Starter course introduction and overview

Welcome to this Roam starter course! Here I’ll take you through Roam’s basic functionality without overwhelming your with information. The aim is to strike a balance between actionability and deep dives where necessary.

With its network structure and excellent linking capabilities, Roam is a powerful tool to help you with anything from gathering notes to writing entire books. At the end of this course, you’ll be ready to use Roam for knowledge management and learning new skills. Toward the end, we’ll also touch on automating workflows, making Roam also a potential tool for productivity. Workflow automations is the focus of RoamStack, but to get the most out of this knowledge base and community you first need to understand the foundations.

Below you’ll find a running table of content of the lessons. This is a living course, always expanding, so check back regularly.

The philosophy of Roam

Roam Research is not your average note-taking app. If you’ve already logged in and played around with it, you’ve probably already noticed there are no documents or folders—you start on a page with today’s date.

Common note-taking tools like Evernote and Notion are hierarchical, meaning that your notes live within folders. Each note is always in exactly one folder. Some apps add a dimension called nesting, which happens when you indent paragraphs or notes underneath others. That way, a note can live in another note, which in turn can live in another note, ad infinitum.

Roam is different in that notes have no fixed location. The atomic unit of knowledge in Roam isn’t a page; it’s a block. That’s right, every paragraph (block) in Roam floats around freely and can connect to any other block in the same database. Compare blocks to cities connected by roads.

Blocks can relate to each other, but each is its own entity—no block lives insides another nor in a folder. In Roam, all information is fluid free.

Hierchical thinking vs Network thinking

In the coming lessons we’ll dive deep into what this freedom of information enables us to do. For now it’s enough to understand that every bullet is a block and that it can connect to any other block or collection of blocks (also called pages) in the same database.

Roam graph overview
Roam’s graph overview—the more connections to a block, the bigger the circle.

Let’s get started with Lesson 1: logging into Roam for the first time >>

Additional resources

Want to see the basics of Roam in action before diving in? This video by R.J. Nestor gives a good overview:

Networked Notes: Fundamentals of Roam Research

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