Some thoughts on using Roam as an Obsidian person / Questions for Roam Refugees

I think this is a very valid point and it is the main thing I miss from Roam.


OK, clear. WYSIWYG is on the way, I saw a remark by Licat once that said before the end of the year, i.e. 2020.


Oh…be still my heart! If that ‘option’ is feasible, I’m all in with it. Thanks folks for expanding on the subject. That’s what I love about this Community. Folks seem to have a better tolerance for all levels of user experience and don’t just fly off the handle at perceived slights contained in comments.


Another App that might implement a different angle (right now even extend Obsidian feature-wise) is Mweb:

  • It’s available on all Apple platforms
  • You can resize pictures with simple commands
  • You can insert real page breaks using the HTML equivalent ( <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div>)

You can access the document via the files app and open it in Mweb. I found this very easy handle and am currently using it as a pre-export app, even on the Mac. Check it out!


Markdown prettifier from the 3rd party plugins is your friend, then, imitating the Roam feature with just a few glitches.

@RikD, I started out using Onedrive for Obsidian but found that it is desperately trying to keep up with the modifications, leading to excessive load on the Mac over time. This might be different for Windows, on the Mac I made good experience with iCloud so far.

Strange my 100K+ articles research vault is on Onedrive. Took a while to upload (normal -> I re-niced some processes to make it faster), after that everything went fine.
Since the relocation of some files outside the vault the sync reappears less often. I don’t really see any performance degradation or overly active Onedrive…

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So I am writing this post to engage in dialogue - as is suggested by the OP. If you have seen me on Twitter, you know I am a genuine person willing to listen to critique and engage in dialogue (@Calhistorian). So I am writing this really long post, as a form of intellectual engagement. I concede with many of your points below - particularly in regards to security/privacy.

For full disclosure I am a full-tim Roam user and part-time Obsidian user. I use Obsidian for privacy specific notes and for Obsidian Publish (as I am building a hyper-text textbook for my classes). Feel free to engage if you like. Ignore if you don’t. :grin:

Price is steep, but I get the ROI. My read on the “cult” item, is that only people who have a problem with the word itself are turned off. The community is AMAZING!

Yep, I am in the same position.

This is why I use it. I teach with my iPad Pro and Pencil on a digital whiteboard.

Same. Hate chrome. Though I have made an exception. Though all the Chromium options work really well too.

I too am an academic, and this is huge for me.

It is standard and comparable to Notion, etc. E2EE would be nice, but I just don’t put “secret” stuff in there. I don’t have much though. There is an offline only version, but still only lives in browser (dangerous for stability in my view).

I am still waiting for someone to point me at this. Other than the founder who is quite abrasive.

Technically I am “dual-national.” My primary is Roam, but I use Obsidian for Obsidian Publish and super secret stuff.

So perhaps this post wasn’t for me to dialogue with. But as I said above, the price is worth it since I am a knowledge worker.

Happy to converse about Roam or Obsidian. I wrote some thoughts as to why I remain in Roam here:

Why I use Roam as my Primary

I was this way too, but I backup to plain text which can frankly be imported into Obsidian. Which I demonstrated here: :point_down:

Totally agree, but no lockin really with Roam - perhaps for the less technically minded, which is basically me. But everything is in plain text - though it acts like a database on the server.

I do miss this from my DEVONthink days.

I only link to DEVONthink for my images and files for this very reason.

As I said. But do you know all the CEOs you use and “who” they are. And to be clear, there is no leader to the cult :rofl:.

Them fightn’ words. :rofl: None offense taken.

This is imporving dramatically by the day.

That ridiculous

Who are these idiots?

So true. Though haven’t been bothered yet by it.

It has definitely done so for me, but that is just the nature of my knowledge-work.

It is a shame, but that is the way it goes with cloud services. This is why i keep my student records in DEVONthink with local sync.

If I could get the same ROI, I would do so.

I patiently await the virtual barrage. I suppose I would love to talk about the most extreme use-cases of obsidian and how an extreme Roam user could replicate. I have 9000+ notes, extreme transclusion and data density/linkages.


I think when people talk about lock-in in Roam they refer to how usable those files are outside of roam. I only used roam very briefly sometime in June (…could be, pandemic time is weird?). To this day I keep finding files that I need to clean up with block-references or custom-syntax or worst case delete, because they’re unusable (I don’t know where those links lead!). They are fewer each day, but they show up here and there.

Would be great if you could help out some folks with some answers to this: How to import Roam backup into Obsidian while preserving block-level references/links?. I wasn’t around when those “high-fidelity” exports were created, but based on the threads I’ve found here they are meant to be re-imported into roam as backups, not really to be used by other apps.

Edit: Changed the link to the original question. The request to the plugin is here: Import Roam backups in JSON or EDN format, so that block-level links/references are preserved


First of all, I’m glad you didn’t take offense at what I said about the #roamcult crowd. It was an obvious generalization and I didn’t think a disclaimer was warranted.

Having said that, I get the impression that your experience with the Roam people has been very different from mine. Watching the Twitter tag and interacting with some users, most of what I got was borderline self-help BS or open animosity towards users of other apps.

You asked me if I know all the CEOs of things I use. I don’t, and I don’t go out of my way to find out if they’re cool. It’s just that Conor is so publicly arrogant that it would be hard not to notice it. And yes, that was indeed one of the reasons why I left. Having an alternative helped, of course.

But enough with the rants. The question I’d like you to ask yourself (if you haven’t already) is:

“What will I do with my notes when Roam shuts down?”

If you have it all figured out, I believe you should keep using it. Otherwise, you may be heading for heartbreak.


Thanks for the dialogue.

The most “high-fidelity” export is actually JSON. There are scripts floating around to reconstruct and resolve block refs that are just UIDs. I backup daily in MD, JSON, and EDN - just to be sure. I will look for the script and post.

I get it. I have just given and received so much from the roamcult it is hard for me to hear such things and not wonder where these Ah* are. I know, they are in every community.

Well, “self-help” is a subjective judgement right. If you don’t appreciate, don’t listen, right? Isn’t that judgement you just made similar in some ways to the judgements made by the cultists at other tools? I mean this genuinely, not stirring the pot. I get it. “Animosity” I am curious about. Not in my circle of the cult I guess. I have been using since November of 2019. But definitely in my circle there is a lot of “self-improvement” as an intellectual strategy.

Its funny too, because the only negative interaction I have had between the tools was actually an Obsidian user that harassed me for a week. The Obsidian devs were kind and pointed out the issue in a DM.

So true. He is certainly, in general, not my cup of tea. THough I think in the past year he has been humbled by this perception. But that’s the way it works when you rub people the wrong way.

I get it. My mind is like this. I have been around computers long enough to understand the power of longevity. I learned to type on the Apple IIe. Definitely seen software come and go. And as an archivist in Silicon Valley for a bit, I organized and catalogued innumerable “relics” of hard disks, computers, etc from Dell, Sun Microsystems, etc. My solution is simply is part what I mentioned above in this particular reply, but also part that if with reasonable effort if I need I can get what I need.

But it really comes down to the value we extract from our tools. I can get more value out of Roam, not because its “better” but because it supports my workflow better than obsidian. I was an early adopter to Obsidian back in the 3.x days - bought my license - and continue to support. Its just not my primary tool. I work in Roam and publish in Obsidian.


Thanks, that would be really helpful!

In the meantime, let me ask you a question that I’m sure will help both refugees and part-timers. Could you talk a little about how you bring your Roam content into Obsidian? Are you using one of those available scripts or a custom/personal one? Or is the process more manual?

It’s more manual. A plug-in to Roam called “roam42” creates an export file that resolves block references and any roam specific markdown, in which I save in my obsidian vault. It’s like the first level of publishing workflow. I then mold it into something presentable for Obsidian Publish site. Think my publish site as my public digital garden and Roam as my backend.

Whenever I encounter a tool in such early stages of development like Obsidian and Roam, I like to join its community. With Roam, it was mostly Twitter. After a few weeks, I was tired and bitter from the things I’ve seen people do: bashing competitor apps, dismissing its users as ignorant apes, reveling in the exclusivity of their circle. All this spontaneously, without provocation. I left revolted and angry, and I’ve criticized the roamcult publicly. (So much for self-improvement). That’s not really my way, and definitely not Obsidian’s.

You’re right, there are a-h* everywhere, but I must have gotten a very skewed sample.

Anyway, without a community, there was even less for me to hang on to.

What an experience that must have been!

You clearly know what you’re doing. No worries there.

That’s really all that matters, isn’t it? I, for one, miss the discretionary atomicity of outliners like Roam (or Dynalist, or WorkFlowy!) but the advantages of keeping my General-Sort-of-Mish-Mash in one place greatly outweigh the few shortcomings that Obsidian still has.


I did see this in the beginning, maybe I haved the skewed sample. :man_shrugging: I agree though, community is of great value. That’s why I play in both communities. Though traveling in the community for nearly a year now, generally speaking I don’t think you could characterize it as such objectively. But we all have different experiences.

You imply an important point though, for the non-technical (at the moment) Roam could be a lock-in trap - though it seems like that will not be for long. Obsidian’s development is far more polished than Roam and therefore the non-techincal definitely are safer in it.

Yes. The density of data I am trying to cram in a sentence is quite heavy. Its not just notes for me, its my thinking and livelihood (I am a professor, administrator and digital productivity consultant). If you don’t need the density of data, I don’t know why you would use Roam.


Lol sorry, my bad (@Calhistorian I am one of those idiots). I didn’t mean offense.

Is this what you are referring to? Did other people say similar or worse things?

While I could have expressed the critique more tactfully and my obsidian usage has expanded since then, I still stand by the fundamental point that the PKM workflow with daily notes and double bracketing keyword type pages is, by product design, supported well by Roam and poorly by Obsidian (unless notes get moved out of the daily notes and into better locations), largely because of pages vs. blocks and filtering. Addition of advanced search has changed things to make the workflow a little more effective in Obsidian now though.

Like, if I did the same thing in Obsidian I would end up with hundreds of linked references to each client of mine in daily notes and not be able to do anything with it.


Only one instance – there have been a few random snarks here and there I’ve received that weren’t well founded. You do make a fair argument however and a lot of my early workflows in Obsidian were influenced by my work in Roam. My workflow has since changed and probably looks significantly different than what I did at first. No offense taken :slight_smile:


Would you mind sharing the touch command you used to change the file’s creation date? I’m going to keep the same format I’ve been using in Roam for my daily notes (ex: February 8th, 2021) & it would be great to sort by created, but I keep hitting a wall with every command I try to fix the creation dates.

Can you tell me specifically what you tried?

I only had 33 journal entries to fix at the time, so I just wrote out the commands by hand in a text editor, and then ran them.

Example, I went to my daily notes directory and ran:
touch -t 202007220130

That sets the date to 2020, 07, 22, 1:30am

If you had 100s of notes you could use Python to format those commands, and then run them automatically. Or have Python print them out, and then run them yourself in your terminal. But I don’t understand where you’re stuck, so I can’t get more specific than that.

Ah that makes sense. I’ll noodle a bit tonight and get back to you. I believe I was trying an apple script previously, but the route that you described is way smoother. I appreciate you!

Converting a Roam graph for usage in Obsidian is effort, but here are some things that might help you transition.