If you’re familiar with Notion and Tana, you may understand the dilemma.
Both tools offer features that can help streamline your workflow and manage your knowledge.
But is one better than the other?
Should you migrate entirely to Tana, lured by its shiny new features?
Or should you stick with the tried-and-true Notion?
The answer isn’t as black-and-white as you might think.
Instead of choosing one tool over the other, why not use both in a way that leverages their individual strengths?
This blog post will explore why moving completely to Tana might not be the best idea and how you can use both tools effectively in your workflow.
What actually is Notion?
Notion is an amazing all-in-one workspace that gives you the power to create databases, wikis, calendars, and so much more. It’s like having a whole toolbox at your fingertips!
You can collaborate with teammates, organize your thoughts, and connect with thousands of other tools. It’s super intuitive and easy to use, making it a great choice for both individuals and teams.
Most people miss the fact that Notion is a tool-making tool.
Notion’s mission statements:
Our mission is to make toolmaking ubiquitous. We want everyone everywhere to feel empowered to customize the software they use every day to their exact needs.
After the Notion AI launch – Our mission is to make software toolmaking ubiquitous, and Notion AI will help make that a reality. Not only will anyone be able to mold a computer to their needs, but they’ll also be able to augment their thinking and get even more out of their tools (hopefully, Engelbart would be proud!).
Now you know, where Notion is coming from.
What actually is Tana?
Tana is a cloud-based outlining application with many of the same features as Roam Research and Obsidian (more specifically LogSeq) but with improved databasing capabilities.
👶 In simple words, if apps like Roam Research and Notion had a baby, it would be Tana.
It is a versatile tool that goes beyond traditional outlining. It provides a semantic programming environment where users can create and share apps. With Tana, you can easily organize and visualize your information, create relationships between different data types, and retrieve information intelligently using live searches.
It also offers AI-powered capabilities for capturing and processing data. Tana empowers users to build their own structures, relationships, and data views, making it a flexible platform for both outlining and app development.
Recently, I’m actually contemplating moving from Obsidian to Tana for its outlining and databasing abilities.
If you’re coming from Notion, Tana’s terminologies may feel strange to you.
Here, I’ll map Tana’s terms to their Notion equivalents.
- Super tag = Database
- Nodes = Potential database items
- Fields = Properties
- Tag = A tag (that Notion doesn’t have)
- Search node with filters and sorts= Linked Database
- Instance = Relation property
In Tana’s editor, whenever you create nodes, you’re creating potential database items.
You can assign these nodes a tag or a supertag.
The process of adding a super tag to a node is similar to creating a database item in Notion.
After that, you can make use the “Search node” to pull the filtered data in any format you like.
If you think 🤔, Tana’s workflow is inverse to Notion’s. First, enter information and then decide what to do with it.
Tana vs. Notion – Key differences
Instead of choosing that “perfect app”, (there’s no perfect app), you need to play by strengths of these platforms.
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of how to use Tana and Notion together, let’s quickly highlight their unique strengths.
Unique features of Notion
➡️ These features are unique to Notion and are not present in Tana
- Rich content: Notion is great for handling rich content. Think images, embedded videos, and all sorts of cool blocks to make your pages look fantastic.
- Notion AI: It has a powerful AI assistant feature that allows users to do more with their documents. The AI assistant can help with tasks such as spellchecking, grammar correction, summarization, translation, explanation, lengthening and shortening the text, finding action items, and simplifying language.
- Powerful project management: Notion provides features for teams, including the ability to view who last viewed a document, add comments, review revision history, and work in team workspaces. Also, you can create robust systems for managing tasks and projects, complete with deadlines, assignees, and progress tracking.
- Integrations and API: Notion integrates with other tools natively. Also, you can use the Notion synced databases feature to sync your Notion databases with GitHub, Asana, etc. Also Notion offers a robust API, which allows developers to access and integrate Notion with other applications and services. It’s pretty robust.
- Note exports: Notion allows users to export their notes in several formats, including HTML, PDF, Markdown, and CSV. When exporting, users can choose to include only the content or the content and its subpages. They can also create folders for the subpages in Markdown or CSV formats. With Tana, exporting individual notes is not possible. But copy-pasting works (but not for images).
- Cross-platform apps: Notion has decent Electron-JS-based apps for all platforms like macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, but Tana has no applications. For now, they encourage you to install their Chromium-based application, and they do have plans to offer a native app for iOS to begin with.
Unique features of Tana
- Outliner: Tana is an outliner at its core. It’s like your thoughts, captured in tidy bullet points (or ‘nodes’, as Tana calls them), making your notes look super organized. Downside? Not good for writing!
- Daily pages: All your notes (sorry, nodes) are encouraged to reside under the automatically generated daily pages. You can also maintain a journal in them. In Notion, you can create a database called “Days” and set a recurring template. In Tana, it’s built-in.
- Searchability: Notion’s search feature tends to be slow and clunky compared to Tana, making it difficult to locate content inside the pages. On the other hand, with Tana, the regular search functionality is fast and also has search nodes functionality which is robust.
- References/Backlinks: Tana offers more feature-rich references and backlinks, allowing for more complex cross-referencing within documents. It also shows you unlinked references. Although Notion has backlinks, it’s not powerful.
- Tag extension feature: In simple terms, in Tana, you can set parent tags to a tag so that the child tag inherits all the fields configured for the parent tag. For example, all fields associated with #notes also belong to #book-notes, not another way around. This helps you get rid of “fields” that you never use with some tags.
- Also, there are various other features that may not deserve mention in this post.
Why are some people moving to Tana? 🤔
- Creating items as you write is much harder in Notion than in Tana. You can using “[[” and “+”, but it’s not frictionless as Tana.
- In Notion, it is difficult to see what you actually wrote about an item. Needs additional mouse clicks.
- Creating as many database views as there are different item types in your schema is the only way to see all database items related to each other in Notion.
- The friction of sorting the content after entering it in Notion is huge!
- Backlinks aren’t first-class citizens in Notion.
In short, with Notion, you need to decide where you want to put content before creating it. But in Tana, you create sustaining the state of “Flow” and then decide where to put or what to tag. Also, the related items are spatially close to each other in Tana, and it simulates how your brain works.
Should you move? 🏗️
It might seem like the perfect solution, but before you go all in, it’s important to consider a minimum viable implementation and then decide if it’s worth pursuing further.
Shiny object? ✨
Why not try it out for 7 days and see how it works?
That way, you can make an informed decision on whether it’s worth pursuing or not.
However, it’s also important to remember that some of the features and workflows we take for granted in Notion may not be available in Tana.
One fine day, you decide to embark on the journey of moving your tasks to Tana. With determination, you transfer your projects and notes, putting in the necessary manual work.
However, after a few days, a realization starts to set in.
You might start missing the long-form content and blocks that Notion offers. Suddenly, you begin to appreciate the architect personality that Notion caters to, and the urge to migrate back to Notion grows stronger.
And this feeling of regret can become even more powerful when Notion introduces new features related to backlinks and outlining!
While Tana may seem like the perfect solution with its unique features, it’s crucial not to overlook the strengths and capabilities of Notion.
💎 The grass always seems greener on the other side. Familiarity can breed contempt.
Also, Tana has a big learning curve; it feels, even more complex than Notion for some people. Anyone can use Notion as they get a well-refined system that hides the underlying complexity (like, say, CoreOS), but with Tana, it can be challenging.
Notion can completely replace Tana, if Notion:
- Extends the existing “backlinks” module.
- Introduces an outliner mode/block along with their regular editor.
- Comes with the ability to search “blocks” vs. only pages when you enter “@” or “[[”, to add them as synced blocks.
- Rolls out ability to create linked databases in a specific view, filter, and sort in natural language
But for Tana to replace Notion?
It has a very long way… to go!
How to implement Tana functionalities in Notion?
Here are some lesser-known features and extensions of Notion that you can utilize to implement Tana-like functionality:
Use the backlinks feature… a lot
Notion has a built-in backlinks feature that you can take advantage of.
To enhance this functionality, you can use the Chrome extension called Evergreen Notes for Notion.
This extension turns your Notion workspace into a personal knowledge base, similar to Roam Research or Tana.
It displays backlinks, page mentions, and unlinked references for any page. It also includes features like reference management, markup management, and table of contents.
Create Notion Daily pages
You can create a “days” database in Notion and have daily pages automatically generated in Notion using recurring templates.
This functionality is built into the CoreOS life operating system I use.
It automatically generates daily pages every 24 hours and displays them on my main action dashboard.
I can plan my day and interact with other pages using Notion’s side peek view without leaving the daily page.
Turn into page in
When planning your day on the daily page, you can make use of the “turn into page” functionality in Notion.
This feature allows you to remotely create database items in other databases within say my Notion daily page.
For example, instead of navigating to the task database to log tasks, you can simply create a bullet point and turn it into a database item using a template called “log tasks”.
This streamlines the process of organizing and managing your tasks.
To improve indentation in Notion, you can use Chrome extensions and CSS to add indentation lines.
In this blog post, I have provided detailed instructions on how to achieve this.
Another option is to use the toggle headings feature in Notion, which allows you to collapse and expand headings at different levels (toggle heading 1, 2, or 3).
Use synced blocks
Notion’s synced blocks feature allows you to sync any block across multiple locations. This can be useful for reducing overhead and streamlining your workspace.
By using synced blocks, you can have the same content appear in different pages or databases without duplicating it. This ensures consistency and makes it easier to update information in one place.
🌟 If you are interested in knowing more about how I personally make use of Notion as Tana, I have published a dedicated blog post on how to make use of Notion like Tana.
Consider using Tana and Notion together
Use Tana for quick captures and Notion for deep dives
Tana is perfect for quick captures because of its Input API, mobile apps, and shortcuts for quick capture.
It allows users to easily jot down ideas and thoughts on-the-go and save them for later review.
Notion, on the other hand, is better suited for in-depth exploration and elaboration due to its rich content handling capabilities and advanced database functionality.
Here are some examples for project management:
- Project planning: Imagine you’re about to kick-off a new project. Start by outlining your project in Tana, using its outliner mode to break down the project into manageable chunks. Think of it as your initial sketch. Then, transfer this outline of a project plan to Notion, where you can assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. It’s like moving from a rough sketch to a detailed blueprint.
- Managing tasks: Use Tana for capturing tasks to your inbox (using its excellent Capture app), and then move tasks to where they belong in Notion at the end of the day. For instance, if you note down a thumbnail idea in Tana, you can easily move it to the relevant Notion video page. With this, you can quickly find what you need when you need it.
- Meeting notes: Jot down meeting notes in Tana by default. If these notes are useful for a project, transfer them to Notion where they can be put into action.
Let’s say you’re a content creator.
Use Tana to quickly jot down content ideas and outline them as they come to you throughout the day.
Then, in Notion, develop these ideas further and integrate them into your content calendar, adding in details about deadlines, progress, required tasks, etc.
🌟 I personally use Notion for my entire content management purposes, including outlining and also writing, which includes collaborating with my team of content writers. I personally use a Chrome extension called StyleBot. I have added a CSS code for Notion that adds indentation lines whenever I use sub-bullets.
For personal knowledge management
- Note-taking workflow: When taking notes, use Tana for initial note-taking and capturing key points quickly. Later, review your notes and transfer the key insights to Notion, where you can add additional context, links, images, and other relevant media for future reference.
- Research notes: When conducting research, use Tana to quickly capture information, quotes, or references. Once the research phase is complete, transfer your organized notes to Notion, where you can develop your ideas further, create detailed outlines, or even draft entire articles or reports.
Use the right platform for the right content type
Tana shines for text-based content management, while Notion is your go-to for rich content with blocks functionality.
So, use Tana for quick capture, planning, brainstorming sessions, and reflections, and lean on Notion for project management, content creation, and tasks that need a rich interface.
Integrate the two apps via links
Bridge the gap between the two platforms by using links. If a project in Notion has related notes in Tana, add a link in Notion to that Tana page, and vice versa.
As they both are cloud apps, you can wait for stronger integrations to come up soon!
Regularly review content for transfer to Notion
Set aside regular times (weekly, monthly, etc.) to review your Tana notes and decide what should be moved over to Notion.
This will help to ensure that you’re not duplicating efforts or neglecting to incorporate important information into your primary knowledge base.
🌟 However, if you manage to use a good Notion template that provides a solid structure to organize your information, things will be different. For example, I’m using a life operating system called the Core System ⚙️, that provides a solid foundational structure on top of which I can build my Notion workspace. It allows me to implement all the Tana-like functionalities right within Notion. It helps me bridge the gap.
If you are interested in knowing more about how I use Notion like Tana, I have published a dedicated blog post on how to make use of Notion like Tana.
What’s my workflow? (+Verdict)
Notion is a tool I use to manage my entire life and business. It helps me organize all areas of my life, set goals, manage projects and tasks, and even handle knowledge management. I also rely on Notion for daily habit tracking, periodic reviews, performance evaluations, and reflections on my objectives and goals. Additionally, I use Notion to manage my content, such as blog posts and YouTube videos.
As for Tana, I primarily use it as a substitute for mind maps. It serves as a useful outlining tool and allows me to easily capture my ideas.
I already have Notion, and I’m using a system called CoreOS to manage everything within Notion. It doesn’t make sense for me to have some data outside of Notion, as it would mean sacrificing the emerging benefits of having an all-in-one tool.
However, you can still prefer using Tana over Notion for:
- Taking notes (on books, lectures, and meetings), as it allows you to easily capture ideas and link them together for effective synthesis.
- Daily pages help plan your day and keep a work journal.
- Creating blog post outlines and brainstorms
In essence, you can use Notion for a structure to operate in and Tana for knowledge capturing, connecting, and synthesizing. Although Tana has database features, you may need to use it only for organizing your knowledge.
For me, using Tana for everything adandoning Notion seems absurd.
Because I believe in Notion’s mission, the team, their design patterns, first principles implementation (nature-inspired), and how they are building a strong network effect and community and acquiring strategic early-stage companies to growth-hack the speed of implementation of features.
Notion’s originally pioneered workspace design patterns are hard not to copy, even for big companies like Microsoft. Even Tana’s design patterns are pretty similar, especially their latest “Tab-view” to show different database views in tabs.