One Year Using Obsidian

It was one year ago today in a post I wrote about notes that a reader comment directed me to Obsidian–and I have been using it ever since. For those who don’t know what Obsidian is, it is a plain-text notetaking app based on Markdown files that provides powerful linking between notes to act as a knowledge base for your data. It calls itself “a second brain for you, forever.”

Several things attracted me to Obsidian:

  1. It is plain text. The note files are just text files on your hard drive that can be read by any text editor. This makes them essentially future-proof. Plain text files have been around since the late 1960s.
  2. The files are stored locally in a “vault,” which is a fancy word for a top-level folder on your computer. They are not stored in a SaaS (software as a service) which gives you greater control over the data. You can store your vault in a cloud-synced service if you want (iCloud, Dropbox, etc.) but this isn’t required for Obsidian to work.
  3. You can easily link notes or sections of notes in useful ways to build a network of information and see interesting relationships between that information, which is something I have always wanted.

As a result, I began using Obsidian to automate the capture of my reading notes. Later, I decided that I learned more when I de-automated this process and that has worked very well for me. I also began using daily notes in Obsidian to form an index to everything else in my life.

It occurred to me tht Obsidian might be a tool I could use to replace Evernote as my digital brain. In the fall I began writing a new weekly series, “Practically Paperless with Obsidian” which documented my journey in going “practically” paperless with Obsidian. So far there are 14 episodes with at least 20 planned.

A year later, I am doing just about everything in Obsidian:

  • reading notes
  • personal notes
  • daily notes
  • documents that used to be in Evernote
  • work notes (in a separate vault)
  • journaling — which I have gone back and forth on through the year but eventually settled on keeping my journal in Obsidian at least through 2022
  • writing, including writing drafts for the blog

The best part of this is that I’ve wanted the bulk of my notes and documents in plain text form for a long, long time (for the reasons I listed above) and now, after a year, a great many of the doucments I work on are in plain text form, easily searchable and accessible to me.

Obsidian has changed as well over the year, adding improvments along the way. When I began using it, it was on v0.10.2 or 0.10.3. I am writing the draft of this post on v0.13.21 which includes live preview, which has really grown on me. I’ve gone through a number of themes, experimenting with ones I like best along the way, and for now, have settled on Typewriter mostly in dark mode. I use the mobile app version of Obsidian on my iPhone as well.

I really like how Obsidian works for me, and look forward to continue using it and to see what improvements and enhancements come along in 2022.

Written on January 17, 2022.

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