There are many tools for digital personal knowledge managementPersonal knowledge management
Knowledge management as defined as systems to capture, create, store, distribute and use knowledge 1. Personal knowledge management then is such a system for personal use. Wright (2005) adds to thi.... I've used Evernote extensively, Google keep for a few months, Notion for a summer, OneNote for a day, I've watched videos on other note-taking apps, and even tried analog for a short while, but Obsidian seems to be the one for me. Why?
Key advantages of Obsidian
The key advantages of Obsidian for me, in order of importance:
- Local-first with markdown text files - The contents of your notes are yours. They are on your own computer, and they are not in some proprietary format. These text files you can open with any text editor, so they are future-proof. Another reason this is great is that with plain text files, it is very easy to change your organization methods, such as moving certain files to folders, replacing tags with links, etc. As you are trying and learning what works for you, this is a huge benefit.
- Speed - It remains fast, even with thousands of notes (unlike Notion)
- Many, many plug-ins - If want Obsidian to be able to do something, somebody probably already made a plug-in for it. And if you are a programmer, you can also write anything you need yourself. Here are my favorite obsidian pluginsMy favorite Obsidian plugins
The extensibility of Obsidian is one of its best features (see [[Obsidian]]).
Here are some of the plugins I have tried and tested personally that really helped me. Perhaps they can do the same fo....
- Easy search with note creation - When you hit cmd-o / ctrl-o, you can search your notes by (parts of the) file name. And when that file does not exist, you can simply hit enter to immediately create it.
- Easy linking with auto-completion - Type
[[and an auto-completion dropdown shows up, allowing you to search your vault using only parts of what you remember of the file name.
- Automatic backlinks - Like Notion and Roam, the application shows which notes are linking to the current note. This feature is not available in tools like Evernote and OneNote.
- Viewing in parallel - You can open many notes at the same time and view them next to each other.
- Unlinked mentions - If you use the name of a note without making an explicit link of it, it will show in the Unlinked mentions panel where you can link them explicitly with one click. This makes it easier to link notes together, even for notes you perhaps forgot existed. (Note: this does not work well if you use prefixes for specific note types)
- Block transclusion - I haven't used this much yet, but you can include parts of notes into other nodes, using
!notename^blockid. After typing the
^it will show you a drop down so you can easily select the block you need.
- Graph view (network view) - This panel provides a network overview of your vault, showing how the notes are linked to each other. You can color groups of notes based on specific filters, such as path or tags. It is an intuitive, associative way to look at your notes, which is a helpful tool to support your thinking. Must admit I'm not using this that much yet.
Many of these points came from some YouTube video I watched, but I cannot find it again. (Great example of why it is important to have good literature notes with information on the source ;) ) If somebody knows, please email me. I've added some of my own key reasons to that list, and ordered it based on what contributed most to my own decision-making process.
Why not Obsidian?
- You have to set up syncing yourself (can be done with e.g. dropbox) or pay a small monthly fee
- Setting up any digital personal knowledge managementPersonal knowledge management
Knowledge management as defined as systems to capture, create, store, distribute and use knowledge 1. Personal knowledge management then is such a system for personal use. Wright (2005) adds to thi... system properly takes time to figure out: What are its features? What do you want to use it for? What then seems to be a functional setup that will work in the long-term? A system with less features like Evernote might therefore be easier, as there are less choices to make.
- This system is quite text-oriented - Although you can add pictures, graphs, etc. The system still feels much more text-oriented than say Notion (aw, and this also affects its ease of use, especially for non-programmers. Update January 2023: There are various plugins now that make Obsidian more similar to Notion. Check out the following plugins: Banners, Icon Folder, and DB Folder. There are good videos explaining these plugins on YouTube. MAKE.md also seems very promising, but it does have some strange quirks with the Catpucchin style.
- Quick capture - For many other tools like Evernote many integrations with other tools already exist, making quick capture from things like mail, ebooks, task managers is readily available. The possibilities for quick capture have grown over the last few years however. Personally, I'd rather not import too much automatically, to keep my vault from cluttering up with less intentional content that I don't have the time to process and probably will never look at again. I do make quick notes on the go with the mobile app, use Todoist to quick capture tasks, and highlight things in ebooks and pdfs to make it easier to quickly find the most relevant information at a later time.