For many years I was searching for a tool that could help me to build my knowledge database (and categorize notes or documents). Each application had its pros and cons. Among others, I used mostly Google Keep (fast, simple, searchable), Notion (powerful but slow for me), OneNote (generally good but not for programming notes), Evernote, and Gist (web version was not appealing to me, external tools became paid). Recently I started using Obisidan and it looks like I will stick with that for a longer time. Below you can find out why.
Markdown and a folder structure are a good marriage
One of my biggest concerns regarding cloud-native note-taking apps is their security and ability to migrate notes between apps. Obsidian is local-first and makes use of plain text – notes are stored as Markdown files and their structure is basically a folder structure they are stored in. You can easily copy all your notes (aggregated in a “Vault”) between machines. Alternatively, do a backup in the cloud (ideally by using an encryption tool, like Cryptomator: Secure your files in the cloud – Cryptomator for the rescue!). Therefore you can have access to all your notes offline and you can work on securing them on your own. Of course, the drawback is, you will need to take care of that by yourself.
In Obsidian I store also images or PDF files (i.e. documents), but it is able to recognize also audio and video files (Accepted file formats – Obsidian Help).
Obsidian has a bunch of cool features by default
I especially enjoyed a command palette (Ctrl+P) that allows executing commands quickly, especially together with a Git plugin. It is possible to see a graph of our notes, tag notes for easier categorization, or search notes i.e. by using regex.
It is community-driven – and has lots of fantastic plugins!
There are already lots of plugins that make Obsidian even more powerful. Among many, I definitely recommend:
- Kanban – works exactly as it should! I replaced several Trello boards with help of this plugin.
- Tasks – you can even use Obisidan as an app for tasks.
- Obsidian Git – I have several clones of the main notes repository. With this plugin, I do not need to use a command line.
- Calendar – useful if you want to create daily notes quickly.
Additionally, there are more and more themes available for Obsidian. By default, it also supports a dark theme, so it does not hurt the eyes in the evenings.
A pretty decent mobile version is there
I use an Android version of Obsidian. It is good, however, a desktop version naturally is more appealing to me. Still, a mobile version is a great thing to quickly note on the fly or check existing ones. As I do not use any cloud to synchronize my notes (yet), I utilize FolderSync to sync notes between my computer and a mobile phone.
… and it is free (for personal use)!
Last but not least, Obsidian is free. No monthly/yearly subscriptions. As notes are regular Markdown files, they are just yours as well as the Obsidian executable. There is something called Obsidian Sync which can sync your notes between various devices, and yes, it is paid. Additionally, Obsidian is paid for commercial use. Nevertheless, for personal use, there is no need to pay anything.
I really enjoy using Obsidian. Community plugins allow unlocking the full potential of this app – and it will become even more significant in the future. If you think about building your knowledge base or just a place to store notes and categorize documents – give it a try. There is a high chance you will enjoy it for a longer time 🙂 You can grab it here.
PS. Plugins I really enjoy:
Omnisearch (+ Text Extractor) – a great search engine that indexes not only the content of files (as well as their names) but with the Text Extractor plugin, it can also index images or PDFs
Obsidian Git – allows you to use Git easily directly from Obsidian
Kanban – just a Kanban – nothing less, nothing more. Backed by a markdown files
PlantUML – this plugin will generate output (images, graphs, etc.) from the PlantUML code. I have written more about PlantUML here
Advanced Tables – makes markdown tables more powerful
Recent Files – an easy way to see the recent files
Calendar – a Calendar for your daily notes
Copy button for code blocks – adds a “copy button” for code blocks
Editor Syntax Highlight – code blocks can get additional syntax highlighting
Image Toolkit – makes working with images easier (i.e. adds zoom, rotate, color-inversion)
Paste image rename – with this plugin, you can rename pasted images
Admonition – adds admonition block-styled content