Anytype

A cross-platform, crazy fast, "open" app with a good looking UI, linking of notes, graph view, inline images, cool bookmarking, templates and a lot more. But is it a note-taking app?

Six months ago and about halfway through my journey to find the best Android note-taking app I was researching Transno. I setup a Telegram account so that I could find out who was behind Transno and there I ended up meeting a fellow note app enthusiast named Ivan. He was super helpful in a chat room so I sent him a message to say "thanks" and we ended up having a great chat about our shared passion. At one point in the conversation Ivan said:

You need to try Anytype. It's on early alpha now. Really great thing!

Being me, of course I signed up right away. Then, late March I received an email invite to their alpha program and I was excited! The challenge was that they wanted me to join one of their scheduled on-boarding sessions and I thought to myself: "I need to join a conference call to learn how to use an app?!". Something didn't feel right and with that I never responded and instead I added their app to my backlog and moved on.

Fast forward to a week ago when I received another email from them welcoming me to their alpha program, no onboarding session required and that was what I needed to hear. I installed the app.

If you've been following my posts, you already know that I prioritize local-first apps because it's my data and I trust my computer that I setup. Anytype is positioned as local first and de-centralized with the ability to synchronize your data between your devices.

What's confusing is that even though it claims to be local first, I had to create an account and that's definitely not local first!

Another confusing aspect of the service is that it's being positioned as an "open organization" where I, as a user, own part of it. That's kind of intriguing but in reality it's being funded by a lot of  VCs and those are usually very private, not public. To see how many people and companies are behind Anytype, read to the end of my post.

Looking at some of the content like this 3 year old YouTube video from the Founder Anytype - Zhanna Sharipova it appears that what they are trying to build is much larger than a note app, rather a no-code ecosystem where "even a child" can build a software application.

I question why I would put all of my notes into a de-centralized system and then, at some point in the future, they connect my and everyone's (a.k.a "experts") data and reward me. It feels far fetched and idealistic as well as cool if they can pull it off.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my notes to myself and sharing very carefully with the people that I trust with no intermediary, not even traversing an IPFS even if my notes are encrypted. IPFS is another rabbit hole that I haven't fully gone down but so far it looks like another set of computers that aren't mine, that I don't know where they are located or how they work, and that I have even less control of. In the end, where you put your notes is up to you and who you trust. Maybe Anytype will be trustworthy?

What's unique about Anytype is that everything is an object. That's good as it helps with structure but bad because it feels bloated with objects that I may never use. I found that distracting. What are the objects? humans, books, musicians, documents, ideas, places, numbers, or files.

From an end user perspective the UI is quite nice and they've developed a ton of functionality that works across pretty much any platform that you might use.

Besides playing with Anytype this past week, I also spent way too many hours working on my notes in Obsidian and I started going down another very deep rabbit hole.

I began to add more structure to my notes on people and added more non-note app folks to my "vault"  – vault is Obsidian's term for the top level folder with all of your notes and attachments. It's a little misleading since the vault is really only secured by your computer login. Anyhow, if you're interested in how I'm structuring my people files, check out my comment on a reddit post. My experiment has been incredible so far!

Why do I mention the above? Well, when I started playing with Anytype it was funny because they have a well defined object for a Human and so the timing for me testing their app couldn't have been better!

Bottom line:

If you have an interest in note-taking and knowledge management, then I think you'll really like trying out Anytype. You should sign up for the alpha but don't import all of your notes, at least not yet!

Anytype is a cross-platform tool with a crazy fast and good looking UI that supports linking of notes, graph view, inline images, cool bookmarking (hyperlinks with preview), templates and a lot more.  It's been in alpha for 2+ years and, from what I can see, the app looks more like a production ready service. They're likely holding it in alpha stage for a reason that's not obvious to me.

Below are my more detailed notes on Anytype and I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it. For this review I've added a few new sections:

  1. Quotes from various sources
  2. References with links to articles or posts about the app
  3. People to list the people that I could find involved with the app
  4. Investors because I spent the time trying to figure out who really owns it

I'm looking forward to reaching my next milestone of 1,000 people passionate about note-taking. Please share this email with others or like, share, re-tweet one of my posts on @NoteApps or r/NoteApps. And please send me feedback so I know whether to keep doing, change something, or stop doing this!

anytype.io logo
Anytype.io logo

Quotes

Anytype - Zhanna Sharipova on 2019-07-22 at IPFS Camp 2019

A Unified User Interface for a distributed, content-addressable web
Using these blocks even a child can create a sophisticated software product
Vision of the new web we are building: Each user has a right for private thoughts and communication and owns his or her data. Each user can exercise freedom of speech, and there is no central gate-keeper who can control or censor information. There are clear and democratic rules to reward participants that create, promote, store and deliver content and services

anytype.io

operating system for life
next-generation software that works like your brain does. It solves everyday problems while respecting your privacy and data rights.
Tools for thought, freedom and trust.
Set of tools to build and explore the new internet. From private notes to decentralized communities.
an open organization that is collectively owned by its creators. Everyone will be able to contribute and be rewarded.

@AnytypeLabs

Solve everyday problems, collaborate with others, and keep your data to yourself. Sign up for early access.

Anytype welcome email

June 2020, we shared the first alpha of Anytype for Mac and Windows. Not long after that, we added support for Linux. Two months later, we squeezed Anytype into our skinny jeans with the first release of Anytype for Android. Finally, we ended 2021 with the first release of Anytype for iPhone. In 2022, we're going to release the first public beta of Anytype, allowing anyone to experience our new metaphor for computing. We'll e-mail you as soon as we're ready.

Q&A on their site

will anytype always be free? yes
will anytype always be an open ecosystem? yes
will you open source anytype once you launch? yes
are there any storage and upload limits? no
can you help me if I need some support? yes
can I own my piece of the new internet today? yes

From their Desktop app

Anytype is a personal knowledge base, a digital brain that allows you to capture, describe, and connect information. You can use Anytype to create tasks, notes, ideas, documents, workflows, and more, and organize them any way you want. Future versions will allow you to share your work and safely collaborate with others.

From Inflection, their investor

an operating environment built on web3

Screenshots

Meta

  • Score: 8/10
  • Version: 0.8.2
  • Last updated: 2022-06-03
  • Google Play

References

  1. anytype.io - Web
  2. t.me/anytype - Telegram - 3302 members, 464 online
  3. github.com/anytypeio - 3 people in the project
  4. twitter.com/AnytypeLabs - 7,310 followers
  5. doc.anytype.io/d - documentation with a good intro video
  6. community.anytype.io - forums
  7. Anytype - Zhanna Sharipova on YouTube
  8. Crunchbase profile

People

Ugly

  • Says "local first" but you still need an account!
  • Can't select text across lines
  • Treats everything as an object: ugly and awesome at the same time
  • Constructs like objects, a canvas, blocks, and sets made me think too much
  • Too much sample data, needs a "clear sample data" option (maybe it already exists)

Bad

  • When I created the first note I couldn't see where the title was. When I changed the layout I could see the title
  • Couldn't figure out how to delete a bookmark / hyperlink
  • Sometimes after choosing style feels like a slight delay updating the item
  • The library icon doesn't help me know that it's for my library
  • Relations was confusing to me initially since the word means different things to different people. I shouldn't have to think about the app when using a note taking app
  • Weird to have objects called Humans and when I create one I'm creating a human?!
  • Weird, but also interesting, how you can slide a table of attributes horizontally while the item aka object stays still (hard to explain, you'd need to see it but the app creators will understand if they read this!)

Good

  • Fast launch, fast input, fast search
  • Nice tips on initial launch
  • Quotes are nice with the orange vertical line
  • Text formatting: bold, italics, underline, Code
  • Text alignment
  • 3 heading levels
  • Inline numbered lists
  • Inline check-boxes
  • Formatting toolbar
  • Trash ("Bin")
  • Favorite
  • Undo and redo
  • Sets of items ("objects")
  • Create a bullet using * or -
  • Dark mode
  • Search in a note highlights the found text in a dark background color which is hard to see when in dark mode
  • Read only mode ("lock" a note from changes)
  • Highlight text with 7 colors but they're muted in dark mode
  • Inline images
  • Bookmarks
  • A reference to Pink Floyd in their help :)
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Graph view
  • Import from Notion

Great

  • Intro help pages are really good, didn't make me feel as lost as when I started using Obsidian
  • Templates
  • Link to other notes using @ sign
  • Image thumbnail shows up in the note list
  • Slash (/) menu
  • Table support just type /table and a handy tablex-y to get a table with x rows and y columns - just added in Aug 2022
  • Nice looking callout blocks using /callout
  • Drag and drop blocks to the sidebar #to-try
  • Code snippets for Developers with language-specific formatting
  • Colors on text and they're really nice

Awesome

  • IPFS based which is super interesting from a technical perspective but relatively new from a technology perspective which means risky
  • Apps for desktop (MacOS, Windows, and Linux) and mobile (iOS and Android)
  • Comprehensive documentation
  • Large and growing community
  • Bookmarks look really good with a little preview
  • Can create sets of bookmarks with Type:Bookmark
  • Great release notes not just "fixed bugs" but specific and detailed
  • Inline images render nicely with rounded corners
  • Photo / image in circle at top of a note, very unique
  • Inline attach documents like a PDF
  • Toggle block to have a section (block) of text that can be collapsed/opened

Anytype Investors

Not a comprehensive list but just to give you an idea of how many people, companies and how much money is behind this "open" organization.

"$300M raised" according to raisedtoday.com and from crunchbase and searches I gleaned this: