583: The Obsidian Deep Dive

I guess it depends on what you do. For huge creative endeavours, which work by emergent layers and constant sense-making, it is indeed a game-changer. I would never want to go back to anything that does not allow flexible linking.

If your work functions more in fixated areas, then folders absolutely represent a more readily accessible paradigm. Even though I would venture that link-based thinking, that is, working through analogies and not categories, is the natural way of the human mind.

It’s not an early revolution by any means; the Zettelkasten method is decades old, but it’s all, deep down, a fancy word for… hypertext. It’s been tried and true at the Internet level.


This is why Tinderbox keeps bubbling back up for me. Eastgate and the overall TBX community has been engaged in research into hypertext for decades. They see it for what it is. I’m not convinced that many other companies do (but I’m equally convinced that it probably doesn’t matter), however, it’s often helpful when the individuals developing a tool are also steeped in the theories behind it.

All of this linking truly isn’t new: it’s as old as the first HTML experiments (at least on a computer) and the concept of cross-references, of course, goes back centuries (at least in legal texts and academia). In any event, it’s definitely not a fad–these tools are just trying to make Wikipedia available to everyone, in their own personal way.


I would love a MacSparky Field Guide to Obsidian…just sayin’!


Yes, you’re absolutely right, I actually wanted to mention TBX (but didn’t). It’s probably the first app that really got it, especially when reading how it came to be with The Tinderbox Way: many of the concepts Bernstein talks about in the book, sometimes describing his own thinking that is several decades old, predate spectacularly Roam, Obsidian and such. It was (and sort of remains still) extremely ahead of its time.

(I wish I would have been able to make it work for me, because on the surface it was supposed everything I was looking for. That’s an app I really wanted to love, but I clicked a hundred times better with Obs and Craft.)


I second that! @MacSparky

I brought the two apps a little closer together with the DEVONlink plugin. It provides a way of opening or revealing the current Obsidian note (providing it’s indexed) in DEVONthink. It also includes an “insert related notes” feature that uses DT’s “See Also” list to insert a list of related notes to the current note in Obsidian.

There’s a companion AppleScript that lets you jump from an item in DEVONthink to the note in Obsidian. It’s handy to put that in your toolbar/hook it to a keyboard shortcut.

Here’s an MPU thread on the DEVONlink plugin:

The official write-up on my blog is here:

…and the GitHub repo is here, because why not:


I personally find this to still be the case. I think TBX would be MUCH more widely used with a lower point-of-entry cost, both in $$$ and in time. That said, I think the real reason it’s underutilized is the simple truth that not many people need its power. Those that do will never leave it as long as Mark Bernstein (no relation) continues to develop it.

Tried to message you but you aren’t accepting messages (:cry: :wink: ), but have you seen the newish Link Inspector?

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Ooooh. That looks very nice!
Actually one of the reasons why I left TBX is that I link like crazy and zip links where appearing in all maps, of course, making them unreadable. I guess there’s no way to hide them, right…? (Not wanting to derail the thread though…)

You can disable Ziplinks now on a per-note basis. They have also sort-of been redone in the fashion of Craft/Obsidian/Roam style links (I believe that was 8.8 or 8.9).

EDIT: I think I misunderstood your question. Now that I see your issue, the answer is “I’m not sure” but I think you can make them less visible.

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Yup, I actually like and use them a lot, but they make the map unusable (the way I use them). Which is probably my own fault and not TBX’s :sweat_smile:
Thanks for looking anyway! :pray:

You CAN toggle link types to NOT be “Visible” on the map. I would guess that one could fairly easily create a method to hide ziplinks so as to not clutter the map view, but your best bet for that would be over at the TBX forum.

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I really enjoyed the episode and I’m willing to move from Roam to Obsidian (I like the cost structure, I like that it is based on txt files, and like that it is desktop and works with DT) but I have a few stops.

  1. I have thousands of notes in Roam and not sure about the export situation?
  2. Is there anything like block reference in Obsidian (Which I use quite a bit in my research and writing)?
  3. I don’t really understand how folks are organizing in Obsidan? Are you going through and organizing every new page that is created from a backlink or do you have that go somewhere automatically?

Besides this episode - is there anyone out there that you’ve really liked in terms of video tutorials for getting a grasp of Obsidan?


Thank you very much for letting me know! Now that I know this can be done, I can definitely dig around. Thanks!

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Obsidian has an import tool that does a decent job of helping people migrate from Roam.

But as a former Roam user myself, block references (as you know them) do NOT exist in Obsidian. This was my biggest pain point in switching. Obsidian forces you to make more atomic notes.


The question @cwdaniels asked was “is there anything like block reference in Obsidian…”, and the answer is “yes, there is something like block reference in Obsidian”.

Obsidian Help - "Link to Blocks"

It is not exactly like Roam – Obsidian is plain-text file-based and has no “database” like Roam – but it works.


Depends on your use case. Mine required rethinking my entire library and some scripting help to get there.

Just proceed with caution :warning: Roam’s block references are one of its killer features. If you’re using them heavily, you will definitely miss them.


Might be sweet if someone setup an online course on using Obsidian in depth.


Thanks! So how did you shift your practice to make up for that? Just shorter notes?

I’d like this particularly if it was aimed at Roam users! After going way into Roam (and I really like it) I’m struggling to shift paradigms again even though Obsidian has many obvious strengths.

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I still feel like a newbie with this stuff, but slowly figuring things out.

But that being said… :shushing_face: