Obsidian After All: Book and Research Combined

If you haven’t already, have a look at the community plug-in Advanced Tables which gives some controls for entering tables, but also displays them in a more readable format in the editor rather than having to preview to see them formatted. It also has a feature to allow basic calculations to be performed on columns.

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@Tony Coo! Thanks, I’ll check that out!

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Is the payoff really there? I have found attempting to use MD for syllabi burdensome and unsustainable given all the formatting that’s necessary.

This may depend on how one has the syllabus structured but I just updated mine to md format. I like this because then I can paste it easily into the Canvas system. In the past, I wrote the syllabus in Pages, and then copied and pasted into Canvas.

Here is a screenshot of one portion a few of the post-campus assignments from the syllabus.

+1 for being able to paste directly into Canvas.

I end up however making my syllabus (Course Outline) as a PDF file (from LaTeX, where I have the art of converting down to a science). A somewhat legalize reason if you will that the document is thereby “immutable”, both for the students in my class as well as for the archival records later in life.


I also create a PDF. I paste the syllabus under the Syllabus section of Canvas. I also upload a PDF version to the files area. :slight_smile:

Again - Wow! Thanks for the detailed help. So, yes, this will be my plan moving forward. I am treading carefully and “SLOWLY” moving my documents (Word, PDF etc…) into my obsidian for a course I am currently creating and its working well… as I learn I will move the classes I currently teach over… I mean, its pretty easy, just moving a folder of stuff or pointing obsidian to an already existing folder, so I have seen the light too! To be fair, DT was like that too if you indexed, but it had more features than I need… Now, for all you experts…I have a question before I get too far along:

I pay for a and use the obsidian sync (I know, I probably don’t need it and can just use iCloud Drive, but it is already set up so I will keep for now) All my “vaults” are in dropbox - and so are my files, but I will slowly move them into the main obsidian folder. Is this a best practice ?? To have the vaults in dropbox and use obsidian sync?

Thanks - I say we have an obsidian meetup!!

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Interesting. I’ve only taught one quarter with Canvas after 20 years with Blackboard but I don’t recall any issues copying and pasting from other than MD formats.

I went a little plain text crazy a while back and came up with this suite of scripts for moving Keynote back and forth to plain text:

which may be helpful. In the end I found the whole plain text excursion to be more of a distraction than a productivity boost (hence the skeptical tone of some of my questions). The impetus behind the scripts was to get all my lecture notes together to prepare for writing a textbook rather than to manage my presentations in MD.

@dfay I don’t disagree in principle. I suspect the difference is that I’m not trying to take files from Keynote, Pages, Word etc., and move them back and forth to plain text. I agree, if that was my workflow, that would be a waste of my time.

What I’m doing is a one time conversion of text-based files to plain text. Examples would be Word, Pages, Scrivener, Ulysses, PDF files and selected webpages. I’m transcluding other types of files, e.g., Word, Keynote, images, and the like if and as needed. My objective is to have all of my text-based work in plain text files and out of proprietary formats. I will continue to use apps like Numbers, Excel, Keynote, etc., for what only they can do well. I also have no intention of using Obsidian for my calendar or my project manager.

Once this is done (made relatively easy by DEVONthink’s OCR and conversion features) I believe my workflow will be easier, more flexible, and focused on fewer apps. There are, of course, limits. Unless there is a plug-in I’m not aware of, collaborative work, e.g, revisions, is not something that can be done in plain text. In such cases, I still have to use Google, Office 365, or programs like Craft.

I also think this will save money in the long run. Fewer apps to purchase and/or upgrade and fewer subscriptions.


In your research @Bmosbacker, did you find a good tutorial on just the features of Obsidian? Everything wants to tell me about how great note linking is, I get that, but outside of that I am trying to see how to use it.

I am playing with it, and outside of linking, which I don’t really need a lot of, I am just not getting it. What is offering that I can’t already do in any number of apps?

Not looking to rehash this Obsidian vs everything else debate, I am just hoping for a video/article that explains the program without going over how great note linking is.

Honestly, it’s really about linking at its core. If you don’t get much value out of that, then maybe it’s not the greatest candidate for you.

However, one other rather unique thing Obsidian has is its incredible plugin ecosystem and search functionality which allows you to do pretty much anything out of the box. This app is turning into a platform of sorts, where it’s becoming hard to list exactly what it can do for you, just as it is hard to do with Notion. If I would try to sum it up very succinctly, Obsidian is modular like Notion is, but it’s more heavily slanted towards the writing experience itself and link-based thinking, and of course you 100% own your data.


@Leeabe51 there are quite a few tutorials on Obsidian. You are probably already aware of Linking Your Thinking YouTube videos, if not I recommend it. That is a good place to start. I’m also taking the The Sweet Setup course on Obsidian.
Others may disagree with this but here is my perspective as it has evolved.
Obsidian is an OK markdown editor but there are, in my estimation, better md editors, e.g., iA Writer, Typora, et al. Obsidian’s power is in two primary areas:

  • As a PKM note taking/thinking/idea emergence system
  • The plugin system which enables a vast array of features, customization and expansion
    Obsidian is suitable for writing much like any md editor, but as noted above, I believe there are better editors if that is one’s primary use case need. There are also better tools for long-form writing, e.g., Scrivener and Ulysses. That said, I am experimenting with Obsidian for my book project. There are a few reasons why I’m experimenting with Obsidian for long-form writing:
  • I can seamlessly and easily link research notes as I write using the backlinks or the Workbench plug-in. Obviously one can create links to research in Scrivener or Ulysses but these are one-way and require a copy/paste process, which is disruptive to thought and workflow.
  • I like having everything in plain/md text. While I can technically write and compile in md in Scrivener, and Ulysses uses a form of md, both programs use a different underlying file format requiring exporting/compiling to get to the md/plain text files. I also find Scrivener to be a “heavy” application. In contrast, every file in Obsidian is in your local folder as a plain text file. This means that I can use ANY application that reads plain text files. However, Obsidian lacks a lot of writing features found in Ulysses and Scrivener. The ability to temporarily link multiple files together to get a better sense of ”flow” is but one example of a feature in Ulysses and Scrivener that is currently lacking in Obsidian—though a plug-in may well be developed to address this issue.
  • IF Obsidian can handle a book length project, in addition to what I have stated above, I’ll save the Ulysses subscription each year and I will not have to content with DropBox for syncing my work in Scrivener between my MBP and iPad. I use my iPad for a lot of writing.
    I think some of the enthusiasm for Obsidian is a Swiss Army Knife approach to the application, similar to how many approached Notion. Some are using Obsidian for notes, PKM, project management, writing and more.
    So, where am I on my serpentine journey on writing and note-taking applications?
  • For now, Craft remains the application for work related meeting and project notes. However, IF I find Obsidian sufficient for writing, I’ll consider using it for work meeting and project notes. IF I take this route, Obsidian will be used for PKM, notes and writing with everything on my local drive in plain text. This is an appealing prospect.
  • I’m experimenting with Obsidian for all writing projects, regardless of size. As an aside, I don’t find Craft a good application for writing—I find the block system makes longer form writing a frustrating experience.
    In short, at this point, I’m at a three-way fork in the road.
    Option 1
    • Craft for meeting and project notes
    • Obsidian for PKM
    • Ulysses or Scrivener for writing projects
      Option 2
    • Use Obsidian for meeting and project notes and PKM
    • Use Ulysses or Scrivener for writing projects
      Option 3
    • Use Obsidian for meeting and project notes, PKM and writing of any size

I’m leaning toward Option 2 but I’m also using Craft in Obsidian in parallel during this experimental phase. Time will tell if I believe Obsidian will be a good long-form writing platform.

I will not use Obsidian for project and event management.


Well, based on a support reply I received from Ulysses, my decision has been narrowed. See here for details.

Am I the only one who looked at this topic and wondered what an “all-book” is?


Good point! I changed the “-“ to a “:” in the title. :slight_smile:

Or an em dash. @MitchWagner loves the em dash.


I also have converted to Markdown for my syllabus since several years ago. The editing is so much easier. I just have to remember to edit my MD file if I want to make changes after publication to Canvas, and then replace the one on Canvas. I use Brett Terpstra’s Marked to get HTML that I can paste in Canvas … but did one of y’all figure out how to paste the Markdown directly?

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I just copied the preview version of the MD syllabus directly out of Obsidian and pasted directly into Canvas. No issues.

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Very cool! I don’t teach again until Spring but will give this a try.

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Great! I tested it again before I posted my prior reply so it should work fine for you.