This could be the biggest new feature of 2021 for Notion. In this post, we’re going to talk about what synced blocks are, how they work, and share some tips to get the most out of them.
Blocks Make Up the Foundation of Notion
Notion team members often describe their platform as a tool that runs on Pages, Blocks, and Databases. This is what sets it apart from word processors like Google Docs. In addition to writing text, you can seamlessly add a variety of Blocks to a page, including tables, images, and links. Mixing each of these components based on a page’s purpose allows users and teams to create super-customized pages that achieve a specific purpose.
What are Synced Blocks?
If you’ve used other knowledge management tools like Roam Research, you’ve seen synced blocks before.
Up until now, it has not been possible to update a block, and sync elsewhere in your workspace automatically. When referencing material elsewhere, you could only link back to that page. These are called backlinks — Ness Labs has a great overview of how backlinks work here. This can be super helpful, as you can see all your backlinks at the top of the page.
Synced blocks are like supercharged backlinks.
Now that we know what Blocks are, Synced blocks — as you might predict — allows you to create a block (or collection of blocks), and not only make it visible anywhere else in your workspace, but any changes made to the original will automatically update everywhere the block appears.
This is huge.
There are plenty of use cases for synced blocks, but it’s ultimately the next step in moving from thinking in documents to thinking in blocks. Whether you’re writing, managing projects, or creating a knowledge base, the concept of updating information in one place and having it update automatically everywhere else can be a huge timesaver.
How many times have you made an edit to, say your bio text, only to have to manually update it in every page you’ve used it? Anyone? Just me? 😬
How Does it Work?
In this example, we’ll take a look at how to make blocks synced, and look at a few interesting use cases.
Let’s say we’ve updated our company’s mission, and want to make sure this is accurately displayed across multiple team workspaces. Reformatting a block of text is as easy as pulling up the menu, and selecting Synced block.
Adding a Synced Block to a Page
Once you’ve converted content into a synced block, it’s as easy as copying the link and pasting it in the location you want it to appear. If you’ve used Global blocks, the functionality is very similar.
And you can input the synced block in as many places as possible.
Changes Here = Changes Everywhere
Keep in mind: editing a synced block in one location will update it everywhere. If you’re working with a team, it’s definitely worth aligning on how synced blocks work, and the necessity of ensuring content is edited securely.
Synced Blocks + Templates = 🤯
Here’s where it gets interesting. Say, you have use template pages for things like projects, and use them in multiple locations. You can have a central location to keep synced blocks organized, and use them inside of project template pages.
Here’s an example:
If you use the same notes for similar page templates, organizing synced blocks in one location would make it considerably easier to make changes.
Then, once you’re inside the template page, you can either edit the synced block, or simply unsync to make changes that are not reflected elsewhere.
Some Things to Consider
Synced blocks can be incredibly powerful, but they do pose new questions: Do I have a place to organize synced blocks? Or do I just create them as I go? For a collection of blocks that will be used elsewhere, I typically like to create a single page or database to organize blocks for easy access.
If you haven’t used a tool like this before, explore synced blocks one at a time, to really get into how they could help you streamline your workflow. And If you’re using synced blocks, let me know how it’s going in the comments!
David de Céspedes
Founder, The Notion Coach