On Obsidian

December 18, 2022 #journaling #tools

I have used Apple Notes before for note-taking and Scrivener for journaling. Over the past year, I have switched to Obsidian for both these activities. The rapidity of the transition left me wondering why it was Obsidian that finally led me to part with tooling I had used for close to a decade. The primary advantage Obsidian has over these others seems to be the low friction to produce, record and organize content. For me, the elements of low friction are:

  1. Painless syncing across my devices. Scrivener fares particularly badly on this.
  2. Markdown. Aside from lists, Markdown has the other attributes I care about: ability to insert quotes, headings, and code. I never have to leave my keyboard. And it's an open format.
  3. Plain text organized as folders on disk. I prefer structure reorganization using the file and folder abstraction over whatever it is that Apple provides. If I move away from Apple, I will still have my files and folders - this is a format that will last as long as Unix1 is around. And if Lindy2 is true, this will be a long time. It's also not hard to find what I am looking for given the right folder structure.
  4. A simple, intuitive UI that you almost never have to mess with. The default Obsidian UI serves this purpose well enough. Along with the daily note prompt, this is downright powerful for my purposes.

The other feature from Obsidian I use daily is the templating interface. It is very easy to produce templates and insert them into your docs. I have templates for weekly reviews, annual reviews, tracking bookmarks, inserting time and so on. Each of these templates in turn help me structure the data and when in the form of questions, encourage creating even more content in the form of introspection.

I also use backlinks. However I only use it as another form of emphasizing text or headings, which is obviously not its primary purpose. It was a nice toy to play with when I first started. I might still have some use for it.



Central to Unix's philosophy is the use of plain text as an universal format. Eric S Raymond, in The Art of Unix Programming, says “Text streams are a valuable universal format because they’re easy for human beings to read, write, and edit without specialized tools. These formats are (or can be designed to be) transparent.”


The Lindy effect is a theorized phenomenon by which the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things, like a technology or an idea, is proportional to their current age. Thus, the Lindy effect proposes the longer a period something has survived to exist or be used in the present, the longer its remaining life expectancy. From wikipedia.

Back to top