Notion App Review: The All-in-One Digital Workspace

Summary

Notion is a web-based all-in-one workspace app that simplifies digital storage of team documentation and communication. As someone who has experience with Microsoft O365 and Google Workspace, I really like being able to see everything in one app and having several ways to view lists that I would normally keep in Excel or Google Sheets. I also like the minimalist UX and the ability to use blocks on a page that can easily be moved around and resized. When working in traditional word processors like Microsoft Word, I would be frustrated trying to insert images on a page with text and making it look decent without a lot of layout and format tweaking.

The main cons are with organization and speed. Because Notion doesn’t use a folder system for organization, it can get really messy once there is a lot of content being stored in a workspace. Notion can also be really slow sometimes and not update in a timely manner due to being cloud-based. With a free account, I experienced a wait time of about 24 hours from customer service via email. Once you invest in building Notion databases, it can be challenging to export your data to use in other apps.

Notion Highlights

  • Cost – Free to $18+ per month USD
  • Platforms – Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and web browser
  • Offline – no, cloud-based only
  • Integrations – long list of apps, and additional connections via API

Notion Ideal Users

App is ideal for both individuals and teams that need a web-based real-time collaboration workspace and customized ways to organize data. Individual use cases include note-taking, task management, habit tracking, and personal finance management. Team use cases include internal wikis, project management, design assets organization, and meeting minutes.

Notion Pricing

The cost to use Notion has several tiers:

  • Free
  • Plus $10/mo USD
  • Business $18/mo USD
  • Enterprise level

Here is the most current Notion pricing.

Notion Features

Notion Collaboration

Notion has several features for teams that need to collaborate on projects. Users that are working in real time can see a small icon of where another user is typing on page. Each page within Notion has built in comments that can be set to notify team members via email or in-app. Using the @ symbol is an easy way to mention a team member on a page. Pages also have different durations of page history depending on the plan level. This is useful for determining the last time a document was edited and gives an option to rollback to a previous version.

Notion Experience Across Platforms

Notions offers desktop apps for Mac and Windows, mobile apps for iOS and Android, and a web browser option as well. I mainly use the web browser option for convenience. The mobile app is not as user-friendly, as the layouts used in Notion are meant for desktop use, so you have to be intentional about your layout if you want to it Notion on mobile. This often involves creating a navigation or dashboard page with quick links to other pages within a toggle heading, so it can be collapsed. Layout that use multiple columns will display horizontally on a desktop but will end up stacked vertically on mobile.

If you use web browser extensions to customize your Notion pages, the aesthetic usually only works in the web browser, not in the desktop app or mobile app.

Notion web browser layout showing life wiki
Notion web browser
Notion Mac desktop layout showing life wiki
Notion Mac desktop app
Notion mobile layout showing a horizontal view of the life wiki
Notion iOS app part 1
Notion mobile layout showing stacked columns of the life wiki
Notion iOS app part 2

Notion for Note-taking

Notion is can be used for typed note-taking and incorporating images, videos, and embedding previews from other apps like Figma for design. Notion uses blocks that can have various formatting such as headings, text colors, background colors and toggles (sections that can expand or collapse). The page layout is easy to change into multiple columns and you can move blocks around the page just by clicking and dragging. The organization for notes will be more linear vs free flowing. Since Notion is page-based and doesn’t use folders, any new notes will need to be connected to a parent page or a database, to keep the sidebar tidy.

Notion for Task Management

When using Notion for task management, there are two ways to go about it. The first way is to use Notion like a paper to-do list. You can easily make lists with checkboxes and organize multiple lists on one page. The second way is to use databases to contain the task lists. The benefit of using databases is advanced features and automations. Notion also has notifications and reminders to go along with your tasks.

Notion for Databases

Databases in Notion make Google Sheets look like child’s play. Basically every row in a database has it’s own separate page. This allows for various views including:

  • Table: the basic table or spreadsheet with rows and columns
  • Board: groups items into columns, similar to a Kanban board
  • Timeline: shows a horizontal timeline of events based on dates
  • Calendar: shows items a monthly or weekly calendar view based on dates
  • List: a vertical layout of items
  • Gallery: a card that is ideal for displaying cover images

Notion databases can be interlinked through the use of related properties. For example you could connect your list of customers to the list of products they have purchased.

The Notion interface has a search bar at the top as well as breadcrumbs, the path of pages, so you can navigate from pages to sub-pages.

Notion Media and Attachments

Notion allows for adding various types of multimedia to pages. A common use case for businesses is for organizing design assets such as branding and style guides, color codes, logos, and approved images. Various files formats such as PDFs and Word docs can also be uploaded to Notion as attachments or embedded links.
Notion workspaces often have cover images and icons for pages. One thing to note is that these cover images and icons are not stored in an accessible area in Notion. In order to reuse these assets, you will need to use a page template within a database.

Notion Import Options

Notion has various formats for importing content:

  • Plaintext (.txt)
  • Markdown (.md or .markdown)
  • Microsoft Word (.docx)
  • CSV (.csv)
  • HTML (.html)
  • Direct from app (Evernote, Trello, Asana, Confluence, etc.)

Notion Export Options

Notion has various formats for exporting content:

  • PDF
  • Markdown (.md or .markdown) & CSV (.csv)
  • HTML (.html)
  • Entire workspace (not available on mobile app)

While Notion does offer various export options, if you use advanced features in your databases such as relations, rollups, and automations, these often do not export in a format that is useable in other apps. In other words, most of the content in your Notion databases will export as text, and will need to be reconnected in another app that utilizes related database features.

Notion Security

Data stored in Notion is encrypted at rest with AES-256, in transit with TLS 1.2 or greater. Most cloud-based software use encryption at rest and in transit. Encryption at rest focuses on protecting data when it’s stored, while end-to-end encryption focuses on protecting data during its entire journey from the sender to the recipient. If security is a major concern for you, check out my Anytype Review, an app that does offer end-to-end encryption. Here’s additional info on Notion’s security policies.

Notion Privacy & Sharing

Notion is a cloud-based app and requires internet access to use. The account is default shared only with the account holder, but there are ways to share pages and workspaces with members (paid users), guests (free users), and the public via pages published to the web.

Notion Ease of Use

While Notion does have a minimalist interface, it is not as intuitive for many users. Creating a page is simple enough, but creating a database has a steep learning curve. I spent an entire weekend binge-watching Notion tutorials on YouTube while building my own workspace to really understand how to make a workspace that fit my needs.
As the popularity of Notion has risen in recent years, so has the number of pre-made Notion templates. Notion offers many free templates within the app and there are numerous content creators who sell their templates for a premium price. These Notion workspace templates help with the ease of use issue, and can make the user experience more comfortable.

Check out my Getting Started with Notion for Beginners Guide.

Notion Support

For free plan accounts, Notion offers email support. I personally received an email response from Notion customer support within 24 hours. Enterprise plans are assigned a Customer Success Manager to assist with the rollout of Notion at your organization.

Notion offers a free Notion Academy which has both text and video tutorials. There are also many public community forums and webinars list on the Notion Community page.