Alternatives to Obsidian for basic PKM (Craft? Ulysses?)

I‘m currently trying to figure out how to link to external files (on iOS). I had expected that to be trivial, but I seem to miss something. How do you get the link to a file? Help welcome. All I find are highly sophisticated workarounds that are beyond my scope, while this should probably be a simple task!?

A few thoughts:

  • For Files.app, I used to use this shortcut:

  • The shortcut requires Toolbox Pro, but makes it relatively easy to select a file and get a URL for it on i(Pad)OS. I set the shortcut up while thinking about the four apps I might have typically copied file URLs into, but you can cut most of the steps down if you’re only focusing on Drafts.
  • You can easily combine a shortcut like the one above with a Drafts action to trigger that shortcut, so you don’t have to leave Drafts. This way, you could also remove the manual paste step.
  • If you want to get fancy, you can adjust you syntax definition in order to make those file share links more easily legible. For example, my syntax definition allows me to link to iThoughts maps with the syntax “[[map:Name of map here]]”, or link to Raindrop.io tag searches with the syntax [[r#:tag here]] and a few other things besides. Shouldn’t be too difficult to set something up so that [[file:Name of file]] actively points to a file. I haven’t used that Files URL shortcut because mostly, I link to iThoughts maps and tasks/projects in GoodTask, which I’ve wired into my syntax definition.
  • Alternatively: Drafts has offered file/folder bookmarks for a while now. If you’re not already familiar with that functionality, I’ve got a drafts action that reads the contents of a folder and offers a filterable menu so you can select a file within that folder and produce a link for it (pasted at the cursor in the currently active draft). If that might be useful, let me know and I’ll share (you’d have to adjust it for your own usage, obvs).

Sounds useful! I‘d be happy if you share it!

So the system doesn’t provide the files URL, you need Toolbox Pro for that? Strange. But no wonder then that I didn’t find out how to do that.

Scriptable offers file/folder bookmarks as well, I believe. But no, I don’t think file URLs are easily available via anything native… not that I’ve yet found, anyway. Not sure if that’s changed in i(Pad)OS16.

Oh, and some “file manage” style apps expose their own URLs for files stored in them. Notebooks, KeepIt, DevonThink…

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I used to have DevonThink, maybe I should just redownload that to use with the files I‘d like to link to Drafts.
But after looking at Notebooks a little I consider using that for my notes.
This is harder than I expected. I would prefer to stay in Drafts as most of my notes are text anyway and will start in Drafts anyway. But on the other hand I would like to be flexible to dump in some images or other media without too many steps of saving elsewhere, linking, opening externally etc.

Understood. I don’t mind living between a couple of trusted apps that each handle specific things well, so this Drafts set-up works for me. If images and media files are important to you, we can probably help you establish a functional workflow that might reduce the number of steps required to manage media files to an absolute minimum. The reality is, however, that Drafts isn’t really designed to facilitate embedded media files, so if you want it to be as easy as drag-and-drop to embed a file within a note, Notebooks might meet your needs more closely…

DM’d a link for that Drafts folder action.

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I’m trying Ulysses/EagleFiler at the moment.

I tried DevonThink as an everything bucket, but sync issues between DTTG and DT desktop made it unusable. So I’m back to EagleFiler for all my storage needs, keeping my library on iCloud.

I use the external folders function in Ulysses to point to specific folders in the EagleFiler library which gives me a nice, familiar markdown editor. I’m trying to decide whether md or textbundle files are the best. The latter seems neater!

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This is the second time I’ve had to look up TextBundle.org. If you continue to use this type of file and care to write about your experience, I would be interested in what it is like to use TextBundle files.

I’m going to give it a go for a while. EagleFiler natively previews the contents so, other than limiting the apps I can use to directly edit them, I’m not sure there’s a big risk or difficulty.

I’ve created a file with embedded image and a PDF. I can right click the package in Finder and there lies the md (text) file and an assets folder with the embedded files. Seems pretty future proof.

MD file content:

Here’s a **textbundle** file… and here's an image 

![][image-1]

It supports 
- Usual markdown features…?
![][image-2]

[image-1]:	assets/Harvest-22.png
[image-2]:	assets/Administration%20Officer_Job%20Description.pdf

Textbundle is a neat idea that seems like it could be useful in some situations. It reminds me of Microsoft’s approach with their “.docx” file format being a zipfile of assets, although they went with XML rather than Markdown and JSON.

The added complexity does undermine Markdown’s claim of simplicity. For now, I can’t see using textbundle files unless my needs change significantly.

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Alas, it’s not like many apps support it so it didn’t look that future-proof to me. Looks to be a conveniently packed Markdown format with embedded attachments.

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That’s exactly what it is. Unpacking it is trivial if you wanted to convert to markdown + external folder. It’s not proprietary packaging/compression. There’s a very low chance of actually losing data/files - it just needs to be unpacked using widely available tools.

As @karlnyhus says, just like docx. It would be weird to have image files littered around and separated from a Word file which is the situation with conventional markdown files.

It would be more work if you did decide to switch to another tool that doesn’t offer support, like Obsidian as you would have to extract then transfer. So it’s weighing up the neatness of a format that has all elements ‘packaged’ together with rapid transferability to unsupported applications.

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I’m not trying to sell you on staying with Obsidian, just offering two things that might help:

  • DevonThink to index Obsdian - I don’t do this but others seem very happy with it.
  • OmniSearch an Obsidian plugin that has noticeably better search than the built-in option.

Aside from that you empathy and some interest from me, since my wife wants a notetaking tool and the UI of Obsidian is just wrong for a normal person.

That’s exactly my point. Before going all in with Textbundle for my stuff I would need to see more extended support, if not as native format, at least in the form of import/export tools.

This looks very interesting. I understand that it’s purpose is portability and ease of use between Mac and iOS markdown applications. Can it support multiple Markdown documents within a single bundle? If not, the appeal to me diminishes. I can imagine it’s value as a “self-contained” collection of plaintext files and media.

:man_shrugging: I do not know for sure but it looks like there is only one plain text file allowed per textbundle.

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another option, the one I used, is to use Eaglefiler to index the Obsidian Vault. I mentioned in this post. Eaglefiler should be one of the most powerful search facilities

Yeah. I’m under the impression that it’s usefulness is restricted precisely to how it’s described on Textbundle.org (sharing individual documents between sandboxed apps on Apple devices).

Would be interested to see it extended in an open format, cross-platform with multiple documents. But that would require a readdress of its intent. It’s an interesting format nonetheless.

A little more on the topic at hand:

I tried out Logseq yesterday in an effort to make sure I wasn’t missing something (I would love to have reference lists for each block in a file a la Roam or Logseq), and it was also not for me.

It’s a great outliner (that is obvious from the get-go), but if your goal is Markdown, it falls flat on its face when it comes to tasks and interoperability with other apps.

For Orgs mode fans, though, Logseq looks awesome!