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

I also use Notebooks and Obsidian (and Devonthink) in parallel. I point all three apps at an organized hierarchy of Finder folders synced to Dropbox. My “one solution for everything” for projects that involve research, note-taking, writing, and thinking IS that set of Finder folders. (DTP is my solution for administrative record-keeping.) Each app gives me a different lens for looking at and working with those files, and each has some unique tools, too.

For instance, I usually begin a note in Obsidian because its daily note and template functionality make it easy to fire up exactly the kind of note I want. Its plug-ins sometimes give me an easy way to do something with a note that’s harder (or even impossible) in either Notebooks or DTP.

I find Notebooks a better place for reading, writing, and reviewing source materials than either Obsidian or Devonthink, especially on iOS. One advantage Notebooks has over Obsidian in this regard is that it provides visibility to every type of file I may have put in the base folder and will open them in the appropriate app when asked if it can’t handle that file type natively.


That’s an interesting approach, thanks!

Never thought about exporting entire Notebooks folders as PDFs or ebooks before…thank you.

It is my impression that the desire that some have to use a single application to handle one’s “knowledge management” is a façade cast to protect themselves from confronting the reality that they actually want to use 7 different programs to handle documents with, in spite of the fact that they can use just one, but every application provides a myriad of different ways to look at certain documents for different reasons.

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So true. NotePlan and EagleFiler meet my needs, but I still would like to find a way to bring TaskPaper back into my workflow. And now you’ve got me interested in adding Notenik!


Drafts is my go-to notes system, not just for capture but also long term storage. I’ve used a few actions and a custom syntax to build out a workspace that suits me well with inline tags, “block level” filtering, note templates and more, and I’m not too concerned about the fact that Drafts isn’t designed for media files (though it can display images in previews)— in most cases I’m happy enough to link out to resources elsewhere and keep my notes primarily as text. You are not alone. :slight_smile:

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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, 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 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 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 


It supports 
- Usual markdown features…?

[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.