You might be wondering what a personal knowledge management tool is for.
Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a method of collecting information to support work or their own projects.
PKM is a method of creating, connecting, and storing relevant information. While it is possible to use a physical journal or binder to keep track of notes and documents, the rise of specialized software has made it even easier to keep track of everything you need.
The main purpose of a PKM is to make knowledge discoverable and usable. It often requires the user to put some thought into how to structure knowledge and make it incredibly easy to collect and search.
What to look for in a PKM tool?
A great personal knowledge management tool should have the following essential aspects:
First, the tool must be adaptable and flexible. Most PKM tools are industry-agnostic, meaning that a person from any field can use these tools to their benefit.
For example, a tool like Notion can be used by students, freelancers, and professionals alike in all kinds of fields.
Another aspect that makes PKM software adaptable is the ability to support different types of information. Most software in this space allows you to add plain text notes as well as URLs, tables, pictures, embedded videos, and even hand-drawn illustrations.
Next, a PKM must be accessible. This implies that the software should be easy to learn and can be accessed on any device. For example, users should be able to enter quick notes through their phones and also be able to write long-form notes on a desktop or laptop.
Another feature that improves accessibility is some form of cloud sync. This will allow you to access your knowledge base from any device.
Lastly, the PKM tool should have some form of search. Tools in this space often have fully-featured search functionality. A great PKM tool should allow you to search by keywords, tags, or even by directory.
5 Best Personal Knowledge Management Apps
Obsidian is a powerful tool you can use to manage your personal knowledge. The software can help you organize your thoughts in a way that effortlessly connects related notes.
Obsidian can be used for a variety of use cases such as brainstorming, writing articles, or keeping track of large projects.
The Obsidian program saves your notes locally as Markdown files. This setup allows you to truly own your data. You can use Obsidian on your computer, tablet, or phone. It’s available for most operating systems including Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Let’s take a look at some great features available in Obsidian.
Backlinks are an incredibly powerful feature in Obsidian. The backlink feature allows you to see other notes that reference your current note. This includes both explicitly linked notes as well as unlinked mentions of the topic of the current note.
For example, if you were to have a note labeled ‘Artificial intelligence’, you can use the backlinks panel to see all the notes that mention the phrase ‘artificial intelligence’.
The backlinks feature makes it easier to find notes that you can connect together in your personal knowledge base.
Obsidian offers great community plugin support to extend the features of the base Obsidian program. Many of the core Obsidian features are written as plugins as well. This allows users to customize exactly what plugins are active when using Obsidian.
For example, one of the most popular plugins is the Calendar, which gives users a calendar view of all their journal notes. Other plugins include a more advanced tagging system and a built-in kanban board.
The Graph view gives users a visualization of how each note in your vault relates to one another. Each circle represents a note, and lines represent internal links between notes. Users can modify the graph view by adding filters and groups to highlight specific areas of their knowledge base.
Pros and Cons
- Offers a clean and well-organized interface
- Extensive plugin support
- Has a search function that makes it easy to find old notes
- Has a tagging system that lets you categorize notes
- More difficult to share an Obsidian vault with team members since files are stored locally
While Obsidian is free for personal use, users can sign up for a commercial plan that costs $50 per user per year. Users may also provide a one-time payment of at least $25 to gain early access to insider builds and access the exclusive dev channel.
Obsidian Publish is an add-on service that allows you to selectively publish your notes online. It costs $16 for each published website.
Notion is a powerful and flexible all-in-one workspace that is another great option for personal knowledge management software.
The platform uses a building block layout that allows users to create their own layouts. Combined with the ability to handle all kinds of text and media, Notion is becoming a popular tool for internal wikis to use in organizations.
The most powerful aspect of Notion is its database feature. Without having any programming knowledge, you can create a database of any kind of record. Users can sort, filter, view, and edit records easily and in real-time.
Notion works across all platforms including Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Web.
Let’s take a look at some key features Notion provides that make it a perfect PKM tool.
If you prefer to have a table-like organizational system for your personal knowledge base, Notion offers the perfect tool. Databases allow you to quickly add new entries to your PKM system and add tags, dates, and even custom properties.
Notion even allows you to display your database in a variety of formats besides the generic table. For example, you can view your notes as a calendar, a Kanban board, or even as a timeline.
Notion is a great option for users who want to quickly set up their PKM system in public. It only takes a few clicks for you to convert any note in their workspace into a public page. You can share a link to the page that anyone can access as a webpage.
Project Management Features
Notion is the best option for users who are looking for a note-taking application that can also work as a project management tool. Each note or block can be assigned to a user and can be given a deadline.
Notion offers private team workspaces where admins can assign different roles to each team member. The Kanban, Calendar, and Timeline views are especially helpful when working with complex and time-sensitive projects.
Pros and Cons
- powerful database feature makes it easy to create records of any type of data
- ability to view notes in a variety of formats
- Users have the ability to reference other notes or pages
- Notion does not have the best user experience when used offline.
- Amount of features may be too distracting for simpler use cases
Notion’s Plus plan is best for small groups. The plan offers an unlimited number of blocks and the ability to invite up to 100 guests. The plan costs $8 per user per month, billed annually.
The Notion team also offers a Business plan for $15 per user. This plan includes everything in the Plus plan, along with the Single Sign-On feature that is necessary for organizations with a large number of employees. The Business plan also increases the number of guest collaborators to 250 guests. Business plan users will also keep page history for up to 90 days.
TiddlyWiki is a free and open-source software wiki platform that you can utilize for personal knowledge management. The software is designed to help users store, organize, and manage their information in a way that resembles a platform such as Wikipedia.
The software is based on the wiki principle of “tiddlers”. Tiddlers are small pieces of information that can be linked together to create a larger body of knowledge.
Here are some key features that make TiddlyWiki a great option for personal knowledge management.
TiddlyWiki was designed for long-term use. Each TiddlyWiki file is written as a single-page web application that can be accessed through any browser.
Since the software is open-source, there is no threat of the service being discontinued in the future.
TiddlyWiki allows users to create permalinks. These permalinks are direct links to individual tiddlers within a TiddlyWiki file. Users can create basic permalinks that target a specific toddler, or a story permalink that opens up a list of tiddlers in a sequence.
Pros and Cons
- TiddlyWiki follows a future-proof design that assures your notes will still be accessible in the long term
- The software is highly-customizable since the user can edit the underlying CSS of the web application.
- TiddlyWiki also has plenty of available plugins that extend functionality
- Not as user-friendly as other PKM tools. The user interface may feel dated.
- TiddlyWiki users may find it difficult to find other notes since it does not have cross-referencing support.
TiddlyWiki is currently available for free. Since the project is open-source, any user can create their own instance of TiddlyWiki and host it locally. Users may have to pay for self-hosted solutions.
OneNote is a software application from Microsoft that allows users to create and manage personal notes. This software can be used for personal knowledge management in a number of ways.
OneNote notes can be organized into a collection of notebooks. Notebooks are divided into separate sections and pages. Using OneNote through a touchscreen device will also allow users to easily annotate notes as if they were using a pen on paper.
OneNote also makes it incredibly easy to add all kinds of mixed media. For example, users can quickly record audio notes, draw a diagram, and type a bulleted list all on the same page.
Each notebook can also be shared with other users. Multiple users can collaborate on the same notebook.
In this section, we’ll look at some key features of OneNote that make it a great tool for personal knowledge management.
The OneNote web clipper is a lifesaver for anyone who frequently researches online. The web clipper automatically detects website content you want to capture. Users can choose to save web content as a screenshot or as editable text and images.
The web clipper allows the user to seamlessly integrate their web browsing with their personal knowledge management workflow.
Ink to Text
Microsoft OneNote also makes it easy for users to handwrite notes instead of typing them. Additionally, OneNote also has a tool called Ink to Text that converts your handwriting into legible text. This feature can be useful if you want to take down notes with a stylus first and later save it in a legible format at a later date.
Pros and Cons
- powerful web clipper tool is great for users who often need to save web content
- OneNote’s Draw tools offer plenty of ways to annotate notes outside of basic text formatting.
- Users can use multiple notebooks and sections to stay organized with their notes.
- lack of bi-directional link support
- lack of customization and plugin support
OneNote is currently free to download for all users. It is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices.
Logseq is a privacy-first open-source tool for personal knowledge management. The platform allows users to capture and organize their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge in a flexible and powerful way.
Users who are concerned about taking ownership of their notes might prefer Logseq because all data is stored locally as plain text files.
Logseq’s core design also places the journal feature at the center of your workflow. Users who often keep daily notes will find this feature a great fit for their workflow.
Logseq includes a flashcard system that uses spaced repetition to help you remember information. This makes Logseq a recommended software for students or users who mainly use their PKM system for learning.
Pros and Cons
- simple, easy-to-use interface
- every individual bullet or element in a note can be linked elsewhere
- emphasis on journaling
- lack of support for folder organization
- lack of export functionality
Logseq is available for free and does not require you to purchase a commercial license for company usage.
Personal knowledge management tools can help you stay organized and keep track of any ideas and references you want to remember. The concept of building a network of notes that grows over time can be a life-changing workflow for users who rely on research and ideation.
The type of software you choose will depend on your workflow and the types of notes you take. Some users may prefer a simple note-taking app while others may need a more comprehensive system with search capabilities, tagging, and automation.
What are your thoughts on personal knowledge management?