062: Team Coda vs. Team Notion: I choose my winner

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We’ve got some all-in-one note-taking apps on the market and today I’m going to compare two of them. They have some similarities but also have some differences and while you will likely never find the perfect note-taking/document management tool, there is a natural gravitation to some features over others. Which team are you on? Coda or Notion? If you’ve never heard of either one, grab a drink and let’s break down these two popular platforms.
 
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Can I be real with you for a second? It's OK if you don't like Asana, it's OK if you don't like WordPress, if you prefer to use something else and forget what all the other girls are using, forget what everybody says is great and what you should be using. If you happen to try it and you don't like it, that's fine. And I say this because just because something is trendy and everyone is using it, that doesn't mean that you have to love it too.

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It doesn't mean that something's wrong with you just because you don't like it and it's OK to stop using something and switch to something else, even though you've put a lot of time and effort into learning it. So that's what today's episode is about. Let's chat about Coda versus Notion. Welcome to Coffee Powered Systems, equipping women with actionable steps to overcome, overwhelm and streamline business and life. So grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me. I'm your host, Miranda Merten.

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Welcome back to Coffee Powered Systems. I'm your host Miranda Merten. And I am listening right now to all kinds of bugs in my backyard. I don't know what's going on back there, but I've got this little creek and like wooded area that my house backs up to. And every day, every night I get all of these critters and I don't even know what's back there. Crickets, frogs, I don't know, just chirping away all night. There's owls every once in a while, too.

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It's pretty cool. You probably can't hear it, but I hear them loud and clear and they they just want to let me know that they are around and maybe they are listening to the podcast and maybe like they like it to who knows. Welcome back. And I want you to grab your favorite drink and come chat with me. Today, we're talking you out to document management platforms, Coda and Notion. And if you have heard of these before, well, most likely you've heard of Notion before.

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You've heard of Coda, but they're both pretty popular. And Notion has like this cult like following. And it's really super popular. There's templates for everything. There's groups of people that like get together and share their Notion dashboards. And, you know, there's Facebook groups, there's classes around them and how to use your boards, how to create them. And I actually dove into Notion. I spent a couple of weeks, like, really getting in deep.

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I wanted to use this. I wanted to get with it. And I got deep in there. I created a bunch of dashboards. I made it my own. And then thing you have to understand about these kinds of platforms is that you build them up from scratch. Basically, it's like they say it's like Lego blocks. You build them how you want to use them, how your brain works, how you function. It's not like a plug and play.

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Like you log in, you sign up and you go. You have to build it. It's basically from scratch. Think of when you enter a word doc or a Google sheet. That's that's basically what it is. It's nothing. So you kind of have to build these things up. And since that's the premise, you have to learn how to use them. So I spent a couple of weeks really deep into Notion. I even purchased a five hundred dollar course on how to use it, because when I first started using it, I was so confused.

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It was so confusing. And I was like, how am I supposed to build up this blank canvas into all this fancy pants things that I see everyone using everywhere. Everyone was in love with their stuff. They're discussing it. So I'm like, OK, I'm going to purchase this course. If I'm going to go all in, I'm going to go all in. I'm going to learn everything about it, make my own fancy dashboard, because I see the benefit in something like this, especially the way that I work.

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I like creating, I like tinkering. So putting together my own style and my own dashboard seemed like a no brainer. But try as I might, it just didn't resonate with me. I never understood why everything I created had to be its own database. When you create something in motion, it kind of creates a table within a page and it does that so that basically everything within your whole document is searchable and you can use that as a look up.

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So you can use the at symbol, you can search it as its own database and like pull all the data from all the different sheets from deep within your dashboard. But I just didn't get it. My mind did not compute, so I kept trying. I read everything. Finally I just threw in the towel and I said, you know what, this isn't for me. And even though I had put in so many weeks and so much time into figuring this thing out, I just had to say, you know what, I see that people love this, but I just was not feeling it.

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So lucky for me, the course I had purchased had a refund period and a good policy. And I emailed her and I was just like, you know what, I'm not going to use this. This is not for me. And it was a no questions asked refund of your money, thank goodness. Or I would have been out that money with a platform that I wasn't going to use. But that is what I wanted to bring to you today, is that even though so many people are using Notion, there's so much discussion around it.

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People love it. And it is really a great platform, but it's not. Everybody and you've got to be OK with that, like once you realize that something is not for you, it's OK to let it go, you don't have to keep following the crowd. You don't have to fall in if you don't like it. It doesn't mean something's wrong with you. If everyone is out there using WordPress for their websites and you just don't like WordPress and you would rather use a show it website than, you know, that's fine.

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It's OK to say I'm going to go against the grain here and stand up for the fact that this just isn't working for me. So that's how I felt about Notion. And it actually sent me on a kind of down of rabbit hole to find something else, but something similar because I did like Notion. I like the concept. It's just that the way I had to tinker with everything, the way it works just wasn't working for me. And that's when I stumbled upon Coda, which is very similar.

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It's the same type of thing, another all in one document. So if you're not quite sure what exactly Coda and Notion are, if you've never really heard of them before, they're basically all in one document makers and note takers. So if you think of like Google Docs meets Google Sheets and Forms and Airtable and Evernote all rolled into one, then you've got like a Notion or Coda type application. So it's pretty cool. You can store everything. It's super convenient if you're not a fan of jumping from place to place and trying to remember which tool you're using for what thing.

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So you can create all of this from scratch or they both do. You have template galleries that you can pull in. People sell their templates, especially Notion people have built out these huge databases. You can purchase people's templates, you can use the free templates that are provided and they both do have template databases. So you don't have to start from scratch, which is very helpful because what's staring at a blank canvas, it's just overwhelming. You're like, I don't really know where I want to go with this, but as you go along and you kind of get the hang of how you want to set things up, it becomes a lot easier.

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Your mind can take it places. It's like if you've ever used Evernote when you first start using it, you might have everything laid out a certain way. But then as you use it, and the longer you use it, maybe you switch your notes up, you switch your hierarchy, switch how you lay things out. It's kind of like that. So when comparing the two, the biggest differences that you'll find between Coda and Notion are for me, the interface.

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I just prefer the Coda interface a little bit more. They are very similar. They look very similar in the way that they function. They both function off of basically like a document style and then you can add tables and charts and everything into your pages. But I just like the Notion user interface slightly better. One big thing that Notion does that Notion doesn't is that it creates each page as its own lookup database, like I said. So everything pulls in and it's all interlinked, which if you like that it can be super powerful as a database.

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It just didn't grasp with me. So I prefer doing pages, nesting my pages. You can still use look ups and search using the at symbol to look something. Everything is tangible. You can use the search function to find anything in your document. So it's still very easy to find things in Coda, even though they're not specifically using every single page as the database. You can create tables and calendars and things like that and Coda and plop them onto different pages within your doc so you can still do that kind of database thing.

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If that is your jam, where I think that Coda shines over Notion is they do have an ability to create docs with buttons driven by formulas. So if you think of formulas that you would use in like Excel or Google Sheets, you can put formulas anywhere within your code or documents. You can create automations with the ability to make buttons clickable and they run certain tasks. So if you click the done button, then send an email to this person, you can integrate your Gmail, your calendar, things like that.

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And as far as I know from the last time I used Notion, they had not input automations yet. And that was one of the things that some people it stopped them from making the complete jump over to Notion from like their task manager tool, like Asana, because they still want the. One click, hey, it's done kind of automation plug and play things, and without that ability, it makes it a little bit difficult. Now, I don't think you'll use most of the features that each of these platforms use, but if you're super nerdy or really techie, you're going to love playing around with it.

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And it's easy to get lost in creating these documents. So that is super fun. The best thing about these apps is that you can make them whatever you want, design them however you want, make them function however you want, unlike tools like if you're thinking about like Monday dot com or click up or Asana those types of things, they are what they are. They function how they function, and you can't really make them malleable to how you want to work.

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So I will say that if you are more a fan of the plug and play, I just want to sign up for the service, log in and then put my stuff in and be done and everything is set up. You're not going to like Coda and Notion. Let me just say that right from the start. Don't even waste your time spending weeks on weeks, getting your documents and your dashboards exactly how you want them. Don't waste your time if you are more of the.

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I just need to get my stuff out there. I just need to log in and sign up. Then these aren't going to be for you. Now, as far as pricing goes, Notion is free for individuals and you can invite up to five guests on that plan. But if you need to work with a team or you need more storage, they do have two more pricing tiers starting at four dollars per person or up to eight dollars per person.

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If you want to collaborate with a bigger team and that unlocks more features like storage and workspaces, etc., and Notion is free for your whole team up to a certain amount of storage. So once you hit a certain storage level or once you go over, it has limited automations at that free level. So if you and you know, it may be like let's throw out a number like 30 automations. If you use all your 30 automations, it's time to bump you up to the next level.

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And what Coda does differently, instead of charging per user, they charge per document maker. So if you just have like one person say you just have an engineer on your team, you can assign the one person to be your document maker. And what that means is they're the only ones that can create it. OK, so if you think of, like Google Docs, that would be the person that says I'm going to add a dock and name it.

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It can simply be that they can add a dock and name it. That is a dock creation. Anyone on your team can now edit that dock. So I would recommend, unless you need everybody to have access to create something, if you have people that just need to be creating things all the time. And it's easier than saying, can you get Joe to open a new sheet for me? If that's the case, then you're going to need more dock makers.

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But I don't think most small teams will need more than one document maker and coder charges. Twelve dollars per month or thirty six dollars per month per document maker. And that is based on same as Notion. Like if you need more features, if you need to lock certain documents and things like that, you can share pages or publish pages and forms at any of those levels to make them public. You can publish them so that your templates can be found on the Coda workspace or the Coda document space to where other people can find them and use them.

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So that's also really cool. And lastly, you don't have to give up your other apps if you do have services that you're using that are still super helpful, like if you're using slack, obviously you're using Gmail, things like that. You can integrate your Coda and Notion with certain integrations. I believe Coda does have a few more at the time that I was writing this up. And they seem to be more common. If you look at the Notion integrations, I looked at them and I was like, I don't even use half that stuff, though I don't even know what it is.

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But they do both have some integrations. And, you know, most people will use just the standard stuff. I want to connect it to my Gmail. I want to connect to those kinds of things are there so you can definitely keep those together. Overall, I ended up being team Coda. I am using Coda right now. I've been using it for months. I love it and I put a lot into it. I use it for my podcast production, my content planning, my task management.

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I use it for a lot. I do still use some other things every once in a while because you. You tend to fall into habits of using certain things for different tasks, but I do have a lot of things in code. I really like it. It's not perfect. There's always going to be some things that you would rather see them do. And every month, Coda rolls out new features, so they are still rolling out new features.

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Notion also is always rolling out new features. So depending on when you listen to this episode, some things might have changed or been added to kind of even the playing field, depending on what you're looking for. But if either of these sound like, you know, it's something that you would look into you or something that you want, if you're looking for an alternative to Evernote or if you're looking for an alternative to the millions of folders that you have in Google Drive, definitely go in there and give them a shot.

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Now, I wouldn't tinker around and waste your time if you already got something really great that you're using. But if you are looking for something new, you want to give them a shot, go ahead and try it. That's the round up for Coda and Notion. I love to know if you are using either one of them. Go ahead and add me and let me know. I will drop the link for both of these down in the show notes.

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If you use my Coda link, you will get a ten dollar credit on your account. So if you do decide to upgrade ever, then you have that credit there. But that is all I have for you today. I'll see you next time. Thanks for listening to Coffee Powered Systems. You can find links to everything mentioned in the episode. Down in the show. Notes are on the website at mirandamerten.com. If you enjoyed this episode, rate and review it in iTunes or where you enjoy listening so others can find it too.

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And join me here next time.

 

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