Tana vs Other PKM Applications

Tana versus Logseq and Obsidian

I put in my application to get the access to the beta version of Tana, waited for quite a long time and forgot about it. Then the invitation arrived and I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Here are my first impressions of Tana.

You have to login to the software using a Google email address. I have to wonder if there’s too much of a Google connection there. There isn’t an application specifically for Tana and you need to run it in a Google based browser. I use the Brave browser and so it was no problem to get started using Tana. It’s soon gave me a prompt to add the Brave browser application which allows Tana to open like a proper application. Even before you have done that you can use the application within a normal browser tab. I prefer proper applications and I’m not even that keen on the electron applications like Obsidian and Logseq. This is because I do a lot of dictation and Voice control dictation doesn’t work too well if it’s not a proper mac application.

Good Help To Get You Started Though

I was quite impressed with the on-boarding efforts by the software developers. They do their best to make it easy to get started. There are helpful little prompts to help you understand how Tana works.
They explain how the basic starting point for the application is in the calendar. It’s kind of the same way that Obsidian and Logseq work. You throw your data into these places and work outwards from there.
It’s like if you go into using tags in a big way on your Mac and throw all files into one big bucket. You rely on the tags to be able to find, classify and use all of your data.

Do I Really Need Another Personal Knowledge Management Application?

On account of the fact I already have Obsidian I have to wonder if I’m in need of another personal knowledge management application. I really got into Logseq and enjoyed the application hugely.
It’s a great piece of software and I’d have been happy to stick with it. Except I gave Obsidian another try and found that I liked it also. Obsidian had the added advantage of being the one, at the time which offered synchronisation. It’s only good and geeky curiosity making me have a look at Tana. I have seen quite a few people raving about how good it is. Another of my first impressions about Tana is that it’s still very much a work in progress. Mind you, that can be said of just about every software application on whatever platform out there.

The other application in this personal knowledge management arena is Craft. On the cons side of Craft is the fact that it doesn’t have tags. A big plus for Craft, is that it’s a proper Mac application with corresponding iOS applications. This can’t be said of Tana and to use it on a mobile device it’s not ideal at all. You have to use it from within a browser and I just don’t like that. Craft does give you synchronisation and has just introduced a connection to AI artificial intelligence. There are other ways to get directly into GPT 3, but it is cool to have it built into the application. It was for that reason I updated Craft or continued with the subscription for the application. It is also cheaper than the subscription to the synchronisation in Obsidian. By the way, looks like Logseq might also now have synchronisation as a paid for option.

Obsidian is further along the road than Tana as regards development. It has a vibrant and passionate community around it. So does Tana. Many of these people are adding to the functionality of Obsidian with excellent plug-ins. The same can also be said of Logseq and both of those are really useful applications. I find the query language used in Obsidian a little bit easier to use and understand than the one in Logseq. Tana still has a long way to go in its development journey. It could though be a really useful application.

After using these other applications for personal knowledge management and getting used to the way they work, it’s difficult to get my head around Tana. Many of the concepts are quite similar with the linking from one document or nodes to other documents or nodes. Wiki style linking isn’t anything new. You just have to get used to the different language being used to describe how it works and fits together.
You don’t just get tags in Tana, but you get Super Tags. I quite like the way that you get different ways to view your data. The standard way to view the data is with a list, but you can set it up to view as a table or as cards.

Bringing Data Into Tana

At the moment the two formats you can use to bring in from other applications are with Roam and with Workflowy. You can bring other information in but you have to use a specialised format called Tana Intermediate Format. I’d be tempted to bring in some or all of my data from Obsidian just to see how it looks in Tana. I expect someone has made a plug-in or something which allows this to happen. One of the nice things about obsidian and Logseq is the fact that it uses markdown format. What do you can do to import documents is to put them into the correct folders and they are automatically part of the Obsidian Vault or Logseq Graph. Markdown is easy to use and you can set up titles and headers with a minimum of effort. In Tana it seems you only have minimal formatting options for the text. I expect that to change because you have to have formatting. Visual learners need it.

The Tana Workspace

It’s a basic three panel set up. On the left you have your workspaces and various lists within the workspace and the lists contained within those. The centre panel is the document panel. This is where you put your data. As I mentioned, the calendar is your starting point for adding data. This gets a super tag of day. A super tag is like a template, I think. Add lists and whatever you want to appear each time you use the Supertag. So a book supertag can be configured with a title, author, status, number of pages, date finished – For example

There are options at the top to go to the previous, next day and to go to a specific date.
Clicking on these will take you to the specific date or there could be a button there for today.