Why not use Obsidian and/or Logseq instead of Emacs Org-Roam+Org-Mode?

What does Emacs Org-Roam+Org-Mode have that Obsidian or Logseq doesn’t?

And vice versa, what does Obsidian or Logseq have that Emacs Org-Roam-Org-Mode doesn’t?


One perhaps obvious answer is that Obsidian and Logseq don’t have Emacs or org-mode (although I think Logseq has some support for org-mode files?).

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That’s part of my question; what does Emacs/org-mode/org-roam have that Obsidian and Logseq doesn’t have?

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You had some great exchange in this forum about a year ago. In it, your included the same question.

You were also engaged in Reddit last time and this time with a good number of responses.

I am really curious to know what your findings are so far; we should be able to build on what you already know. I think that will be another powerful exchange for you and for many others on this forum.

Because these other systems are not as versatile as Emacs. Emacs is much more than a note-taking system.

I have a lot of R code in my notes, which I can run inside Emacs. I don’t believe other systems can do this.

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Hi nobiot,

Other priorities had taken over since then, I wanted to put things PKM-related on hold.

But now I am back into working on this project.

To solve this analysis paralysis which I’m sure others may also be dealing with, I think there is one question that will solve this dilemma.

Which one first?

And to answer this question, this question can be asked:

Which one takes less time to learn?

After experimenting with the one that takes less time to learn, you learn more about what you really want out of a system and learn more of your style.

Then, you can use the insights you have gained from experimenting with the software that took less time to learn into the software that takes more time to learn (which is hopefully a software that has more functionality than the one that takes less time to learn).

So my question is: Which solution takes less time to learn?

  1. Obsidian + Logseq?
  2. Emacs with Org-roam + Org-mode?

What is R code?

R is a language to analyse data. You can also use Python or many other languages.

If this is the question, I think you can easily find the answer by using each for 30 minutes. It’s for your personal workflow, so it’s best if you can find an answer by and for yourself.

I recently got back into D&D (after a twenty year break). Therefore let me put it this way: Emacs is that magical weapon you can wield only when you have reached a certain level in your class, be that mage, warrior or nerd. Without the necessary experience in your professional life, you neither know what you need nor do you have the patience to learn. One can live perfectly fine without a magical weapon and not everyone needs to become the next Miyamoto Musashi. In fact, my colleagues are perfectly fine using MS Word - none of this is needed.


For all these systems it depends how deep you ant to go down the rabbit hole. All three systems have any plugins that can distract you from being productive.

If you just want to use Org roam, then you can learn Emacs in a day. Emacs requires a bit more time to configure, but there are lots of examples on the web ready for use.

Why worry so much about which system to use? They all use plain text, so just pick one and spend that time being productive, rather than window shopping a system. If you hit a bump in the road, then it is easy to move from one system to the next as plain text is easily ported.

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That makes sense. Thanks for the analogy. So would you say that Obsidian and Logseq can be a way to gain experience, and be a precursor to the “magic weapon” (Emacs)?

But isn’t Emacs .org files and Obsidian .md files?

If I do end up switching down the line, how would I transfer all of my notes from Obsidian and Logseq to Emacs?

Converting .md to .org and vice versa easy using pandoc.

Indeed :upside_down_face:

find ./ -iname "*.org" -type f -exec sh -c 'pandoc "${0}" -o "${0%}.MD"' {} \;

@danderzei @laotang

Really? I can actually switch over all my notes just like that?

Is it that simple because they’re both plain text?

Thanks. Here are my findings after doing just that:

Obsidian and Logseq

Functional experience out of the box. Plug-and-play.

Tinkered with Plug-ins and Nick Milo’s “Linking Your Thinking” philosophy and am on track to creating my own workflow, which will come with time the more I use it.

I have learned that I’m pulling insights and inspiration from the philosophy of “Linking Your Thinking”. Nick Milo uses Obsidian himself, so it’s easier to model what he is doing and pull ideas and insights from his workflow to incorporate it into mine.

Emacs with Org-roam

Couldn’t even install it. I was lost.

Furthermore, I presume that even if one were to simply install it, it would only result in quite basic functionality that you would get from installing Logseq anyway.

The true value of Emacs I see is the extensibility of it.

But to make use of that extensibility, you need to know how to code and programme, particularly in Elisp AFAIK.

Learning how to code/programme in Elisp from scratch has a steep learning curve, so it can take you a year to match Obsidian + 30 of the community plugins it has (as an example). Community plugins can be installed with a few clicks, but replicating those plugins in Emacs for yourself would require knowledge of coding/programming in Elisp, which can take a year of deliberate practice.

A question that can be asked is:

If you were to need a PKM solution within a week, and you have no experience with Emacs, which would you go with - Obsidian/Logseq or Emacs with Org-Roam?

What would you guys answer to this question?

What I’ve found is that Obsidian and Logseq is the better solution to try out first as it takes less time to learn and it takes less time to have a functional set up.

Let me know if you guys agree or disagree.

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For the context: don’t know much about Obsidian and Logseq, used them only a little.
And have ~2y experience with emacs and not too intensive workflow with org and org-roam for the past months.

I would somewhat agree with your assessment, both Logseq and Obsidian seem to be quite ready for immediate use, with more narrow functionality centered around knowledge organizing.

My experience with learning emacs was following:

First I was painfully deciding which keybindings I’ll start intensly learning first (chose evil, but default emacs keybinds are also very good choice)

Then about two weeks of small chunks of daily practice (vim-adventures and spaced repetition) until I’m not only comfortable, but much more comfortable than ever

After that - basics of org is not hard, and org-roam is not much more to learn

Overall I’ve been incredibly helped by doom-emacs framework,
with it it’s possible to install\update org-roam easily, without need to know much of anything in elisp

But I expect that it is still significantly more upfront work than with Logseq or Obsidian.
So if you “need a pkm soluiton within a week” I think my recommendation would be Logseq or Obsidian, or alternative.
You could be very happy with it, lot’s of people are and that’s what matters.

Before emacs I’ve been for years stumbling around and trying out evernote, Joplin, plain markdown, tiddlywiki, and some of them I used for a long time happily.

You might never need emacs, or you might come around to it one day you won’t have a tight deadline. (Like I did at the start of pandemic and work from home, with less fear of it overshadowing my work obligations and etc)

As to benefits of emacs over other solutions - if you’ll start using emacs you’d find there are lots of cool other things you could do in it:

  • coding (magit is great for prose version control too)
  • reading rss / mail
  • interacting with terminal
  • file browser
    and all of these things would have single language for configuring them, and similar \ mnemotic hotkeys, and easy interoperability - where you’d be able to open side-by-side your different use-cases and easily transfer data from one place to another, save as bookmarks, create links to emails or code commits from org notes and such.

And in addition to that if you’d start learning some new emacs tool, like Helm \ Ivy \ Vertico+Consult for smart searching - you’d be able to use that same tool for your notes, emails, code, etc. So in the long term this seems really cool.

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Obsidian is way more accessible and easy to use, no question. If you ever find yourself wondering what to chose between those two, then you should choose Obsidian. Emacs is not the first thing one wants to learn but for many it has been the last (as they still continue to use it after many many years). Another interesting question might be why one would need to find a PKM within a single week :slight_smile: .

Yes and yes. Org-id links of v2 are a bit more difficult to get right in Pandoc, tough.