Obsidian for thinking and knowledge management

Obsidian is a very nice note-taking app competing (quite handily) with Roam Research in the connected-notes market. (previous discussion) Unlike Roam, Obsidian lives on your computer, as do your files. That the developers can do this while allowing you to forget that everything is stored in portable markdown files is pretty amazing. And they’ve been in public beta only 3 months or so. Obsidian is free (forever), or you can chip in at different levels to support the developers. After a conversation with @quorm, my interest was again piqued, so I thought I’d share some resources I found. Feel free to do the same :slight_smile:

@justindirose’s excellent introduction

And Justin’s overview of backlinks and the graph

The very friendly forum

And, if you’re a bit more advanced

There is this zip file of a vault (that’s what Obsidian calls the folder where notes are stored) that contains connected notes on different ways to process information. As I said, it’s pretty hardcore.

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Good resources. Obsidian is a very well made application, quickly maturing. I keep my Obsidian “vaults” (collections of folders and files) in iCloud so I can work with Obsidian on iPad with 1Writer (or iA Writer).

Another useful line to see what’s on the horizon for Obsidian:

Obsidian Roadmap

and the other Obsidian channel, in Discord

The videos were pretty cool to see. I like the idea of putting your own notes in here. However, I would want to be able to include pdfs and bookmarks to be able to do really think through the connections.

The wikilinks, back links, and network graph look super cool

@JohnAtl thanks so much for sharing my videos here – if anyone has any particular questions they’d like answered about Obsidian, I’m putting out a new video weekly – would be happy to help as I’m able!

As far as Obsidian goes, I was on the Roam train for a while, but when I checked Obsidian out, I realized it fits my workflow a lot better (local files, more of an editor). The devs are really great too – very responsive and constantly adding new features.

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I have created a shortcut for handling Obsidian Today’s Note in 1Writer Dropbox-integrated folders. For your productive convenience:

https://www.icloud.com/shortcuts/65aa88efe18e41e0b07b05ab9faa9b75

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PDFs (or other files) and .weblocs can be dragged into an Obsidian note, and Obsidian creates a link to that object. Obsidian notes are plain text files, and PDF preview (or more) is not part of the feature set. Eventually, when the Obsidian plug-in architecture is published it’s possible someone could invent a plug-in to work with PDFs from inside Obsidian, but that’s not a current feature.

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You might be interested in MarginNote then.

@JohnAtl, it seems like you’ve tried all of them!

I started using Devonthink about 3 months ago so I’m going to stick with it for now. I found that I was jumping around to try and test of all the things. Part of the reason I chose DT was to dump everything in my brain in one place and do quick searches. I’m happy with it for now and it’s good to know other options.

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Can confirm.

image

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Here’s a video Justin did on using 1Writer (on iPadOS/iOS) and Drafts with Obsidian documents.
It’s very helpful in getting started and using 1Writer until Obsidian’s mobile app is released.
The same for using Drafts for capture, then moving into 1Writer (and thus Obsidian).

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@justindirose Need to give a tip of the hat to the content that you are putting up on YouTube. You have a great speaking voice.

All should go check out Justin’s informative videos under the Effective Remote Work channel.

Effective Remote Work

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Thanks for the kind words @D_Rehak. I’m open to any suggestions on what content you’d like to see on Obsidian, note-taking, productivity, and the like :slight_smile:

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@justindirose Actually I am using Obsidian for some very specific focused functionality as I use other apps for many of my other processes.

IMHO Obsidian’s key feature is the visualization graphic, but I am waiting for both a search function and filtering capability (I put my request in their Forum among others)

I like the idea of the daily notes function and have created a template in MD to serve as note to document my consumption of content.

The other option I am waiting for is the ability to create a template in addition to the daily note. I have a project to create a Personal CRM. I want to see a graphical view of all the people that I meet and have relationships within the network type of diagram.

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@quorm Sadly those search features don’t extend to filtering/querying the graph view (yet).

@D_Rehak You might want to consider creating your templates in a text expander—Text Expander, Alfred, Keyboard Maestro, etc.

Obsidian is working really well for me. I think it’s going to stick.

I started out doing what seems to be the way most people do things, they create a Daily Note, then write wiki links for new notes, click and fill out the note. That’s probably okay for lots of people, but I found when I looked at the graph view, there were a couple of problems:

  • connections everywhere!
  • meaningless connections

E.g. my [[left parietal]] note would be connected to my [[left premotor]] note by July 12th, which was also connected to an unrelated journal article that I read that day, and some meeting notes that were actually in that Daily Note.

I’ve since gone in and deleted all my Daily Notes. In theory, every note should still be linked to at least one other note, so there shouldn’t be a problem of widowed/orphaned notes.

And all the stuff that used to sporadically go into Daily Notes is now handled by my Life Operating System in Notion.

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Graph filtering will eventually help with this. But yes, we can’t be too arbitrary about connection creation!

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Why “should”? Individual standalone notes – seems to be plenty of valid use cases for those.

Yeah, probably so.

I was thinking about my own use. I might have an atomic note for some concept, which would be linked to the context(s) where it was defined and used, and/or to where I use that concept in my own thoughts.

There could also be scenarios where that doesn’t apply, in which case I would probably create a table of contents note that collects and links to related concepts.

For me, the idea is to emulate the way we store our own thoughts so that there is a scaffold for easy retrieval and the potential for discovering relationships that weren’t apparent.

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I’ve been intrigued by Obsidian and have played with it for a total of about an hour over several days. I had difficulty figuring out how it organizes information and how it might fit into my workflow.

I played around with Obsidian a little more last night during what is becoming prime time for playing with Mac software (just before bedtime, when I’m waiting for the dog to finish doing her business in the backyard).

I had a light-bulb moment. Obsidian is a very nice markdown editor that works in the native file and folder system, and with added wiki linking features! I could definitely use that as a lightweight complement to DevonThink, which is currently my primary KM and document management system.

Then I tried it out on some meeting notes this morning and said “bleah,” and went running back to DT.

Obsidian may fall into the category of software I love but have not found a use for, a category which also includes Bear.

One of the main things I love about DevonThink is the ease with which it swallows and manages any document that the Mac can use. That’s not true for Obsidian. In particular, Obsidian can’t see Microsoft Office documents – essential for my work.

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Something like Obsidian could be pretty useful for a project I began a few weeks ago, but it’s too late to consider migrating to it, nor would I want to jump into beta software anyway. (I’ve been burned too many times in the past with unique apps that went nowhere, like Gingko.)

It does seem like adding backlinks in apps is a new vein in the productivity gold rush, displacing kanban (although Roam implemented instant kanban views for subtopics, which is neato), and I expect to see more integration of the backlink feature in some existing writing apps into 2021.

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