Drawbacks of Notion

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I really like Notion, but it surely also has some issues.

Major issues

What more limitations are there?

Does Notion actually work? Can I trust it? Also for collaborations?

  • One 'fundamental' limitation: Notion doesn't come with a full-fledged programming language. That means that you can only do whatever the GUI allows you to do - And that will always be limited
  • Another fundamental limitation: The little programming possibilties that Notion offers, are only data-related. Not interface-related. And you can't build serious systems with such a limitation. An counter example is Microsoft's VBA for Microsoft Access
  • I had a brief look at API access and that didn't seem too comforting.

Surprise-of-the-day (2023.02.18): There are no AutoNumber fields. It can be done, but that requires some serious shoehorning Task IDs (Notion). This gets me nervous. What more suprises are waiting for me?

For a surprising comparison with Trello: The trouble with Trello is for me, that it is too limited. But it does work! It is reliable and intuitive. I have never any hesitation to create a board and share it with someone - I know it works. And this hesitation is not because of my own limitations in developing a database app - I have experience with developing commercial database applications. It's because I am not sure if I can trust Notion. I'm too afraid to use it together with others, as I don't trust it will actually work.

Nothing is what it seems

Somehow, nothing in Notion is clear-cut. Everything is messy:

  • Commen database objects are never just on their own, but are obfuscated by lumping them together with other objects. There is a reason why analyse (taking things apart to inspect the separate parts) seem a Western invention and why it often (not always!) works well
  • Even just retrieving the name of a database table, seems obfuscated. Or even worse: A table is not even called just a table, but a database.
  • Stuff only seems to work for 80%. I suspect this is exactly because things are lumped together with other things. Templates seem like an example of this.

Why this is? Maybe to make database applications accessible by non-technical people? Just as Apple doesn't publish the exact specs of the processors in its laptops, but only from what series they come? Or maybe it's the result of using a paradigm (like MVC) that's too novel for me? Might very well be. But I do like good old analysis, which means something like taking stuff apart to inspect it.

And that makes working with Notion for me quite difficult and risky - Again: I have no idea what surprise is awaiting me behind the next corner.

Do I trust this platform?

When I would be completely migrated to Notion, I would be quite depening on them. How comfortable do I feel with that?

Yes, such a situation would occur with any platform, but no: There are differences. E.g., with a self-hosted system (I don't thing there is anything like that near the functionality of Notion), that doesn't play a role.

If Trello ceases to exist, it won't be too bad: I mainly use it as glorified scratch paper. If Notion stops working one day, it's a lot more annoying. In addition to Trello, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of more essentials. If I lose that spreadsheet, my life will be very messy for a moment. I'd feel the same way if Notion suddenly stopped working.

Minor issues

Filter using a join?

See Filter using a join (Notion)

Double joins?

Never ready for production

I started working with Notion around 2019, and now in 2022 as well. I feel like I ran into the same problem both times: The system is never finished. Like it never goes into production.


This is a problem with all non-self-hosted online systems: The creator/provider has access to the data. Doesn't that happen to be too big of a disaster: I manage little sensitive information in Notion

Not universal

  • The handy thing about Trello is that many people already use it. You don't get that advantage with Notion, plus you probably have to get to know every Notion system again
  • Maybe you should see this differently: It's not about familiarity with Notion, but with your custom online database system. That sounds a lot better.

Pay per user

If you want to use paid features, you have to pay per user (just like for Trello, by the way). That makes it difficult to sell within a team, I think, because everyone has to switch to a paid version.

Create one integrated system?

In Notion, you can have only one workspace active at a time. Therefore I am inclined to create one big Notion system with both business and private stuff. But does it work? Can I be sure that somehow private stuff doesn't appear on business pages?

Or would it be smarter to separate these things?

Bandwidth issues

I currently live on the Polish countryside. Internet access is a bit wobbly here. When it wobbles in the wrong direction, Notion is one of the first things that stop working (YouTube, strangely enough, is about the last thing that stopts working).

Text storage?

This might be a minor issue that I just haven't fixed, but so far I can't copy-past a text of multiple paragraphs into a text field: It gets separated into multiple text fields.