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.

This is how notes are presented in Obsidian (source: Obsidian)

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).

You can use Windows Package Manager (see winget – Windows is not that bad) to download Obisdian:

winget install --id=Obsidian.Obsidian -e

Alternatively, just navigate to the download page: Download – Obsidian

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:

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. I have several clones of the main notes repository. With this plugin, I do not need to use a command line.

Kanban – just a Kanban – nothing less, nothing more. Backed by markdown files, works exactly as it should! I replaced several Trello boards with help of this plugin.

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, useful if you want to create daily notes quickly.

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 

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.

My verdict:)

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 🙂

PS. How I create a backup of Obsidian files in the Cloud

As I currently use Windows, I have created a batch script that packs my notes into a zip folder:

<# :
  @echo off
    powershell /nologo /noprofile /command ^
         "&{[ScriptBlock]::Create((cat """%~f0""") -join [Char[]]10).Invoke(@(&{$args}%*))}"
  exit /b
Write-Host Compress Obsidian folder to zip? [args: $args[0]] -fo Green

Write-Host -NoNewLine 'Press any key to continue...';
$null = $Host.UI.RawUI.ReadKey('NoEcho,IncludeKeyDown');

Compress-Archive -Path "C:/pathToYourObsidianVault" -DestinationPath "C:/Obsidian-$(get-date -f yyyy-MM-dd).zip"

Then I can use Cryptomator (Secure your files in the cloud – Cryptomator for the rescue!) to persist my notes in the cloud securely.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *