Both software apps use similar approaches to achieving this, they both use systems that users can build to their own needs using blocks as the building component. We will cover in more detail how they work to achieve this later in the article.
What is Notion?
Notion is a multi-tool approach that sets out to provide just about any administrative and organization task that team requires. It is designed to be a flexible solution that users can tailor to suit their own needs. Using the blocks as the fundamental unit to build these systems, users can create just about anything.
Blocks can be used to build databases, webpages, documents, lists, tasks and much more.
What is Coda?
Coda uses a similar approach in that blocks are used to create whatever systems the user requires. It is more based on being a ‘Flexible office application’ than the complete multi-tool that Notion is. Ultimately though, the end result is two very similar pieces of software that use comparable architecture to achieve the same goal.
Coda takes a slightly different path in certain aspects of the way they work and could be described as being more database orientated than Notion, but really as far as the way both apps work, they are very much alike.
Advantages of Notion
Notion is the slightly older of the two products, although not by much. It sets out with the lofty ambition of providing just about every tool you could ever need. This is an approach that has been tried with varying degrees of success in many software niches before, and it is a tricky act to pull off. In many instances a series of substandard tools that couldn’t compete with specialized apps was the result.
Notion have largely avoided this pitfall I’m pleased to say. In this section we will look at some of the pros of Notion.
The nature of its architecture is ultimately what gives this app its incredible flexibility. The block system is the core feature, starting with a block you can build pages that can be: –
In fact, with Notion you can create everything from a simple note to an entire webpage.
Because of this flexibility, Notion could take the place of multiple software apps, if you used a separate app for your calendar and designing your web pages (and who didn’t), then Notion can replace them with one solution. It can even deal with basic financial tasks.
Notion can be tricky to get started with, particularly for new users who want to build complex systems. However, this is greatly helped by a whole range of templates that can be used to assist you.
For instance, when you select the templates option in the user dashboard you are given a list of categories to select from, including: –
Selecting any option will give you another selection. For instance, if you select sales you can choose from Sales CRM, Meeting Notes, Competitive Analysis and much more. And if you can’t find anything within the app, then there are far more online that have been created by Notion and the Notion community.
Although the free version is restricted to one user it is still a useful tool for organizing your personal and work life. There is a more fully featured version available which is priced at $4 per month, but for most people the free version is perfect for personal purposes.
- Multiple Views – Users can select a number of ways to view their data, including Kanban.
- Import Data – You can embed your own data within pages.
- Mobile App – App is available for iOS and Android.
- Great Note System – Full formatting system for taking great looking notes.
- Synchronous Editing – Users able to edit the same document simultaneously.
Is it a pro to say that we love the design of a company’s website? If yes, then I absolutely love Coda. Coda hasn’t been around quite as long as Notion, but has still built up a growing and loyal customer base. So, it must be doing something right. In this section we are going to look at some of the pros of Coda.
Coda has built a system called Packs to deal with integrations. Basically, if you want to integrate an app with Coda just grab the appropriate pack and you’re good to go. The packs connect your document to the app you desire and allows you to pull your data in from the app or export your data to it.
Packs are being added all the time and some of the more popular ones include: –
- Google Calendar
And many more besides. An example of how this works is the Google Calendar pack, with the app installed you can pull your Google Calendar into a table and organize to suit your needs and priorities.
If you have a business or team structure where one member is the person creating the documents and the rest of the team are merely editing, then you only need to use the paid version for the document creator. Unlimited team members can edit and collaborate on existing docs for free.
- Document Creators – paid version
- Document Editors – Free version
- Document Viewers – Free Version
This is a great way of pricing that has benefits for large teams where most of the members have no need to create anything.
With a similar design ethos to Notion, it is no wonder that both packages have proved to be flexible. It sets out to be an all-in-one document solution, with all the functions of a complete office suite controlled from a single interface. But it is much more powerful than just an office suite.
Similar to Notion the blocks that you use to build your documents can be used to build a complete organizational tool for your team.
Other Pros of Coda
- Great Support – User experience when dealing with Coda support has always been positive.
- Automation – Set time-based triggers on your data to get email alerts.
- API – Coda has an ever-expanding collection of API options.
To set out to design a piece of software that can perform all the complex tasks that Notion can and do it flawlessly is impossible. In this section we are going to discuss some of the areas where Notion didn’t quite get it right.
Synchronization issues and sluggish performance seem to dog the mobile app. Although in most cases just waiting for a minute or so will sort the synchronization, it does seem to be an area where the system could be improved.
Some users have reported it being too easy to accidentally delete items from within the app, Personally, I haven’t had any issues here, but I do agree that the mobile app can be sluggish. It seems more common when there are a lot of elements involved.
Limited Free Version
While this made it onto the pros section, it also makes an appearance here. The free version is brilliant if you want to organize your personal life. However, the scope of this article is to discuss which software is best for organizing your business. With a limit of one user, the free version is too restricted to be of any use in a business sense.
The pro version is required to have any meaningful use as a business organizational tool. The cost of the por version is $8 per user, per month.
Tricky to set up at first
One problem with offering so much flexibility is that by necessity it is going to be more complex than an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution. It isn’t that it’s difficult, but there is always going to be a steeper learning curve than less flexible software.
Filters and Tags
While you can create custom tags for any block or page you use, it isn’t possible to filter by these tags. This can make searching for these tags difficult and kind of negates the point of having them somewhat.
Coda has set out to create an office suite that is far more powerful than the sum of its parts. They have largely succeeded in doing this, but there is always room for improvement. In this section we are going to look at some of the cons of Coda.
Difficult to Set Up
This is a bit an Achilles Heel for both these software apps. By trying to be as flexible as they can both apps have left the user with a bit of head scratching involved to get the system running as they like it.
The benefits of both systems are that once you have set them up correctly, they are both incredibly powerful tools. However, for people who want something that works right out the box, then this doesn’t tick that box.
Whilst there is a free version that can be used to organize teams, the size limits and limited features are too restrictive for it to be used as an effective tool. The file-size limit of 1gb on each document makes it unusable for any large project, particularly where multimedia is involved. And if you exceed the file size, you find yourself unable to access the document.
Neither app has really nailed the mobile side of things. I can kind of understand it, they are complex apps and porting them to mobile platforms is bound to be troublesome. But that doesn’t hide the fact that neither have done a great job and Coda is probably the poorer of the two.
Notion have managed to include most of their features in the app. Whereas, with Coda basic features are missing and not much good for anything other than basic editing purposes.
This seems to be a particular problem for Mac users as the app doesn’t work well in Safari and sometimes not at all. Other users have reported problems using it in Firefox and Edge, but the main culprit is Safari.
Advantages that Notion has over Coda
In this section we are going to look at some of the advantages that Notion has over Coda.
Better Mobile App
Okay, it isn’t a great mobile app, but it is far superior than the Coda mobile app. With the Notion app most of the features that are available in the browser app are available. With the Coda app the features are too limited for it to be of any great use.
The sheer number of templates that are available for Notion far outnumbers the Coda templates. With a strong Notion community adding to these on a daily basis this is unlikely to change, at least in the near future.
Coda seems to be having problems with memory management issues when it comes to dealing with docs that have large file sizes. Notion doesn’t have such issues and as such it runs a lot smoother than Coda.
Advantages that Coda has over Notion
Coda is a newer system than Notion, as such it is still very much evolving. Many of the niggles are merely teething problems and it is testament to the potential of the software that there are some areas where it has the edge over the competition.
If you use a large software stack to organize your teams and business then Coda can probably integrate with it. The pack system they use makes the integrations seamless and easy. Many of the packs are functional integrations rather than full featured, however the development teams are adding more daily and are always improving the existing packs.
The Notion support is good, but the Coda support is excellent. Quick response and in-depth problem solving, if you are having issues the Coda support system has you covered.
By restricting users to edit and collaborators you can keep the cost of your subscription to a minimum as only those users who create documents are charged.
Who Should Use Notion?
As well as having a great free version which is fantastic for personal use and freelancers, Notion is also a fantastic tool for large teams that are running multiple projects that requires a lot of documentation and task allocation.
It is also great for teams that are looking to cut down on the number of apps they require to run their day-to-day operations and for those organizations that require a lot of customizations that bespoke software can’t cater for.
Who Should Use Coda?
Coda is a fantastic app for those organizations that are heavy users of existing office suites. Particularly if databases are a crucial part of the organizations functions. It is also a fantastic solution for those businesses that the role of creating the systems and documents is likely to be performed by the same staff member. If this is the case, then costs can be cut dramatically when compared to other packages.
Which is better for Project Management?
I would love to call this one an honorable draw. They are both more than competent packages when it comes to Project Management. However, if I were to pick a winner then Notion would just edge it. With a greater set of templates, a more intuitive interface and slightly easier to set up with more customization options, it just nudges it.
Which is better for Note Taking?
Once again this is a tight choice, and once again Notion just edges it. For sheer simplicity and the ability to make fully formatted notes, Notion has developed a system that isn’t far from being as good as dedicated note apps like Evernote and OneNote.
Coda’s notetaking system isn’t far behind in terms of functionality but was a bit clunkier to use and not quite as intuitive as the Notion system.
Which is better for Collaboration?
I’m getting tired of saying this, but it is remarkably close again. In this instance the winner is Coda. Both apps offer levels of collaboration that are superb and would be a boon to any business. Both offer communication and shared and synchronously editable documents, both let you assign and monitor tasks.
So, when it comes to the decision it comes down to this – In Coda team members can collaborate on documents without having to pay for the package. In essence this means that collaboration can be wider without having to be concerned about increased cost.
Pricing: Notion vs Coda
- FREE Plan (aka “Personal”)
- Personal Pro 4$
- Team 8$
- Enterprise 20$
- FREE plan (Basic)
- Pro 10$ *per doc maker
- Team 30$ *per doc maker
- Enterprise (Custom) *per doc maker
Conclusion: Our Final Verdict is…
Forced to choose between two fantastic apps that are both game changers then I would choose Notion. It has been around that little bit longer and as such has ironed more of those ‘Start-up’ defects. It is also slightly more intuitive to use and has more templates to get you started.
However, if I was Notion, I would be looking in my rearview mirror, because coming up just behind them is a new challenger. It is great to see two fantastic platforms that more or less perform the same function. They are certainly going to keep each other on their toes and that can only be good for the consumer.