If your brain is a jumble of fragments, ideas, research and unending projects, then you may need note-taking software. Obsidian is a powerful but simple solution for organizing the chaos in your head. You can write notes, link notes together to organize and even build graphs in the application. The software lets you build a network of connected notes and then visualize the network you made as a graph. It’s an awesome choice for conceptual projects, organizing ideas and research.
|Starting price:||$50 per license per year|
|Multiple work views:||Yes, through plugins|
|Free trial:||Yes, 14 days|
|Free plan:||Free for personal use|
- Obsidian pricing
- Key features of Obsidian
- Ease of use
- Privacy & security
- Obsidian pros
- Obsidian cons
- Who is Obsidian best for?
- Obsidian alternatives
- Review methodology
Obsidian’s pricing model isn’t based on a series of tier subscriptions. Instead, they offer a completely free downloadable version and a commercial license. Not included in the free version are the add-ons that provide functionality for syncing and publishing notes. For education and nonprofit institutions, there’s the option for a 40% discount. You can learn more about eligibility on their application page.
The personal version of Obsidian includes all features as well as access to plugins, API and themes. You can download it right off the website and you don’t even need an account. However, it can’t be used commercially for business or profit. It only has access to community support.
The commercial license of Obsidian is $50 per user per year. It has a 14-day free trial and priority support. If you have a bigger team, you can email support about bulk discounts.
Add-ons: Sync and Publish
Obsidian Sync allows you to sync across devices. It costs $8 per month, billed annually or $10 per month, billed monthly. The add-on includes priority email support and encryption.
Obsidian Publish lets you publish your notes to the web. It comes with graph and outline views along with priority email support.
Key features of Obsidian
The core capabilities of Obsidian include Links, Graphs, Canvas and Plugins. Both versions of the software come with the same feature set.
You can keep track of text passages by linking them together (Figure A). Teams will be able to revisit ideas and see other needed information. They will also be able to go back and connect ideas they realize fit together later on. It’s like reference links in a research paper, but on a larger scale.
A graph in the note application is a web of connected notes linked together (Figure B). This is great for seeing relationships, organizing and mapping ideas for brainstorming. The maps are interactive and highlight relationships for each note when you hover with your mouse.
If you’re looking for a multimedia workspace for your notes then the Canvas plugin is for you. Canvas is a core plugin by Obsidian, but you still have the freedom to work with the file coding in JSON, stored locally on your private device.
The interface is similar to Figma, where you can arrange text boxes and images any way you conceive. You can visually organize and connect your notes (Figure C) in any layout. Teams can manipulate audio, video, images and PDFs in Canvas and use the workspace as work views for notes, and nest canvas views inside canvas views. For some interactive visuals, see the Canvas page on Obsidian.
Obsidian fosters a community of developers that make plugins to customize the software further. Currently, there are over 1,000 plugins to choose from, and there’s quite a variety (Figure D). They have plugins for all sorts of exporting, working with HTML, software integrations, AI assistants, annotating and many more. You should explore the full list of plugins when you have the chance.
Ease of use
Obsidian is designed to be as easy as possible for writing ideas. The interface (Figure E) is clean and uncomplicated, but if you add plugins, themes and graphs you’ll have a more customized view. The desktop version and mobile versions are both intuitive to navigate and format your content. Mobile versions for both iOS and Android are free to download.
Privacy & security
When it comes to the personal download of Obsidian, privacy and security are maintained by you. The commercial version offers access to support, but security is still upheld by you because it’s on your PC, locally. Teams that choose the add-on sync will be able to connect with other devices and are protected with end-to-end encryption.
- Easy, intuitive and clutter-free interface.
- Plugin community of customizations by users.
- Ability to use it locally, by subscription and on mobile devices.
- Budget-friendly for most teams.
- Too simple for data-heavy projects or teams that need more features.
- Security is personally maintained aside from the sync add-on.
- The plugin community comes with risks and no support.
Who is Obsidian best for?
Obsidian offers great benefits for small teams as well as more established businesses. It’s simple and affordable. If you’re looking for more project management features and plan options then you should look at other software. You can check out the alternatives section to get started.
Great use cases for Obsidian include:
- Startups and students can benefit from the free version.
- Nonprofits can benefit from the free version or low-cost license.
- Teams on budget.
- Developers and amateur coders that want to be part of the community.
- Bigger teams benefit from the commercial license for only $50.
- Designers and artists that need a concept creation workspace.
- Research teams compiling research notes for data visualization.
- Simple projects that don’t require a lot of collaboration or project management options.
Obsidian may not be the best note-taking solution for you or your team. The selections below have very similar capabilities, but they each offer different use cases, costs and subscription options.
|Alternative||Free plan||Note taking||Starting price|
|Evernote||Yes||Yes||$10.83 per user/month|
|OneNote||Yes||Yes||$6 per user/month|
|Notion||Yes||Yes||$8 per user/month|
A great personal note solution is Evernote, which offers multiple nonbusiness subscriptions along with team tiers for collaboration. You can share notes, sync across devices, manage tasks and assign work. It has the functionality for drawing notes, scanning notes and creating templates for notes.
Most versions of Microsoft OneNote are completely free, but you can also use it with a Microsoft 365 subscription. OneNote is primarily suited for projects that need customizable notes. It allows multimedia, note scanning, recording and drawing. You can learn more in our review of Microsoft OneNote.
Notion is a great collaboration workspace for a variety of use cases. Teams can take notes, create documents and link documents with your preferred application, such as Google Docs. It also offers an add-on for the Notion AI writing assistant to streamline content. You can compare Notion and Obsidian in our comparison breakdown.
The software was evaluated from several viewpoints, including team size, features, costs, usability and security. We critically considered some of the main benefits and drawbacks of using the software for different types of teams.
For teams that aren’t as impressed with the Obsidian offering, we include alternatives that have similar features but still offer more, such as more subscription plans, support or project management features.
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