Welcome to my blog series, “Practically Paperless with Obsidian.” For an overview of this series, please see Episode 0: Series Overview.
Last week, in Episode 9, I talked about how I use tags to associate notes with people. This helps me answer the “Who” question that I discussed in Episode 7. If I need to find something that is associated with someone in the family, I can use a tag with their name to quickly narrow the search to notes associated with that person. I also use tags to help answer the “What” question. Actually, both note titles and tags help answer the “What” question.
Using tags to answer the “what” question
Last week I used a recent question Kelly asked as an example: did we have a copy of our older daughter’s 4th grade report card? The “who” part of the question is our daughter, and I illustrated how I use tags to associate people with notes. The “what” part is the 4th grade report card. It turned out that the note title was good enough to narrow the search. Even so, I end up using tags to associate notes with a document type. In that case of a report card, I’ll tag the note with “report-card”:
This is somewhat redundant when you consider what I already have at the title, but it also helps a lot with more generalized searches. For instance, if I needed to quickly look at all the report cards I have in my vault, I could simply search for all notes tagged “report-card”:
I use this method of tagging notes by “document type” frequently. For all “official” documents, for instance, I use a “official-document” tag, and this provides a quick way accessing those important documents (which I have found, are frequently needed together, as when applying for a passport):
Tagging notes to help answer the “what” question can seem redundant, when you consider, for instance, that the words “report card” also appear in the note title. But I still do this for 3 important reasons:
- What I put in the title is arbitrary, and while I try to stick to some self-imposed standards, I sometimes forget, especially when I am rushing. So I might title one “Spring report card” and another note “Fall reprot card” and not notice that I made a typo in the second note. Searching for “report card” will not bring up the second note. But tags are data-driven from within Obsidian. Once I type the # symbol I get a list of all the tags I’ve used so far and can select from that list, which helps ensure data integrity.
- As indicated in Obsidian’s documentation, tags are “faster and more accurate than searching for the tag in plaintext as it uses the cached information and ignores text in code blocks and sections that aren’t markdown text.
- The standardization makes it easy to rely on the tags for saved searches. I’ll have more to say about this is a future episode.
Over the years (based on my experience with Evernote) I have developed a set of “document type” tags that I tend to use more frequently based on the kinds of questions I am trying to answer when searching notes. These include:
- #contract: for contracts related to my writing
- #form: for forms that have to be filled out, like school forms and other application forms
- #kids-art: for scans I’ve made of the art work the kids have done over the years
- #kids-school: for scans I’ve made of the schoolwork the kids have done over the years
- #manuals: for manuals for things like gadgets, appliances, etc.
- #receipts: for those receipts I think are useful for keeping in digital format
- #statements: for those statements that are useful for keeping in digital format
As I migrate notes from Evernote to Obsidian, I am trying to weed out all of the stuff I never really used and in doing so, I am slowly revising the list of tags I use to categorize these notes and documents.
Using filenames for file types
Sometimes, I can quickly narrow a search when a question I’m trying to answer has some implied information. For instance, maybe I’m looking for a particular image I know I have in my vault. The “what” in this case is an image. A quick way of finding the image is to search for the file type. For instance, maybe I’m looking for my older daughter’s 4th grade school photo. I might start with this:
which returns two results. I can easily see the second is the one I am looking for. However, if there were a lot of these file types, I could narrow the search using more of the file name:
This works with any file types that I might have in my vault.
Next wee in Episode 11, I’ll continue with the searching theme and will go into how I answer “when” questions: that is, questions and searches that center around time. See you back here next week.
Prev: Episode 9: Associating Notes with People
Next: Episode 11: Associating Notes with Time
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