How do I sync and use Obsidian after using it for over two years? - TechNode#
Focus on searching, not organizing. ⤴️ ^b1df6d9e
Most of the content doesn't need deliberate organization. It just needs to be easily found when needed. ⤴️ ^c1ab175a
The challenge of knowledge lies in the span of time. You need to leave markers for your future self to find the desired content faster, rather than getting lost in unfiltered content. ⤴️ ^8ba95bac
The key is to leave markers, which means having stable patterns and unchanging internal logic. It should be predictable and logical, just like my core logic.
I have been using Obsidian for over two years. How do I sync and use it now?
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I have been using Obsidian for over two years. It has been a year and a half since I last updated "How to Build a Knowledge System with Obsidian and Flomo". I reviewed the advantages of choosing Obsidian at that time, and they still hold true.
Especially the first point, the advantage of using the universal Markdown format has become more important to me. However, most of the use cases mentioned in the article are no longer applicable, and I no longer use it in conjunction with Flomo.
When the old version of Flomo was still available, I even wrote a script to download Flomo notes as Markdown files. Now, I have removed those Flomo files from Obsidian. I probably won't switch to another note-taking software in the end, even though Obsidian is very easy to migrate from.
Reasons for not using all-in-one Obsidian in the past#
Firstly, I have a high demand for mobile usage, and the official Obsidian mobile app is not user-friendly. It is difficult to perform global searches quickly and smoothly. This is why I hesitated several times about whether to use the official sync feature or not.
Secondly, the native search feature on the computer has a small sidebar that is not pleasant to use, and the results are not comprehensive enough.
Now, both of these issues have been resolved. Most of my knowledge management content is done in Obsidian. I mainly use Workflowy to track personal timelines and mark major events in each stage.
The solutions are as follows:#
Solution 1: Do not use the official Obsidian mobile app. For iOS, use 1Writer with WebDAV to access the Obsidian vault (folder). The two ends are synchronized in real-time and do not require import/export operations.
My synchronization platform is Windows, Mac, and iOS, and I mainly use Joplin for synchronization. However, Joplin's WebDAV interface has a limit of 750 items per folder. It doesn't affect if the number of files in a single folder does not exceed this limit. Since I have exceeded this limit, I use Alist instead. Additionally, the issue of iCloud sync lagging has improved in the past few days. I will continue to observe. If it becomes stable, I can directly use iCloud sync.
1Writer is only available for iOS and costs 30 yuan for a one-time purchase. The advantage is that the global search is very fast, almost instant, faster than the computer search in Obsidian.
Solution 2: Two optimized plugins for native search: Float Search and Better Search View.
Float Search moves the official search to the middle of the page or as a centered popup, making it visually more spacious compared to the narrow sidebar.
Better Search View optimizes the display of search results. For example, the Markdown reference syntax
> is not rendered as a preview in the native search, but with this plugin, it will be displayed in the search results. Additionally, images,
[ ](), and other syntax will be rendered. If a paragraph belongs to a specific heading, it will also be displayed in the search results, allowing you to see the title to which the text belongs. For example, if the note is a note synced from WeChat Reading, you can see the corresponding chapter, which is very clear.
If the note library has a large number of notes, Better Search View may slightly affect the search speed. Currently, I have around 3,000 notes, and it works fine on a moderately performing Windows laptop. It doesn't feel slow and you can try it on your own device to see if it's acceptable.
Overall, the usage of tools has shifted completely towards Obsidian, mainly because of its improved search experience. As I emphasized in my previous articles, "Focus on searching, not organizing." I increasingly agree with this point, which was inspired by Workflowy's search design.
I mentioned this first because I have been discussing tool usage issues with many people since I started using Obsidian. Over time, I realized that everyone's needs vary greatly, and the aspects of software that people care about are completely different. For example, I like Obsidian for its offline availability and universal Markdown support, but many people don't care about offline availability and just want a software that is ready to use.
So even though I am very happy with using Obsidian, I know that it has a limited target audience. Although I still have the desire to show off my "child" to others, I try to keep it within the Obsidian community.
2. From tinkering with plugins to streamlining plugins#
When I first started using Obsidian, I was excited to explore various plugins every day, but I didn't write many notes. The plugin system also intimidated many people, as they found it complex. In reality, plugins are not necessary. If I had to choose now, I think only the two search plugins mentioned earlier are essential. The rest of the features provided by the official version are sufficient, and I can focus on typing, just like any other note-taking software. I mostly start new notes from blank files and rarely use YAML or templates.
Plugins I can't live without now#
- Float Search and Better Search View: These two plugins are enabled by default and require minimal configuration. They are purely visual optimizations.
- Linter: A formatting plugin that I mainly use for two functions: adding spaces between Chinese and English characters, and correcting the numbering of numbered lists. For example, if I delete item 2 from a list of 1, 2, 3, the plugin will automatically update it to 1, 2.
- Wucai and WeChat Reading sync plugins
- Commander: Adds commonly used menu buttons to the interface.
- Calendar: A calendar plugin that generates a daily diary entry when clicked. This is probably the oldest third-party plugin I have been using. When I look back at my previous article on Obsidian a year and a half ago, many of the methods and plugins mentioned have been abandoned.
Although I also use other plugins, such as using Dataview to create journal templates, which allows me to review notes from the same date in previous years, and using Better Word Count to calculate the number of characters in a page or the total number of notes in the vault, these are all optional features that enhance the experience. I don't even use third-party themes, just the default theme with slight color modifications.
3. From being indecisive about categorization to having only one folder for my own notes#
Although my Obsidian top-level directory may seem extensive, it is actually just a classification based on the source (WeChat Reading, Wucai, etc.) and file type (PDF, HTML) for bookmarked content. My own notes are all stored in the "My Notes" folder.
Because most of the content doesn't need deliberate organization. It just needs to be easily found when needed. So, many of my note titles are keyword combinations or questions. For example, the differences between forehand rowing and backhand rowing, or the blog systems available for Hugo.
I used to think that Obsidian's full-text search was not good, so I tried storing all notes related to a single topic in a single Markdown file. However, as the content grew, even though a hierarchical tree could be generated in the sidebar, it became very distracting and difficult to focus on. Over time, I also couldn't remember which were the subtopics I had written about.
Now, the advantage of having one page per specific question is that I can quickly switch between them and see what questions I have written about.
4. Changing the way I take notes#
Now, the titles in my Obsidian follow the principle of atomic notes, which is similar to the concept of evergreen notes mentioned by Shao Nan in his article "What are Evergreen Notes".
Ryooo's knowledge graph note-taking method is also somewhat similar, but my naming is not as strictly based on conceptual, entity, and relationship notes. Additionally, I don't believe in Flomo's approach of taking notes in my own words for many concepts and entity notes.
Because there are too many concepts and entities, if you truly understand a concept, you don't need to write it down. If you haven't understood it, writing it down in your own words is deceiving yourself. Of course, I am specifically referring to concept notes, such as what are evergreen notes. I recently deleted many of these types of notes.
A common question discussed in the note-taking community is why we take notes. Looking back now, many of my notes were deceiving myself. If I didn't understand something at the time and wrote it down, I wouldn't remember that I had taken notes on it later. And if I truly understood it, it seemed unnecessary to take notes. Is this a paradox of note-taking?
However, I still believe that taking notes is beneficial, but the form has changed. Instead of copying and pasting long paragraphs, what matters more now are keywords, the problems I encounter, and what keywords I need to quickly find the answers in the future. It's about creating anchors.
So, before fully understanding a concept or problem, what should I do? Completely ignoring it is not an option because over time, I won't remember what materials I have read.
I have been using clipping tools for a long time, from full-page clippings in Evernote to underlining in Cubox, and now using Wucai for highlighting. I found that as the number of clippings increased, it became difficult to find specific articles I had read, and most of the highlights were just a momentary agreement, not necessarily of practical significance to me.
The concept of progressive summarization also mentions this dilemma: "The challenge of knowledge lies in the span of time. You need to leave markers for your future self to find the desired content faster, rather than getting lost in unfiltered content."
Therefore, you need to summarize after each search for a specific question. My current approach is to combine Wucai and Obsidian. For example, when I search for the differences between forehand rowing and backhand rowing, I will highlight the content that I find most agreeable. After reading several web pages, I will add a double link
[[Differences between Forehand Rowing and Backhand Rowing]] to the most satisfactory answers. This double link serves as the highest priority in my searches, and I only add it if I believe it has the most reference value. If I can't find the most satisfactory answer to a question, the highlighted content on the original webpage can still be useful in my future searches.
Of course, you don't have to take notes every time you search. My perfectionism has decreased over time, and it is inevitable that there will be situations where I can't find something. Since it's impossible to completely eliminate the possibility of not finding something, the difference between a 1-99% probability of not finding something doesn't seem significant.
It's frustrating when you can't find something, so in order to reduce the probability of not finding something, I used to spend a lot of time storing and organizing every detail. In comparison, adjusting my mindset seems to offer a better cost-benefit ratio.
5. Using Obsidian's double links for MOCs#
I used to think that Obsidian, as a document-based note-taking software, lacked the elegance of Logseq in terms of block references, so I used double links less frequently. Now, with the approach of one page per specific question, page references in my Obsidian vault are equivalent to block references.
You may be confused about how I structure my notes since I don't categorize them. The answer is still MOCs, but I only create them when I have a large number of notes on a specific topic. Here is an example of one of my MOCs.
This kind of MOC creation is not frequent. Currently, I only have these:
This MOC file name is a search query for a file. It uses Obsidian's built-in embedded query syntax, which has been available for two years, but I only recently discovered it.
This syntax is used when there are frequently used searches with multiple keywords, and I don't want to type the search criteria every time. I can create a page like this to store the search criteria. I have a folder called "Search Archive" for this purpose.
That's all for my experience using Obsidian in 2023. I left an Easter egg earlier, quoting a segment of my blog content. It was a project I worked on recently using Hugo + GitHub Pages. I will continue to update it on my blog. If you're interested, you can follow it.
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Reasons for not using all-in-one Obsidian in the past