Evolve into a better linked - outliner note app

I’ve been wondering for quite a while: Is it totally impossible to imagine a future where Dynalist evolves into an advanced version of today’s basis, to a better (more-Obsidianesque but keeping the outliner nature) note-taking application that treats links seriously; ie: A more stable Logseq, more user-centric Roam Research etc?

I am tired of having to deal with existing alternatives most of which lacks the typical ‘finesse’ of design + function + strong community that this team knows how to do best. This is my wish for 2023 :christmas_tree:

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I’m very unclear what you’re wishing for. Dynalist is a linked outliner note app. What is this different thing you’re imagining?

Alan, you’re right: I should have elaborated better. Dynalist has been my companion (still as a pro user) for many years. I am not thinking about giving it up as long as it lives. However as far linking is concerned it is way inferior to modern outliner apps such as Roam Research and Logseq, leave aside Obsidian which is developed by the same duo. It will be long discussion as to how it is inferior but mostly it relates to how it handles the links / backlinks and how central the linking concept is in the way the software works.

What I meant is that I love Dynalist so much and would like to see it evolve into a more modern outliner.


I still have no clue about this link handling is different.

Then maybe try a simple web search or event better, download and use Obsidian to see for yourself :man_shrugging:

I downloaded Obsidian a long time ago. Yes there’s a link graph, but I don’t see much value there. They also have wiki linking where you can just type the name of the file you want to link to. I cannot think how you would do that with DynaList which doesn’t have files, nor names.

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That is exactly my point: There is so much added value in having files + names + wikilink capabilities + graph database in an outliner style app.

The success of Roam Research and/or Logseq are good examples and I am sure our developers are more capable than the rest of the world.

I guess to be precise there are named files but it very much makes the program feel disjointed when you split things up.

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Dynalist will not have new features added. Obsidian will though. So, your best bet will probably to look into logseq outliner style functionality in Obsidian (perhaps ask their Plugins discord channel if someone has already made a plugin to add what you want)

I am a fully-equipped (sync, publish etc memberships) Pro Obsidian (as well as Pro Dynalist) user since day 1. IMHO Obsidian will never become a proper outliner as the basic structure and philosophy is different (Obsidian is a file-based whereas an outliner is block based)

Now that Obsidian is out of Beta, I was hoping our developers maybe decide to get their hands on Dynalist to evolve it for loyal users like me.

You sound very certain it will not change much - are you guessing or do you know this for sure?.. It is important for people like me to decide to keep the membership or not.

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are you guessing

Yes. Obsidian is a cash cow and Dynalist is a flop, so unless a sudden influx of new users discover how great Dynalist is, I don’t see why developers would spend any time on it. Tech companies need to move fast and Obsidian has the momentum. I just paid for another year of Dynalist Pro personally since I don’t want it to change, I just love the service.

Obsidian will never become a proper outliner as the basic structure and philosophy is different

I disagree. The paradigm of the outline fits if you contain it wholly in a document and forget about the graph.

I haven’t used it in the last year, but I was

  • adding new items to my Obsidian doc outline list via external apps (using shell append commands)
  • moving lines up and down with hotkeys
  • I remember some folks even straight up embedded logseq and edit it from Obsidian…I am foggy on the details it was a while ago.

Open a logseq document in Obsidian and start editing the list in both. It works. Their files are identical at the document level. They’re nested lists in plain text markdown. I have moved outlines to Obsidian, and it back to Dynalist again no problem. The issue is that the document editor of Obsidian doesn’t have the snazzy features of Dynalist. But I do recall there being progress a year ago. I figured it would have been farther along by now.

Interesting perspective - I will think about this one. My take is different: I also just renewed with the hope of Dynalist evolving into a more stable Logseq / Roam Research.

As for outliner mode of Obsidian: I believe we can agree to disagree on this one. The smallest unit being the “file” for Obsidian prevents it becoming a true outliner. I always struggle to explain this, but let me just say that it becomes clear only after you start Logseq consistently and realize the power of “block based” graph instead of the “file based graph” philosophy. So it is not about being able to open/edit obsidian files in Logseq or vice-versa. It is about the nature of a block based vs file based graph.

The difference primarily arises, i think, when it comes to linking within the outline. Markdown doesn’t have nice ways of having permanent links to suboutlines that may move around.

The smallest unit being the “file” for Obsidian prevents it becoming a true outliner.

Hmm. Perhaps it’s just the way I came to it–as a tool for creating zettelkasten–but I would have sworn that the smallest unit for Obsidian was the note.

Somewhere in the early 80s I began using an MS-DOS outliner called MaxThink. At first it confused me. Gradually I started using for more of my writing. Eventually it became a tool I could not do without. What I liked about it was the ability to organize and reorganize and re-reorganize text.

Then Windows came along. The developer attempted to develop it for a Windows-based graphical users interface just didn’t work. It wasn’t the same thing.

Zettlekasten appeals to me. But I still struggle with it. What appeals is the idea of letting structure emerge in the process of note making. What hangs me up is that it seems structure seems to be assumed, to be necessary in advance, in order to place a new note in the structure.

I have made very little use of Dynalist. I hadn’t thought of it that way initially, but recently it occurred to me that I might be able to use Dynalist the way I did MaxThink. And further whether it might be possible to use Dynalist and Obsidian interactively. I have no idea how it might work, whether it might be more trouble than it is worth, but I do wonder.

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Never heard of MaxThink, even before Windows existed? Wow! Thanks for letting us know.

As an avid user of both, I’m not sure if Obsidian and Dynalist can be used together interactively. To me Dynalist is the ultimate example of robustness as well as basic practicality of the outliner. My wish for 2023 is that it grows into a more graph based modern outliner, towards the direction of Roam and Logseq.

There used to be a lengthy document about MaxThink out their on the web written by another long-time aficionado. Went looking for it yesterday but couldn’t find it.

The closest I could come was this exchange among a group of former MaxThink enthusiasts. (They would probably still be users if MaxThink had been successfully ported to Widows, macOS, or Linux.As would I.): https://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=14262.0

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I want the same thing and like how you put it: “A well designed, intuitive outliner, everyone can use that treats links seriously.”

I think to do that, you have to have a 100% wysiwyg editor—not a 50% wysiwyg editor like obsidian, but a 100% wysiwyg editor like workflowy.

And right now, everything is markdown—except workflowy.

I for one think the reason workflowy is so popular, is because it doesn’t screw around with markdown.

Anyways, cool thread.


Thank you for the comment Robert; always a pleasure to chat with like-minded people.
Two questions:

  1. How does WYSIWYG editor help in achieving the objective of being “well designed, intuitive outliner, everyone can use that treats links seriously”?
  2. In what ways is Workflowy different from Dynalist?

Yalcin, As a long time user and admirer of Dynalist I agree totally with your take. DynaList is a very polished Outliner / Note Store but its implementation of linking seems to have been an afterthought, and a limited one at that. Perhaps that’s why the developers went in to create Obsidian. A link in Dynalist presents merely a placeholder, relevant to the note or bullet you are in, but when you click on that link to get a fuller view, you move away from the original, and can easily lose the visual context of the original note, or worse yet, when you attempt to return to the original note, it is easy to lose your way. This question of “Transclusion” where a bullet or other information kernel can appear in many other places seamlessly, adding context and value to the original note or item, is for me at the very core of a truly usable information system. I just downloaded Obsidian, but don’t fully understand its data structure, so I’m taking baby steps to avoid going up a wrong road with my many thousands of valuable notes before committing to a paradigm. If you misunderstand the possibilities, it can be extremely difficult to revert to a new way. I’d love to hear your comments on the ideal note / information store structure.

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