Hybrid Note PKM Systems

In reading through the various PKM, Obsidian, Craft, etc related posts in this forum I’ve noticed a subset of the community that appears to have the same challenge as I do. The people that I think will most relate to this topic are those individuals that for various reasons are tied to one application or workflow that isn’t Obsidian/Roam but also see the value that such tools for their features such as backlinks. As I’ve explored the various options some kind of hybrid approach is the obvious choice. The challenge is how best to organize the content between the two systems to minimize any duplication and facilitate linking the two?

As an example, my situation is due to the nature of my work certain content is best contained in tools other than software such as Obsidian, i.e OneNote. I do a lot of project planning that generates lots of meeting notes, project plans and other associated content. We heavily utilize the Microsoft products. Examples would be Powerpoint slides, Excel spreadsheets or Word documents that just does not make sense to try or simply can’t convert to MD. A lot of the communication is through email and chat clients. I can’t change any of this. In addition to the integrations with Outlook all of this leads to OneNote being the optimal tool for this job. There is a portion of the work that is research focused that would definitely benefit from the linking and associations that are made via a software like Obsidian. I envision using both of these tools along side of each other. As with any hybrid system if you don’t clearly define what content goes where and a sound approach of linking content between the two it cumbersome finding what you are looking.

The approach I’m leaning toward is to have a topic specific MOC or hub documents in Obsidian that will act as the entry point. Then as needed I can link to the specific note where ever I need to OneNote. This will require some more organize overhead but I think it will pay for itself.

For this conversation I’m not using PKM in the broader context of any kind of knowledge such as task management and calendars except. I’m to keep it more narrow definition of notes and reference material.

If you have found a single tool that meets your needs, thats great but lets try and keep this focused on systems of two or more. If you recommendations on specific tools or approaches to helps bridge multiple systems, that is wanted. An example that I know there are some fans of is Hook


I’m pretty sold on the Obsidian Devonthink combination. My deep thinking note work all happens in markdown in Obsidian. I don’t keep PDFs or any reference materials there. Just some image files in a media folder that are linked in notes when needed. I keep it pretty clean, very zettelkasten-y. Devonthink is where most other things live - reference materials, PDFs, finished project, keynote/PowerPoint files, quick notes that I’m keeping for one reason or another. Indexing is key here - Devonthink indexes my citation files (from Bookends), but also indexes the Obsidian folder, so I can take advantage of the AI and distinct searching algorithms. I find they work well together, and there are plugins for linking Devonthink and Obsidian together like the one developed by @ryanjamurphy. Anyways, my 2cents.


As software comes and goes, and the systems that I use change over time, I’ve stayed with a simple ruleset. Notes and materials that go along with them (links, attachments, etc.) are segregated across systems that are “for work” and systems that are “for me”. Even when I use DEVONthink for both, I segregate the databases. In Obsidian, I segregate the vaults. This not only makes it easier to change jobs or clients, but also easier to change software, and to leave unneeded data beyond.

So, I wouldn’t suggest having “specific MOC or hub documents in Obsidian that will act as the entry point”. Simply because the work/life segregation that exists today likely will not exist within the next year or so. So why conflate the links for work and personal life in one data source? You’ll end up at some point in the future wanting to edit out the then-obsolete work links, and that will be labor that could have been avoided.


I completely agree. I have two separate vaults in Obsidian, one for work and one for personal. For work, I use OneNote on a work PC and for my personal system, I use Evernote. An example of a subject area that would have a MOC in Obsidian would be “Sleep”. There I would have everything I’ve research around sleep hygiene. In Evernote I then might have a single document that summarizes all the processes and habits I’ve decided to enact. Why not just have it all in Obsidian? It may end up that way for some topics. I’ve found that having everything in one tool “go to first” tool makes it easier and quick to find what I need when I need it. Since I already have a lot of content in Evertnote/OneNote those seem like the logical place. It a that time investment up front saves time down the road. The return on that investment is variable by the subject.

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I’m going through the same exercise. We are exclusively a MS shop, and locked down where I would not be able to install any other applications on my workstation. However, thanks to Office365 I can do almost everything on my Mac at home. So, until they make me go back into the office…
The problem with tying OneNote to any other PKM system is that their external linking system flat stinks. Judging from various forums this has been a problem for a very long time and (surprise!) Microsoft seems in no hurry to fix it. I was trying to get Keyboard Maestro to open a particular note when setting my iMac to a specific context (Hi, @MacSparky!) and have come to the conclusion that it just can’t be done reliably. Someone seems to have maybe solved it with AppleScript? (I did get it to open the web page version but could not get it to work with the OneNote app)
Anyway. My current thought is to throw it all in OneNote. Most of the work stuff has to be there to share with my team and the linking/backlinking works okay as long as you stay in OneNote.
OneNote actually has some nice features (at least they match the way I seem to think). There are some significant drawbacks, though:

  1. Linking outside of OneNote (possibly MS products; I’ve thown links into Excel that seem to work). Doesn’t work with Hook, sometimes a link works in OmniFocus. In general does not play well with automation tools.
  2. Tagging. What they call tagging isn’t.
  3. Microsoft. They keep threatening to turn OneNote into something else (web-only, the light client, etc.) They keep backing down but they don’t seem entirely committed to the product.
  4. Lack of feature parity across platforms. There may be other discussions about this general subject going on right now… :slight_smile:
  5. No markdown support.without add-ins (which we are also not allowed to do)

Anyway, if you’re stuck with OneNote for part of your solution you may be best served by either having a complete break between work and personal or just make due with OneNote for everything.

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Backlinking in OneNote? I’ve not found that in the WinTel version.

Sorry, I may have overstated that ability. I just mean that I’m able to manually do that. Useful things like autocompleting as you type a link name and such is way beyond OneNote’s capabilities.

OneNote is okay. It would absolutely not be my choice if my work didn’t lock me into the Wonderful World of Microsoft.

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