Everyone’s talking about the amazing Notion. This all in one workspace has got people excited, with good reason. It’s an impressive application. However, no one’s really focusing on the negatives of the app, and that’s what we thought to do. There is no such thing as a perfect app. Before we review Notion, its cons are significant.
Notion is a subscription
We don’t like subscriptions, especially if you have to pay to access your data. That was the main reason we avoided Evernote. Evernote charges you to store your documents on their servers, which you can’t download offline unless you pay the subscription. Why not pay for an app that keeps your notes offline on your device and backup to a cloud service of your choice? There are plenty of such apps.
Of course, you can use the app for free if the limitations on the Personal account don’t bother you. However, unlocking the few features unique to the Personal Pro version will cost you $4/month. This is effectively what you’re paying for if you upgrade to the Pro version of Notion:
|File upload||5 MB||Unlimited|
|Version history||✘||30 days|
If you’re a student, you can get the Pro version for free by signing up with your school email.
Concerns about web-based note-taking apps
With web-based note-taking apps, you have less control of your data. Why put your notes on the developer’s servers, when so many apps can store your documents locally on your device? With native note-taking apps, you have a copy of your notes on your device, which you can back up to any cloud service you like.
✏️ Petition Notion to give you complete control over your notes.
No end-to-end encryption
Due to the lack of end-to-end encryption, Notion has access to your notes. They see everything. In good faith, we trust that the employees at Notion with access to our data won’t abuse it, but why take the risk? If Notion insists on storing our notes on their servers (which they do), they should at least encrypt them.
Painful exporting options
Only Enterprise accounts can export all their notes (with subpages) out of Notion in PDF format. PDFs are the universal format for sharing notes between apps. Almost everyone has at least one app that can open and read PDFs. However, in Notion, that option is only available for their most expensive subscriptions. This means your notes are trapped in the app unless you can appreciate Markdown, CVS and HTML formats.
Export workspaces in Markdown, CVS And HTML
I exported my workspace from Notion, firstly as a Markdown and CVS. The application exported twenty-seven pages! How do three pages translate to twenty-seven? I get the same number of pages when I export in HTML format. The app creates a useless copy of the export file on your PC and sends you a zipped file to your email. Massive inconvenience! The files I exported look nothing like what I had created in the app. What you create in Notion, best stays in Notion.
Can’t export subpages
Bright side: you can export individual pages as PDFs, with specific paper sizes (though the choices are limited). But to export subpages, you need the Enterprise subscription. Notion lets you create notes you can’t export. That alone should make you think carefully about using the app.
👆Petition Notion to give you more control over the data.
Can’t export images (Fixed)
Note: you can’t export photos out of Notion. The PDF you export has a hyperlink to the image in your notes (if they are in a gallery view). They (Notion developers) didn’t even think of exporting each image as a single page.
Update: they fixed this! You can now export your images out of the app 😀
Notion makes creating notes a piece of cake but exporting them is impossible. Question that! If you ever want to export anything out of Notion, you will suffer!
Notion has gone to great lengths to ensure you love their app. You can create a lot of things in Notion by collecting information from across the web and from other apps into their app. However, they have also put considerable effort, if not more, to make sure your information stays on their servers and application. They designed it that way, it’s not a flaw in their coding skills. That should worry you.
Don’t lock all your information in one app
It seems we finally have an app that does it all. Question is: should you put your whole life into one app? The answer to that critical question is: No, you shouldn’t. Especially when you have no means of exporting that information.
An all in one workspace sounds fantastic! All your plans, projects, notes and collaborations in one place. But it’s a sure recipe for disaster, one we are certain can affect any app, especially after Adobe Lightroom permanently deleted users’ photos. All the users who had no backups and kept their photos only in Lightroom or Adobe Creative Cloud lost all their life’s work in seconds. Is that a risk you can take with the notes? If your answer is yes, then you’ve got nothing to worry about!
You have one copy of your work on their servers. For normal note-taking apps, you can sync across devices as well as backup your notes in a different cloud service. You could sync via iCloud and have a backup in Dropbox, for example. We crucified GoodNotes for not having an AUTO BACK-UP system for the notes we have local copies of on several devices. Yet we are comfortable with Notion keeping our notes on their servers without any kind of backup? Notion should let its users back up to cloud services of their choice in readable formats.
Notion Doesn’t Work Offline
It’s not rocket science, an app that works offline will behave the same way whether or not you’re connected to the internet. If I wanted to take notes in Apple Notes, for example, I can just open the app and start typing. I will probably realise I am not online when I want to access those notes on another device. With Notion, when you close the app, you need an internet connection to get it started, which makes sense because it is a web-based app. It’s thus safe to conclude that Notion DOES NOT WORK OFFLINE. Of course, there might be workarounds for this, but those wouldn’t be necessary if it worked in the first place.
Multiple Apps Are Better Than One
When using multiple apps, if one malfunctions you lose a part of your life. If something happens to GoodNotes, I will lose my planners, to Notability – my study notes only.
If you put everything into one application, best pray nothing happens to it or its developers. Any small change in their code or policies can potentially see you lose everything; decades of notes and documents.
Notion asks you to pay a monthly subscription to add content online (which you have no local copy of or a backup for). Why is no one questioning this?Paperless X
The Best Way To Use Notion
Find ONE aspect of Notion you like. One or two features in this all-in-one app that you love and use the app for those. Don’t put your whole life into one app and question every app that asks you to do so.
We have had issues with Facebook that asked us to put our social lives online. Just our social lives! What do you think might happen when we put our whole lives (business, creativity, diaries, calendars, planners)? This time around they’ve even asked us to pay and voluntarily give them our information.
Remember information sells, don’t give yours away for free.Paperless X
With that out of the way, we’ll be doing reviews of Notion in the future. At the end of the day, we are here to make sure you find productivity apps that work for you. Notion is a fabulous note-taking app. We hope to help you understand the different ways to use this powerful web-based note-taking app.
We always turn down sponsorships from developers who try to compromise our unbiased evaluations. Above all else, we treasure objective and honest reviews to help you pick the right tools for your digital transformation. Support Paperless X, from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.
Help us petition Notion to give us more control over the data we put on their servers.
Comments · 48
So, what is your recommendation, I mean another options
Agenda is the closest to replicating what Notion does. However, we recommend having multiple apps in a workflow. Not using one app for everything. So, depending on your daily routine, it is better to use a lot of apps (specialist apps) for what you need to do. Like a planning app for your plans, a Calendar app for your meetings and events, a note-taking app for your notes. I hope that makes sense.
sounds very efficient…..
That’s two sides of a coin. Privacy + security + trap/pit/lockdown vs efficient + convenient
I may use notion but will keep reminding myself ” I need a contingency plan” which allows me to get my data moved to another “APPS”.
Every time when I look at my ZIP-disk, MO-disk, MD-disk and Smart-media card, I regret I don’t have a contingency plan for those things.
Hi Ropsie, It appears the links for planning app and note-taking app are broken can you please update these. Are recommended planning apps under the category “get things done” now? Thanks for your informative article 🙂
Thanks, Jesse. Fixing it now!
Exactly! Same question
For me the best thing is, to look carefully into a product. The above Notion issues are reality, even the vast majority of users doesn’t really see nor understand what might be the problem.
For me NOTION is still a great tool for some tasks. But I would never ever use it as the one and only tool where I note all my ideas, plan and manage projects or share information with customers.
I believe that the decades of outsourcing our data is over. Decentralisation is the key in every aspect of life. If data needs to be outsourced to a cloud, zero knowledge encryption must be the standard. Data is the new oil, and knowledge is power. Knowledge about someone else is power! Data should only be accessible to those who own them. Choose wisely if it comes to device, OS, application and oh so great tools….
I would like to recommend an application which make me rethink how to store and use notes and build knowledge bases.. It’s a fantastically connected and a very beautifully developed piece of software. t’s not an all in one management tool. But its a powerful open-source tool to create sophisticated databases, connect ideas and gather information. For everyone…
A second brain, for you, forever. **Obsidian** is a powerful knowledge base on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files…
Obsidian is GREAT and I am using it a lot as a PKM and a life management tool. But it is not a open-source software. It has a big and friendly commuity for plugins.
Official website says 1000 block limit applies only to Teams plan trials. Free version has unlimited blocks
Yes, they updated after we had done this article. We will update it soon though.
Such a stupid article by a disgruntled user. lol! I regret clicking on your url.
It’s amazing that thirty years after the invention of the Worldwide Web, after two decades of Google (and all the other greedy bastards that have become big along with Google), after an almost total loss of the free Internet and after an endless number of privacy issues and affairs, we (and I count myself as one of the many) are still happily humming along, pretending that it’s not a big issue and that everything isn’t really a problem.
I think every serious business and project nowadays – no matter how small it is – has to look into the aspect of privacy and data security very thoroughly in order to protect itself, its customers and not least its employees. This is a serious matter that definitely has a positive impact on the perception and reputation of any company operating in today’s world. Company data is the holy grail and data processing and management tools which are able to monitor and intercept can be very damaging to the business in many ways.
So I’m a tad irritated that such essential matters are so rarely made an issue. Notion is super great. Yuheeee! Unfortunately, there are some very unpleasant details that we should definitely talk about…
I only recently started using Notion and found myself a bit baffled when I read this article.
Notion doesn’t work offline
I turned off Wifi on my Mac and was able to both read and create new content in the Notion desktop app. As soon as I went online, the new content was instantly synced to my mobile app.
Notion is a subscription
I am using the free tier of Notion which does not require a paid subscription and offers pretty much every feature you would need as an individual user.
1000 free blocks: ridiculously little
As the commenter above already pointed out, there is no such limit at the moment of this writing.
You can’t export your notes out of Notion
Yes you can, there’s an option for this in the settings.
No folders in the Notion
You can nest notes in Notion which not only duplicates the folders paradigm, but goes beyond that.
Notion is difficult to learn
The basics are very easy to learn. It’s only when you want to go down the rabbit hole that things are getting more involved, but there’s no obligation to do so.
Don’t put all your information in one app
That’s certainly a valid strategy, but not a universal one. There are pros and cons to both approaches and Notion specifically caters to those who made an informed decision in favor of a single application.
FWIW: I have no affiliation with Notion.
Thank you for your input. I’m about to embark on my notion journey but I am the most concerned about the fact that the data is not end-to-end encrypted. Also, I work across devices, I have heard that notion on iPad and iPhone doesn’t function smoothly. How has your experience been?
The iPad version of Notion is not as amazing as their web app. They are working on it constantly but you will not get the best experience out of the app from the iPad version, especially when you have access to the web-version. The transition might be a bit uncomfortable.
I think Notion is trying to be everything to everybody at once. I want to like Notion, but no offline mode makes me tho k Notion should not be considered a productivity app. If I can’t use it where I often go, it kills productivity. I do like the app, but it needs an offline mode or it is pointless and I will stick with Bubblup.
My Franklin Planner is always in offline mode.
– In Evernote you can freely choose which notes or documents are available offline. There is nothing equivalent in Notion.
– Folders can be very useful to sort your notes. You would have to use tables for this in Notion. Powerful but fiddly.
– You can’t use export in Notion to replicate and/or archive your data.
e.g. you can easily copy tables between Dropbox to Evernote back and forth.
A table in Notion can’t be copied to other applications.
Lolz. Apparently you didn’t do enough research. Personally offline access was a deal breaker for me since I live in NYC, and taking the subway causes periods of offline access. Their apps are also not as feature full as the web app unfortunately.
this is a terrible article. All of your points are really poorly thought out and it seems more of a click bait article. I don’t even think this is sponsored by notion’s competitors since it’s really poorly made.
i completely agree.
It’s a bogus article by people who have never used Notion properly!
Notion is ridiculously difficulty to use. I’ve been trying it for a few months now and just can’t understand it. I have just spend a couple of hours creating a template for a work study and it deleted the whole lot. To recover it it asks me to become a paid member. No, too much hype, too little support. Notion is complicated and not easy to navigate at all.
I’ve never thought someone could say that Notion is difficult, all my friends are absoluately in love about how much you can achieve with it (especially as a student).
To be honest after 3 minutes of using Notion I was in for it and it took me around an hour to look at all “blocks” it allows to create, but there is no much philosophy in how to use it, just hit a ‘/’ at any moment and it literally tells you all it can do.
There is one caveat definitely “All Notion employees can see your data” thats a huge no, but you can just connect it with google drive via links for those files that require extra security…
google for privacy ans security … LOL
Well, I try to find an alternative to MS One Note, Notion looks great. but when I can’t find the offline or server version, I get concerned about data security. Too much private data like passwords, private plans :-ss
Notion is a web-based note-taking app, it has no online version. Have you looked into Agenda, perhaps?
You confirmed my concern about the ugly export options. I think Notion is a pleasing interface for note redaction. when I go there, I see the journal of choice (similar to a folder), click on it to see the different page entries and redact. My Workflow would be to use Google Drive as a storage for documents, Notion for note redaction and Keep or some note taking app just for quick notes.
I don’t like that Notion is doesn’t back up or end to end encrypted. But, As long as I remember not to let my Notion interface get messy and keep sensitive stuff of there I think it will be worth trying it. Maybe Agenda will be better but I gotta say, even if Notion is overkill for my needs, the free version is a pleasant solution for my needs.
Thanks for the article.
You need an enterprise plan to export subpages (https://www.notion.so/Export-as-PDF-95b4340d2d67446ab6f3002261d7c573).
I agree with your main point: different apps for different tasks. I personally adopt that philosophy.
Regarding folders, Bear app is a note-taking app using tags, not folders, to organize your work.
I use Notion just for its Readwise integration and for saving web pages I’d like to access later.
A better offline option is Obsidian.md. It doesn’t offer an mobile app yet (it’s coming soon), but you can use it alongside iA Writer for iPad, for example. It’s free and all your notes are stored in your computer.
I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of Notion as a mere note taking app. Notion is more than that as it allows you to create databases and link things together in helpful ways. I think it has it limits, but I think other systems fail to close the loop in a lot of ways and fracture our data in that keep us from making meaningful connections. I recommend doing a search of August Bradley on YouTube for deep dives on how to use Notion.
i have so many problems with this article.
first off, why on earth are you TRYING to turn people away from it? the use of the constant rhetorical questions was not only annoying and looked like a piece of GCSE writing, but seemed like you were trying a little too hard to change someone’s perspective. just list your reasons and be done..?
secondly, you didn’t offer many FREE options. you said how you don’t like monthly subscriptions, but proceed to name ones that are a one time purchase. please consider those who cannot afford those and give any useful and free options.
the exporting issues and moving issues massively sounded like a dig to get more reasons to turn people against notion. not every note-taking app can have everything, so you’d just have to work around this.
this article was so painful to read. from the rhetorical questions to the awful way you’re trying to make people turn away from it – WITH NO OTHER OPTIONS – it truly was painful. although i agree with the no end-to-end encryption part, you could’ve just made your point on that and left it at that, that is a REALLY good point…the rest? not so much. this all sounded very personal with little consideration for how other people may feel about it.
just my opinion on this article. im sure others are similar, but i’m not going to bother reading more.
I absolutely agree. This article is complete nonsense. Anyone who has been scared off by this should double-def check out Notion. It’s FANTASTIC!!! I’ve used “them all”… so to speak. And of course no app literally does everything. And of course private stuff is private… duuhhh. But…
If you compare Notion to One Note and the like you really don’t understand. Most other note-taking apps are flat file systems. Notion is database driven, and with a little learning can make your information highly accessible in a variety of views. It’s the most flexible system I’ve come across… I absolutely love it!
This post is completely disguting and misinformative. Whoever wrote this is disgusting and hateful.
I found it to be very informative, from a corporate point of view, date security and data retrieval.
Sooo, I found the general text tone quite rough. Despite that, it got me thinking: I’ve been using notion for free for about more than a year now, mainly for study organization and class notes, but also for a lot of other things in my life. I don’t think I could keep studying smoothly without it.
Sure, notion’s servers have a lot of backups, but what if something happens? There are always scheduled maintances. I’m 100% of the time home for now, but what will I do when that is no longer the case and I need to work with not some, bul ALL of my workspace offline? What if, simply, rain takes down my ISP’s connection? (it has happened more than once in the last year).
Similar issues arrive with every internet-dependent feature we use. It’s a complicated discussion.
But the fact stands that we are not yet to the point of omnipresent internet connection, and the connection supply chain in not even close to being failproof (hello, rain!). We need the possibility to work offline, and we really, really need local backups. I really like notion right now, but a small corner in my head keeps reminding me that connection is volatile. Once these two features have been implemented, I won’t be worried anymore.
Why don’t you consider to have a look into the api subject, setting up automated tasks to backup content to another application (via Zapier bot). I am sure you will find a way which could fit your needs. Just in case the light goes dark…. 🙂
Or how’s about publishing your content, make it available via link and via browser for offline reading (if your browser supports that). Just some ideas, some humble workarounds maybe 🙂 cheers…
Too late 😅
All of the concerns in this article (and that have been parroted again in the comment section) were relevant 10 years ago. If you don’t have stable internet and need something with hardened security, Notion isn’t going to be a great fit for you–but they aren’t trying to accommodate you either, they are pretty open about the fact that they are developing an opinionated and forward thinking collaborative work platform–so move on to one of the other dozens of options that are making a product with you in mind. That’s how this works, why would you try and convince me or anyone else that we are wrong for choosing the solutions that fit our needs? How arrogant must you be to presume that if I am not as concerned as you are about Notion’s lack of good export and encryption then it MUST be because I am ignorant of these things, and not simply because my particular use case just doesn’t prioritize them? Yes, the overwhelming number of subscription models can become burdensome (although it rather sounds like you would still just rather go purchase a CD-ROM from CompUSA), but you failed to mention that SaaS subscriptions have also provided a whole generation of independent software developers a stable means to earn a living without having to work for a large corporate software company–so we now have an immense amount of variety and choice that has accelerated innovation on several fronts. The developers understand this is a trade-off for most people, which is why software is now frequently paired with value-added services and features such as multi-device/platform versions synchronized via cloud storage that is simply provided. It’s also provided them with an incentive to continually work to fix bugs, provide ongoing customer support (remember the experience of tech support for something like Microsoft Office or Corel Draw in 1997?? You already paid them for the software, they don’t need your money again for another 3-4 years between major releases, so why bother staffing a call center with experienced technicians?)
This kind of writing is small-minded, narrowly focused, and at best ridiculously naive…but I suspect it’s more disingenuous and driving a confused dogmatic view of how technology ecosystems should exist that clearly stopped evolving in the last decade. I’m sorry this brave new world has caused you so much bitterness, maybe just let apps like Notion and their legions of happy users do what they do well, and you can go find a niche open-source port of Lotus Notes to occupy your time.
Notion isn’t difficult, but can be complex depending on how much effort you put in beyond the basics (e.g. relational databases..etc). In fact, notion is so simple it’s foundation, blocks, is just rehashed over and over and used for different purposes (note take, meeting notes, to do lists, tables, etc..) Lastly, you can likely use zapier to back up content (e.g., onenote) among and other things.
I was looking for instructions to backup Notion, but instead found a whining rhetoric. Pity.
If you would like assistance to read html, csv or markup, please get in contact. Those formats are actually easier to process than pdf.
Thank you! I found this article informative. I had been wondering how long I would use Notion and for what purposes. I already had some disappointment in the past when trying to export things as PDFs, but in fact I really love the product. What boggles my mind is that no one seems to mind supporting AWS.
I was wondering this myself. AWS? With regards to the article, personally and professionally I appreciated its content, whatever the tone. It highlights some very crucial points me and my team will be reconsidering – without reading all the comments, are there any 2022 updates to take into account?
I wanted to use notion but I now have a change of mind
From Notion: Security practices
The following list was last updated August 9, 2021.
We have completed both SOC 2 Type 1 and SOC 2 Type 2 reports, certifying that our security policies and controls continuously meet the highest industry standards. You can read more about this here →
We use TLS everywhere, within the data center and out.
Your data is encrypted at rest and in transit.
We run 100% on the cloud using AWS (US-West) within a virtual private network that cannot be accessed via the public internet, except via our public-facing proxy servers.
We have Amazon CloudTrail turned on at all times.
We perform quarterly independent security audits using established security firms.
We’ll notify you within 72 hours of learning about a data breach.
All employees receive regular security training.
We work with the following companies and tool systems to store, analyze, and transmit data for our users. They’ve been carefully vetted for best-in-class security practices.
Amazon Web Services
Will other people be able to see my private notes and data?
Your data is safe in Notion! Only you will have access to your private notes.
If someone tries to navigate to your workspace without having access, they’ll see a page that lets them know that they do not have the correct permission state to access that content.
If you enable Share to the web in the Share menu at the top right of a page, it will publish that page to the web so that anyone with the link can access it. This is always turned off by default.
If you’re sharing a workspace with others, any notes in the Workspace section of your sidebar will be visible to everyone in the workspace. You can store your private notes in the Private section of the sidebar for shared workspaces — no one else will be able to access these pages, even admins. If your sidebar doesn’t have those sections, you’re the only person in your workspace, and all your notes are private!
Can I opt out of Notion’s tracking/analytics?
Yes you can! This will also disable Intercom, who powers our in-app support chat, but you can still reach out to us for help at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just send a message to our support team at that address and we’ll opt you out.
Why can I still access my uploaded files via the AWS URL without being logged in?
Your files are secure! You’re looking at a signed URL that will expire after 24 hours.
Any files uploaded to Notion will remain secure private files. You’ll notice they point to a URL that has secure.notion-static.com inside it.
For workspace exports, the link we email you will expire after 7 days.
My browser alerted me that Notion is using trackers. What do these trackers do?
We use tracking code in order to effectively run ads (for example, tracking a visit to our marketing site). We isolate this to a sandboxed iframe on a subdomain (aif.notion.so) — it’s never activated on user pages.
No user content is exposed to any third-party service.
Still have more questions? Send us a message
notion is my fav site to use / app, not so much at all.. but what i really need is just a budgeting app so im gonna try mint.
right now im searching for other sites and apps because for some reason notion is not working for me right now, at all! is it because im using the app and the desktop site? idk.. im upset because i use it all the time
+1000 to Obsidian as the more private Notion alternative! Lots of great features but one of their core design goals addresses the core argument of this article (that having no control over your digital personal life is, very bad!) — it’s all Markdown (plain text) files, stored on your own machine(s).
Btw the buttheads at Roam Research, the Obsidian competitor, are doing the same thing as Notion. I even realized my journaling app makes money by using it for Natural Language training! Where’s the consent in that??
You can use Notion without Wifi… I just tested my Desktop App and Mobile App, both can be used the same way as before without internet access. You would only need internet for Notion web pages but that makes sense as it’s a web page, but if you just download the app on all devices you’re fine.