Issues & limitations (Notion)

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I really like Notion, but it surely also has some issues, including some quite alarming ones.

Major issues

No real programming possibilities

There are some limited possibilities for programming, but only related to data and not to what's actually on a form (with one exception: You can incorporate the mainform-subform relation in a form through code).

Why this is troubling: When customisation is only possible through a GUI, this will be inherently limited. There is only so much you can do through a GUI. This was actually a fundamental difference in philosophy of Windows vs. Unix/Linux: Microsoft thought that you only need a GUI. Unix/Linux usually starts with a non-GUI interface and adds the GUI interface later on. Microsoft later changed its mind.

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.


Notion is quite slow and there is probably nothing that I can do about it.

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, that can manipulate data as well as interact with the user interface
  • 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? → Shortly after this, Notion issued AutoNumber fields, so there is hope.

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.

Minor issues

I'm not sure if minor is the right term in this title. Maybe it's more like specific issues or practical limitations. These issues probably serve to indicate the overall limitations of Notion. In many ways, they indicate to me that Notion isn't a 'serious' system, but that it is child's play. This is probably the main reason why I am reluctant to use Notion in a production environment, or with other people.

As an example, consider the impossibility to filter the content of a dropdown box: In a full-fledged or 'complete' database system (e.g., Microsoft Access since it convers all layers of the usual three-layer architecture of a database application), such a functionality would be trivial and in Access, you actually use an SQL SELECT statement as the source of such a dropdown box.

Decimal separator

Seems that you can't change the decimal separator from dot to comma. Fortunately, I haven't been using decimal numbers so much, because such a limitation in e.g., a spreadsheet, would probably be unacceptable to me → Decimal separator (Notion)

Dropdown boxes/relation: Filter

It seems you can't filter the content of a dropdown box that is populated through a relation → Relation drop down filter

Dropdown boxes: Sort

It seems you can't sort the content in a dropdown box. This can be really annoying if the item that you need most of the times, is at the end and doesn't even load initiually → Relation sort order

Filter using a join?

In a relation (e.g., a dropdown box), you cannot filter the content of the relation.

See Filter using a join (Notion)

Joins with multiple relations?

It seems you can't do joins between two tables, but with multiple relations.

Example: Show all tasks from project X with tag/cluser Y

Joins over multiple tables?

It seems that you can't do joins over multiple tables.

Keyboard shortcuts are not standard

Annoying, but bearable.

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.

Partial Guest shares don't work

It seems that when you share some records of a database table with a Guest, that this guest cannot use the relationship between these database tables.

Share & relations (Notion).

Create one integrated system?

Notion has promising ways to share parts of a system with others, but so far I stumbled on quite a limitation: Third parties can only use relations between database tables, if I share the complete tables with them. Otherwise, they will see loose records, but not through relations.


  • Currently (2023.04), I have two identical systems: One concerning customer X that I share with all involved parties, and another for all other aspects of my life, that isn't shared with anyone
  • In both I have an agenda
  • ...So I have to agendas. That sucks.

Share (Notion)

Search by TaskID

I've defined a filed TaskID, that's being filled with unique IDs by the 'plugin' of the same name.

The problem: I can't search by this field (Ctrl-P).

No labels in views?

It seems you don't have labels when presenting data in views, or any way to format the presentation of data. That's a pity, as not all data is self-describing. E.g., when there are multiple date fields (date created, do date, deadline) and some might be empty.

Full-fledged alternative to Google Calenda


Is Notion slow? Does it require a lot of bandwidth?

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).

Independently of me internet connection woes, Notion seems to load slowly, especially contents of dropdown-boxes/relations.

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.

See also