A folder-heavy workflow (folders vs. links vs. tags vs. dataview, etc.--again)

Over many years as a professional journalist, I’ve evolved a workflow where one project = one folder. That folder contains drafts, notes, and source materials. Source materials can be PDFS, Word documents, video documents, etc. Projects can remain active for hours, days, or weeks.

I’ve been using Obsidian since near the beginning I love a lot about it. That’s why I’ve stuck with it. But I have been struggling to adapt its links/tags workflows to the way my brain works.

Finally, a short while ago, I decided that project folders have worked for me for a long time, and I should just stick with that system.

Each folder gets an index note, containing links to every document in the folder, descriptions of those documents where appropriate, and updates on the status of the project.

It’s a redundant system with my folders, but I’m ok with that. Mostly I set up a new folder every couple of days at most, so the extra work is insignificant.

However, there is one problem with this system: Backlinks.

In the backlinks area of a note, you don’t see the whole folder/path of a linked note. You just see the title of a note. So information contained in the folder hierarchy is lost when looking at the backlinks panel.

For example, I might have a folder path named: “Client Name/Project X/Assignment.” If I look at the document in the Mac Finder, I’ll see that entire path. Same for opening the document using the Quick Switcher. But looking at the Backlinks panel, all I’ll see is the document name “Assignment.”

A workaround would be to reproduce the folder structure in the document name. But that seems wasteful and error-prone.

It occurred to me this afternoon that there are other options for locating notes in the vault: Search is one. Dataview is another. Tags are a third. Aliases. So the name of the document in the finder doesn’t have to be the same as the identifier I use when searching for the document within Obsidian.

However, I’m still left with the problem of that pesky backlinks panel, showing me an incomplete document path.

Do other people face similar problems? If so, how do you solve them? Do you just give up the backlinks panel, and instead use search? Dataview? Tags? Maybe something having to do with backlinks to an index note?

I may not even be articulating this problem very well, but I’m hoping the groupmind can help me find solutions, or at least stir up some interesting discussion of a perennial Obsidian issue.

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What it sounds like is that you would like a more advanced list of backlinks to a note. If you’re comfortable with adding a Dataview table to your index note, you have the option to display all incoming file links (backlinks). Here are the dataview tables I include in every one of my project notes:

To show all backlinked files…

TABLE file.mtime FROM [[]]
SORT file.ctime DESC

To show all tasks in backlinked files…

WHERE contains(tags, “#tasks”)
SORT completed ASC

You would add the file.path implicit field to the first example so you can render the path of the file.


You might take a look at the Database Folder plugin, and also Excalibrain, which is pretty remarkable, but might not be how you want to do things. I think it is still worth knowing about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqEtn3gCZF0&t=155s

Edit: here is a video about Database Folder and Dataview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak7cuIyQeYw

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Interesting applications. I don’t know if they solve my particular problem but worth looking into nonetheless. Thanks!

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I’ve reluctantly accepted that most apps don’t take advantage of folder paths like they should, so I use unique names. Each of my projects has a number that I attach to
its filenames. It’s not ideal, and I haven’t been using it long enough to make strong claims for it, but that’s my way.

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