Anytype Review: The Free Offline Productivity App That Actually Cares About Privacy

Anytype is a sleek, customizable, offline, privacy-focused productivity app that is only getting better with each release.

Highlights

  • Cost – Free
  • Platforms – Mac, Linux, Windows, Android, iOS
  • Offline – Yes, however sync cannot be disabled in the beta version
  • Privacy – Sign-up process does not require an email address
  • Security – Data is end-to-end encrypted

Summary

As someone who has experience using Evernote, OneNote, Notion and Obsidian, I recommend Anytype even with its limitations because I like the user interface and local storage. However, I don’t expect any app to meet all my needs. I primarily use Anytype for personal journaling, note-taking, and storing personal information that I need in a secure digital app that can be accessed on a mobile device.

As the app matures, I look forward to using the web clipper and light task management if a calendar view and reminders are implemented. I appreciate how the founders and staff are transparent about the app development and are graciously taking feedback from beta users. While the app is still in beta testing and features are changing frequently, I would recommend only importing small amounts of content at a time and exporting frequent backups of your Anytype workspace.

This review is for Anytype Beta version and will be updated when the app has a public release.

Ideal Users

Anytype is ideal for people who need a digital workspace that doesn’t require Internet access or cloud storage. Also people who value privacy and want to move away from big companies accessing their personal data. The app can be used for storing and organizing digital collections, note-taking, and task management.

Pricing and Longevity

The cost of the Anytype app is free to download and use.

It has been brought up several times in community forums and town hall meetings, how they will sustain the app in the long-run. Since Anytype’s code is open source available, the app itself could exist even if the Anytype company does not.

In the future, the Anytype app may still be free, but there could be a fee for data synchronization between devices. Their philosophy is that users should only be charged for the resources they consume. Read more about their views on pricing on Anytype’s monetization page.

Anytype Features

Local Storage

The initial download of the Anytype app requires Internet access, but after that the app runs locally on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Currently, the local Anytype data folder itself is not encrypted.

Sync and Security

The sync feature does a backup of data up to 1 GB to Anytype’s servers. In the beta version, disabling the sync feature is not allowed. The option to disable will be available in future releases. Users also have the option to self-host and synchronize on their own servers.
For content that is synchronized between devices, Anytype provides end-to-end encryption via a peer-to-peer network.

Privacy and Login

The login for the application does not require an email address. The user is assigned a recovery phrase that consisting of 12 auto-generated words that are stored in the app. An easier 6-digit pin code is optional to protect the recovery phrase and to lock the desktop app. There is also a QR code in the desktop app to make it easier to login on a mobile device, simply point the device’s camera at the QR code and it will login without entering the recovery phrase manually. You can read more about Anytype’s privacy and encryption on their official documentation.

Anytype for Note-taking

In both the Anytype desktop and mobile apps, the + button launches a new note, which is the default object. The user can start typing and the initial text becomes the title of the note. For organization Anytype uses relations which are similar to properties or attributes. So if a user wants to use a tag for a specific course, instead of using hashtag calculus, the user would type calculus in a relation field called tags.
Notes or pages in Anytype are block-based, so they can be moved around easily. Typing can be done in markdown format or the use can use the forward slash to bring up a list of text formatting options. Anytype has multiple keyboard shortcuts available in their documentation and within the app help section as well.
Users can link to other notes within Anytype by using the @ symbol, which brings up a list of notes to choose from.
Anytype has blocks that allow LaTeX (math characters) and code blocks (coding languages), however these are not offered inline.
Although Anytype does not have a native audio recorder, it does work with the existing voice input features on mobile devices, which turns speech into text. Audio files can also be uploaded as an attachment to a note.
Although Anytype does not have a folder structure, it does have collections which is one way to group notes together.

Anytype for Task Management

Anytype can be used for simple task management that uses a to-do list and due dates. However it does not yet have a calendar view, timeline view, reminders or recurring tasks. The Kanban view is great for task management, but this view is not yet available in the mobile apps.

Anytype for Databases

Anytype doesn’t have databases in the way that Notion does; essentially Anytype is one giant database that can be filtered by objects. An object can be a note, page, task, or another type, thus the name Anytype. In order to view objects in a database-like fashion, a user would create a set, which is a live query or filtering of objects. For example, if there is a note object and a book object, a set could be created for each object type, which mimics a separate note database or book database.
Collections can also be viewed in a database-like fashion, the difference being that collections are more like folders for grouping items together.

Anytype has several views for collections or sets:

  • Grid – table view, similar to a spreadsheet
  • Gallery – card view, can have an image on card
  • List – similar to a checklist
  • Kanban – similar to sticky notes that are sorted in columns, typically by status: To-do, In Progress, and Done
  • Anytype does not have a calendar or timeline view yet.

Another feature that Notion users considering Anytype might miss are formulas and rollups, which enable calculations and functions for data analysis.
Use cases that Anytype has video demos for include a movie database, personal travel wiki, course notes, recipe book and meal planner, and daily journal.

Widgets in Anytype are used in the sidebar to provide quick navigation. The widgets can be displayed as a simple link or a list. Widgets make the mobile app much easier to navigate.
In Anytype there are several areas to access the search function, on the top bar of an object, in the sidebar, and on the bottom floating toolbar. In beta, search only returns results from the title of an object, the description, or the body text, not from relations.
Anytype’s graph view is a visualization of all objects and how they are connected to each other. Connections can be from organizing objects in a collection, or from various links to other objects. Graph view can be compared to how information is stored in the human brain through interlinking.

Media and Attachments

Files can be attached to objects in Anytype and are stored in their original format and are encrypted as well. Images are easy to add to a page and can be resized by simply clicking and dragging on the corner of an image.

Anytype Mobile App

The Anytype mobile apps are not as full-featured as the desktop apps. For example, graph view and Kanban views are not available for mobile devices.
Data sync between mobile and desktop is almost instant, although initial opening of the app does take a few seconds to sync.

The widgets in the desktop app are the home page for the mobile app. At this time, any changes to the widgets in mobile will display in desktop, and vice versa.

The table view allows the user to scroll to the left and right to see all the columns.

Creating a new object is launched from the + symbol on the lower toolbar. The default object is a note, but can be changed using the object menu.

Feature Requests

Upcoming Features

Anytype’s feature roadmap is public on Github. As there are no details on the roadmap, I have listed typical uses as seen in other applications.

  • Multiple Personal Spaces – currently Anytype only has 1 personal workspace, multiple workspaces are typically used for separating school or work from personal content.
  • Web Clipper – this is typically an extension in a web browser that allows a user to save a website link or screen capture directly to the app
  • Template updates – templates are used to provide consist layout and formatting of content
  • Multiplayer – this is typically for collaboration between multiple users within a workspace
  • Open API (application programming interface)- this typically offers access to public-facing information and allows for 3rd party integrations and development of plugins (additional functionality that is separate from the original app)
  • Backlinks – in Obsidian app, links are outgoing (Note A creates a link to Note B) and backlinks are incoming (Note B automatically displays there is a connection to Note A)
  • Publish to web – this typically allows users to make their content publicly available via a URL, usually hosted by the app
  • Handwritten notes on tablet – this typically would allow digital handwritten notes using a stylus and tablet within the app

Missing Features

Although Anytype is often compared to Notion and Obsidian, there are some features that are not currently on the roadmap, but are top feature requests.`

  • Calendar and timeline views
  • Formulas or derived relations
  • Apply template to an existing object
  • Bi-directional links and rollups
  • Tabs to show multiple pages
  • Inline LaTeX (for displaying math characters and equations)

Import Options

Anytype has various formats for importing content:

  • Notion (via API connection)
  • Markdown
  • HTML
  • TXT
  • CSV
  • Any-Block
    Please note that Anytype is not an exact offline replacement for Notion, it does not support formulas, so users can expect to still spend time adjusting content that is imported via the Notion API. For example, some properties in Notion will import as text only in Anytype, and only values will be displayed in Anytype where a function was used in Notion.

Export Options

Anytype has various formats for exporting content:

  • Markdown
  • Any-Block (JSON or Protobuf)
    There are options to include files and/or archived objects.
    Please note that content created in Anytype is not stored locally as a Markdown file, it needs to be exported as Markdown to view content outside of the Anytype app.

Ease of Use

Although Anytype has similarities to other productivity apps, the way content is structured and organized is very different. There is a lot of new terminology that is not standard in other applications. Anytype staff have acknowledged this, and better onboarding and tutorials are planned for future releases.
Once a user gets past the initial terminology and structure of Anytype, the app is fast and easy to navigate. The block-based pages make it easy to edit and move content around.
Users can choose from light mode, dark mode, or system controlled mode. The minimalist and modern user interface is similar to many native Mac applications.

Support

Anytype has documentation, a community forum, and Github repo. They are also active on Telegram, Reddit and Twitter.
There is an email link to support in the help section of the app and on the documentation page.
Like many open source projects, new users usually find FAQs and peer support in a community forum.

A common support request for most applications is resetting passwords. Since Anytype does not require an email to register for the app, the responsibility lies with the user to remember their recovery phrase and pin code. If you forget or lose your recovery phrase, Anytype cannot recover your data. There is no password reset option. You will need to register for a new workspace with a new recovery phrase.