NotePlan: The Byte Sized PKM App (for Mac)

May 17, 2023
knowledge management

I’ve been aware of NotePlan for several years, yet for the longest time, I didn’t use it. Since I’ve been using Obsidian, ReadWise, Things, and Apple Notes, I couldn’t justify another subscription. However, a close friend of mine kept singing its praises, and eventually, I decided to give the trial a shot.

After about six months of using this app, I now recommend it to every Mac owner. This app has quickly ascended to my top three Mac apps. There’s so much depth to this app, and its capabilities continue to impress me.

But what exactly makes NotePlan a great app for Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)?

1. Daily Notes (Capture): NotePlan allows you to make daily notes, providing an ideal space to record thoughts, ideas, tasks, and reflections. This feature serves as an effective capture mechanism, and it works particularly well on the iOS app.

2. Markdown Support: Markdown in NotePlan simplifies the note-taking process, offering an efficient and straightforward way to format your notes and tasks. The added benefit of being able to export your notes if you ever decide to stop using this app is a handy feature.

3. Bi-directional Linking: What’s PKM without bi-directional linking? This feature lets you create connections between different notes, building a web of interlinked information. It’s a powerful tool for knowledge management, enabling you to establish and navigate complex relationships between ideas. Although most of my links are created in Obsidian and this isn’t my primary use case, I’ve used it often and am thrilled it exists.

4. Tagging: The tagging feature in Noteplan provides another layer of organization. While I’m not typically a ‘tag’ person, I do utilize 5–6 tags to differentiate and find tasks and notes.

5. Connection with Obsidian: This is a feature I’m yet to explore in-depth, but one I’ve heard great things about. At present, I’ve managed to maintain a clear separation between my Obsidian vault and Noteplan. However, I predict that these two will need to be integrated soon. Just knowing that such a possibility exists is reassuring.

Despite these impressive features, there’s one thing I wish for: the ability to publish to a simple website (digital garden), akin to Obsidian’s Publish feature. But then again, I understand that NotePlan might not have been designed with this particular functionality in mind.

So, where does NotePlan sit in my PKM world?

I’ve recently found myself writing more in NotePlan and less in Obsidian. All my book highlights live in Obsidian through ReadWise sync, and I don’t think that’ll change.

To summarize: Writing for publishing in NotePlan but note-making/sense-making in Obsidian

Most of my ‘to-be-published’ notes/articles, which I sometimes need last-minute feedback on, are generally in NotePlan because it allows me to publish and share a document.

The sync in NotePlan is exceptional, in many ways even better than the sync I have on Obsidian (I’m not paying for Obsidian Sync, by the way). This makes writing ‘for publishing’ in NotePlan very convenient.

Also, I do capture a lot of daily and fleeting notes in NotePlan. If you’re someone who likes to write to arrive at tasks, plans, or ideas, NotePlan can be a fantastic tool for you. In my case, I plan my day and weeks and keep many of my thoughts in NotePlan while keeping Obsidian free from ‘admin’ work — which is perfect.

Going forward, what I would really like is to continue making connections and notes in Obsidian, while using NotePlan for getting articles ‘publish ready’ and eventually find away to merge these two.

So, who is NotePlan truly for?

While NotePlan can cater to a variety of use cases, for the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on its role within the realm of PKM.

For those just embarking on their PKM journey, NotePlan can serve as an excellent starting point. The user experience of Obsidian can be somewhat daunting for some, making NotePlan’s simplicity and ease of use a more attractive option. Furthermore, since NotePlan utilizes markdown, any notes taken can easily be transferred to another tool down the line (though I seriously doubt you’d want to make that switch once you get accustomed to NotePlan).

For the PKM purists, NotePlan presents itself as a fantastic companion, providing a distinct space for managing your tasks and calendar. The potential use cases are numerous, and I’m genuinely intrigued to learn about your own unique applications. What use case can you envision for NotePlan? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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