2023-09-18-How to Use Visualization to Assist Personal Knowledge Management - Obsidian Practice (Tool Section) - Minority Report-68608b72-fdaa-dec1-da62-d914329d6c78

How to Use Visualization to Assist Personal Knowledge Management - Obsidian Practice (Tool Section) - Appinn#



How to Use Visualization to Assist Personal Knowledge Management - Obsidian Practice (Tool Section)

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In my personal knowledge management workflow, "🌱Collection-🌳Organization-🌻Creation-🌖Sharing", I use "visualization" to assist in building my personal knowledge system.


In the "🌳Organization" phase, I use the "🗺Knowledge Map" to assist me in information management. This visualization metaphor comes from "maps", and by zooming in and out of the canvas, you can see information at different levels.

In the "🌻Creation" phase, I use "🌠Visual Notes" for creative thinking on complex issues. This visualization metaphor comes from "clue boards" and can inspire thinking.


When choosing tools, visualization is a very important consideration for note-taking. The combination of Obsidian's Excalidraw canvas plugin and Obsidian's own features is the most effective "double-link + whiteboard" tool I currently use.

This article introduces the usage of Obsidian's Excalidraw canvas plugin.

  • Basic usage of Excalidraw canvas plugin
  • Interaction between Excalidraw and Obsidian's double links
  • Differences between Excalidraw and Obsidian's built-in whiteboard

Basic Functions of Excalidraw Canvas Plugin#

The basic functions of Excalidraw are introduced here, starting from the installation of the plugin. Users familiar with Obsidian can skip this section.


Step 1: Plugin Installation#

In the settings options of Obsidian, find the third-party plugins. You need to disable safe mode first to enter the plugin library.

There are many plugins to choose from in the plugin library of Obsidian, which can be said to be the most active among note-taking tools. Among these plugins, Excalidraw has been ranked in the top ten since I started using it, and has been consistently ranked first in the past six months.

Click on the plugin and install it, wait patiently for the download, and remember to start the plugin after installation. You can see the icon of the canvas plugin in the left menu bar.

Step 2: Using the Plugin#

Click on the icon of the plugin to create a canvas, and you can see the logo of the latest Excalidraw canvas. Double-click on the whiteboard with the mouse to enter the canvas editing mode.

Infinite Canvas#

Excalidraw is an infinite canvas that can be zoomed in and out by scrolling the mouse wheel or using two fingers on the touchpad.

At the top is the menu bar of the canvas. After selecting the hand icon, you can enter the viewing mode, where you can only move the canvas but cannot edit it. When selecting the arrow icon, you can edit the canvas. You can also switch between the hand and arrow states by pressing the H key, or switch states by holding down the Space + Mouse on the keyboard.



  • Rectangle, diamond, circle, and line tools can be used to draw corresponding shapes on the canvas.
  • The connection tool allows you to hover over an element, and a gray border will appear. After selecting the element with the left mouse button, drag it to the gray border of another element to connect the two elements.
  • The pen tool allows you to draw on the canvas.
  • The image tool allows you to upload images or directly drag and drop images onto the canvas.
  • The eraser tool can be used to erase information.


  • Typesetting: When selecting multiple elements, the menu bar will display options for automatic typesetting, such as center alignment and adjusting the same spacing.
  • Grouping: When selecting multiple elements and right-clicking, you can group them into one group.
  • Layers: When selecting an element and right-clicking, you can adjust the level of the layer to place the element on top or bottom.

Adding Double-Linked Notes#

First, add double-linked notes to the canvas, and the text input supports markdown link syntax. You can also add double-linked notes by directly dragging the notes from the file list. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the double-linked notes within a note while holding down the CTRL key.


Hovering over a double-linked note allows you to preview the note content, and selecting the double-linked note allows you to modify the double-linked information.

Embedding Notes#

Click on the "Add File" icon in the right menu, enter the note you want to embed, and you will be prompted to choose whether to embed it as an iframe or an image. The difference between an image and an iframe is that one can be resized and the text will move along with it, while the other is embedded in a window and the text will not move along with it.


You can also add double-linked notes by directly dragging the notes from the file list. Holding down CTRL+SHIFT embeds an iframe, and holding down SHIFT embeds an image.

For embedding external web pages, select the "Web Embed" icon in the toolbar, select an area by dragging, and then enter the website in the upper left corner to embed a webpage.

Embedding Excalidraw into document notes is the same as embedding regular notes, and you can preview the entire canvas.

Linking Fragmented Information#

Select an element on the canvas, which can be an image, text, shape, or a group element. Select the Obsidian icon. Here, there is an option to copy the internal link of the element and you can also describe this link. Paste it in another note, and you will have a double link to the fragmented information in the canvas.

Open the double link menu to see all the bidirectional link information in the canvas.

In the "More Options" of the canvas, you can open a partial relationship map to see the relationship map of the double link information.

Other Features of Excalidraw#

  • The creator has added many functions, such as OCR text recognition and PDF reading. If you need them, you can study them yourself. You can export images, PDF files, and SVG format files.
  • The installation process of the entire plugin is the general usage method of all Obsidian plugins. You can find other plugins in its plugin library.

Comparison between Excalidraw Canvas Plugin and Obsidian Whiteboard#


Obsidian launched its own whiteboard plugin last year, and you can create an Obsidian whiteboard by clicking on it in the left menu bar.

Basic Functions#

In terms of basic functions, both Excalidraw canvas and Obsidian whiteboard can add notes, web pages, images, videos, and write text notes, meeting the basic note-taking applications of a whiteboard. Both can be connected by lines, have typesetting functions, and multiple elements can form a group.

Excalidraw canvas can also draw some basic shapes.

When embedding Excalidraw canvas and Obsidian whiteboard into document notes, the Excalidraw canvas presents a thumbnail of the note, allowing you to preview the information, while the Obsidian whiteboard displays a gray block.

Excalidraw canvas can view bidirectional link information, while Obsidian whiteboard does not have this function. Similarly, Excalidraw canvas has its own partial relationship map, while Obsidian whiteboard does not.

Zooming Display#

Both appear to be infinite canvases that can be zoomed in and out. When zooming the Excalidraw canvas, the graphics are proportionally reduced, while when the Obsidian whiteboard is zoomed to a certain ratio, the note titles are displayed.

The text in the Excalidraw canvas can change font size, while the Obsidian whiteboard can change the size of the card that holds the text, but the text size is fixed.


In comparison between Excalidraw canvas and Obsidian whiteboard, they are similar in terms of basic functions, and both can visually show the relationship between information through lines.

The double link information of notes is the network relationship between notes, which is the highlight of double-linked notes. Obsidian whiteboard does not retain this function, but the plugin can view double link information.

From the perspective of note visualization, embedded images are more intuitive and clear than colored blocks. When there is more data on the whiteboard, changing the size of the text can make the information at different levels clearer.

The combination of double links and canvas medium is what I call "visual note" tools in note-taking software. Visualizing information is an important means of information management for me, and I will continue to share my note-taking practices in the future.

From the perspective of tool selection, double links + whiteboard medium, I choose the third category of "visual note" tools; from the perspective of application scenarios, I also use "visual note" for organization and creation. In the future, I will share more applications of visual notes and related tool considerations.

04-How to Use Excalidraw Canvas...

This is the fourth article sharing my tips for using Obsidian, and it is currently my most...


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Comparison between Excalidraw Canvas Plugin and Obsidian Whiteboard

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