Obsidian Review: Transforming Your Note-Taking Experience
Note-taking applications have been all the rage for years, with hits like Evernote striking it big enough to enter the public lexicon, becoming commonplace terms. Others, like Roam and TheBrain, go a lot deeper, adding powerful functionality not merely designed to provide a better note-taking experience, but actively promote better note-recall and exploration. That’s where Obsidian comes in, the new kid on the block with some mighty big ideas and the experienced team to make it all happen.
The question that arose for me was: What program best fits my needs?
My own philosophy of note-taking is that of the Zettlekasten(German for “slip-box” or “note-box”). This method works by linking notes forward to similar notes and generating new notes from existing ones during explorations of the note collection. For this, while you can certainly use the classic method that relies on post-cards, I find it far easier to handle with the use of a clever computer program and a dual-monitor workstation. The question that arose for me was “what program best fits my needs?”
How I found Obsidian
During the pandemic, I began looking for ways to better handle my knowledge flow and retention. At a workshop with the science fiction author Tobias Buckell, I learned about Obsidian and the powerful ways it supports note-taking, idea generation, and retrieval of information for later use. As an academic and professional writer, this matters to me; in the age of Deep Work (as author Cal Newport calls it), we need to have the tools at our disposal which streamline the process of our work as much as possible while aiding us in the deep knowledge dive.
What is Obsidian?
The Obsidian team actually only began working on the project during the Covid-19 pandemic, free to spend extra time turning a concept into a reality. While Obsidian is in many ways optimized for knowledge workers who interact heavily with code, its features provide any knowledge worker with a vast array of tools for organization and insight generation. Combined with the Zettelkasten approach to notes, Obsidian allows for a powerful storage and retrieval system for all of my notes, as well as a beautiful space within which to connect the dots in surprising ways between existing notes and therefore generate my own ideas and thoughts from those pre-existing points.
Combined with the Zettelkasten approach to notes, Obsidian allows for a powerful storage and retrieval system for all of my notes
This article is intended as a brief top-down review and introduction to the features of Obsidian, which I will then go into in greater detail in future articles that concentrate on specific “how-to” questions. This is a big and complex program, but the learning curve is wonderfully shallow. It’s possible to jump in straight out of the gate with very little knowledge and expand as you go, but I promise that by following the guides here you’ll be able to make headway all that much quicker.
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