host of options.

And even on top of that, the original block now has a running number next to it that shows how many times it's been referenced and where.

Block references in Obsidian are just awful (coming from Roam). I've seen some plugins in the works that will make it better, but man, it's just not great now and I use them a lot.

Editor/Preview Mode

I won't talk a lot about this since a fix is in the works and on the roadmap, but it's still likely a few months off.

I hate having to switch between editor and preview mode. This is so annoying and just adds time to writing. Now when I'm done writing, to see it in the finished version you have to switch to Preview Mode. Command + E to when you are done typing to see what it looks like and then Command + E to go back to typing. It's awful. They are working on a more Typora-style WYSIWYG editor, but I think it won't be out until the end of the year.

It also adds tons of steps if you try and change the CSS to your liking as you now have 2 modes to have to change the CSS on.

Local Files!

Don't hate me for this, but I don't care at all that my files are local. I just don't.

It's great that it is, but I feel like it just makes it harder to build awesome things because you are working within the confines of an .md file.

With Roam I can export my entire graph into .md files in a few seconds. I can also do local backups on a regular basis in the background as I work. I don't worry at all about losing my files because I have multiple backups.

What I really care about is great, new features that can be implented without much restraint. I could be wrong, but I feel like having to work around an .md file is a huge restraint. But yes, your files are local. That's great.

A few things I like

Ok, it's not all bad. And I was likely shaped and primed from having started out on Bear and Roam. Sure. I'll give you that. But there are a few things I like about Obsidian that make it amazing:

  • Price - it's free if you use your own syncing system. Can't beat that.
  • Community - the community is second to none. The people are nice and are focused on getting work done and building great PKMs.
  • Plugins - this is both good and bad for me. Anyone can make plugins and throw them in the community and they are dead easy to install. I just get Wordpress-plugin vibes sometimes and I'm going to boot up Obsidian and it's just going to stop working because some random plugin caused it to stop.
  • Mobile app - It's really just a glorified webapp, but at least they have something. Roam has a webapp that has gotten better the past few months, but Obsidian is in the app store already which means they can start iterating on it already.
  • Graph view - their graph view looks killer. Way better looking than Roam. Not a huge deal, but still a nice thing to have.
  • Readwise - I love the Readwise integration. Being able to click on a folder on the sidebar and see the different Readwise sections easily (books, articles, tweets, podcasts) is great.

Wrapping up

The reason I keep coming back to Obsidian is because it's free and it has a killer community. It really does. I love following people and seeing what they make in Obsidian.

A lot of the problems I have with Obsidian can and likely will be fixed over time. It's still a young app. It has a lot of growing to do. The new PKM space is young and Obsidian is making a name for itself in this space.

But right now, it's just too frustrating for me to use. I'll keep it around and I'll keep following the community, but for now I'm a Roam guy who uses Craft occasionally too.