Roam is a cloud-based notes tool, designed for 'networked thought'. It's less of a note-taking app and more of a long haul research tool. And it's deeply impressive.
Roam is built to both accommodate any structure and also accommodate changing structures. Its 'bi-directional links engine' and 'knowledge graph' mean you’re not tied to a folder hierarchy, but instead, you create connections between blocks and pages of information as you go.
Using Roam, you create connections between blocks and pages of information in its unique way of connecting all of your notes together in a flat structure. It leverages the way our minds work organically, producing a networked mindmap that evolves over time.
I discovered this phrase Personal Knowledge Management at the same time I discovered Roam. And as someone who compiles and writes information for a living, this Personal Knowledge Management phrase sums up the process wonderfully. Roam makes 'PKM' famously easier, and addictively joyful.
I had been using Notion, which is also fabulous, and before that Evernote and Scrivener. But now I write everything using Roam. In just a few hours of using it, I knew it was perfect for deep writing and learning, given its bi-directional linking is far closer to how the mind actually works.
Roam is not intuitive to start with. And its power isn't apparent at first.
In fact, I abandoned my first attempt using the app and returned to Notion. This was primarily due to Roams default list display for all text. However, you only need to right-click on a pages heading to choose > Document View, which disables the text bullets to give you a writing experience closer to a regular text app.
On my second attempt to use Roam, I've fallen head over heels, and now migrated from Notion to commit all of my writing and personal knowledge management (and life management as well) to Roam.
In just a few days my creative output has dramatically increased. I think primarily because it makes compiling, linking and writing such a joy. Being able to effortlessly find anything, and structure and write with ease feels like an unfair advantage. With Roam all of your time is spent writing or structuring your database of knowledge for writing.
Roam is remarkable different than any text-based app you will have encountered. And this innovative approach is being widely celebrated as a breakthrough in 'knowledge management' and maximising creative output, personal knowledge management, and productivity.
Roam is not free, nor intuitive. But after a day using it the power of its Bi-Directional Link Engine visualises the connections you have in your mind and writing. It makes the dots visible essentially, by encouraging you to create your own links between your thinking and knowledge. It encourages networked thought, as Roam puts it, and this is plain wondrous.
Roam gives you a place to write and create relationships between the things that you write. This sounds simple, but the way Roam does it unlocks substantial possibilities.
The app creates a truly flat interlinked means of note-taking, compared to filing cabinet style systems like Evernote or Notion. And this flat interlinked system opens up the creative output by encouraging you to deepen the connections between your ideas and allowing the mind to flow as you write.
Roam is also wonderfully satisfying to use if you write, or manage a lot of information.
Unlike most note-taking tools where your information lives in a hierarchy, Roam allows you to move laterally across your information while retaining vertical references. It does this using what it calls a bi-directional links engine. to create pages that link to other pages around a particular topic.
Roams Bi-directional links are created by typing double left brackets [[. You don’t have to create a page, it gets created the first time you reference it with a Page by typing double left brackets [[ and you can also precede text with a # to create a new page referenced by the page you're on.
The process is simple. As you are typing in Roam, you can surround any word with square brackets which creates a new note with that word as the page title. You can alternatively use a hashtag to create a new page, for example, #Roam
When you add brackets or hashtags text, if there was already a page for those words, it links to that existing page, and if there was not yet a page for those words, it creates one. So if a page already exists, a link between the two will be created. If there’s no corresponding page with that title, a new page will be created and linked to from the page you’re currently on. It's intuitive once you get going.
This bi-directional links engine is liberating. You no longer have to create structures around your content. And pages can live in multiple pages, which removes all the decision making required to decide where to place pages in apps like Evernote and Notion.
It's so swift and effortless to work, and the connections between your pages and ideas become instantly apparent.
Roam makes creating today's a ci9nce. You simply press Command + Enter (Mac) or Control and Enter (Windows). It's so effortless. Roam automatically creates a Done page with the all of the to dos you've completed.
Roam takes the idea of a mind map a step further using what it calls the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is like a Mind Map, a visual map of the ideas and the links between your ideas. I love mind map tools because they quickly tease out connections between your ideas. But they are not designed for deep writing and research. Roam offers the same visual map of your ideas, but with vast amounts of content.
I have not found a use for the Knowledge graph, beyond seeing a visualisation of my writing. But I am only 2-days in with Roam as I write this. And as I work, I am heaven with the bi-directional structure and the ease and speed of the process. I spend all of my time writing and editing, and none of my time organising page hierarchies or looking for content I've written.
Roam automatically creates a new 'daily note' for you every day. Every calendar date has its own Daily Notes page. This is fantastic if you like a blank sheet each day to work from. I list
And you can pre-loaded reminders for future days just as simple as creating new pages in Roam. The daily notes works like a charm for the way I work, as I prefer a new page each day to manage my work.
Roam lets you work on a note and then open another note in the sidebar just by shift-clicking a link. This allows you to have open two pages at once; one in the main view and one in the sidebar. I was always jumping around in Notion or Evernote to reference or copy in content from other notes into the note I am working on. But with Roam that is no longer required. You don't need to break out of the note to go and find the content you've written and stored elsewhere.
Pages in the sidebar are fully interactive. And you can also have multiple documents open in the sidebar simultaneously. This is infinitely better than having to have multiple instances of Notion open for example or browsing to find the content you're looking for. I wasted a lot of time in Notion hunting for something.
Anywhere in Roam you can type a slash, for the option to insert a wide array of handy things
These are for Mac shortcuts for PC replace Command with the Control key
If you’re coming from any other note-taking app Roam is unintuitive, It will take a bit to get used to if you're coming from Evernote or Notion.
After a few days using Roam, it's clearly a new way to journal, write, and create new connections and maximise your creative output. Spend a few hours in it and I'm pretty confident you'll be a raving fan.