In this detailed review of Notion (affiliate link) and SmartSuite (affiliate link), we will compare each tool’s company profile, pricing, and features to explain why we believe SmartSuite is the best Notion alternative for small teams. Let’s dive in!
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1. Company Profiles
To understand how Notion and SmartSuite’s products differ, we need to first understand how the companies that built those products differ!
Notion is a U.S.-based company that was founded in 2016. At the time of publishing, Notion has just raised Series C funding ($343.2M total funded to date). Notion was been blowing up the digital notetaking space since 2021 and doesn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon!
Meanwhile, SmartSuite is also a U.S.-based company that was founded in 2019 and is privately held (meaning no funds have been raised to date). SmartSuite has been developed in secret and, until 2021, wasn’t on anyone’s radar!
If we only look at the company profile, Notion is the clear leader! However, the company profile is hardly what we’d. go based on to find the best Notion alternative. Let’s move on!
2. Pricing Comparison
When it comes to pricing, both Notion and SmartSuite operate on a “price per user” billing system with a freemium model.
If we had to name a winner in this category, we’d be pointing to Notion for the incredible value they pack in their $0 per month free plan.
In this section, we’ll start by breaking down the features Notion and SmartSuite have in common. (Later, we’ll dive into the unique features that make Notion and SmartSuite stand out!)
The Best Features in SmartSuite AND Notion
#1: Flexible Databases & Fields
Both Notion and SmartSuite are built around an unopinionated database. This means users can organize any type of data they prefer (tasks, contact, houseplants) in the layout they’d like to see.
Here’s an example of how we can customize fields in Notion:
We have a similar structure regarding the usage of fields in SmartSuite. SmartSuite covers over 40 Field Type options:
We can turn this data into views and dynamic summaries in both tools!
Both Notion and SmartSuite allow us to visually transform information (without fear of breaking something) using Views.
SmartSuite offers Grid, Card, Kanban, Calendar, Timeline, Map, and Chart standard views in its interface.
Similar to SmartSuite, Notion’s view options let us see information in Table, Board, Timeline, Calendar, List, and Gallery views.
If you’re looking for a variety of View layouts, SmartSuite may be a standout here…but both software really do give us the tools to see what we need to see!
#3: Activity History & Commenting
Both contenders today provide automatic tracking of changes to your information and allow for real-time discussions with collaborators through Comments.
Inside each SmartSuite Record, we can see everything that’s happened by clicking on the Activity History button (clock icon):
In Notion, click on the clock icon in the top right when you go into an Item and you’ll see your activity history:
If you’re looking for smooth collaboration and real-time updates…both have got you covered!
#4: Bulk Edits/Bulk Changes to Data
Both SmartSuite and Notion allow us to make mass changes at one time.
In SmartSuite, simply click on the Records you’d like updated. Make the update on one Record and — just like that! — the change will apply to all selected Records.
In Notion, select all the tasks you’d like to adjust, click Edit Property and you can replicate the same result.
#5: Relational Databases with Relationships & Rollups
Who needs to spend time retyping manual information, right? That’s why it’s great that both SmartSuite and Notion include the ability to build two-way relational databases.
In Notion, easily Link a Page by creating a Relation field. Once added, you’ll be able to Link a page with just two clicks.
SmartSuite’s Linked Records work in the same manner. Just add the Linked Record Field, calibrate the optional settings, and start linking!
Note: Both Notion and SmartSuite also allow you to calculate and Rollup on the relational data. To learn more about it, check out the video above at timestamp 08:01.
Best Notion Features (vs. SmartSuite)
Now, let’s break down the key differences between Notion and SmartSuite to see if we can find the best Notion alternative! First, we’ll highlight our favorite Notion features.
#1: Aesthetic Personalization
What’s cool about Notion is its flexibility around how we want our interface to look. It’s almost as flexible as a Tumblr account in that we can customize cover images, icons, and anything else you’d like to see on your pages!
(Notion even offers design ideas inside its interface that you can then mimic!)
#2: Personal & Student Templates
Not many work tools focus on personal or student tasks, but thankfully Notion has! From note-taking templates to student organization…Notion’s templates set up personal users for success in seconds.
(Keep in mind that Notion started with a personal life/student focus, so it makes sense that it’d offer more templates around this than competitors focused more on business users.)
#3: Notion Web Clipper
Notion’s Web Clipper stands out in the online note-taking/information collection space because of its ease of use and functionality. It’s no wonder so many people love Notion because of this feature!
Note: Since the time of recording this video, SmartSuite has also since released a SmartSuite Web Clipper of its own. It’s too soon to say how it’ll stack up, but we’re keeping our eye out!
#4: Synced Blocks
Thanks to Notion’s Page-centric UX, Notion also has a unique feature around visually organizing your work. Notion’s Synced Block feature allows us to insert information on one page and show it in multiple areas we choose.
#5: Powerful Embeds for Outside Software
Notion lets us embed information easily compared to other tools.
(We’re highlighting this as a Notion feature despite it being available in SmartSuite because Notion offers a higher quantity of options around embedding.)
SmartSuite Features Better than Notion
Finally, let’s transition to SmartSuite’s standout features to see if you think it’s the best Notion alternative for your team!
#1: Task Management with My Work, Assigned To, Checklists, and Subitems
First up is SmartSuite’s ability to organize tasks with a strong suite of prebuilt project management features.
When work is assigned to you in SmartSuite, it’ll automatically get added to your My Work area. My Work is located in the top right of your interface (check icon) and gives you a summary of your work:
You’ll have to use Assigned To fields and select an assignee for items to show up in My Work. (In SmartSuite, you can add checklists inside each Record, assign checklist steps to different people, and have due dates on them!)
Checklists are especially helpful with team collaboration. In addition to checklists, we can add Sub-Items to break the work into even more chunks!
Having these prebuilt task management features makes it much easier to set up and manage projects in SmartSuite vs. Notion…there’s just so much less setup required in SmartSuite!
#2: Simpler & Cleaner UX
SmartSuite’s visually appealing UX is an essential feature for many people. No one wants to get lost in their work! From adjusting Page Settings to having Sections be collapsed by default inside a Record, SmartSuite prioritizes a calming white space.
For teams with different preferences around technology, SmartSuite’s design finds a middle ground that both power users and technophobes can feel comfortable using.
#3: Share Views are Embeddable with iFrame
Notion users cannot embed information from Notion in other tools. Not with SmartSuite!
SmartSuite lets us easily share information with our clients, stakeholders, and other outsiders! Click on the Share View button in SmartSuite, use the public link it generated, and embed it seamlessly into your platform of choice.
#4: Reporting in Dashboards, Charts, Graphs, and Widgets
SmartSuite allows us to create reports in various areas of its interface, like in Dashboards and Charts. SmartSuite’s Widgets will enable us to report on things visually. SmartSuite’s reporting feature lets us quickly see what’s happening in our business!
To learn more about reporting in SmartSuite, go to the video above at timestamp 18:44.
#5: Member Directory, Profiles, Availability Status & Permissions
The last SmartSuite feature we want to highlight is around Permissions and Profiles.
In SmartSuite, Users can click on any team member’s profile to learn about their colleagues. Profiles allow users to set an Availability Status, share Fun Facts, and review Job Titles! (Personally, we’re optimistic that one day this feature will include private messaging, too!) To learn more about this SmartSuite feature, click here.
Is SmartSuite the best Notion alternative for you?
In conclusion, both Notion and SmartSuite provide powerful relational databases for organizing notes, tasks, and projects while serving different customer avatars. Personal projects and note-taking really work wonderfully in Notion. So, if you’re looking for a tool for your school or personal life tasks or simply want an organized way to keep track of notes, Notion is the way to go. In contrast, if you’re working as part of a team for business purposes, where databases and project management features are essential, SmartSuite is your great bet!
So, what do you think? Is SmartSuite the best Notion alternative?
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