Getting Started with Notion

Getting Started with Notion

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Table of Contents

🌐 Browser vs. App

📋 Template or Create

⬛ Adding Blocks

💭 Databases

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Nicholas A. Beaird

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🌐 Browser vs. App

Getting started with Notion is quick and simple. Available for both Windows and Mac, your first choice will be whether to use it in the browser or download the desktop app. The desktop app might be more fulfilling if UI and design are important to you. If you care about both, but the browser is the hill you're willing to die on, I suggest trying SigmaOS or Arc browser for a more productive and cleaner experience. If you have yet to learn of Notion, you can see how I use Notion here.

Regardless of your choice, you can begin the journey at Notion.so (Notion.so/desktop). We'll cover the basics for choosing someone else's template or creating your digital workplace from scratch. If you're new to Notion or like software, I recommend browsing the templates. It's great for saving time and simply editing the content while keeping the structure intact, but it also gives creative suggestions for how others are using Notion. Once you've got the hang of Notion, creating your workflows from an empty sandbox will give you more control.

📋 Template or Create

Notion isn’t the only place for Templates. I’ll provide a list of my favorite paid and free marketplaces below. You can select a wide range of templates directly in Notion through the sidebar by selecting Templates, or anytime a new page is created, you’ll have the option to create your own page or select from a template.

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Once the template page has been selected, scroll through the different themes on the left. Previewing these pages by clicking on them can help spur creativity or give you a better idea of how some teams utilize Notion.

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Grabbing templates online is just as simple. Whether free or paid, when clicking on templates will allow you to view them as an online webpage. In the corner, you’ll be given the option to duplicate them directly into your workspace.

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⬛ Adding Blocks

Aside from dragging and dropping images or documents into Notion, there are two significant ways to add blocks. A block can be anything from text, images, code, files, databases, tables, and many other increasing options. You can type “/” followed by whatever desired command or click on the + sign to the left of any starting point and scroll through a list of options.

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More often than not, you’ll be using the Basic Blocks when starting. I encourage people to scroll through all the blocks to understand better what you can add to the Notion page. You can hover over specific blocks to view an example of what that block does, such as the Table preview above.

💭 Databases

Databases are one of the most powerful tools that Notion has to offer. Understanding them can seem daunting at first, but it’s worth it. Once you understand the mechanisms for how Properties work within a database, the different views you can pull from that database, and the ability to call that database or a specific view anywhere in Notion, you begin to see the potential for storing and calling your data.

For our example, we will start with the Table view below this screenshot. It’s worth noting that you can change any database, or add additional views, to the Board, Gallery, List, Calendar, or Timeline at any moment, so you aren’t stuck with your initial decision. Often I find individuals creating table views to enter data and calling a different view afterward.

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Now that we’ve added a database in the table view, it’s time to break down the major structures of a database.

  1. Views - At the top, we have the current view. Views can be named anything but default to the view that it is. Next to it, you can see the + sign. We’ll show you below how we can click that to view the data in the table in calendar or gallery views.
  2. Database Title - I often click the … next to the database title and hide it. This feature is mainly for aesthetics and clutter removal, but if you plan to call that database elsewhere, it’s worth remembering the name of your database.
  3. Properties - Understanding properties is the most important. In the screenshot, you’ll see that I have Employee under the default database text, which we can peek into and store more data, the Department as a Multi-Select tool, and that I’ve to click the + sign to add another property for which the list populates on the right of potential options. You will filter and sort by properties later, so you can think of these as data bucket areas you may want to organize information. We will select the Date property next.
  4. Data - Everything below your properties will be the actual data related to the property.
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When clicking to add another view, you’ll see the menu appear to the right giving you six different options with some minimal setting adjustments. We will choose Gallery and Calendar to see what the data will look like in those formats.

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For our Gallery view, we’ve added another property, Files & Media, and named it Photo. Galleries are fantastic for profiles or visually appealing cards that house further information. We’ve also chosen to showcase their start date and department on the face of the Gallery card.

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Lastly, we have the calendar view. Databases used for meetings or other information purposes are valuable in the Calendar view.

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This brief tutorial is a great place to start with Notion! We covered choosing how you want to use it and whether to choose a template or an empty sandbox. Next, we discovered how to add blocks and get started with Databases. You can find more how-to tutorials on my writing page, or reach out if you or your company require consulting.