The Curious Case of Craft
Craft isn't the PKM app we thought it would be, but it's still a darn good app.
I’ve been using Craft a lot more lately and I’ve really come to enjoy it again despite lacking quite a few features I want. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately for some reason and decided to write about my experiences with Craft.
Let me explain how I got here and how you can grow to like Craft.
Here’s a TL:DR:
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When Craft first came out it looked like it was going to be a PKM app
Craft started added some awesome features and then stopped
Craft is still beautiful, but we need to re-think how we view it
Craft is Evernote 2.0 not Obsidian 2.0
Understand what Craft is and you will enjoy it more
Coming in Hot
When Craft first came out it was one of the best 1.0 apps I had ever seen.
Everything looked pixel perfect. It was fast, it had some unique features and it was just absolutely gorgeous.
But it wasn’t just a beautiful, fast, app it also had bi-directional linking and backlinks.
This may not sound amazing, but at the time this was big. It was big because at the time bi-directional linking was exclusively a power-user PKM feature. It was really only found in the more advanced note-taking apps like Roam and Obsidian. It was a sign or signal that your app was going to more powerful than the others.
Throw in a beautiful, native app that was super fast and had bi-directional linking and people had reason to be excited.
People started thinking that this was the one app that was going to take down the new, big competitors. Roam and Obsidian had lots of features, but they either didn’t have a mobile app or their mobile apps just felt like a cheap web wrapper. Neither of them “looked good” by any measure at all. Not only did Craft look good, but it had native apps and syncing was super fast.
So yeah, Craft felt like the chosen one. Ok, it was light on features now, but if it slowly added in more power-user features over time then it will be the king. Give me some unlinked references, advanced queries, tweet and YouTube embeds and I’m good.
And for a while it seemed like it was going to become what we thought it was going to be.
They added a great implementation of Daily Notes that connected with your calendar, something other PKM apps couldn’t do. They added tasks to Daily Notes. They made backlinks a little better. But eventually the power-user features slowed to a halt.
Some people started to question whether it was what they were looking for.
What Kind of App is Craft?
I had started paying for Craft right when it came out and I tried using it for everything I was using Roam for. I had become super hooked on all the features of Roam: backlinks, unlinked references, block references, inline advanced queries, tags, etc.
But Craft always seemed to fall short. I would try connecting things like I did in Roam, but there were no unlinked references so I couldn’t make those serendipitous connections I wanted. I couldn’t tag a block and then find it later using an advanced query. I couldn’t embed a YouTube video or a tweet. I couldn’t do block references.
Craft was just frustrating.
Sure, they were continuing to add features, but they weren’t the features I was expecting. A new way to share a page, super awesome I guess? A new way to add backgrounds to the page. Cool? Better collaboration features…sure? These are all great features that make Craft better, but were they making it a better PKM? People didn’t seem to think so.
Over time there started to be some talk on the Craft Slack about the efficacy of using Craft as a PKM and how the PKM features just weren’t being added in like we thought. People questioned whether this was the app they really wanted for their PKM/second brain. One of the Craft employees eventually said that if you are looking to use Craft as a second brain then you probably should look elsewhere. Now, in fairness, he did retract that statement later, but it was still a signal about the direction of Craft: it’s not a PKM power app like Obsidian or Roam. It’s a document/note-taking app.
It’s Evernote 2.0 not Obsidian 2.0.
Embrace the Limitations
So over this last year I started to come to this realization that Craft isn’t going to replace Obsidian for me like maybe I wished it would. It’s not that I want to replace Obsidian because Obsidian isn’t good, but Craft is just that great of a native app.
I wanted Craft to have all the features of Obsidian because using Craft’s app was a joy. Syncing is nearly instantaneous. Everything is absolutely pixel perfect. Touch points are the perfect size. It just feels made for a mobile device. It feels like a premium iPhone app. Obsidian’s app is…fine.
So when I finally had the epiphany that I should stop treating Craft like Obsidian, I found that I started to enjoy Craft again.
I stopped trying to make Craft Obsidian.
I didn’t care about connecting all my notes. I didn’t clip every article and tweet and then try to connect them using unlinked references. I stopped trying to tag everything in a way that a query would be easy to find at a later time.
I started using Craft as a clean place to take notes. I used it to take more intentional notes. I would add notes that I wanted to access quickly on the go. I used it for sharing beautiful notes with people. My finished notes would end up in Craft.
I did my thinking in Obsidian and I would take the final product and throw it into Craft.
For instance, a few years a go I took the Clifton Strengths quiz with a mentor to figure out my strengths in the workplace. It was pretty cool actually. When you are done it gives you a beautiful PDF with the results. I took the results and made a note in Craft. The Craft note looks better than their PDF.
It’s easier to access on the go than if it were in the Obsidian app. I can turn different parts into pages with more notes. I can do awesome highlighting and colors. It just looks absolutely gorgeous. I love opening that specific note occasionally just because it looks great.
I also started to put my notes from online courses I’m taking in Craft because, again, it looks amazing. It’s so easy to scroll around on mobile.
I can pull up notes much faster in Craft than in Obsidian.
I also made a page for my son’s schoolwork in Kindergarten. I shared it with my wife and she can easily see all his schoolwork that I have scanned in. She loves it because it looks great on her phone and is easy for her to look around in. I have his schoolwork in Obsidian too, but it’s far easier to view it in Craft.
And it just looks awesome.
The key with Craft is how you view it in terms of a note-taking app. Don’t try and make Craft Obsidian. It won’t work.
Again, embracing this will allow you to do more work in Craft because you know what it is and what it isn’t. You know not to expect to use unlinked references or look for advanced queries.
Use it for taking beautiful notes and occasionally linking a few notes together if you need to.
Yes, I still use Obsidian daily. That won’t change in the near future. Obsidian is my archive of everything. It’s my personal Wikipedia. Craft can’t do that.
Sure, in time Craft will add in some great new power-user features.
I don’t really care about graph view and I doubt it’s even really on their radar for now. If I had to guess, the next big power-user feature will be task management which would be huge. If they add task management would be a huge boost and help separate them because Obsidian and Roam don’t have great task management built in. Logseq, Amplenote, and Evernote (believe it or not) have a great task management system and it helps them out big time.
With Craft, be patient. Embrace its shortcomings and leverage what makes it great. Don’t expect it to function like Obsidian. It isn’t Obsidian. We have an Obsidian. We need a Craft.
Here’s a few of the advantages of Craft that you need to embrace to enjoy it:
Excellent Daily Notes implementaion
A gorgeous, fast, native, mobile app
Sharing notes is top-notch
Organization is pretty great with lots of great visual views (list, moodboard, etc)
Tables are fantastic now
Images and notes are easy to export in a variety of formats
Block based editor
Moving blocks around is insanely easy
Craft has a lot going for it. Don’t expect it to add features at the same clip as Obsidian. And yes, they seem to be adding features that are clearly meant to pull in more paying customers, but that’s not all bad. That will add in a few features that I didn’t know I wanted.
But Craft is a great app and if you understand what it is. You will love it. Sure, I still want them to add in awesome power-user features, but I’m not expecting that. But maybe…just maybe…one day…they will allow you to adjust a cover image. Just sayin’.
But it’s still great for what it is which is a beautiful, fast, native, note-taking app that is above average in features. You can absolutely use it in conjunction with Obsidian because it has a few features that Obsidian does not. They actually work well together.
Hopefully this made some sense and can help you understand a bit more about how to approach using Craft.
Thanks for reading!
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