Notion vs. Microsoft Office and Google Docs

Notion has a secret weapon towards Microsoft and Google in its try to construct the doc editor of the long run.

As Notion’s type of free-flowing, interlinked paperwork has taken off—the app now has greater than 20 million energetic customers—each tech giants appear to have taken discover. Microsoft lately introduced Loop, a Notion-style editor that integrates with Phrase and Excel. Google, in the meantime, has been making Docs extra like Notion with interactive checkboxes, customized templates, and simpler linking between paperwork.

To battle again, Notion is now leaning on its group of fervent customers, who share and generally even promote templates that make the app extra helpful. These templates can immediately rework Notion from a easy doc editor or to-do listing app right into a behavior tracker, challenge planner, studying listing, research system, and extra.

[Image: courtesy of Notion]

This week, Notion is revamping its built-in template gallery to underscore how extensible the software program will be. Customers can now submit their very own templates to the gallery, and they’ll even provide premium templates by linking out to exterior shops reminiscent of Etsy and Gumroad. The concept is that whereas Microsoft and Google would possibly be capable of clone Notion’s primary options, the passion Notion customers have for creating new issues gained’t be so simply copied.


“There’s something very particular when you have got of us who’re placing in a lot effort, and actually really feel like they’ve a robust emotional connection to software program and what they’re creating,” says Ben Lang, Notion’s head of group.

[Image: courtesy of Notion]

Constructing from the underside up

As Notion is raring to level out, its templates have develop into a thriving enterprise unto themselves. Marketplaces reminiscent of Notionery and Notion Everything listing templates that price as a lot as $79, together with ones for managing a contract enterprise and constructing a startup. In the meantime, a cottage trade of Notion specialists has emerged to promote programs on getting probably the most out of the software program.

A type of specialists is Marie Poulin, a former net designer and enterprise advisor whose online Notion training course has earned roughly $500,000 during the last two years. Poulin says she found Notion in 2018 and rapidly fell in love with it as “a spot to do actually, actually messy considering.” She put collectively a webinar on how one can use the software program, which led to the corporate asking her working reside workplace hours on its behalf. After making $40,000 in a yr of promoting Notion templates, she sensed a broader alternative, and now employs 5 different folks for her Notion Mastery programs.

“I mainly pivoted my entire enterprise round Notion-related merchandise and companies,” Poulin says.

Ben Lang [Photo: courtesy of Notion]

In the meantime, Notion’s Ben Lang joined the corporate on account of his work outdoors of it. After studying in regards to the software program on Product Hunt in 2018, he turned enamored with it and began tweeting about his setup. Conversations with different Notion customers impressed him to create Notion Pages, a template web site that had attracted greater than 30,000 month-to-month guests inside a number of months. The corporate employed him to go its group efforts quickly after.

“Once I linked with the Notion group, they had been realizing, ‘Oh wow, there’s one thing actually attention-grabbing right here,’” says Lang of the eagerness customers had for the app and its potentialities. “The founders actually determined to make it a precedence very early on.”


Lang believes that Notion’s open-ended nature is essential to the passion it’s producing. The software program could be very a lot what customers make of it—it may be so simple as a clean web page, or as complicated as a kanban board with branching pages, subtasks, and collaborators—and its most devoted customers gravitate towards sharing their secrets and techniques on websites like Reddit and Twitter. (Notion’s subreddit alone has greater than 158,000 members.)

[Image: courtesy of Notion]

On the similar time, Notion has tried to keep up a ways from the group that’s sprung up round its creation. The corporate doesn’t attempt to average discussions on channels reminiscent of Reddit, Fb, and Discord, and as an alternative lets these communities handle themselves. It’s not fascinated by in attempting to carry discussions onto its personal platform, the place it could actually management the dialog.

“We don’t need to power folks to come back to 1 place. We would like them to have the ability to be on their very own platform, discuss in their very own languages, and be self-empowered to collect,” Lang says.” I feel that’s what’s made it so profitable.”

Don’t name it a template retailer (but)

Given the sum of money altering palms between Notion’s customers, one would possibly suppose Notion itself would need a lower. However its new gallery solely supplies direct downloads of free templates. It does listing paid ones as properly, however hyperlinks to different storefronts reminiscent of Etsy or Gumroad to deal with the transactions. Notion isn’t promoting templates itself or taking any income from gross sales that originate from its personal software program.

For now, that leaves subscriptions as Notion’s sole enterprise mannequin. The fundamental service is free, however the firm costs $5 per 30 days for limitless file attachment sizes and visitor editors, and it has group plans beginning at $10 per 30 days.

Olivia Nottebohm [Photo: courtesy of Notion]

“Our purpose is to not monetize the creators,” says Olivia Nottebohm, Notion’s chief income officer. “Our purpose is to make it possible for the underlying software program is so extremely worthwhile that folks wish to pay us for it.”

Nonetheless, Notion hasn’t dominated out finally promoting templates, and it could have a number of causes past income for doing so. With out a centralized template retailer, as an example, customers haven’t any easy solution to preserve observe of the templates they’ve added or bought.

Notion additionally presently has no means of stopping customers from pirating templates and promoting them as their very own, which Poulin says she’s seen taking place on websites like Fb. It’s not a significant concern for her—the concept of a bootleg template market is type of amusing, she says—however it might develop into a much bigger problem as Notion spotlights paid templates in its personal app. Poulin speculates {that a} centralized retailer might probably give Notion extra methods to forestall template thievery.

Notion spokeswoman Elaine Greenberg denies that bootlegging is an drawback, however doesn’t dismiss the problem totally.

“Our group is extremely supportive of each other, however we’ll even be exploring methods to guard their IP going ahead,” Greenberg stated by way of e-mail.

The bounds of templates

Whereas Notion’s deal with group provides it a novel promoting level over the likes of Google Workspace and Microsoft’s Phrase and Loop, its success towards tech giants isn’t assured. All these folks utilizing Docs or Phrase might not really feel compelled to attempt Notion if they’ll get a detailed sufficient expertise with the software program they already know (and could also be paying for).


I’ve discovered that the easiest way to get into Notion is by beginning with a single clean web page.

And even when they do give Notion a attempt, the software program’s leaning curve will be steep. Personally, I’ve discovered that the easiest way to get into Notion is by beginning with a single clean web page, then progressively increasing to extra elaborate paperwork as you get comfy with the software program. Notion sees its new template gallery as a shortcut to productiveness, however it additionally dangers including much more complexity to an app that’s not essentially straightforward to know up entrance.

Poulin says that’s a difficulty she offers with first-hand as a Notion educator.

“Folks suppose that simply shopping for a template goes to resolve their disorganization woes, but when they haven’t thought via the method, simply adopting anyone else’s template actually isn’t going to make that large of a distinction,” she says.

[Image: courtesy of Notion]

However ultimately, that may simply be one other problem for Notion’s group to resolve. If folks like Poulin proceed to show different customers how one can develop into Notion wizards, the corporate might carve out a spot for itself that withstands the efforts of tech giants.

“All this occurred in a really natural means,” Lang says. “It’s very distinctive, and it’s very laborious to only duplicate that the identical means you’ll with a template.”