FAQ: October 2022 Platform Change

As announced here we expanded our Product offerings.


Q: How will new users choose their account type?

Upon creating a new account, a user will have the option to choose the Free Individual tier or sign up for a trial Pro Individual account, with a 30-day free trial. It is super simple to sign up for a trial, even without a credit card. At the end of the trial period, users will be able to continue with their Pro account or convert their account to a Free account.

Q: What happened to the existing user accounts?

All existing users were converted to Pro Individuals with a 45-day trial period (expires on Dec 1, 2022). Users can continue to work in private for free until that date. On Dec 1, 2022, the converted users will be able to choose to stay on the Pro tier or convert to the Free tier.

Q: What will happen to all the existing private notebooks if a user converts to the Free tier?

Private notebooks will stay private unless the user expressly makes them public. A Free Individual user will not be able to edit their private notebooks or create new private notebooks. They will have the option to make them public, or to convert to a Pro Individual to continue editing them in private.

Q: Will it still be possible to have draft notebooks without choosing the paid offering?

All notebooks created in the Free tier will be public from the moment they are created. We are working on features that would allow authors to flag notebooks as Draft when they don’t want to showcase the notebooks yet, and flag notebooks for promotion on the Explore pages (which will be revamped shortly to cater to the new workflows). But those notebooks would still be public.

Q: With live public notebooks, is there a way to stage edits before making them public?

For Pro users, we recommend that they fork the notebook (which would be private), make the edits in the fork, and merge the changes back.
For Free users, we also recommend that they fork the notebook (which would be public), make the edits and merge the changes back. Although the forked notebooks would be public, it would be a temporary notebook which could be deleted once merged.

Q: What about secrets and database connections in notebooks?

Since those are only available in private notebooks, they will not be available to Free Individuals in their public notebooks. However, they would still be able to access public databases through APIs that don’t require secrets.

Q: What’s the difference between ‘public’ and ‘published’?

Public notebooks are different from Published notebooks in that they are live (the public sees live edits) and they do not need to be explicitly published at different versions anymore (you can still view any version explicitly though). Users won’t be Publishing anymore. Instead, Pro individuals would ‘make a notebook Public’ or ‘make it Private’ through the ‘Sharing’ button on the notebook. There is no need to Publish and Republish anymore.

Q: Will ‘Publish (unlisted)’ still be available?

Yes, this option will be available to Pro users and is now called ‘Public (unlisted)’.

Q: How does this affect private notebooks in Team Workspaces?

Team workspaces (except Free teams) were converted to Pro Teams, and their private notebooks and workflows were not affected by this change.

Q: What happens if a user with view access to my private notebook forks my notebook? Is my notebook thereby automatically exposed publicly?

No. We won’t support forking private notebooks to different workspaces. This means:

  • Individuals: When viewing a privately shared notebook, there is no Fork option.
  • Team members: The fork option (for private notebooks) only allows forking into the team.
    We will still support transferring notebooks between workspaces if a user’s has edit privileges in both workspaces.

Q: Are Pro Individuals able to share a notebook for collaborative editing with Free Individuals?

If the notebook is public, then you can share with any user (free or pro) and they can edit the notebook collaboratively.
If the notebook is private, you can invite them, but in order to access the notebook, the invitee will need to be a Pro user. If they are not, they will see a window allowing them to sign up to Pro in order to access the notebook.


How are Pro users supposed to evolve public notebooks? I’m feeling uncomfortable working on public and on production, without the freedom to break things and experimenting before releasing new version.
What’s the new workflow?


We recommend that you fork your notebook (which would be a private notebook), make the edits in the fork, and merge the changes back once you are satisfied with the new version.

I added this to the FAQ above. Thanks for asking!

Some feedback on the modal that’s shown to existing users: The modal says “All notebooks are public with live updates.”

Which is a very strong version of that statement - “All.” That existing private notebooks would stay private wasn’t implicitly or explicitly stated. I both emailed support to ask for clarification and felt a little tinge of annoyance that I might have to delete a lot of notebooks if I don’t want to subscribe. I get that space is limited in modals, but for pricing changes, it’s good to pre-empt any tinges of fear or annoyance.


Thanks for raising this! Will clarify on the modal.


If we sign up for the Pro Individual plan, are we able to share a notebook for collaborative private editing with someone on the Free plan?

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If the notebook is public, then you can share with any user (free or pro) and they can edit the notebook collaboratively.
If the notebook is private, you can invite them, but in order to access the notebook, the invitee will need to be a Pro user. If they are not, they will see a window allowing them to sign up to Pro in order to access the notebook.

(I will add that to the FAQ)

Will there be any student plan options? For various reasons regarding academic privacy, learning through experimentation, etc. I would prefer to keep many of my notebooks private.


How live will “live edits” be? It sounds like notebooks might change on the fly while you’re reading them, without reloading the page? Do you see people typing into cells like in Google Docs, or do changes become visible after they finished editing the cell?

The live edits are like Google Docs. You see as people are typing. The executed result of the cells only updates when someone finishes editing (just like it does for the author).

Hi Philip, I’m Courtney, the community manager for education at Observable. We do offer an education discount on Pro Teams for classroom use. Please email me at courtney@observablehq.com for more information.


I don’t agree at all with this development and the fact that free users are not allowed to create private notebooks. The community enjoys open source and produces code for free on the platform. To be popular, Observable must be free. If people have to pay for it, they will leave. See the discussion here


Hi Courtney, I may reach out via email in the future, but in the interest of a transparent public conversation, my comment had in mind individual students like myself, not classrooms that are run by an institution and likely able to pay for a license. GitHub, among many others, offer educational plans like this for many similar reasons to the ones I mentioned. Is there any possibility of such a plan down the road?

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Understood, thanks Philip. We are working to finalize our education offerings and presently students and faculty can learn more by contacting me or sales@observablehq.com. We will have more to share about these programs and I’ll make sure to do that here.

I’ve subscribed to Pro. Observable is an outstanding environment for me in which to get day to day work done. Thanks for the hard work you’ve all done to make something great! One thing I’m sad about though is, once you’ve shown a functioning notebook to someone, being effectively unable to edit it without forking and trying to keep track of which fork is which. I get that collaborative coding can be useful, but it’s not something I’ve ever done or will probably do much in the future. To tell the truth, I’ll probably just unpublish notebooks once someone has seen it rather than forking to continue work or leaving in a non-functioning state.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts, @rreusser. We are looking at options to give the author an easy way to indicate which public version they would like others to see by default, which would allow you to continue editing a Public notebook without others seeing your changes as you work on your Public notebook.


You know there’s a new “Tinker mode” accessible via the “View” menu. It sounds like that might be what you want:

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Thanks @Cobus, and thanks @mcmclur! Tinker is indeed pretty much what I was looking for, I think. Apologies if I sounded a little sore before. I just realized that because I kept working after publishing, I didn’t realize people were seeing my live, completely broken notebooks.

Edit: Oops, tinker mode loses changes if you close it accidentally! I think it’s perhaps not what I was looking for.