Testing Obsidian for Note Taking and Organizing

Published on October 12, 2022 at 5:38 pm by LEW


In today’s post I will be testing a local note taking application called Obsidian. It has a lot of features similar to mediawiki, which I covered in a previous series of posts.

My original purpose for mediawiki was a place to store, organize, and access my notes for various writing projects. The problem with mediawiki is it requires a LAMP style server, which can be setup locally, or even on a USB key. Which is expected, as media wiki was designed to be used from a Web Interface. However it makes mediawiki installation somewhat cumbersome and probably more complex than the average user would like.

Obsidian is a local application that stores files locally. Unlike mediawiki, no server is required, which makes installation a breeze. Obsidian is not a drop in replacement for mediawiki (especially if you need a web based multi user system), however it shares many similar features for maintaining notes and interlinking information. Obsidian also runs on Windows, Linux, Android, and Apple devices.

Getting Obsidian

If you are running windows, the easiest way to install Obsidian is to visit their website, and click the “Get Obsidian” button that is close to the top of the page.

Note the webpage will do its best to identify your system and the application format you need.

On Linux, I downloaded it through the Arch repository. For other Linux Distributions where it does not reside in their repository, there are an AppImage, Snap, and Flatpak versions available.

On Android, it is available in the play store. For MAC there is an image, and it is also available in the I phone app store.

One thing to watch out for is the venison number of the installation. If you are installing Obsidian on multiple devices it should be the same version number. I am currently using version 0.15.9.

Obsidian Terminology and Folder Structure

Before diving in, we need to become familiar with Obsidian terminology and how information is being stored.

Vault: Obsidian stores information in a vault. A vault is just a folder folder with a hidden “.obsidion” folder inside it. This is where information and settings for your vault are stored.

Within a vault you can create folders and documents. By default documents are text files using embedded markdown syntax. The markdown syntax is a subject for another post, but basically it is a lightweight method of implementing variations in text appearance in basic text files. Most of its effects are similar to what can be done with HTML.

Obsidian has also implemented a simple system for linking internal and external files within the body of a page.

Using Obsidian

Since this is a high level overview, and Obsidian is in active development, I will not be going into how individual actions are implemented in this post. Rather we will be looking at higher level workflow

When you start the application, you have the choice of opening an existing vault, or creating a new vault. If not present, Obsidian will create the hidden .obsidian folder. So technically if you are already using markdown for notes, you can easily import them by just coping to the vault folder.

The Obsidian window has a header bar and three columns. Your information goes in the center Column. The header bar has basic editing and option icons.

On the left in default view is a file explorer. Form here you can create folders and documents. The right hand bar contains a collection of links and other data.

My basic workflow for this weeks test run is to create some high level folders and pages, then start adding notes and data.

I also want to see how well I can sync across multiple devices. This would seem to be nothing more than sharing a vault folder, which I can store on line. Then before opening Obsidian, I would need to copy down the latest folder (when working across multiple devices). There are a lot of options for how this would work, and it is something I will explore if I continue to use Obsidian after this test run (so stay tuned).

Note that Obsidian does have a paid service for sharing folders across devices, which is not to expensive and would be worth it if Obsidian is your main data management driver.


I will follow up with a more comprehensive review in a week or so. But as of the end of the first day, my impressions are good for the windows and Linux versions. I have yet to try the Android version, or copying vaults between devices. But I will be sure to post once I have finished my testings

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