Some thoughts on Roam Research

I went through a rather thorough tutorial series of Roam Research (RR) on YouTube.

My personal view:

  1. DT is a document(of multiple formats)-centric app, while RR is a data-centric app. A file is a basic unit in DT, and text entry is a basic unit in RR. IMHO, the logic of workflow of the two different designs - at a database level - probably won’t mix well. Notes management is only a subset of DT.

  2. DT is an open system of files. IMHO, the main job of a DT database is to keep track of the static and dynamic linkages between files (by the index of tags and groups and to Finder and by links and similarity). RR is based on a proprietary data management system. The main job of RR is holding the data(each text entry) and keeping track of their tags. I hope RR is not putting all bits of text entry in a single file and load it into memory for performance (unlikely the case)!

  3. If we deconstruct how linkages and views in RR works, it’s based on tags and table of tags. Each entry has a minimum of one tag (date tag is the anchor), and a view in RR is just the table/list of data of each tag. While RR claims the link as a two-way link, it’s only presenting the merge view of text items within a tag. So a view in RR is almost the same as a merged view of list of files in DT’s tags cloud with a more sophisticated tag filter (tags is and tags is not).

I’m not trying to downplay RR, the app has a lot of interesting ways to present the merged view in a tag or combination of tags. I believe that with a little twist of MVOutline script, plus a few utility scripts, can achieve the most basic function of RR to a designated set of notes in DT.

Just my 5 cents. My ancient training in computer science can mislead me to totally wrong judgement.


IMHO, that’s why when some forum members are discussing the “nodes”, perhaps the first thing is to think about whether the linkages of a note-as-node in their mind is about DT links/back links, Wiki-style links, or the links that are showing the list of notes within a list of tags in which the tags are the tags of the note…

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I find Roam Research to be an incredibly rich environment for writing and connecting ideas. Rather than linking to pages or documents, in Roam, you link to individual blocks of information (though you can link to pages and tags as well). There is something simple and well thought out in the structure that makes it easy to write. I have been producing 1000 words on average since, I first started using it on April, 21st, 2020.

I still use DTPO and find that it is much easier to store and search documents in DevonThink than in Roam Research. I search and take snippets to Roam. And my personal writing and summations go in Roam where it becomes almost trivially easy (at times) to connect thoughts and ideas and produce.

That is where I am at for now, anyway.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this :slight_smile:

I’m still in the rabbit hole on this one. I currently use DevonThink, Roam Research, and TheBrain.

Seems to me that nothing can bear DTPRO’s ability to rapidly surface a piece of information, or an idea, from among a vast assembly of data - especially books, research papers, and the like in PDF form.

For curated notes, by which I mean either my own self-standing notes/ideas or my comments/insights on other sources, Roam seems to me to be the best out there right now (closely pursued by Athens, Obsidian, et al.)

However, my problem is that I have a visual mind. I find structuring an argument purely in text painful; when I step into a mind map, it becomes far easier for me. This is where TheBrain has made a comeback into my world, after years of absence.

I’m still working this out, but it seems to me that there are three types of content: place, process, and tool. Perhaps the most important context is whether a) I am curating ideas for later, or b) using ideas right now.

Personally, I find it very important to minimize the gap between inspiration and implementation. At all stages of my writing process (articles, books, course curriculums, maybe back to doc filmmaking later). Which means eliminating any extra steps.

Thus far the two tools I’ve encountered that may make life easier for folk mixing apps like me are:

  • Hook - to link from anything to anything, in an app agnostic way (though it currently seems to have issues linking directly into a TheBrain note)
  • Roam Highlighter - an excellent way to grab highlights across into Roam when running in Chrome.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the above!


Interesting. I also use DevonThink and TheBrain together for similar reasons, mostly that the visual interface helps my thought process in certain scenarios. I want to share some thoughts on achieving better integration between TB and DTPO, since you mentioned Hook is not fully addressing your needs in this regard:

What works well for me is to create Markdown attachments in TB instead of using the Notes panel, and then indexing the entire ‘Brains’ folder in DevonThink.

A smart rule replicates the indexed Markdown files to where they belong in the DTPO group structure based on the content of the note. For example, if the text contains DT_Insights the item will be replicated to the Insights folder and if it contains DT_Inbox it will be replicated to the inbox.

In addition, the smart rule adds the item link into the URL field of the Markdown item. This makes it possible to open the “Get Info” window from within TheBrain, and select then right-click the URL to open that thought in DevonThink (assuming that it was previously indexed).

This actually makes it possible to use the full power of DevonThink, in addition to the great visual interface in TB. Best of both worlds.

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I think that I’m heading down a kind of funnel Knowledge Acquisition/Thought Development model. In which I accept that perfect syncing between these apps is unlikely to happen anytime soon (and may not even be desirable). But that they all have unique strengths that can be leveraged. The acid test will be in researching/writing over the coming weeks, but this is how I see it right now:

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Nice graphic! What did you build it in?

PS: Do you really find utility in a network graph view? I can see you’re artistically inclined, so does it just appeal to your aesthetically more than functionally?

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I’m intrigued by the structure of Roam. Everything starts life in the Daily Note and expands from there. But the proprietary data format and lack of native clients are showstoppers for me. And I can think of ways to get that structure in DT.

Thanks! I used Vimse for the infographic.

Network graph: I’m experimenting with Infranodus, to identify topic gaps in discussion and articles. I like the way one can drill down into ‘non-obvious’ topics and connections. I don’t find Roam’s visual graph useful (even the Roam Portal version, though I must admit I have not read the manual :slight_smile: )

Anything that helps my simple brain make connections visually always helps. My eyes tend to glaze over when faced with a wall of text!

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I usually export my entire Roam graph as markdown, and then import all the markdown notes into DT. As a backup, since I mostly use DT for search across PDFs and HTML files (brought in via DevonAgent). I’ve not seen any solution to bring over the backlinks, but that is less important in my use case.

from brief experiments, it seemed very easy to migrate the entire Roam graph to the (free) Athens Research, and LogSeq (also free). I think Obsidian also enables an easy import. Not sure what capabilities these three have to export out in a DT-friendly format.


I am intrigued by the discussion here as I am using Roam with DT via Hook links. I am searching for more guidance in this regards as I am still a newbie with DT and trying to build out my architecture. I am familiar with the Brain but my understanding of it has it more as a competitor to DT than a compliment. Any direction towards a course or ideas around uniting these tools towards a BASB concept would be greatly appreciated.

Welcome @rgsherrill

May I ask what draws you to Roam?

The way my brain works - I leave a trail of half baked thoughts and ideas. In former systems like OneNote and Evernote I would file these ideas away and might find them accidentally down the road. I tried tags and folders as ways of finding my way back but I never could find consistency in application. Did I file it under organization, productivity, systems, or 20 other possibilities? I find the bidirectional linking in Roam helps me as I can have all 20 possibilities lead to the same place without having to go back and manually add additional terms to each file or tag pile. Then I add files to DT and apply the hook link to the Roam block.

Have you tried just creating the notes directly in DEVONthink? Just asking, as I do this day in and day out.

No I haven’t. I would expect that to be like notes in Evernote. I don’t know how to do a proper query.
When I search for things I am too literal - trying to use the same titling I think I would have used when saving. I typically get a bunch of top responses - none of which is what i am looking for.

I would expect that to be like notes in Evernote.


I don’t know how to do a proper query.

Searching in DEVONthink is very fast and very powerful. It also supports simple to very complex searches. Check out the Help > Documentation > Window > Main Window > Search Pane and the linked references there too.

I think one attraction from Roam is the in situ typing experience. While you type, related notes and information is made available, nearby. It is a bit like using Alfred, where things pop up as you type. It is thus great for dumping your thoughts, typing relentlessly, without much need to use the mouse, or? I am a heavy mouse user, always envying those command line wizards.

My motivation to look at those apps was, that I want to overview many notes, to create new texts from them. I hoped the graph view would help but could not get it to work for me.

I now ended up using DT and Scrivener. Scrivener is fantastic in managing many notes, bringing them in order, looking at several at the same time, combining, merging them etc. The whole appearance of the app is similar to DT, which is great. Scrivener has in each book project a „Research“ area, where one collects documents, stuff from the web etc. This is just a folder and DT is of course the tool for just that - gathering and organizing material from which to create notes.

Unfortunately, I am unable to write or even handle scripts, otherwise I would try to recreate the Scrivener functionality in DT. The key would be to view several notes at the same time, and bring the content into an order, without actually merging the files.

I am following the developments for Obsidian but so far I cannot see how Roam or Obsidian can beat the DT/Scrivener combi for the use case of synthesizing longer texts from short notes (e.g. writing a book from a collection of materials and notes gathered with DT.)

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