I have been using Joplin for about two years and was very happy to have found an app that allows me to record my notes and thoughts without depending on a cloud provider. Then I found obsidian.md and played around with it. I figured, that I could export all my notes from Joplin to Markdown and have real data in obsidian to play with. Should be easy, right? The website of Joplinapp.org currently says
"100% your data
The app is open source and your notes are saved to an open format, so you'll always have access to them."
Unfortunately, that's not exactly true.
There are effectively two data formats I can export my notes to: Markdown and JEX/Raw.
When I export everything to Markdown, the following information are lost from all the notes:
- creation and modification time
- geo coordinations
- maybe more
If I export everything to RAW, then I have a bunch of files in a format that is woefully undocumented (for example: What "type_" are there, and what do types 1,2,4 and 5 stands for? Or what is the difference between "created_time" and "user_created_time").
I wrote myself a program that should produce Markdown for me from the Raw format and append my tags. I cursed quite often about the "raw" file format and didn't take tags, or other data hiding behind the "type_" stuff. I was ultimately lucky in that I used almost no tags from Joplin, and few other features that Joplin writes into the export, but makes difficult to access.
There was an option to export to JSON. However, that has been removed. This would have made parsing the Joplin data much easier. Had I been able to export to JSON, and had the JSON data been written so that tags would be in that JSON as text (and not as an id pointing to the file where the tag is the first line in the file), then you could claim that the data would be stored in an "open format".
As it is now, I can't recommend anyone to migrate to Joplin, because they simply lose too much information when exporting. I still want to like Joplin. But now I know, that my data is not easy to get out, and that feels terrible. So I use obsidian now just because of this experience. Joplin should be better than that.
By the way, if anyone finds this post because they are looking for ways to get their data out of Joplin, drop me a line. If enough demand arises, I'll finish writing my converter and be happy to help anyone who wants a free format for their data.