Diving in to Capacities.io
Taking a look at a Notion-styled app that is focused more on note-taking.
Ever since Roam popped up we’ve seen apps that look similar to it. Logseq and Athens Research come to mind. And, honestly, I don’t care if one app looks similar to another as long as it offers something unique and gets updated frequently. That’s all I care about.
But we haven’t seen any apps that try to tackle the aesthetic of Notion.
Enter Capcities.io. It has a huge Notion vibe to it when you get started, but this is definitely not Notion and that’s a good thing in this case. Capacities is much more geared to taking notes. Remove the relational databases from Notion and make it focused on just note-taking and you get Capacities.
And keep in mind that Capacities isn’t about making elaborate relational databases for every aspect of your life. So you won’t see people posting their Studio Ghibli themed Capacities dashboards to Instagram anytime soon. But who knows, maybe they will.
Capacities really is all about taking notes.
But it does still have a Notion feel to it. Pages look similar, blocks feel similar, but it still feels noticeably different. It’s definitely much much easier to take notes in which was always my big hang up with Notion: it never felt like a great note-taking app. Sure, I can take notes, but it always has to go in a page which is in another page which is in a database...you get the idea. My notes always felt so far away from me and they didn’t feel any connection to each other at all even though they have backlinks. But that’s ok because Notion does a lot of other things really well.
Back to Capacities.
I’m mainly going to mention a few things that really stand out to me: entities, collections, and embedding.
Entities & Collections
Capacities has something they call entities. They are different types of blocks that are recognized as unique and can be categorized in a database. I’m sure I completely butchered that description, but let me give you an example of an entity which I am using frequently already.
They have an entity called “Weblinks”. These are exactly what they sound like: links you paste from the web. When you paste a link it creates a rich embed, I’ll get back to embedding in a minute because that’s a big part of Capacities as well, but then that link also gets put in a database called “Weblinks”. You can jump over to that database which collects all the weblinks you’ve added to any page.
From there you can create multiple “Collections” to categorize them however you want. One weblink can be in multiple Collections. So you can create a Collection for Tweets, for articles, for Productivity links, for Wishlist items, whatever you want. I love this so much.
Right now you can have Databases for Weblinks, Pages, and Images, but more are coming. Remember, Capacities is very, very new. They are working on a way to have have todo’s as an entity, but it’s just in the works right now. You can imagine how cool this would be with todo’s.
Entities can really be a powerful thing. I love having a database that just collects a specific type of block/thingy and puts it all in one place. There’s lots of great possibilities there. And it makes it so easy to find all the things that you collect when you are taking notes. So if you paste a lot of images from the web, you don’t have to tag the images so that you can find them later, you just go to the image database and they are all there.
And here’s a killer, killer feature. When you paste a weblink and get the rich preview, you can click on that preview and it brings up a page that was made for that weblink and you can start writing beneath the weblink. Let me you show you what I mean. Let me show you.
I can embed anything and then bring up the menu on the right side and choose “open as page”. Boom. Now I can start taking notes on the embed and it will follow this embed and not clutter up my original page. This is so great. I love this idea of being able to take notes on a link within its own page.
Now lets get back to Collections.
Creating Collections is basically reminds me of making a Wall in Walling. You can add anything you want to a collection and that Collection and then that Collection can be embedded in a page, I’ll get back to that later. You can have one item that lives in multiple Collections as well. Very smooth.
Ok, let’s talk about embedding.
Embedding is a big part of Capacities. It’s one of the best implementations I’ve seen so far of embedding in general, but also with embedding things from the web. Embedding things from the web seems to be a challenge for a lot of PKM apps for some reason. Tweets never embed great and the rich previews for some apps just aren’t great and you have no control over how things look. Capacities looks to change that. There are two parts to the embeds that I love: the actual embedding options and taking notes on the embed itself which I mentioned above. Let me show you the embedding options.
Let’s take a look at all the ways you can embed things from the web. When you paste a link, it creates a rich preview or if it’s from Twitter it creates a Tweet embed and the same for YouTube. But then you have a few more options.
You can do a normal embed, a wide embed, and more. This gives you a lot of control over your embed instead of just having to live with however it was embedded. Just click on the three dots in the top right and you get all the options.
You can also embed other pages you’ve made into any other page. This is great and I’m not sure why Notion doesn’t have this option yet. It seems like such a natural, obvious progression. But Capacities does have it and it’s awesome. Check this voodoo magic out:
It can embed just the top half of the page or I can expand it. I can also drag other blocks into it. It’s transclusion on steroids.
You can also embed collections you have. This is like inline queries, in a way, but way better looking. If you have a Collection that is just for collecting morning routine tips you can embed this on a page where you are writing something about morning routines and get all your tips right there without leaving the page. I love this. Let me show you what an embed for collection PKM related stuff looks like:
Pretty awesome. I’m definitely loving the idea of inline queries that look amazing like this. I recently just started using inline queries a lot more lately and I love using Collections embedded like this to sort of act like an inline query. This is great.
Capacities also has the other great features you would come to expect with a PKM app:
Bi-directional linking and backlinks
So to summarize, this is a really interesting app. When you have a new PKM app the question I always ask myself is, “Ok, but how is this different?” And with Capacities, it brings together a smooth UI, great embedding, and an interesting system with their entities and databases.
It’s pretty darn polished and the team responds quickly to feedback. It has a few tutorials that help you learn how it works as well.
If I had any criticism it would be that I still don’t know how to structure my daily notes yet. I have a page and then a subpage for a month and then the day within the month page, but it just feels a little off right now. But I’m sure I’ll get it figure out. I thought that this page was for daily notes when I went into it and loved the way the date was displayed in the top right, but it wasn’t.
And they also have a feature where you can create your own database, but I don’t really understand that just yet. I think I need a few examples of why I would want to do that and how. Right now whenever I go into it I feel like I’m just creating a new database for pages which already exist. I think this will become more useful when more entities are made. They even state something like that on the creation page.
Go check out Capacities.io. It’s got a great system and it’s one of the best places to embed weblinks, tweets, and youtube videos. If you like Notion, but want something a little less involved and more focused on note-taking, this is the app for you.