Notion FAQ — Your Questions, Answered

We’ve created our own Notion FAQ to answer questions from our readers that may not necessarily have enough meat to them to warrant a dedicated article but are still interesting nonetheless.

Can You Use Notion in China?

You can’t use Notion in some parts of China. The country blocked the tool, adding it to The Great Firewall’s list of blacklisted domains, in 2020. A short while later, Notion had managed to restore access in some areas in the mainland where it’s still accessible today — though some customers are still unable to access the service without a VPN.

What Parts of China Does Notion Work?

We ran the Notion.so domain through a connection checker and it returned positive results for Beijing, Shenzhen, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang Province and Yunnan Province, meaning Notion is accessible from the main areas of mainland China. It’s probable, however, that they aren’t using the same version you and I are today.

In order for Notion to keep the lights on in China, it would have likely had to make some changes to bow to the same set of regulations that rule all content creation platforms in the region. This could see Workspaces created in the region open to the local internet watchdog to audit, and restrictions on joining external Workspaces.

What this means is people in China may be able to use Notion to create and join Workspaces with other people in China, but access to the outside world and the Workspaces created there are shut off — unless you’re using a VPN (more on that in a little bit). That means they wouldn’t be able to access these Notion templates either.

We have reached out to Notion to see if it can share more details on its operations on China and whether locals are using a more restricted version of the service, operated on a government-regulated intranet of sorts as many would expect, and we’ll update this resource if and when we hear back, but we aren’t holding out much hope.

One thing is for certain though: If the Chinese government can access Workspaces in China, that’s the only region where they can do it. There’s no way Notion would have provided them with a backdoor into all of its servers. It’s a San Francisco-based startup after all — Notion stores our data on secure servers, encrypted in transfer and rest.

Why Did China Block Notion?

While unclear, China, being a communist state, usually blocks services that allow the spread of information that it would otherwise like to restrict. It likely blocked Notion because it could be used internationally and Notion wouldn’t provide China with a network-wide backdoor to eavesdrop and censor as it saw fit.

Will a VPN Unblock Notion in Restricted Areas?

If you are planning a trip to China and are concerned about not being able to access your Workspace, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can use a VPN to unblock it. We recommend NordVPN. It’s cheap, doesn’t keep logs (it doesn’t store identifiable information) and it’s functional. You can even use it to watch international Netflix.

Can You Use Notion for Writing?

Notion has loads of smarts that make it an ideal tool for writing. For starters, because Notion syncs across devices, you can start writing on a desktop at home, reviewing your work on a phone on the move, then edit on a tablet at a coffee shop — for free.

But that’s scratching the surface. Take advantage of one of the writing-focused Notion templates out there, or create your own Notion Workspace optimized for the practice, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a writing production line like no other.

Say you’re writing a novel, for example, and you want to hammer out a chapter a week. You can create an environment that’ll let you do just that — breaking down the book into different chapters, then creating a dedicated section for them in the Workspace.

Here, you can configure the Workspace so you can store research notes alongside the chapter itself, as well as the various drafts, revision notes, and a progress tracker, linked to a high-level view where you can see where you’re at with the book itself.

You don’t need to be drafting a book to use Notion for writing, either. There are plenty of Notion templates for writers of all kinds out there, including contractors, letting you create a private production environment and a public portfolio in one place.

Does Notion Compress Images?

While Notion doesn’t confirm whether it compresses images users upload, we’ve done some research and can confirm it does not.

This is something you can test at home: Note the file size of an image and upload it to Notion, then download it and compare the file sizes. They’re the same, right? That’s because it hasn’t been compressed. Had it have been, the size of the file downloaded would be smaller than the one uploaded.

We carried out this exact test on a batch of images of varying file sizes and found that Notion returned them in the exact same condition we uploaded them in – there was no discrepancies in file size whatsoever. We even added a custom hash to the files and they weren’t stripped out or edited in transit.

This can be considered proof that notion does not compress images – for now, at least.

Does Notion Have a Character Counter?

Unfortunately, Notion does not have a character counter. To see this metric, you will need to install a Chrome Extension like Word Counter Plus or copy and paste the text into a word-processor like Microsoft Word or a website like Letter Count.

What it does have though is a word counter, which can be used to tell you the amount of words on a page. But there’s a restriction: The tool doesn’t tell you how many words you’ve highlighted — it’ll give you a total count of the words on the page.

It’s unclear whether Notion is planning to add a character counter at any point in the future. Although, given the internet is full of questions from users asking whether it currently has one, we can’t help but think it’s somewhere on the to-do list.

In the meantime, if you’re using Chrome, we recommend installing Word Counter Plus. It’s a seamless way of checking the amount of characters in a highlighted body of text — just highlight some text, right click and select Word Counter after installing.

Does Notion Support Spotlight Search on iPhone and Mac?

The Notion app unfortunately doesn’t support Spotlight Search on iPhone or Mac, but the company has confirmed that both features are in development and could be rolling out to at least one of the devices in the near future.

Speaking to Tech Crunch in September 2021, Akshay Kothari, COO of Notion, revealed that the team are working on Spotlight Search for iPhone and Mac, with the feature set to ship to the former soon — though a specific timeframe was not provided.

The addition of Spotlight Search will allow iPhone and Mac users to use their device’s search feature to track down files and notes stored within Notion, listed alongside files like Word documents and PDFs, without even having to open the application.

Kothari also revealed in the same conversation that the Apple Pencil will work with Notion in the near future too. But, again, he wasn’t able to provide a specific timeframe. At least we know it’s in development though and should be with us soon.

Does Notion Work with Zapier?

Thanks to the release of the Notion API in 2021, Notion works with Zapier. This lets you connect your Workspace to more than 3000 services — including DocuSign, Dropbox, Google Calendar, Google Sheets, Evernote, Jira Software Cloud, MailChimp, Trello, Todoist and even WordPress — to create automated workflows.

Some of these automated workflows include automatically storing completed contracts in a dedicated section of your Notion Workspace after they’re signed by all parties in DocuSign, saving Evernote entries as new database items in Notion, and uploading new Dropbox files to a specified section of your Workspace.

You can even configure Notion to email, text or even shoot you a message on Slack whenever a new entry is added to a specific database, which could be useful for development teams when a critical bug report is filed. A simultaneous workflow can also be set up to automatically add all of these reports to Jira Software Cloud.

How Does Notion Make Money?

Notion doesn’t sell your data. Instead, it makes its money in a more honest way: Subscriptions. While Notion is free to use, there are a few different membership available for those looking to squeeze a bit more out of it. It’s these users that Notion relies on to turn a profit and with over four million users, it safe to assume at least a small number of them are handing over a few bucks for their subscription.

Let’s do some basic math. The cheapest Notion subscription comes in at $4 per month hen you take out an annual subscription, billed at $48. If only 1% of Notion’s entire user base sign up to this membership, it would net $1,920,000 per year. But now factor in that Notion is used by businesses like IBM, Pixar and Slack, and a most of them will be on a Team or Enterprise tariff, which starts at $8 per member per month

In reality, more than 1% of Notion’s user base are paying for their subscription to take advantage of the no cap on file size feature, and additional features for teams such as unlimited members, and some of these are on the more expensive no-strings-attached monthly subscription, making the $1,920,000 revenue figure we provided before an extremely conservative estimate. Actually, we know that’s a low-ball.

Notion recently received a $2 billion valuation and reached an annualized revenue of $30 million, according to Forbes. But, again, the important thing to note here is that all of this revenue comes from people upgrading to a Notion Personal Pro membership or setting up a team environment. It doesn’t charge for its Notion templates, even though it could, so that isn’t a revenue stream — but it could be in the future.

Will Notion Ever Shut Down?

Ever is a long time, so this is an entirely an open-ended question. Statistically, it’s probable that Notion will shut down in the future — we just don’t know when. It could be that a competitor comes drawing away Notion’s users, forcing it to close its doors, or it’s purchased by a rival like Microsoft that wants to use some of the infrastructure to support its own initiatives, scrapping the rest of the Notion App.

The fact is there are a stream of reasons why Notion could shut down, but they aren’t worth thinking about. It’s highly unlikely the tool will shut down anytime soon. In October 2020, it crossed a $10 billion valuation and 20 million active users, up from $2 billion and 4 million in April 2020. It also raised an additional $275 million in funding, so it has substantial cash reserves and is scaling well. It’s not a business in decline.

Let’s not forget that Notion has been around since 2016. It saw a sharp uptick in users during 2020, as people transitioned to remote work due the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, but it was operating before that with a smaller user base and was doing just fine, receiving attention from corporate entities, albeit not at the scale it is today. There’s a space in the market for this tool, and it’s filling it faster than we could have imagined.

You can spend months convincing yourself not to take a new service for a spin because you don’t want to go through the tedious process of moving your files across and creating a workflow because you don’t know how long it’ll be around, but you should take it for a spin. All signs point toward Notion being around for a while — even if it isn’t, there are now tools out there offering similar features you could transition to.

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