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Roam, If You Want To

In his latest newsletter, Chris Bowler spends a bit of time on the Roam note taking service that is currently in beta. His reference for Roam was Drew Coffman. I love Drew, and he attaches to new ideas with the zeal of an ancient Athenian. Roam bares more resemblance to a wiki than anything else, but its proponents insist it’s a completely new way of thinking about note taking. The service is thick with enthusiastic documentation on how to use it for different purposes, adapting it to GTD, increasing your speed and productivity with a plethora of keyboard shortcuts, etc.

There’s even an org-roam for Emacs. Which you may need, if you can’t access the cloud database of your notes.

Roam Reference interface
Roam Reference interface

Roam only has a web app, and it’s not a particularly attractive one, at that. The site for the service partially obscures this by resizing browser windows in screenshots to make things seem a bit more native. The app just looks clunky, though. The pages have more bullets than a early-20th-century Chicago gangland murder scene. Perhaps a bit unintuitively, you can turn most of the bullets off by right-clicking on the title of the page. Otherwise, you end up looking like a PowerPoint junkie in desperate need of a fix.

The big draw with Roam seems to be the ability to create linked notes on the fly, by typing the name of a new note in double brackets. It is a cool idea, although I could also see it creating a fairly unwieldy database or a bunch of empty pages waiting for content that never comes. I’d like to see apps like Bear and IA Writer try out something like this, though. Bear already has a similar style of linking to other notes and IA Writer’s content blocks seem like a natural fit for this sort of functionality.

It’s clear that, even in the 21st century, note taking is still evolving. For a information hoarder like me, that’s a good thing, even if I don’t love every solution that is created.

By Robert

Robert is a Christian, aspiring minimalist, software dev manager and paper airplane mechanic located in North Carolina.