A Guide On Links vs. Tags In Obsidian

When to use tags/links?

To get the best out of both, first one should understand how they work (described in the post to which I’m answering).

Taking that into account, #tags could be seen as keywords when googling and [links] as hyperlinks in wikipedia.

Hope this clears out!


Actually, as the notes are stored within the file system, by the help of the bulk text replacement applied to all files within the vault using, such as VSCode or Atom, it is possible to replace the “#tag_1” to “[[tag_1]]”, and then the obsidian can do the rest works.

Vice versa.

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I’m currently working on posts for all the things I searched for and couldn’t find when starting out. The first is on how to approach tags. The gist is tags always sprawl and are always hard to maintain, and that’s ok because tags really only need to work at the note level. They’re like a jungle gym. You only need to know where the next bar is when you’re climbing around. It doesn’t matter how organized or messy the jungle gym looks from far away. https://austingovella.medium.com/how-to-approach-tags-in-your-pkm-b29c98dc43d3


And there is no difference to links, they also need to work on the note level. Thanks for that insight. - And it’s hard to believe that winning control by losing control is an amazing option in knowledge development.

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@realactualprice been awhile since I’ve been in the forums so just saw your OP. Some really good info in there and a nice starting point for both tags and index pages.


The OP writes that

In Obsidian, a tag is: “A connection from a note to an idea”.

But I don’t think following that idea is wise. Your ideas should be notes, not tags. The note itself is the idea and the source of its information / knowledge generation power. The tag is the meta category that the note can - without a second thought - be related to. ie a logical and uncomplicated broad based filter!

Fundamentally it comes down to finding a good way to use tags for what they’re good for, which is identifying shared qualities of notes across different topics - but not qualities that directly link notes together (ie relations - thats what links should be used for). This is why a lot of people advocate for using tags as “statuses”.

Another cool use of tags I considered was location / time specific identification. So if you did a semester abroad, your could tag all notes that you write in that time away with #semester-abroad. ie, stuff thats useful for filtering later, but that isnt based on filtering down by topic - because that will always get way too granular and take too much consideration (a larger note could potentially have 5-10+ valid topical tags)

I read also this article about topic vs object tags. People said it was good but I didnt understand it on first read (have no idea why the thumbnail is that weird dog :rofl:)

In the end I would say that the style of using tags as broad based, cross topic groupings of notes (eg statuses #follow-up, timeframes #q1-2022, location based #semester-abroad or identifiers #meeting-notes) and using [[links]] as connections of direct bidirectional relationship mapping stands to bare the most fruit and take advantage of the power of obsidian in the long run.

Also keep in mind what kind of vault you are working in.
I have a technical reference vault for programming and there I only use tags as I want things to be very specific - and because its a technical reference doc, it is. So the tags then work as quick narrowing in on topics that are inherently specific.


Thank you so much for this very valuable and useful explanation.

I just say one thing about link or tag,but I think it’s important.
You can search your tag ,but you can not search your link.
for example:
tag: obsidian tag:obsidian tag:plugin file
you can search the notes which include tag obsidian and plugin and the note include word ‘file’.

but you can not search the notes which include appoint link.


You can search for links — [[LinkName — tho they aren’t indexed like tags are (actually they probably are, but there’s no way to access it from search).

(Leaving off the end brackets allows for link text like [[LinkName|Text]], tho it also allows [[LinkNameVariant. A more complex search using a regular expression like /\[\[LinkName\||\]/ would prevent that but is obviously harder to use.)



Regarding the MOC topic and the Tag vs Direct Link discussion, I raised this question here From tag/link to MOC. A question about linking - Knowledge management - Obsidian Forum

Which are your thoughts?

Your article is great and I would like to add some ideas about graph view.

  1. First of all, install the tag wrangler, otherwise the discussion is pointless.
  2. Using MOCs can make your graph view look pretty messy(too many links), while tags can simply be turned off in graph view.
  3. Based on 2, I find it useful to blend the use of both links and tags. Use tags whenever you don’t want those notes be linked in graph view. (You can still turn them on when you wish to.)

You can also hide files in a path or with a tag. For example, I links to areas that represent big buckets of stuff. Great for quickly scoping a search but make the graph wonky. I keep those files in a folder, and in graph view, I hide that path, so my graph looks more “right”.

I’m a newbie, and trying to work out how to replace Evernote tagging which I used extensively. At the moment planning to use links as tags, with the first character of the link providing some context - so +name would be an organisation, @name a person, -name a topic and so on. Has anyone else adopted a scheme like this? I might then reserve tags for status markers (as I understand you can use tags to colour nodes).

This would go someway towards replicating my Evernote scheme - which I can’t bring over as tags don’t accept non-alpha characters. These high-order notes are not hierarchical, like the tags would be - but they could appear in MoCs to show groupings…

Anyone see any problems with this approach?

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I first started doing something like this after reviewing Bryan Jenks sample vault. I too was heavy tag user in Evernote since pre-2010.

I started with prefixes like + and @ but ended up with folders, instead. All people go in People. Projects in Projects. Orgs in Orgs.

Everything else goes in the Notes folder.

The prefix doesn’t actually help with linking or searching as People, Projects, and Orgs almost never have similar names.

I do use a #type tag to delineate each at a high level, so I can do a quick search (or quickly include or exclude a chink of notes). So #type/person, #type/project, #type/org, etc.

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I use the prefix, to trigger Templater to pull in the proper template.

When I create a new Note with a hotkey, Templater prompts me for the Note name. Depending upon the first symbol of the file name (e.g. @ for Person) that is the template it uses and then moves the Note to my Collections/People Folder.

I prefer having these type of notes with a “type=…” in front matter YAML.

(note “is-a” type)

But I think that having link typing too could be a very useful feature

(note A “has-a” role with B)

Currently, I apply “link-type” for some important links using a sort of “tag syntax” using @ as a prefix.

For example, if Note A is a principle and Note B is a practical application of A, in note B I have link:

@implements: [[Note A]]

It’s just a visual mark of link typing, obsiouslly, Obsidian doesn’t have features around @tags.

In some case I use attributes instead, like

parent:: [[Note A]]


subject:: [[Photography]], [[Macro]]

Maybe I can simple replace @ with :: in many use cases, effectively…
I’m experimenting.

I’m realizing now that ‘tag::’ has the advantage over ‘@tag’ that is supported by plugins and I can use it in dataview queries

I like to use tags for a specific purpose only (action items); I want the list kept short so I can see at a glance a dashboard overview of what I need to do (finish, research, review, update, whatever).

So I use links, where instead of tagging something as #the_subject I make a page (if one doesn’t already exist), name it the_subject , and then I can link anything and everything related to [[the_subject]] and it will show up in the backlinks (and graph).

However, I have used tags with a letter in front of the hashtag for the purpose of generating a use case-specific list of searchable tag-like keywords, but one that doesn’t appear on the tag list.

I use a letter in front of the hashtag x# instead of something like @ because I worry that using command type symbols will someday create a conflict with some new feature or plugin.

You should mention file aliases in YAML.

I was just about to come post about this. I do this, too; I have a folder named “topics” and a bunch of notes in there that help me find other related notes because of backlinks. But these notes often have little to no meaningful content themselves – spending time duplicating content in them that is found in other notes seems kinda pointless so far.

Maybe in the future some kind of more formal MOC thing could be useful for me, but I’m not jumping in just yet.