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Notion now has backlinks to show which pages link to a page

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One of Roam Research's most celebrated features is backlinks, where you can add wiki-style links to any bit of text to link it to a page—or create a new page if one doesn't exist. Once you add the link, the linked page will show a backlink as a list of everything that's referenced the page.

Notion just added a similar, yet far more basic, feature: Backlinks.

Essentially, if you link a page in Notion, Notion will now show that link on the top of the linked page. You have a note about New York, perhaps, with all your favorite places. You then add a new note about a work trip, and link to the New York page. Now, the top of the New York page will show a backlink to your work trip page to close the loop.

The only way you can add a backlink in Notion is to link a page with Notion's built-in linking. Type /link and select "link to a page" then type to search for the name of the page you want to link and press enter. That'll add a page link on a new line, and a backlink to the linked page. Or, while typing in-line in a paragraph of text, type @ and then the name of the page to add an inline link. If you select any random text and add a standard URL link to a page, that won't show up as a backlink.

Comically, you can add recursion: Link a page to itself, and the page will show up as its own backlink.

And if the backlinks are too much clutter, hover over the backlink section, click the ... button, and select Hide backlinks.

Think this will change how you use Notion?

Mentioned
#Notion #Notes #Jira #Evernote #Fibery #Roam Research
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Thirstylizard's avatar
6 months ago

thanks for highlighting this, otherwise I would have missed this. I shall revisit Notion from this angle. This is a good indication that the developers are putting decent effort to keep Notion ahead of the game.

2 points
GtBob-bluberry's avatar
6 months ago

I have been playing around with backlinks - what a move by Notion to bring this huge feature in out of the blue! - and have been disappointed in one big aspect - it only works for Pages, not db's. With the @mention, where you get a bunch of quick keystroke functionality in Notion, you can just as easily reference db's as Pages. But db's don't get the backlink!! This has been highly disappointing as I have just a big a need to reference db's as Pages - they are pretty interchangeable in Notion and that's one of Notion's big pluses! Already made this request to them directly so hopefully it will be coming soon, along with a whole bunch of other benefit to backlinking I noticed you have been petitioning for on Twitter @maguay!!

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @GtBob-bluberry )
6 months ago

@GtBob-bluberry Yeah, it really does seem surprising they haven't marketed the backlinks feature more, especially with Roam growing so fast.

Interesting it doesn't work for databases. For the most part, any individual piece of content in Notion works the same as another—and you can drag an embedded page into a database and turn it into another page element—so that's a very surprising oversight. Hopefully that's what they're waiting for: This is v0.1 of backlinks, and once they've added all the features and polish it needs, they'll officially announce the feature!

1 point
tavusion's avatar
6 months ago

This is a very big update.
Why does it not show up in their What's New page?

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @tavusion )
6 months ago

My guess is they may be announcing it soon ... perhaps with other new features. Though it is interesting that they just announced bugfixes today and didn't mention backlinks.

One interesting thing: They did mention a new shortcut, /ltp, as a faster way to link to pages.

4 points
Avi's avatar
6 months ago

Interesting. Thanks!

1 point
optemization's avatar
6 months ago

It's a big update. Notion continues building for feature width as opposed to depth. I'm really excited when they start paying attention to the latter. Probably going to happen after API ships in Q4.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @optemization )
6 months ago

Ohhhh is that deadline for the Notion API launch certain now?

1 point
GtBob-bluberry's avatar
6 months ago

@optemization hey as a well-known insider, do you have new info about Q4 for the API? On the one hand, any set date would be great, but on the other hand, this is a disturbing yet-again slip in commitment. There is a well-publicized article here:

https://www.protocol.com/notion-app-korea

Where Ivan the CEO states the API is coming this Q. So it would appear if an insider as yourself is saying Q4, something has slipped again...would love to be enlightened by any response you have!

And re: Backlinks, man this is a fantastic update! Was not counting on them EVER doing this, what a win. Just a simple reciprocal reference provides so much use. I am a long-time Jira user and this was one of my few liked features of Jira/Confluence. Also gives me hope that they realize the benefit of this.

I have gone majorly skeptical on the Notion roadmap the last 6 months given exactly what you are saying - which I have to say I have not heard so elegantly described before as "wide" vs. "deep," but things like being able to log in with Apple, localizing to Korean, Math functions, etc. are really superficial when it comes to depth of an app. I joined Notion in Jan. 2018 and was immediately wowed by 2.0 which came out in March 2018. I would say since then, barely anything of "depth" has come down the pike...so I was doubting at this point the team's whole philosophy, while the likes of Coda, ClickUp, Fibery, etc. continue to come up fast.

And thanks @maguay for the announcement, suprising such a huge ask of the Notion community got such little publicity. Just a few small posts on the Reddit, too...

Thanks guys!

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @GtBob-bluberry )
6 months ago

It's fascinating Notion is focusing on Korea. Years ago at least, Evernote had a huge foothold in Japan, and an article about how their CEO had gone there, seen a ton of local books about using Evernote, and then realized they'd hit some need in the market and started focusing there.

FWIW I think a lot of SaaS could expand internationally far faster with even a medium-level commitment to internationalization.

2 points
GtBob-bluberry's avatar
@GtBob-bluberry (replying to @maguay )
6 months ago

Official release is here! (by the way how do I respond to the main thread, as this is a direct response, correct @maguay?)

Looks truly solid, this has completely reaffirmed my faith in Notion as it's clearly a deliberate, well-thought release. UI looks great as always with Notion.

I don't know if it's by design, or just a kick in the stomach unintended, but the "Ted Nelson" references really encroaching on Fibery - the little kid on the block - and their huge emphasis on references, networked thought, and Ted Nelson himself. In fact, to preview Fibery's backlinking, you could add "TedNelson" to your Fibery instance!

I think this is really going to put pressure on AirTable and Coda, neither have this and it's a highly requested feature. And Notion really separated themselves here!

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @GtBob-bluberry )
6 months ago

Thanks for sharing the official update @GtBob-bluberry!

Super interesting how Notion slowly released the features, but waited until everything was ready to officially promote it. Excited to see the inline page references—that would have been handy to have even without the full wiki-style features.

The Ted Nelson reference may be genuine; as the guy behind Xanadu, you can trace the ideas behind wikis and all modern implementations back to him. And the Notion team had interviewed Ted Nelson for their YouTube channel in January 2019, before Fibery launched and earlier than Roam Research was on Twitter or Wayback Machine has their site cached. So Notion may have had the idea all along. Though there’s another bit of drama with this launch: Roam Research founder @conaw Tweeted that in winter 2019 he’d demoed Roam to Notion’s CEO with an offer to invest.

But even still, the ideas have been around for a while—just took the internet a long time to catch up with the original ideas of backlinks and more that fueled some of the original dreams of the internet. The Notion feature may be equally influenced by Xanadu, Roam, or even Fibery. Now, backlinks are yet another “default” feature that’s a new baseline in notes apps and research tools. And that’s a huge shift over the past year.

(and on Capiche: You can only add one top-level comment, as the original concept was questions and answers—but we should consider changing that!)

2 points
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