Project Setup with Craft, OmniFocus, and Shortcuts (MacSparky Labs)

Some of the labs members are interested in Craft. Good news! I’m using Craft for some of the Labs back-end. Here’s a Shortcut that builds out a new project using Craft and OmniFocus along with some basic training in Craft…

This is a post for MacSparky Labs Level 3 (Early Access) and Level 2 (Backstage) Members only. Care to join? Or perhaps do you need to sign in?

The First Year of Craft

I’ve chosen Obsidian as PKM weapon-of-choice, but that doesn’t take anything away from the strides made by the Craft team during the App’s first year.

Craft now supports inline Markdown, backlinks, code snippets, images, videos, attaching PDF files, and rich link previews. With Craft, you can nest notes within notes and create your own structure so you can group and organize your thoughts and notes in a way that makes sense to you, and you can easily create links and connections between pages. Craft also makes sharing and exporting your docs and notes easy by simply sharing a link or working with others in real time.

While Obsidian is evolving faster, thanks to the third party plugin architecture, Craft is much more of a native-app experience on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. I know a lot of readers prefer Craft over Obsidian for this reason and I completely get that.

I’m so happy to see that this notes revolution we’re going through has multiple good options. My congratulations to Craft on their first anniversary.

Why I’m Leaning Obsidian

Over the past year, I’ve spent way more time than I will ever get back looking at Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) options as they continue to evolve. Three options that have received particular attention from me are Roam Research, Obsidian, and Craft. While I could make a case for any of these three, I’m leaning toward Obsidian.

Why I’m Leaning Obsidian

I continue to be impressed with Obsidian’s feature set and release cycle. We get updates weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. Obsidian’s developers have thus far made a stable, fun-to-use Electron app (I didn’t even know that was possible) that gives you all the expected PKM tools: Wiki-style links, backlinks, and graph view. Just take a look at everything already completed on the Obsidian roadmap. Like all of these apps, Obsidian makes contextual computing so easy. I embed links to OmniFocus task lists, DEVONthink libraries, websites, and anything else I can tie to a URL with no problems. Obsidian also supports creating links to files on your file system or just embedding files right in your Obsidian library.

Moreover, they have added the ability to add third-party plugins, which has spawned a rich assortment of interesting additional features from third parties. Simultaneously, the Obsidian developers plow forward with their app. (They are now close to releasing a mobile app.) Best of all, everything is based on a collection of Markdown files, which means you control your data and can easily get it out of Obsidian if you get drawn to something else new and shiny. Of use to me, but not necessarily everyone else, they have already put together their own end-to-end encryption solution with version history. I’m able to sync my data with my own encryption key.

Why I’m Not Leaning Toward Roam

Roam Research is a web-based linked-text system that lets you link ideas between each other with ridiculous simplicity. Roam, of all the options, is the most granular. For Roam, every carriage return represents another block and linkable entity. Obsidian and (to a lesser extent) Craft are more engineered around the document model. That makes Roam perhaps the easiest solution to laser focus on linking one bit of data to another (which is good) and less useful for writing (which is bad). Along that theme, Roam also uses a weird variant of Markdown that makes writing in Roam even harder.

My biggest gripe with Roam is the data model. With Roam, all of your data goes into their cloud. They don’t have end-to-end encryption. They don’t even have two-factor authentication. If you get a user’s login email and password, you get everything.

Craft

Craft is the newest entry and, to me, more attractive than Roam. It’s the only native Mac/iOS app in play. It also has a very responsive developer that seems to be iterating fast. Craft is the clear winner if you are primarily working on iPhone and iPad. Roam is a lousy experience on mobile, and Obsidian has yet to release their mobile app. In the end, however, it was the idea of local Markdown files, end-to-end encryption, and the lightning-fast development that pulled me toward Obsidian.

These aren’t the only three apps in this space. I’m getting emails from other developers nearly weekly now that are building similar tools. The PKM gold rush is on.

Looking at Obsidian and the Craft App

I’ve heard from a lot of listeners/readers about the new Craft app and I’ve spent the last few days taking a closer look at it. Craft is one of the growing crop of intelligent notes/thinking apps. It has the ability to make notes both atomic-sized and large. Craft also uses a block text formatting making it easy to move individual blocks around (or even group them). Craft is a competitor in my life with Obsidian. Although the apps are very different.

  • Obsidian is just text. Craft can hold multi-media.

  • Obsidian is just a group of markdown files and entirely in my control. Craft is a closed system (with an export feature) where you must use Craft’s sync back end. (Although Craft has many export features.)

  • Obsidian gives you 100% control over your markdown files and their security. Craft data is stored on Craft servers and not end-to-end encrypted.

  • Craft is a native app. It has the beautiful look of a native app and it runs like a native app. Craft has many additional features that I doubt will ever go to Obsidian. Obsidian is not a native Mac app but instead an electron app. It doesn’t have a lot of the usual Mac niceties and it uses more RAM than a native app would. (That said, Obsidian is the nicest electron app I’ve ever used.)

  • Craft runs on Mac, iPad, and iPhone and your data is available easily on all platforms. Obsidian is a Mac-only app. You can access via iPad using third-party apps, but it is pretty rough.

  • Craft displays in rich text by default while at the same time supporting markdown. Obsidian works in a markdown (but can display rendered rich text easily enough.)

  • Obsidian has a friendly and passionate collection of users and developers behind it. Having spent just a few days in the Craft Slack channel, it appears Craft does too.

My takeaway is that both of these apps are very capable and on the right track. There are real differences between these apps and a good case could be made for either of them. I can see Craft’s appeal, particularly when I want to access and modify data on iPhone or iPad. Another Craft benefit for me would be the ability to embed images without having to link out to an external file. That said, I think Craft’s lack of end-to-end encryption is probably a deal-breaker for me. I say that now, but this is all very much a moving target right now with both apps iterating nearly daily. Fun times for us nerds.