Andy Henson

[LFR] Letters from a Roaman - Letter XXXX

published4 months ago
4 min read

Happy Friday, Roamans,

As some of you may know from Twitter, I was away on a short break when this letter was due to be published; my internet connection wasn’t great, so I had to wait until I returned home to finish and send it. When I got back, I forgot that I hadn’t sent it out until today as I started preparing to send my next letter! 🤦

Since the next letter is imminent, I’ve decided I’ll introduce a change I’ve been considering and would love any feedback: My letters can get long, so I’m going to try splitting them up with the Roam and other thinking tools related news in one edition, and then my Thinking Out Loud in another, which will range between tutorials, advice and tips to opinions to general ideas.

So without further delay, here’s the very belated Letter 40.

Around the Roaman Empire

Roam is on the move

In case you’re not aware, the Roam team finally released native mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. You can find them in their respective App Stores. It’s early days so far, but with a now usable quick capture function, there’ll be regular releases that continue to improve the mobile experience.

While we’re waiting, NanJade shared a helpful video and tips for getting the most out of using Roam on mobile.

twitter profile avatar
Twitter Logo
March 27th 2022

Regardless of whether it’s the native mobile app or you’re using it through the browser, Abhay has added a nice improvement for the right sidebar. Check out his twitter thread for a demonstration video and all you need to know to install it

Capture Things quickly

While the native apps are now out, there are still reasons you might prefer using other tools for quickly capturing ideas.

Over in the Roam Slack, Jiayuan shared how they use Things 3 as a Quick Capture tool

Roam Game Film

Here’s a couple more recent videos of “Game film” showing how others use Roam in their daily work.

Jack Montoya shared how he uses Roam42’s workbench, SmartBlocks and productivity-enhancing techniques via Alfred and Keyboard Maestro, amongst others, to work on a school session.

Ryan Levander recently shared a Loom video demonstrating how he uses Roam for meeting notes and how he writes for output over several sessions.

twitter profile avatar
Ryan Levander
Twitter Logo
April 10th 2022

I’d be surprised if you didn’t pick up a few little interesting nuggets from either of these sessions.

Musical Zettelkasten

Speaking of sessions, Jason Griffing recently hosted another Roam Session with Jason Kleinberg.

Jason showed the zettelkasten he’s developed to help him with his own musical practice as well as teaching the fiddle to others. You can catch the replay on YouTube. As with any Roam demonstration, there’s a good chance you can pick up something new that you can try in your own workflows.

Effortless Creation

In my last letter I talked about the power of simple structures, Ev Chapman has shared several great examples of this in her own note-taking practices. For example, check out her short video on Twitter drafting a thread in less than 10 minutes. You can see her simple tags and structure for how she takes ideas from Spark Notes through to Atomic and Cluster notes in service of her content creation.

If you want to learn more about Ev’s systems, she’s teaching her Effortless Creator Course in two upcoming cohorts - the first starts on April 23rd, 2022 at 2 pm Pacific (great for US timezones), and a second cohort starting May 14th, 2022 at 9 am UTC which is better for European and Asian timezones.

Ev has graciously created an affiliate link for me, so if you think this course could help you, by signing up via my link, you’ll also be helping support me in the running costs for this newsletter.

Queries for everyone

David Vargas’ Query Builder extension is becoming a real powerhouse for querying your Roam graphs. It now replaces the previous Query Tools extension which added sortable results to Roam’s native queries and adds a whole host of extra features to provide a far richer interface and options to finding information in your graph than Roam’s native query features allow for!

If Roam’s query features always eluded you, then this is a must-install extension.

Not to be outdone though, for the query experts the Roam team have been adding some additional features to allow users to utilise the underlying datalog query language more natively without having to resort to writing Javascript or Clojure to access the Roam API to achieve it. Baibbhav shared some Loom videos and examples in his public graph.

For mere mortals, David’s Query Builder is definitely your best bet for now.


Zsolt Viczián has found a way to get the latest version of Excalidraw into Roam using a SmartBlock. I recommend watching Zsolt’s demo video for seeing what you can do, and some important information it’s worth knowing about. Before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean that we have all the wonderful additions that Zsolt has been doing with Excalidraw and Obsidian; it just means that we can at least use all the latest features of Excalidraw including images inside of our graphs.

Ontologies for Roam

I previously shared Ivo Velitchkov’s 5-part series in Letter XXXII where he described in more detail his approach, and how he developed RIO (Roam Internal Ontology).

Now, he has released the two ontologies he's developed (RIO and ROCO - ROam Core Ontology) along with some draft documentation about them. You can find instructions and the JSON files to import them into your own graphs via his GitHub repository and read the documentation in his public Roam graph.

Do let me know if you prefer this slighter shorter format or if you have any other feedback. Just reply to this email.

Until next time,


P.S. 💖 If you enjoy my work and would like to help contribute to the running costs I accept donations via Buy Me a Coffee.

If you'd like some help or guidance for making the most of Roam in your own workflows, I offer a few private 1-1 Roam coaching sessions.