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Heptabase 1.0

Heptabase 1.0-1

Introduction

After undergoing eight months of closed alpha testing and eighteen months of public beta, with the product iterating through over three hundred versions, I’m excited to announce that we’ve officially launched Heptabase 1.0 today! If you’ve never used Heptabase before, you can now register for a one-week free trial!

In this article, I will share what problem Heptabase 1.0 aims to solve, for what types of people. I will also cover the core features included in Heptabase 1.0, the current state of Heptabase as a company, and our thoughts and plans for the future of Heptabase 2.0.

The Problem Heptabase 1.0 Focuses on Solving

Heptabase’s vision is to create a world where anyone can effectively establish a deep understanding of anything.

We understand that this is a grand vision that needs to be executed in multiple phases. In the knowledge life cycle of “exploring → collecting → thinking → creating → sharing,” we aim to first address the “collecting → thinking → creating” phases with Heptabase 1.0. Therefore, we have positioned Heptabase 1.0 as the best tool for learning and researching complex topics.

The most crucial use case for Heptabase 1.0 is to help you analyze, understand, and digest complex literature, integrating this knowledge with your own ideas to create high-quality outcomes. For example:

  • Product managers, founders, executives, and other team or business leaders use Heptabase to research niche market knowledge, organize business information, oversee company projects and product lines, and use this understanding to drive project, product, and business development.
  • Engineers, designers, salespeople, lawyers, financial analysts, investors, journalists, and other skilled professionals use Heptabase to manage development requirements, organize design ideas, track client status, cross-reference legal documents, build investment theses, manage company relationships, and analyze current events, so that they can create better output in their professional work.
  • Researchers, graduate students, doctors, and other domain experts who need to publish academic papers use Heptabase to read papers, organize knowledge and ideas in their field, develop research frameworks and procedures, analyze and summarize experimental data, and use this understanding to produce research outcomes and discoveries.
  • Authors, screenwriters, game developers, video content creators, teachers, consultants, and other creative users often use Heptabase to organize writing materials, design storylines and game worlds, plan video scenes and scripts, and develop teaching and consultation content. This helps them deliver better works to their audiences.
  • Students, job seekers, self-taught learners, and people who like to learn new things in their non-working hours use Heptabase to organize courses and reading notes, improve professional skills, research their own topics of interest, and manage life and work inspirations and ideas.

Regardless of which type of user you are, the essential use of Heptabase is the same: to help you establish a deep understanding of any topic you care about and use that understanding to achieve your most important goals.

Core Features of Heptabase 1.0

In Heptabase, our goal for version 1.0 is to provide the best experience for “thinking,” while seamlessly integrating it with the “collecting” and “creating” phases. As a design-driven company, we believe that only the best user experience can foster the deepest understanding. The best user experience includes:

  • Every detail of the user interface and microinteraction should be as friendly, polished, and intuitive as possible.
  • Features that are sufficient to allow users to achieve meaningful workflows, but not so many that users find them complicated;
  • All features are carefully and cohesively designed around a better method for learning and conducting research;
  • The product should be ready-to-use “out-of-the-box,” with a low learning curve. Users shouldn’t have to spend much time setting up a productivity system;
  • The overall integrity of the product should be strong. Every moment the user experiences after subscribing, every email they receive, and every official document they read should all be carefully designed.

Drawing an analogy to operating systems, what Heptabase aims to achieve is an Apple-level product experience. If the majority of users can get into the flow of thinking as soon as they open the product, then Heptabase is ready to release its version 1.0.

Under this product philosophy, Heptabase 1.0 focuses on helping users accomplish the following five things:

Learn and Research Complex Topics Deeply and Visually.​

We have built the best whiteboard for learning and researching complex topics. You can easily break down lengthy card notes into atomic concept notes that help you see the connections between all the knowledge and concepts of a topic. You can organize the structure of topics using Nested Whiteboards; use Sections to group cards on the whiteboard and see the big picture; use Mindmaps with auto-layout to quickly adjust your understanding of a topic; and use custom arrows of various styles to fully represent your thinking process.

Heptabase 1.0-2

In addition to all the whiteboard features, we have also developed spatial algorithms such as Card Space-out, Section Auto-grow, Fit-to-content, Tidy Up, and Keyboard Navigation to help you focus on thinking without being distracted by cumbersome layout work.

Easily Capture Any Form of Knowledge and Ideas​

Heptabase’s block-based card editor supports all kinds of block types you can imagine, including to-dos, tables, images, audio, video, files, math formulas, code, headings, foldable lists, quotes, dividers, dates, etc. We also support bi-directional links between cards, dates, and whiteboards, and have designed an info section to present the context of backlinks. Any content written in the card editor can be exported as Markdown files at any time.

Heptabase 1.0-3

Systematically Manage Large Amounts of Homogeneous Data​

Heptabase’s Tag and Property features can help you systematically manage homogeneous data such as literature, meetings, contacts, tasks, etc. You can use Table and Kanban views to view cards managed by tags and properties. The Table view is great for displaying key information from a large number of cards at once, while the Kanban view is great for tracking the progress of important projects.

Heptabase 1.0-4

Fluidly Digest and Understand Literature​

We believe that the highlights made by users while reading are crucial material for subsequent learning and research. Therefore, Heptabase 1.0 not only supports importing PDF files and Readwise annotations, but users can also create highlights and annotations from text and areas in PDF files, placing them on the whiteboard for analysis or embedding them in cards as references.

Heptabase 1.0-5

Capture and Access Knowledge Anytime, Anywhere​

We want to ensure that our users can use Heptabase anytime, anywhere. Therefore, since the closed alpha stage, Heptabase has been an offline-first desktop application, supporting mainstream operating systems like Mac, Windows, and Linux. Last October, we launched real-time cross-device syncing, and in January, we launched a full-featured web app. In August, we continued to roll out full-featured mobile apps on the App Store and Google Play. We also upgraded our search engine in July of this year for the desktop, mobile, and web versions of Heptabase. This upgrade enables you to search through tens of thousands of notes in less than a second.

Current State of Heptabase as a Company

Heptabase was founded in September 2021, and the team has gradually expanded from three to six people over the past two years. We believe that a smaller team has a higher execution speed and agility, which is especially critical during periods of early product iteration.

We raised nearly $1.7 million in seed funding from top Silicon Valley investors such as Y Combinator, HOF Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Moving Capital in early 2022. However, unlike many Silicon Valley software companies, we have been cash-flow positive since our first year of operation. We have not spent any investor money over the past two years; all company expenses are fully funded by our revenue, which has been growing at a rate of at least three times each year without any marketing spend.

A healthy financial status allows Heptabase to operate the company and iterate the product long-term without needing to raise additional funds. The cash reserves we hold also enable us to conduct various experiments that can help us achieve our vision without worrying about survival pressures. We also believe that a sound financial situation will allow users to use Heptabase more confidently, without having to worry that poor company operations will force them to relocate the notes and content they’ve accumulated.

At present, Heptabase 1.0 has only completed about 10% of the company’s vision. We still have a long way to go, and we continue to prioritize sustainability as our highest operational principle.

Future Plans for Heptabase 2.0

Heptabase 1.0 is just a starting point. In the coming months, we will continue to actively iterate Heptabase, pushing it towards version 2.0. For Heptabase 2.0, in addition to continually enhancing the capabilities of whiteboards and mindmaps to provide users with the best “thinking” experience in the world, we will allocate more resources to upgrade the experience in the “collecting” and “creating” stages.

Our Iteration Direction for the “Collecting” Stage​

  • More Types of Cards: Currently, users can embed images, videos, audio, and other file formats in Heptabase cards. However, these files cannot exist as independent cards like PDFs or have annotations added to them. As we provide more types of cards, users will be able to convert these files into corresponding card types and place them directly on the whiteboard for annotations. Literature will not be limited to just text but can include any multimedia format.
  • Easier Web Resource Capture: In addition to PDFs and multimedia, many users now gather the majority of their research material from the web. Therefore, we will invest resources to develop functionalities for reading, capturing, and annotating web resources, allowing users to seamlessly integrate this into their Heptabase whiteboard thinking process.
  • Better Readwise Integration: Heptabase 1.0 allows you to place Readwise highlights on the whiteboard or within cards, but it does not support sorting or merging highlights from the same literature. We recognize that this workflow is crucial for some users who like to manage their reading notes with Readwise, and we will upgrade this experience before 2.0.
  • Improved Inbox: While the Heptabase Journal helps you quickly capture ideas, it does not clearly distinguish between ideas that need further development and those that are only useful in the moment. We are considering integrating an Inbox-like mechanism with the Journal to help you separate ideas that you want to develop in the future.
  • Faster Loading Speed: The initial loading speed of Heptabase’s web app is a bit slow. Although the mobile app starts more quickly, it still takes 1–2 seconds. We will continue to improve loading speeds through various engineering techniques, such as on-demand loading and reconstructing certain logic with native components.

Our Iteration Direction for the “Creating” Stage​

  • Better Task Management: We understand that many users need to manage a large number of tasks and to-do lists while using Heptabase to facilitate deep thinking and turn it into actual output. To make this process smoother, we will provide sufficiently versatile yet not overly complex task management features. For example, we will provide users with the capability to query to-do lists with specific conditions from a large number of cards and journals. We will also build features to let users group, pin, and clear tabs on the left sidebar according to type and importance. We believe that through a series of upcoming upgrades, users will increasingly enjoy the experience of completing tasks and producing output from their thinking.
  • Better Querying: During the process of creation and output, we often need to refer to other materials for cross-referencing. While Heptabase currently supports putting multiple cards on the right sidebar, we believe there is much room for upgrading the referencing capabilities. We will continue to upgrade the functionality of the tag and property system (e.g., offering cross-tag relation properties) and allow users to use various filters like tags, properties, keywords, block types, etc., to automatically query cards and blocks, placing them on whiteboards or the card’s right sidebar for better referencing.
  • More Export Formats: Through numerous user interviews, we have found that users with creative needs often want to export their content in different formats. Although Heptabase currently only supports Markdown exports, we plan to support a broader range of export formats in the future, including PDF, HTML, Docx, Latex, and image files, among others.
  • Editing History: In many cases, we may need to refer to a card’s past editing history during the creation process to uncover content we initially thought was unnecessary but later found to be important. While the current Heptabase can help users revert all data back to a specific point in time, it does not yet offer single-card history retrieval. This will be one of the key features we’ll be spending time developing in the upcoming weeks.
  • Integration and Application of AI: The emergence of ChatGPT has changed our lives and the way we handle information. From simple grammar and word edits to chatting with a knowledge base and discovering new connections, these capabilities that we crave during the creative process have become affordable and feasible after OpenAI released its API. We will closely monitor the evolution of GPT technology and gradually offer users more advanced solutions for incorporating AI into their creative workflows, all while safeguarding their data.

In addition to upgrading the “collecting” and “creating” experiences, we will also begin preliminary experiments in connecting the “creating” stage with the “sharing” stage as we move toward version 2.0. This will enable users to exchange knowledge with each other more effectively. We have already conducted many user interviews and have preliminary designs for this aspect. Once we begin implementing early prototypes, we will share further updates with all of you.

Closing Thoughts

This article introduce Heptabase 1.0, as well as our preliminary plans for Heptabase 2.0. If you are interested in the long-term vision of Heptabase, please refer to My Vision: The Roadmap. Our vision is to create a world where anyone can effectively establish a deep understanding of anything, and we are excited to finally take a significant step towards this vision today with the release of Heptabase 1.0!

With the official launch of Heptabase 1.0, we are also offering a free 7-day trial. You can download the latest version of the app on the Heptabase official website and start your free trial immediately. We invite you to experience this product, which has already gained love and approval from a large number of beta subscribers, and join us on the journey to the next phase of Heptabase!