Getting the Most out of Obsidian

In Part 1, I wrote about how to get your data out of Evernote and into Obsidian. In this post, I’m going to cover how to get the most out of Obsidian in terms of functionality.

Organizing in Obsidian

At a high level, I like to use The PARA Method, which consists of 4 high-level folders for storing your notes. Those folders are:

Projects: Projects are things you are actively researching or working on, such as this blog post. They have deliverables and they have deadlines. Notes should not exist in your project folder forever, but instead be moved into another folder.

Areas of Responsibility: The literal definition that I’ve seen elsewhere is “activity with a standard to be maintained over time”. If you’re using Obsidian for work, it might be for platforms which you own and perform occasional maintenance on, runbooks for dealing with specific issues, etc. If you’re using Obsidian for personal use, it might be for taking notes from books you read, notes about your health, your car, finances, etc.

Resources: A resource is defined as “a topic or theme of ongoing interest”. This might be things like recipes, ideas for home improvement, and the like. I will be the first to admit that sometimes the line blurs between Resources and Areas. The best advice I can offer is to try not to sweat the details here.

Archives: Stuff you’re not using anymore, such as projects you’ve finished or travel plans for trips taken. I recommend ZIPing the folders that hang out in this directory. (Obsidian won’t mind)

File Organization in Obsidian

One particular strength of Obsidian is that since it maps onto the underlying filesystem, a well organized filesystem will look well organized in Obsidian.

In otherwords, if you have notes and any attachments related to them smartly grouped into folders and subfolders, the Obsidian vault will be equally easy to navigate.

In the example image, I created I folder called “Cats”, with a “Big Cats” folder underneath it. Inside of Big Cats, I have “Cheetahs” and “Leopards” as a further subdivision.

In each of the Cheetahs and Leopards folders, there is a folder called “images” for the images that I have of both cats. And the really neat thing is that if I move or rename one of those images in Obsidian, not only is the file on disk updated accordingly, but any links to that file are also updated by Obsidian!

File Attachments

You’re going to have file attachments of some kind in your Obsidian Vault. Whether it’s PDFs, PNGs, or even ZIP files, it’s rare to have a Vault that is all text notes. It is my strong recommendation that you change the “Default location for new attachments” setting in “Files & Links” in Obsidian from the initial setting of “Vault Folder” to either “Same folder as current file” or “In subfolder under current folder”.

The reason why I am particularly vocal about that setting is because if you do not change it when setting up a vault, any files you attach to notes will wind up polluting the top-level folder of your Vault, and that’s not fun at all.

Useful Obsidian Commands and Hotkeys

Obsidian lets you set hotkeys for every command, and I’d like to mention a few hotkeys that I set on my Mac for managing Obsidian notes:

  • Command-R: Reveal active file in navigation — When you run this command, it will highlight the current file in the navigation bar on the left side of your vault. Useful if you have a lot of folders expanded.
  • Command-M: Move file to another folder — Pretty much what it says. It lets you move the file to another folder by presenting you with an autocompleting box where you can type in the name of the folder.
  • Shift-cmd-L: Manage workspaces — A workspace is a collection of open notes and the geometries of their respective windows. This command will let you save your current notes and their locations and sizes into a named workspace for later use
  • Cmd-L: Load workspace — This lets you load a previously saved workspace
  • Shift-cmd-O: Show in system explorer — Opens Finder with the current note you are working on selected. This is useful if you need to get to the underlying filesystem quickly.

Useful CSS for your Obsidian Vault

The final part of this post is where I want to talk about custom CSS for your Obsidian Vault. There is one thing which I consider essential and one thing which I consider useful.

First, the essential thing: note widths! By default, there are substantial margins around your notes, which I feel wastes a lot of space. The following CSS in .obsidian/snippets/note-width.css will fix that:

/* Viewing */
.markdown-preview-view.is-readable-line-width .markdown-preview-sizer {
max-width: 95%;
}

/* Editing */
.markdown-source-view.is-readable-line-width .CodeMirror {
max-width: 95%;
}

Now the useful thing: making tags in Obsidian notes prettier! This is based on some CSS that I found on the Obsidian forums:

.tag {
background-color: var(--text-accent);
border: none;
color: white;
font-size: 11px;
padding: 1px
8px;
text-align: center;
text-decoration: none;
display: inline-block;
margin: 0px
0px;
cursor: pointer;
border-radius: 14px;
}

.tag:hover {
color: white;
background-color: var(--text-accent-hover);
}

.tag[href^="#obsidian"] {
background-color: #4d3ca6;
}

.tag[href^="#important"] {
background-color: red;
}

That’s about all I have for this post on Obsidian, I hope you’ve found it useful!

Have any tips on how you get the most out of Obsidian? Let me know in the comments below!

Engineer. AWS, CyberSec, DMARC, Docker, Splunk, White Mage. Staffs way too many furry cons. he/him. 28% Cheetah.