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My reasons for leaving Amplenote

As the note title says, I am leaving Amplenote, my former Task+Note system of choice. I really enjoyed learning the system, and the dev team behind it are extremely friendly. At first I thought it was the magical all in one solution I had been looking for, being able to have my tasks and notes in one place. And indeed it was for a time, in fact I am really bummed to have to write this post. However, after using it extensively for about a year, their product has some downsides that are too big for me to overcome. Sidenote, I will keep an eye on Amplenote's development to see if there is a point I could possibly come back. I truly like the team and vision for an all in one solution. 

Anyways, here are the reasons I have to leave:

1 - No trash can

If I am writing important notes or content in my knowledge management system, and accidently delete it, it's gone forever. There are a couple workarounds, but that is unacceptable to the value I place on my notes, especially my personal writing and longform content. Priceless amount of time and energy put into them, and the fact I wouldn't be able to recover them is too much for me to compromise on.

2 - No local file control

I realized how much this meant to me when using Obsidian. The security of having my own backups and control of my data is massive. Also, Amplenote would auto archive notes past 30 days. This was frustrating. There was an option to check "do not archive" on a single note, but there is no way I am doing that for all of my notes. It should be a global option.

3 - Search felt useless 

Search is the lifeline of a productivity app, especially in regards to knowledge management. But no matter how I searched for a keyword, I inevitably either couldn't get the exact match I was looking for, causing me to manually try and remember which note I put the item in, or even more aggravating, when it did happen to find the keyword, it wouldn't highlight the keyword, nor would it take you to that section in the note. I would have to manually read through the whole note to find it. 

4 - Task management is lacking

At first I didn't think this was a big deal, as they have the task score system, and also the idea of putting ideas into daily-jots and then transitioning them to full blown projects or simple todos seemed powerful. Which the concept is indeed great, but in practice, really frustrating. Here are the issues:

  • There was no legitimate way to tag someone. There are hacks, like creating a file with a persons name, backlinking tasks with this named note, and then sharing that note with the person, and then having them check the backlinks, or just send the tasks to that person's titled note. But is not an ideal way to assign/tag collaborators. There is no notification for this person to know there are items they are assigned. Inefficient and not friendly for collaborative task management.
  • The notifications worked maybe 50% of the time. And when they did, if you clicked on it you wouldn't be taken to the actual task, just to the top of the note that contained the task. Goes back to the search issue of not being able to find stuff.
  • No task hierarchy in Task view. Really important for context when viewing subtasks of a project.
  • No homescreen widget to see a list of tasks, you have to open the app. (Not a massive problem as the app opens quickly, but compared to Todoist it's hard not to want this quick glance/add option).
  • The UI of the tasks was not great. Especially compared to a dedicated task management app like Todoist.
    • It does not feel intuitive to me when editing a task, and the information fields are not easily recognizable at a glance, seem jumbled together.
    • Fair amount of small glitches when editing tasks. Example is if you checked a task off that was on the bottom of a note, it would scroll you to the top. Very frustrating.
    • No way to reorder tasks by drag and drop on mobile: you had to press an arrow button repeatedly to move it up or down. Very frustrating, and sometimes didn't even work. 
  • This is subjective as I know a lot of people like it, but I realized I didn't like the auto scoring system. It was constantly modifying the values based on time, priority and urgency and trying to shove them up to the top. I had to keep fighting the app due to this. I prefer a manual approach, where I can set due date and priority once, and then use the UI to filter to a view of my tasks in the way I want to see them.
It's more that Todoist addresses everything above that I complained about, but then also does it extremely well with more features. Feels frictionless when using. I explain all of these points in a later blog post linked below.

5 - No multi pane

Very essential for writers/researchers to have multiple notes open for context and reference. In fact I am writing a book right now in Obsidian and have 5 windows open. Amazing, I forgot how much I missed this!

6 - Subjective/personal items

  • Lack of good themes. I dislike any colors besides grays and blacks in my software, however all of Amplenote's themes are littered with different colors. I know I am probably in the minority here.
  • Calendar integration is a feature they advertise, but not only was it useless for me since I don't use Google or Outlook calendars, but to me the calendar UI in Amplenote was not pleasant to use if I want to use that by itself. I also realized I actually dislike combing tasks with appointments in a calendar. I want those separate. Example task would be doing dishes. And example appointment would be going to the dentist. Having both of these types smashed into one calendar and micromanaging my day down to 15 minute blocks is claustrophobic for me. I prefer keeping my Exchange calendar for hard appointments, and then in a separate system have tasks I schedule for days, not specific times. This enables me to be flexible with my tasks, knowing I can do them anytime doing the day, and if I need to I can push to tomorrow. Instead of times, I use Todoist's 4 levels or priority. I feel this is a better way to slot tasks into my day around my hard appointments.
  • This item is a bit hard to explain, but the reliance on traditional tagging in the side bar is limiting IMO. It forces you to categorize notes (especially since their search doesn't work well). This makes you constantly worried about having created something but forgot to tag it for later use. They call backlinking, "inline tags", where a note is the tag. In Obsidian, backlinks are the focus instead of traditional tags. In fact you don't even need to use traditional tags in Obsidian. This is really important for the concept of linking information, and it shines in the graph view. You can then take highly backlinked notes and create MOCs. You can pin notes as MOCs in Amplenote, but really the system is encouraging you to tag/categorize instead of backlink. 
    • In Obsidian you can either search for note titles, or an exact and comprehensive search. And this enables you to just dump all your files in a massive folder without trying to organize, as the search or backlinking will enable you to quickly find what you need.
    • Obsidian title search has most recent titles which is awesome when moving between notes.

Here is the follow up post detailing why I am going back to Obsidian for knowledge management, as well as using Todoist for my task management.

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