A case against Dataview - A story

I would like to preface this post by saying that I love the concept behind Dataview & that I recognize that it is a very useful & resourceful plugin. This I know because I was once an extensive user of it. The reason why I write this post is because I want you to be conscious of how you’re building your vault, not because I have anything against the plugin or its developers. If you, after consideration, reach the conclusion that it is a worthwhile & necessary component of your vault (or you just don’t care) you are welcome to keep it in your workflow. Who am I to tell you what to do, right? I repeat, I used it & enjoyed it a lot in the past. I just want to open a discussion. I was inspired to write this after I saw a post somebody made talking about how they trapped themselves into Obsidian because of their extensive plugin use. I want you to be conscientious of the issue, is all. With all that being said, let’s get into it!

I’ve been using Obsidian for a couple of years now. I’ve gone through multiple vaults trying to figure out what works for me, which is why I don’t have thousands of notes or anything fancy. At first I would look at some crazy setup videos online & would mimic them as closely as I could, which is fine when you’re starting out, but can quickly lead to a cycle of restarting vaults. You fall into that illusion of productivity where you’re just “setting up" your vault over & over… & over again without ever actually using it. No good. Many years & many setups later, I decided to start a vault without plugins. They would only get installed when I deemed them necessary, an example of Gall’s Law, if you will; making a system more & more complex gradually, instead of starting out with a “fleshed out" system. This new vault made me sit for a moment & ask myself what I was looking to get from this whole notetaking jazz. This is what I concluded: I want a well of multidisciplinary knowledge that makes sense to me, I want a place to think & grow, & I want something that I can have with me regardless of application & device. This third point, in other words, means that I want my information to be mine & free. Those values just so happen to align with the reasons Obsidian exists. If you happen to feel the same way or have similar values as me, think about your actions & whether they ensure your notes are future-proof.

Once I clearly defined my aforementioned “notetaking values" as I’ll call them, I realized that there were a few plugins stepping between me & those goals. The biggest of these was Dataview. In every vault before, I had Dataview installed & wondered how the hell I would manage without it. It was either to erase a plugin I thought necessary or give up my futureproofing. I opted to part ways with Dataview… & I’m very glad I did. No matter what editor I use I can open up my notes & read them clearly. The plugins that I use are mostly cosmetic (I love you Ninja cursor <3) or small QoL plugins (footnote shortcut my beloved). The task of actually linking notes has become something I actually do & I have found that doing a couple of things manually has improved my thinking & relating abilities. My time inside Obsidian is significantly higher, not because I’m spending more time manually linking notes per-se, but because I’m writing more & enjoying the experience in a way that I didn’t before. I feel as though I’m going to have my notes for a long time, which inspires me to work them out a little more.

I guess that what I’m getting at here is that you might want to stop for a second & ask yourself if your notes, in their current state, are doing what you want them to do for you in the future. If keeping these for an indefinite amount of time is not something you value as much, for example, you might not see the necessity in taking a drastic action like erasing your plugins. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our different use cases. I do hope that if it is something important to you, that you weigh out the pros & cons of the tools you’re implementing. It would suck to realize you don’t want a component of that type in your vault after hundreds & hundreds of notes have been made using it.

Thanks for reading this far if you did. I’m open to respectful discussions, so let me know what you think & have a nice day!


“I was inspired to write this after I saw a post somebody made talking about how they trapped themselves into Obsidian because of their extensive plugin use.”

Good thread. However isn’t the above a bit of an exaggeration? I’m guessing “trapped” simply meant not being able to duplicate everything as they moved away from it? But nothing stopped them from exporting all their markdown files to another program that supports (or imports) markdown files?


If you try to open a file written with Dataview on a different markdown application, it won’t render as a table. Only the code will be there, making it unusable. That would mean the person depends on Dataview to have a “functional” file.


I’m far from an advanced Obsidian user so…isn’t Dataview usually used to render data from already existing data/notes? I’m not being argumentative, I genuinely want clarification. If that’s the case, I’d not expect that data to be exportable? Thanks

Don’t worry! You’re right about it rendering from existing data. Thing is that the connections made by Dataview rely on an input in the note. Say that you set the type of a note to be “Books” & you create a Dataview query to pull everything of said type. It’s going to render a table from that data, but the “links” made by the plugin aren’t actual links. It’s a query that’s pulling every mention of the data that is “Books”. You could try to open one of your notes (assuming you do have a Dataview note) on the default computer Notepad & you’ll see what I mean. Now, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue if it were more… human-readable. It is if you know how to work Dataview, but imagine having to open hundreds of notes outside of Obsidian (let’s say it stops existing for whatever reason) & having them all look like that. It’s going to be a lot more complicated to work with. Now imagine that, in this same world where Obsidian is no longer, you open those notes & the links that are in it are not Dataview queries but actual markdown links. You could get another markdown software & be able to have those links be functional once more because they don’t depend on a specific plugin made for one specific application, they depend on markdown which is broadly used. Yes, technically you can export the note. That does not mean that Dataview will be exported with it, since it’s a plugin. Hope that makes a little more sense.

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Thank for the response. One of the things I’ve done in my relatively simple implementation is to always think of “notes” and “views” based on dataview or similar differently. Meaning I want my notes to be largely “independent” so if I were to ever leave Obsidian I could do so. Whereas notes that basically contain queries I’d never expect to take with me. It seems to me as long as it’s carefully thought out a person could use Dataview and other plugins and still have a pretty darn “exportable” system. But I can certainly see where if someone gives no thought to that, it could be a lot of work moving.

I think a good and consistent folder and tag structure goes a long way to avoiding lock-in.


The real question would be, if not Dataview, what would you do?

The answer would be a different program that will not offer the other Obsidian features, primarily being the user interface.

Secondly, it’s unlikely you can create database features without going to the straightjacket of a spreadsheet or standalone database.

Thirdly, your reasons for not using Dataview are now applicable to the new method of reviewing your notes.

Enjoy it, if you need it. Stop stressing, the alternative is multiple replacement apps and new lockins.

Dataview replacement, Datacore, will be a core feature, it is that useful.

Interesting thread and good read, thank you! I never thought of this problem, but can see why this might be problematic.
Dataview has become indispensable for me. I render all open, and closed projects on my landing page. This would just flat out not work without dataview. At least I don’t know how. It keeps track of the state of my projects and automatically moves them around when their state changes.
It also displays the open tasks I have for each open project. The catch is that the tasks are not on the Project page itself but in daily notes that are linked to the tasks. That ensures that the project page itself stays clean.

It’s a bit complex but it works great for me. I really liked your description of slowly ramping up complexity according to your needs. I did the exact same thing.

This is a rough outline of my logic. All the Daily notes are in one folder, never to be touched. Each project I am working on for the day gets a dedicated daily note if needed. Everything is automated, so I can really only use my setup in Obsidian anyways.

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I want something that I can have with me regardless of application & device.

Same here. Interoperability with other apps is a major factor, why I use Obsidian in the first place. For me it’s all about Markdown.

I love that I can edit the content of my vault from the outside. It took me a while to understand, that others use Obsidian very differently. They want their features inside Obsidian.

I love Obsidian’s customizability. Obsidian plus some CSS snippets and small automatization plugins makes an efficient and compatible Markdown editor. Obsidian with complex plugins like Dataview, Tasks, Projects and Excalidraw is a different game.

Dataview adds sophisticated database features to Obsidian. But for external Markdown editors Dataview’s proprietary inline fields and data queries mean nothing.

That’s a very interesting & fresh way of managing the situation. You’re the first person I hear who is doing that & I think it is a great way to have both without too much compromise. Hopefully somebody sees this & becomes inspired.

Super interesting workflow you’ve got going on. It sounds super cool & if it’s working the way you want it to, well that’s all that truly matters. I ask you then… are you okay with it being that way? That you can only use Obsidian? If yes then, again, that’s all that matters!

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Hello, I’m afraid I didn’t understand what you meant with your first point about a different program. Could you expand on that? Same with the “new method of reviewing notes”. What is that? Regarding creating a database, I would argue that it is possible. I have done it, after all, in a manner that is simple & that works for me. Ultimately, I agree with you. If you need it, use it. What I’m warning against here is the mindless use of these tools & plugins; use that does not align with your purpose in notetaking.

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I have no other choice, even if I wanted to :sweat_smile: I not only depend on Dataview, but also Templater and Quickadd for the automation to work.

I have a custom code snippet for Templater in order to generate my daily notes and associate them with the correct project. I use buttons to call them.

With Quickadd I can manage the logic of how templates are handled.

If I want to create a new project for example:

This is my base project template

In the Dataview table called Null, all the daily notes that were generated for this project are listed. Backlinks are automatically generated when creating a new daily note by clicking on “Open Daily Note”

And this is my Quickadd config for creating a new Project page. This is also done with a single button click.

So, if I want to change, it’ll be a headache.

Edit: This is my landing page: It also displays a picture if I added one.

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Your system looks fire, honestly. If it works well for you, that’s lovely. All I care about is making people think about the state of their workflow & have them ask whether it’s working as intended or not. If it fits what they’re trying to do, hell yes! I’m assuming this is the case for you & that’s awesome!


So, if I want to change, it’ll be a headache.

Exactly. :smiley:

@New This looks amazing! Would you be open to sharing your full workflow? I’d definitely be interested in trying your design out myself if possible!

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Sure, I can at least try to!


Amazing! I look forward to seeing it!

I think someone made a point that I want to agree with. I see my vault as data and many plugins like Dataview as applications. I want my data to be portable to many applications, whether inside Obsidian or not. I can share my data and use Obsidian based apps on the data or other external apps on the data.

As an example, if you want to have a table of data from a csv file and the file is large, Obsidian is terribly slow in terms of displaying the csv files as a table. I store my csv file in my vault but don’t use Obsidian for display o rfor querying information from the csv file. I store the csv file in Obsidian because it is related to other files and I may create a markdown file that explains that relationship, reports that reference that csv file and the like. If all of that is in a folder, I can have an atomic unit that can be used by other apps to enhance the data.