Obsidian vs. Mem.ai the ultimate Showdown

If you’re looking for a tool to manage your notes in a state-of-the-art way, then you’ve probably come across these two providers before. But which one should you choose?
You don’t want to read through thousands of comparisons or spend months learning about both tools? I’ve been using Obsidian for 2 years and Mem.ai for more than half a year now and I’ve taken the trouble to find out the most important differences for you.

What is it all about?

Both tools are note-taking and knowledge management apps that can help you stay organized and remember stuff along the day. Okay cool, but why shouldn’t you just stick with OneNote?

The main difference so OneNote and Evernote ist that both tools use Markdown to create documents. This brings in a few advantages I will explain later. Just take this as it is for the moment. Furthermore they support using tag and backlinks to create a compelling to use system.

Why should you switch from OneNote?:

Mainly there are 3 reasons:

  • Your OneNote is overflowing and you can’t find information anymore
  • You have a lot of dependent information on different kind of pages that reference each other
  • You would like to not do formatting with clicky clicky, but instead be able to create formatting with shortcuts. This works very easily with Markdown

Let’s have a look at the specs and differences:

Storage:

Mem.ai:

Data is stored in the cloud and you need to have a google account to use this service.

Obsidian:

Data can be stored on your local computer and is not synced to the cloud. However, you have the option to store your vault on your private OneDrive and automatically synchronize it with another cloud provider.

Vault:

Mem.ai:

Everything is stored in one vault. So you can’t setup a vault for one customer only. Everything can be linked together even if you don’t want it.

Obsidian:

Can make a separate Vault for each project. With Mem.ai this is currently not yet possible

Mobile App:

Mem.ai:

There is an iPhone app, but it is still in beta and cannot yet be downloaded from the normal AppStore. Furthermore, there are still difficulties here as well.

Obsidian:

The mobile app is available for download via the normal AppStore and seems quite mature.

Backlinks:

Mem.ai:

Backlinks work fine but you can’t select a specific paragraph to be referenced to

Obsidian:

Backlinks are one of the main advantages of Obsidian. Compared to Mem.Ai you can even link to a specific heading on a page. You have much more possibilities to do.

Pro Obsidian: When you change the name of a note, the changed name is automatically adjusted on all linked pages. This behaviour doesn’t work for Mem.ai

Search:

Mem.ai:

Has a great built in search engine that finds similar mems with a NLP logic.

Obsidian:

The search engine has no fancy AI backend, but you have some search possibilities and also a classic filter structure:

Sharing:

Mem.ai:

You can share your meme with other people very easily and all you have to do is tag them. This even works when the person isn’t yet registered on Mem.ai. The person then receives a link to start collaborating.

Multiple people can edit the same mem, at the same time, without interrupting what others are typing.

Obsidian:

This feature is not really a built in feature. There are some hacks and of course there is a custom plugin. Anyhow it doesn’t work that seamless compared to Mem.ai.

Customizing:

Mem.ai:

Does not offer any options to customize the tool. Must take it as the developers imagine it. But I probably have a more stable version and can suggest my ideas to the developers and have them vote for them in the community.

Obsidian:

It is really an open source tool and therefore fully customizable. There is a plugin for almost every imaginable use case.

Quickly add notes:

Mem.ai:

One of the best features is the Quick Add function at Mem.ai. It allows me to pull content directly from a website as a meme and always have a link to it.

Obsidian:

There is a webclipper, but to be honest this feature of Mem.ai actually is really cool and Obsidian has more or less the same functionality, but it doesn’t work that seamlessly.

General information Mem.ai:

  • Very attractive design. Colors make it easy to keep track. Each tag has its own color. With Obsidian, it’s all identical.
  • Hover over mem scrolling works very well
  • Dynamic timeline display is really handy. It automatically sorts new entries according to it’s modification date.
  • Very easy overview of all open tasks. Can also set me reminders to the tasks
  • Mem.ai is somehow a bit more readable. I can’t say exactly what the reason is. I’m sure it can be customized in Obsidian, but I haven’t managed it yet
  • I can store documents better in Mem.ai. With Obsidian this is always a fiddling
  • Functions like notes via SMS or saving Twitter feeds as memes are just gimmicks in my opinion, for which there is no valid use case, at least for me

General information Obsidian:

  • Many many plugins (highly customizable)
  • Converts meanwhile also directly when writing and must not always click on the preview mode
  • Can configure hotkeys as desired
  • Preview of an entry now also works in Obsidian. Don’t always have to open the link. With Mem.ai it is a bit bumpy. Works fine, but the preview often jumps out when I leave the box with the mouse. I can also scroll in the preview

And I haven’t even talked about features like graph view, calendar, templates, reminder, kanban boards in Obsidian yet. This could fill a whole post for itself.

Final thoughts

You should choose Mem.ai if the following is important to you:

  • A lot of Teamwork, easy sharing of content
  • Processual work with timeline, tasks and saving open work in the inbox
  • If you have your focus on design

You should choose Obsidian if the following is important to you:

  • A highly customizable note taking app
  • A sophisticated user interface
  • No cloud forcing

I chose to go for Obsidian as of the great functionalities and the huge community. But maybe this will look a lot different in a few months. What do you think. What is your favorite note taking app?

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Steffen

Steffen

I write short stories about personal experiences and share writing & freelancing tips.