First impressions - promising but long way to go

The good stuff:

  • I love the local-first philosophy of Anytype. Actually, I found Anytype by searching “Notion offline” in the first place. It just feels good to have total control of my own data.
  • The UI design is beating most competitors. The aesthetics are also unified from the Anytype homepage to the apps for different platforms.
  • The concept “everything is an object” is growing on me. It was not super intuitive to me at the very beginning but it does help to get my notes more organized.

Something negative (and very objective):

  • Bugs: the most depressing bug is that the images are not showing up when I go totally offline. All I see is “broken link” after “broken link”. I know this is something I should put into bug reports but this is the last issue I expect for an app claiming to be “local first” and has been alpha-tested for more than two years. (When I try to export everything the images are there, so I guess this has something to do with the unstable synchronization mechanism, which is a total mystery to me right now.)
  • Software iteration: for a product at this stage I am expecting much faster bug fixes and more frequent updates. And the installation size of over 1 GB for the Windows client is definitely not a good sign. (Also on a note page nothing happens with right clicks. To me the Windows app is just like something brutally migrated from Mac.) And the iOS app is still barely usable on my iPhone 13 mini, while the Android app is working ok on my Android phone. All these together with the bugs makes it hard to believe that the product is coded cleanly. And when I try Obsidian and Siyuan (a similar app that just went open-source), I am amazed at what an Asian couple is capable of.

All in all, I am not convinced enough to make Anytype my daily driver at this moment (maybe I am a little too mean as an alpha tester), but I really hope you guys can make some big progress in 2022.

Some “immature” advice:

  • Make the fundamentals work first. I saw all kinds of requests for Anytype from the community. That’s reasonable because, for a new app like this, everyone wants everything. But I think it would be wiser to focus on the “core” of Anytype. I like Obsidian’s idea of building a strong skeleton and allowing the community to add flesh to it. But if Anytype is aiming for something Apple-ish, it is really still far from an OOTB product.
  • Go open source NOW. As I said, Anytype is having a pace too slow and maybe even in the wrong direction. Making it open source will accelerate everything and it will also make the users feel safer. I myself am not a coding expert but I am sure that many talented alpha testers are willing to contribute to the app they believe in.

Hi. Thanks for posting your thoughts. I started using Anytype a few weeks ago and have been slowly using it more and more. Like you I’m finding the everything is an object data model to be really strong.
But I also agree about development visibility. I don’t have a sense of where Anytype is in this process? What is left before they go beta and then launch? How often should be expect some update?

I have never heard of SiYuan before. Just took a look, downloaded and when it started, I was “wow” in about 10 seconds. Need to give it a proper test of course. Lots of these apps start well and then you uncover their limitations. But thanks for the suggestion.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying Siyuan is the perfect alternative to Anytype. In fact, it also has its own drawbacks:

  • there is so far no feature like Anytype’s Set or Notion’s Database
  • there is no good way to sync or self-host the data for free
  • the optional subscription is quite costly

What I was trying to say is that Siyuan was started by a team of two and it seems a lot more robust than Anytype. And going open source again shows the confidence of the developers.

I totally got that. Actually having played around with SiYuan last night, I was pretty impressed even though a lot of it reminded me of Notion. I came from Notion last year after being frustrated with its iPad app. got into Craft as its iPad app was so much better. But now Craft has evolved into more of a team/collaboration app with some key features getting left behind in their prioritisation.
This year I’ve gone back to a Mac as my main device so poor iPad versions are less of an issue.

Agree that missing the Set or Database feature is a pain. Though I guess Airtable bases can be embedded like I did previously with Notion.
Is there a “bad” way to sync data? Like can I not put my databased folder into Dropbox?

It’s hard to know the status of SiYuan with so much online stuff in Chinese.

This community here seems pretty low activity from the dev, which is not that encouraging. But maybe I just need to stick around for a bit.

The data of SiYuan are just a bunch of .md files stored in a folder. So you can manually backup that folder in Dropbox but it will be tricky to sync the data between devices seamlessly. Another option is to use the docker version, then you can visit your notes no matter where you are (but this is hardly a sync solution and apparently it doesn’t work offline.) The last time I checked, the docker version wasn’t half as smooth as the desktop version, but your mileage may vary.

SiYuan has a lot of documentation in Chinese because the developers and most of the users are from China. (Also, the subscription fee is also a lot lower in China.) Most documentation should also come in English but for now, the roadmap is in Chinese only. I guess you need to use Google Translate to somehow get around it.

But again, I guess it is better not to talk too much about a competitor here. I am worried about the status of Anytype right now. The idea and the concept are quite convincing but the idea alone is just not enough. It takes planning, management, marketing, and much more to produce something as successful as Notion.

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