I’ve also covered the contents of this blog post in a YouTube video, which you can watch here.
Most of the companies that I work with use Zapier — they’re better known and the tool integrates well with lots of different apps. But Zapier’s Notion integration has some significant shortcomings; you can’t access relations or files in Zaps and your options for triggering automations are limited. When you compare Zapier to Make (previously known as Integromat), you also discover that it’s much easier to use Make to manage several different scenarios within the same automation and in most cases, Make’s a lot cheaper to use.
In this blog post I’ll explain those limitations in more detail and share previews of Make’s functionality so that you can make an informed decision about which is the better tool for you. If you decide to try Make out, I’d appreciate it if you click through to their site using this affiliate link, to help support my work, even if you’re not planning to subscribe.
Whether I had that link or not though, I’d still be recommending Make over Zapier. The main reason I’m writing this post is so that I can share it with my clients when they ask me which tool is better!
As far as I’m aware, the only significant benefit that Zapier has vs Make, is it’s the more intuitive tool to use. Make exposes more of the technical complexity when it comes to managing automations, whereas Zapier hides some of it in the background. So in the same way that learning to use Notion takes longer than learning to use Google Docs, it’ll probably take you longer to do some things for the first time in Make. But it’s worth that up-front investment of your time because once you’ve got the hang of Make, you’ll run into less limits when setting up your automations and probably save some money too.
I have a feeling that one of the reasons why Zapier supports fewer types of databases properties is because they’ve been slower to update their platform whenever Notion’s updated their API. When Notion’s API first launched for testing, you couldn’t access relation properties through the API. But — and this gives you a sense of how slow Zapier is here — they added support for relations about a year ago and now you can both update and view the contents of relation properties in Make.
Obviously this functionality’s pretty important, here’s a few common uses for it:
When creating new tasks using an automation, using Make will enable you to link those tasks to projects.
Let’s say you want to send a tweet from Notion and you want to include an image that tweet. I’d generally recommend storing that image in a Files & Media property, to make it easier to work with. But unfortunately if you do, you won’t be able to access that file in Zapier. Whereas in Make, we can download the file from Notion’s servers and send attach it to our tweet.
Often when you first set up an automation, it’ll be designed to handle a simple step-by-step process e.g. when an item gets added to my calendar, send it to Notion. But after a while, you’ll want to handle different processes within the same automation - you might want to feed updates to calendar events into Notion too.
If you’ve set your automation up in Zapier, you can’t simply add a path action midway through your Zap’s actions. You have to delete everything that would come after the path before you can add it.
Paths let you define the criteria for each different path and then the actions that will be completed if the criteria is met. So to use the calendar events example, you would check whether the calendar event is new or if it’s been updated. If it’s new, you’d create a database item in your Notion database and populate it with the event’s details. If the event’s been updated then you’d search for the calendar event in your Notion database and then update it.
So you’d need to delete the action in your Zap and recreate it inside your path. Obviously that’s a pretty simple example but if you have a more complicated Zap, with multiple steps and you’re going to use some of those steps for each of your paths, then recreating them again twice can be pretty time consuming. Especially as it’s not possible to copy and paste actions.
If you’ve set your automation up in Make instead then adding paths to your automation is much easier. You can add a router — which lets you create multiple paths — to your scenario, then simply copy and paste the modules from your first path, to reuse them as part of the alternative path. This is a big time saver and saves you from having to remember what you set up first time around.
Again, when Notion’s API was first released, it only supported database pages. Now though, you can use Make to trigger automations when a page, page content or a database is created. To be honest, this isn’t functionality that I use that often but it’s reassuring to know that the option’s there, in case I ever need it, particularly as Notion continues to evolve.
You can also use Make check to see whether a database item has been updated. This is not a great solution for checking whether a particular property has been updated to match certain criteria (you’ll want to use The:Gist for that) but it can be useful.
I took these screenshots on the 10th September 2022 and I’ve highlighted the matching details in each platform’s pricing in the same colour.
Make gives you:
I hope that gives you a good sense of the differences between the two tools.
Please don't forget to use my affiliate link, if you're planning to try Make out.
If you need my help with setting up automations in Notion with Make (or Zapier), you can get in touch with me here.
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