Heptabase Alternative

Heptabase Alternative: Scrintal Visual Note Taking App

Which knowledge base to use as a visual learner and thinker?

We started receiving the question “How does Scrintal and Heptabase differ?” more often as more people got to learn about Scrintal lately.

Based on the 30.000+ people joining our waitlist, it is clear that many people want to think and work more visually but the existing solutions do not help them get a bird-eye overview of their ideas or projects.

What happens then?

People spend less time doing creative work, projects delivery times get extended and 90% of the raw ideas become meaningless in information silos without context.

This is a complete productivity killer for some people.

If you are a visual thinker, there are now two new visual knowledge management apps that can come to your rescue: Scrintal vs Heptabase.

Even though two products look similar from outside, they offer quite different user experiences when you start working on them.

I wanted to highlight some of the main differences between Heptabase vs Scrintal to help you in your decision-making process.

Disclaimer: This is not an article to pamper Scrintal and tell how it is better from Heptabase. In fact, Hepta has been developed for almost a year longer than Scrintal so it naturally offers more features at the moment.
I will be as objective as I can be as a respect to their young team that seems to be working very hard to have success with their startup, just like us.

Scrintal offers wide variety of embed options

1. Web app vs. Desktop App

Scrintal is a web application that also offers desktop apps at the moment. The fact that it is web based allows the user to use Scrintal on a tablet or mobile browser.

To use Hepta, you have to download a desktop app to your computer.

I believe these differences won’t matter much in the future because both teams will develop their own native and web apps.

2. Live Collaboration

One of our goals at Scrintal is to build better functioning teams and help them gain a shared understanding by minimizing feedback loops.

In line with that goal, even the early version of Scrintal allows simultaneous collaboration and our product roadmap includes collaborative elements.

So they can ideate and develop ideas together, share common workspaces to avoid information silos. Heptabase currently works as a single-user product.

3. Data safety

Scrintal works on the cloud. From the first day, we favoured this approach because we champion accessibility from anywhere and anytime. People can export their work to their computer and store locally.

To ensure access “anytime”, we’ll enable offline mode that allows working even where there is no internet connection (e.g. while traveling, in remote locations). The system will sync as soon as the internet connection is back.

Development of a mobile app will also support accessibility from anywhere, anytime.

Heptabase, on the other hand, works offline on a local device with an option to sync notes in the cloud. I felt as if this offers a faster user experience, especially if the sync is off.

So if you’re someone who is picky when it comes to your data, Heptabase can offer you that option.

Our thoughts on data ownership

The way we think about data ownership includes data safety and data portability. We believe you should be able to access and use your data wherever you want, in whichever device without any hassle in today’s world.

Doing that requires utilizing what the latest cloud service technologies has to offer — of course in a secure way. We believe security concerns should not curtail the opportunities presented by cloud systems and should be addressed seriously by the product teams.

One of our founders, Ece graduated with a PhD last year so we know pretty well how important it is to ensure data security as a company. This is why we took extra measures to do just that.

4. Design philosophy

I believe this is where the biggest difference lies. In Scrintal, each card is an entity of its own. You can think of cards similar to a page in Notion.

Once created, cards can be linked with other cards via links (similar to Obsidian) and each connection is visualized automatically on the whiteboard once the link is established.

Scrintal visualizes bi-directional links

This means the arrows between cards are actual links automatically drawn. This automatic way of connecting cards saves time when creating visual representations.

Heptabase doesn’t automatically show bidirectional links on boards, but only allows you to manually draw arrows between cards similar to whiteboards or mind maps.

Heptabase arrows

This is a difference to our approach. I kind of like the idea of having the ability to draw “temporary” arrows because it can help in the very early stages of fast ideation. Backlinks can be added inside the cards but it is not possible to visually see them on the whiteboard, the way Scrintal shows them.

To add further flexibility, we’re now working on visually drawing arrows without compromising the ease of linking.

Links and backlinks are shown in each card

Since there is only one workspace where all cards are stored, you can bring a card to any board (i.e. project) you’re working on. This avoids duplication and enables reusing the same card across different projects in your knowledge base. Such design philosophy differs these tools from other online whiteboards such as Miro.

You create a card on the board where you see everything at a glance. You can open and write in multiple cards at the same time in one screen.

Selecting multiple cards to add to boards is super easy!

5. Media and PDF Embeds

If there is any media or image embedded, you can pop that out of the card, consume the content while taking notes simultaneously somewhere else in your knowledge base. That means you’re not limited to only a single page. One of Scrintal's differentiations is extracting any type of media and PDFs from a card.

Scrintal allows media, PDF and tweet embeds

Heptabase is quite similar except the media/image popping part. However, the entity of the card feels a bit different. Rather than a page, it reminds me of a box in a mind map or a post-it note on Miro but surely more advanced.

What I liked about Hepta is you can add a board within a board or link two boards. In my opinion, as the extent of our knowledge increases, linking different pieces of information universes helps the fluidity between them.

This is among the top requests in our community and we’ll introduce a similar feature soon. Nevertheless this is something I appreciate in their functionality which we don’t have at the moment.

6. User Interface

This part is subjective, there is no right or wrong, better or worse. Two products adopt a different user interface. It is really a matter of choice as to what you prefer as an individual.

All I can say is we’ll implement a significant UX/UI upgrade in Scrintal starting with a clean sidebar and better navigation options in Q4 2022.

Scrintal user interface
Heptabase user interface

7. Dark mode 😎

God damn you dark mode!!! This is probably one of the most asked features in our community and it has become a thing in our team so I had to put it here 😂

Scrintal community members asking for Dark Mode

Below you can see our dark mode MVP but we plan to improve it soon 🤞 Heptabase has an edge on this angle today by offering a dark mode.

8. User Centricity

Both teams have adopted a user-centric approach which takes into account users’ feedback and suggestions seriously when it comes to product development.

I know this differentiates Scrintal team from many other companies but Hepta team is following the same approach so there is not really a difference here.

9. Pricing

Both products offer a yearly plan at the time this article was written. We released our early-access-plan on September 29 at $60/year. You can read our reasoning behind deciding this price in this article here.

Heptabase currently offers their yearly plan for $84/year.

Anything else?

There are of course differences and like I said above, Heptabase is currently offering more functionalities given their longer development time – without undermining their teams’ hard work.

But over time, it is likely that both products will offer more similar features but keep differentiating on the design philosophy and who they target as their main user base.

The target user decision will determine which type of features and integrations they build and how the products evolve over time.

Moment of Truth

So what should you do? Hard to tell huh?

To be honest, I believe these are two robust products, still in beta with huge development upsides.

I can only speak on behalf of the Scrintal team. We have a clear vision to empower people’s visual creativity so they convert their cluttered ideas into meaningful outcomes – and make sense of complex situations that text-heavy products are unable to help with.

Scrintal will continue to evolve along the “think > develop > share” axis which means you will turn a raw idea into a full-fledged output in one place.

Hepta, on the other hand, looks like a great product with a young, hardworking team behind it. As a fellow startup founder, knowing how difficult it is to build a sustainable business in early stages, I can only respect their efforts. It doesn’t really matter even if they are competitors.

So I’ll advise you to go with your gut feeling and choose the one that feels closer to you. Or maybe both? It is really a matter of choice at this point.

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