Best Roam Research alternative? Amplenote offers more for less

Amplenote and Roam are more different than they are similar, but there are still many common touchpoints. Below, we'll outline how the two compare as of mid-2020. If you would like to import your Roam JSON file to see how it compares in Amplenote, you can start a free trial and then try out our Roam Research Importer here. Paid annually, Amplenote pricing ranges from about $5/month to $25/month.


link10 Key Similarities

In spite of being built for totally different purposes, the two apps share some common DNA.


link🐣 Debuted in 2019

Both companies went live to external customers in 2019. Both have evolved quickly, as startups often do.


link🖇️ Bidirectional linking

If you know one thing about Roam, it's probably the bidirectional linking. Examples of Amplenote's implementation are available here. We make it easy to connect to new or existing notes. Every note keeps a full list of all the incoming links that reference it, along with the context around that reference.


link🌍 Publish to URL in a click (toward a less-Wordpressy world)

Both allow notes to be easily published to the web. Amplenote allows the links to be named, to expire, and to be SEO-indexed. Amplenote also allows embedding notes into an arbitrary webpage/Wordpress blog shell. Note content updates on the webpage in real time. You can be improving a story as the reader consumes it 🔮✨. An optional stylesheet URL can be specified, as exemplified by the GitClear blog, where the stylesheet applies Medium-style formatting to any note->blog from my notebook. Begone janky blogging tools & platforms.


link➗ Inline calculations

Both provide the means to embed calculations in notes. For Amplenote, surrounding an expression in angled brackets, e.g., {pi*5**2} becomes 345.57 or {((50000*0.5)/4) + 1) becomes 6251. The annotation stored inside the calculation's Rich Footnote illustrates to your reader the inputs used in the calculation.


link⌨️ Markdown-based

Editor formatting is derived from markdown. This avoids the hodgepodge of colors and font faces that long-time Evernoters become intimately acquainted with.


link💸 Not yet freemium

Roam recently announced (and defended) a $15/month price point for their beta version. Amplenote plans start at about $5/month, with a time-limited 25% discount for users who import from Roam.


link🏃 Support note exporting

Here's how it works on Amplenote. We try hard to make leaving Amplenote a maximally pleasant process since we are going to work hard to earn you back down the road.


link👂 Eager for customer feedback

As one might expect from products new to the market, both Roam and Amplenote are extremely receptive to user feedback. Roam mines ideas from their Slack channels, Amplenote mines from an idea voting board. Amplenote also welcomes feedback via email (hello@amplenote.com).


link📜 Little-to-no table support

Tables in notes are hard. And especially since they are Notion's calling card, small companies like ours are better off proving we can differentiate elsewhere before we march into the teeth of a competitor's strategic advantage. Amplenote should get there within a year. Roam currently offers a rudimentary v1.


link👩‍💻 Developer-extensible

Roam has regular discussions in their Slack channels about how to augment Roam's shortcomings. Amplenote has built an Oauth 2-driven API that is caller-agnostic. Yes, Amplenote's API documentation is lacking at the moment, but that can change fast. As of today, we already have the plumbing in place for developers to mash up their own Amplenote apps or tie-in utilities, like a web clipper. We're just waiting for developers to reach out via email, tweet, or carrier pigeon to tell us what kind of cool stuff they would build on top of Amplenote?


link5 Big Differences

With our entire team having used Roam's product for <= 60 minutes, our understanding of what makes them so amazing is admittedly deficient. We know for certain that their wait spinner beats what competitors are spinning. We presume that as Roam users find their way to Amplenote, they'll fill us in on what else we missed?


Our first litmus for whether to add a new feature: "can this help people reach their daily/long-term goals better?" Our to-do lists are built to gently nudge you toward doing more of what makes you a badass.


link✅ Productivity Focused

Amplenote's ultimate aim is to make note-takers more productive. We're pragmatists at heart, so we attack the problem systematically, by 1) syncing your scheduled tasks to your Google or Outlook calendar so you won't' forget about them 2) assigning "points" to your tasks to help you follow through on what was important to your past self 3) keeping an omnipresent input box open in the mobile app, for lightweight idea capture within 3 seconds of opening the app. There's a lot more we could list here, but maybe just try it?


link🔐 End-to-end note encryption, where we don't have the decryption key

Roam's security is a work in progress. If you have an enemy that works at Roam, could they read your notes? Hard to say. Yes they could. In contrast, Amplenote offers a transparent description of how we secure customer notes, including the option to use "Vault Notes," which puts your sensitive ideas behind a password-encrypted token that even Amplenote servers can not decrypt.


link📨 Email inbox ➡️ To-do list

Amplenote allows emails to be transformed into to-do items that retain the email's subject, text, images, etc. We recommend this feature for emails that will take >= 30 minutes to address. By sending emails to your Amplenote task list, you'll ensure they get done, while escaping the tyranny of the inbox. Emailing tasks is also great when you want to send content from an app (e.g., Messages) straight to your todo list. Just share->email->choose note, and we'll have it waiting for you at the top of your list when you're back.


link🔦 Rich Footnotes

Our Writing in 3d blog post covers the high points of why we believe footnotes are underappreciated. They allow for concise travel planning, bug capturing, etc. And they let your avid readers dig a layer deeper into your ideas without forcing the entire audience to come along for the diversion (like a parenthetical does).


link📱 Available on every device and every browser

Amplenote has versions for Android and iOS. For Windows, Linux, or macOS users, we recommend using Chrome or Brave to install Amplenote as a PWA (technical details about PWAs). You'll see an install link in your URL bar after you log in. Once the app is installed as a PWA, you can pin it in your system dock and switch windows in and out of it.


linkImport from Roam JSON

Because Roam is an upstanding company, they make it easy to download your data in JSON format. And so we make it easy to import, including the connectivity between your notes:


Start an Amplenote account from a Roam Research import


At the moment, there are still a handful of import limitations. Currently you can find your inbound links by viewing the Details for your open note (in the note options dropdown, or just Ctrl-Shift-O). In the not-distant future they'll earn their own home in an auto-opened tab. 🚀