I've been trying out a note-taking tool called Obsidian for the past few months. I'm enjoying it quite a bit.
It's available on plenty of platforms and primarily uses Markdown syntax for formatting. This is good, because it means that I can quickly copy and paste my drafts into my Markdown-based static site generator (Sculpin) often without needing any formatting updates.
The "core" installation of Obsidian is actually quite powerful on its own. There's also a whole bunch of community plugins for people to tune it to their specific uses.
There's a service for synchronizing your notes at an extra cost. I'm not quite ready for that, so I'm actually using an iCloud Drive shared volume to store my "Vault". This seems to work well enough for what I've been doing, and I'm already paying for it, so I may as well get some use out of it. Works on my main computer and on my phone. Google Drive and Dropbox also seem like they'd work for this sort of cross-device synchronization, at least to get started.
One of the more powerful parts of Obsidian is the built in support for hashtags. They allow you to connect notes together so you can quickly search for relevant information.
For example, I've tagged a bunch of my recipes with "#recipe", in addition to organizing them into a Recipes folder inside my vault. This might seem to be a redundant level of organization, and, it kind of is. I could have skipped the folder entirely and just used the hashtags.
Switching into the graph view, I can see all of my posts clustered by the tags I've created. Or, at least, eventually I'll be able to - in practice, because I've imported a decade of notes from another tool, I have a lot of detached notes and a few accidental clusters of hashtags due to the inclusion of BASH scripts with hash-based comments and similar noise. I'm still working to clean that up.
Another hashtag usage example is for my work notes, where I might want to keep track of individual project decisions, quarterly summary information, or coworker praise/feedback. For someone like me, who has trouble remembering the highs amongst the lows of a quarter, being able to click onto the quarterly notes hashtag and see all that I've accomplished should be a helpful boost to my memory. And it might be nice to have some sort of '#wins' hashtag for a bit of an uplift on downer days.
Having a daily note is a useful way of keeping track of what I've accomplished or what I'm ready to start on. Kind of like a journal entry, but with superpowers.
Obsidian can be configured to open up the daily note on Startup, and it also provides a button for quickly jumping to it if I need to jot something down.
I've configured a template for what a blank daily note looks like. I haven't quite settled on a template format I fully like, but the basic headings I like to have are
TODOs (a checklist) and
Notes (plain text or a bulleted list).
For some TODOs, but mostly for individual notes, it can be super handy to drop a hashtag in that I can click to quickly look up relevant information.
There are over 800 community plugins for Obsidian, as well as external tools that can help supercharge it as a command centre for your life.
I've only tried one community plugin so far, but I'm quite liking it. It's called "Rollover Daily Todos" and it hooks into the Daily Note creation process to bring yesterday's unfinished todo list items forward to the current note.
I'm going to stick with it for a while and maybe post some updates about how things are going. I've got my eye on another plugin, one that says it can help with long-form writing such as novels or screenplays. If I ever get my in-progress books out of the drafts folder & published, maybe I'll have Obsidian to thank for that ...
Thanks for reading!
Published: January 31, 2023