What are Json files?

I often download my Kindle book highlights and notes using Bookcision and add those to my research folders in Craft for articles or the book I"m working on. I notice that I have three options for the download as shown below. I also know that Craft currently uses Json files, though they have plans to move to basic markdown.

What are Json files and how do they differ from plain and markdown text? Is there an advantage for me to download these highlights as Json or plain text files?

Screen Shot 2021-06-06 at 10.04.22 AM

fileinfo.com is my goto site for file type questions.

JSON File Extension - What is a .json file and how do I open it? (fileinfo.com)


JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is not really a human readable format (though it is perhaps a bit more understandable than XML). It’s only useful if you are moving this to an app that takes JSON as an input.

1 Like

JSON files are text files – so they are definitely “human readable”. Comprehension might be low, depending on who’s doing the reading, but the content, like XML (except for embedded binary encoded data) is readable.

A sample JSON structure – with phony data – of a person’s entry in a CRM database follows. One could read this and get an idea of what’s going on. Obviously, though, this is structured for behind-the-scenes use by the CRM program.

        "_id": "60bd1f16b27db261489021d5",
        "index": 0,
        "guid": "e1c11565-15cc-4c28-b78e-c80f8c75841e",
        "isActive": true,
        "balance": "$3,789.55",
        "picture": "http://example.it/32x32",
        "age": 30,
        "eyeColor": "brown",
        "name": "Mercer Ward",
        "gender": "male",
        "company": "INDEXIA",
        "email": "mercerward@example.com",
        "phone": "+1 (212) 555-1212",
        "address": "111 Main Street, Anytown, Michigan, 1704",
        "about": "Veniam proident Lorem exercitation anim incididunt aliqua nulla duis mollit laborum minim. Aute magna mollit deserunt irure consectetur cillum velit. Mollit minim do incididunt sint. Ex velit exercitation et et. Id fugiat velit sint non laboris occaecat mollit. Culpa quis veniam aliqua elit sit mollit officia ad do ut elit esse culpa in. Eu exercitation consectetur ea deserunt consectetur elit commodo aliqua ipsum mollit.\r\n",
        "registered": "2015-11-10T01:01:13 +05:00",
        "latitude": 86.408155,
        "longitude": 154.400167,
        "tags": [
        "friends": [
                "id": 0,
                "name": "Evelyn Briggs"
                "id": 1,
                "name": "Concepcion Frank"
                "id": 2,
                "name": "Fran Hood"
        "greeting": "Hello, Mercer Ward! You have 7 unread messages.",
        "favoriteFruit": "apple"

I downloaded my backup of links from GoodLinks in .JSON, converted to CSV and through AppleScript imported all articles into DEVONthink.

Before that, I was unsure what I supposed to do with .JSON file, but after researching, found a way to extract information from this file and put in another one :blush:

1 Like

I recently mention in another thread JSONHelper for AppleScript, available from the Mac App Store, which helps with reading JSON data into a script.

1 Like
{"title": "This is a JSON object.", "sentences": ["It mostly consists of key: value pairs (in {} braces) and lists (in [] brackets).", "Entries can be strings -- like all of these so far -- or numbers, or even dates I think.", "Despite the .json extension, a JSON file is plain text.", "Although mostly meant as a way for software to pass data around, it is reasonably readable by people, especially when \"pretty printed\" (tip: afaik, only Firefox will do this automatically with a URL ending in .json).", "But if you really want something readable, you are better off with Markdown or YAML."], "sentence_count": 5}

{“title”: “This is a JSON object.”, “sentences”: [“It mostly consists of key: value pairs (in {} braces) and lists (in [] brackets).”, “Entries can be strings – like all of these so far – or numbers, or even dates I think.”, “Despite the .json extension, a JSON file is plain text.”, “Although mostly meant as a way for software to pass data around, it is reasonably readable by people, especially when “pretty printed” (tip: afaik, only Firefox will do this automatically with a URL ending in .json).”, “But if you really want something readable, you are better off with Markdown or YAML.”], “sentence_count”: 5}

1 Like

Thanks everyone, much appreciated! I will download as plain text into Craft as I develop my slip-box system.

You’re building your Zettelkasten in Craft then, not Obsidian?

@anon85228692 I’m trying. I know that Obsidian is built explicitly for that purpose and I still could export my Craft research notes into it but I would like to think I could consolidate all of my note taking, including for research, in one app, in my case, Craft.

Frankly, I’m in the middle of reading Taking Smart Notes and I’m struggling just a bit with the actual mechanics of the process. It is not intuitive given how I’ve spent my lifetime taking notes in a different manner. :slight_smile: But, one must be a lifelong learner.

Here is how I am attempting to set this up based on what I have read thus far. I really don’t know if I’m on the right track or not.

Who would think that taking notes was such a complex issue. :slight_smile:

I know you have been and I believe still are using Craft. If that is correct, are you also using Obsidian?

1 Like

I am rebuilding notes every six months. :sweat_smile:
I have used Obsidian extensively and I have especially built the novel I’m currently writing in it. It worked well, and Obsidian is superb at linking notes, but I find it brings me no joy to use. Craft does. So I want to use Craft, and therefore I am rebuilding my Zettelkasten in it for the umpteenth time. :sweat_smile: I’d really like to stick with it, as it doubles as a correct short form writing environment and I can collaborate on stuff with my fiancée. I have subscribed for a year and I am kind of betting on its potential. I hope it will have made progress in directions that I can care about in a year (regarding note making and encryption, mostly).

It does not have many of the bells and whistles Obsidian has, but The Archive, the software designed by the Zettelkasten.de folks, does not nearly have any of those features, and still it’s considered by many to be the gold standard. So I’m thinking, maybe I don’t need all those features, but use the method more assiduously and exploit the features I do have in Craft, which are honestly more than enough for a Zettelkasten.

By wary with How to Take Smart Notes. I have found it extremely repetitive, not geared towards any kind of practicality, and heavily slanted towards academic workflows. I have learned way more on the method by reading the Zettelkasten.de articles and forums. Ahrens’ book disappointed me honestly, it does not teach a lot as how to truly apply the method.

The Zettelkasten.de folks will tell you for instance that there are no literature notes, only permanent notes, and that even fleeting notes can be eschewed with mastery. I don’t agree with everything they say, but I find their approach much more flexible and instructive.

1 Like

I have to say, if “misery loves company” then you and I are in good company! :slight_smile:

I’m exactly where you are. It is almost ridiculous for me to be struggling between the two apps. I feel like a torture victim being pulled apart by Obsidian and Craft (and OF/Things; Apple Mail and “x” mail app)! :slight_smile:

I too am focusing on Craft. I just don’t like using Obsidian. I’m half through How to Take Smart Notes and I agree, it is not concrete enough. I’ll check out the link you provided. Thanks!

BTW, your handle “KillerWhale” and the kitten avatar somehow seem, conflicted. :upside_down_face: :laughing:

1 Like

If you’ve been successful with your lifelong method, then why change? :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: You’ve described having a lot of balls in the air: writing a new book, new software, more new software, more reading about someone else’s methods, more new software. Ugh :tired_face: :tired_face: Time for a break!

I read Ahren’s and Dini’s work, found it all very interesting, then ignored it and continued doing what I do. It’s not about how we take notes, it’s about what we learn and discover in what we read.

This essay was interesting – a long search for the perfect study method ended up with … just reading and visualizing.

Heh, the colors are right, ain’t they? :grin:

Honestly I like being in Craft; I just hope it becomes as mature as Obsidian in a reasonable time frame, so as to become even more powerful at note making, and that it doesn’t get pulled to far into task management territory a la Noteplan / Agenda. That’s the best I’ll be making for the next six months. :sweat_smile:

1 Like

Reading that made me tired! :slight_smile: Frankly, I work pretty much all the time. M-S 6am–8:30pm. On Sundays, at church in the morning and reading and writing the rest of the day until about 5. Today I read 1.5 books and took notes.

I like learning, which is why I may find myself pulled in different directions regarding apps. Notwithstanding my posts, I’m actually not experimenting with many apps–I debated between Fantasical/Apple Calendar, Apple Mail/Spark, and now Obsidian and Craft–the latter being the only real remaining application quandary, which I believe will end up being settled with Craft. I guess I should add Ulysses/Scrivener but settled on the latter. So basically, I’m more or less, mostly more, settled on my apps:

Apple Mail
Apple Calendar
Craft (likely)
OF (could reconsider Things if OF 4 is not a good improvement)
DT for selected purposes
Drafts for quick capture
Bookends for reference management
PDF Pen Pro

That’s pretty much it.


The best way I can explain my understanding of a JSON file… imagine a database in the form of a text file.

An application can take the JSON file and then turn it into a database.

The way Data Jar works is a good representation of my understanding of how a JSON file works.

1 Like


JSON is a lot like OPML and XML - it’s effectively a plaintext-based way to shovel data around.

And if there’s some sort of standard for the specs of said JSON file, then it’s a (relatively) easy-to-code import / export.

The challenge, of course, is that without a standard having the data and being able to use the data are two very, very different things. I have clients that say “well there’s an XML file - should be easy to bring it into a (MySQL) database, right?” And the answer to that is usually “um…no.” :slight_smile: