A more extensive use of folders?

I know that the Zettelkasten proponents frown on the use of folders (though I get the impression from photos of Luhmann system, that he did use some separator cards approximating the use of a small number of high level folders). But I wonder if they might be more useful than often thought, and not lose the benefits of the networked system of notes and links.

I’ve only been using Obsidian for a couple of weeks. Here is what I’ve just begun experimenting with as a system of folders:

FOLDERS FOR DATES

Since the dates are fixed, it seems to make sense to make them folders. If the number of notes is not too high, Monthly folders would be sufficient. If it’s higher, it would need to be by day.

The advantages to that I see are:
UNIQUELY IDENTIFIED: Each note, as long as it is the only note in that folder with that title, is uniquely identified.

FUTURE PROOF: If it was necessary to move everything out of Obsidian, that structure would remain intact.

BETTER NAMING CONVENTION: This way the date is easily accessible and shows up when creating links, etc, but is not in the title, thus creating more attractive links.

MORE NAVIGABLE FILE EXPLORER: With the files collapsed under date folders, it’s easy to navigate and “clean”.

INBOX. An inbox can be approximated by any file that is not yet in a folder.

POSSIBLE OTHER FOLDERS:

  • INCUBATION. For notes that are not yet ready to be filed away.
  • INDEX. A few highest level notes that I want very accessible.

There are some other options for a limited, useful application of folders where there are clear, fixed separations, such as in the Bible. So I’m wondering:

Anyone else trying something like this?

Am I missing something by starting down this road?

Thanks for your input.

Related discussions:



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Just to make it clear, you can now use the Relative Paths preference to show folder data in links.

I use folders almost in an arbitrary, ad-hoc, almost aggressive way. The nature of backlinks forming true relations means that I can use folders however I like in the moment: I can add, change, delete folders without worrying about the underlying backlink structure.

What does this mean practically? It means I can sort notes as needed under whatever organizational structure I need.

I have math, not_math, main_project, and then loose notes. main_project is definitely math but it doesn’t matter because the links to math are there. It’s separate because I use those files most often. And then math and not_math have pretty extensive folder structures.

I have loose notes in the vault area because when I’m LOOKING for a note, I most often look for a note I’ve recently created, that day or the day previous. Once I get enough I move them to some other folders.

Mini-project? I can create a new folder and move the appropriate files into that folder from other areas. Project done? Move files back (to wherever seems appropriate, not necessarily the exact same place! perhaps I forgot, perhaps the original place was inappropriate, perhaps it was appropriate FOR MY UNDERSTANDING AT THE TIME but that understanding as evolved as a result of the project, it doesn’t matter), and then delete the folder.

I use folders primarily as a navigation and filing tool. The nature of obsidian means that I can actually use folders MORE freely than before; there’s no need to think about folders representing my notes as anything more than a convenience for finding them as backlinks now handle any sort of meta-cognition task that folders once had.

Essentially, folders are just a shitty note with only a title and you’re only allowed to have another note linked once in each.

However the visual and spatial aspect of folders and memory (and I guess familiarity) make them a tool that should be used.

Note: MOCs are basically just folders if you ONLY have links in them and no commentary. Furthermore they’re problematic in that they clutter the graph from what imo backlinks should be which is direct connections between ideas. You can see this as a problem when people are asking for graph filtering, one reason to filter out MOCs. I still use them because the file explorer is quite ugly and under featured though.

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@chipmunk I use folders almost exactly as you’ve described, and for the same reasons:

I’ve found monthly to be the right chunk size for me. The latest release of Obsidian has better search, which will make filtering by tags easier, so I’ll use both in whatever way seems to make sense at the time.

Yes, those different options are very helpful for expanding the usefulness of folders.

Thanks for the link to your quote ( and to the whole thread, which I had somehow missed). That’s good to see someone thinking along similar lines.

I appreciate that learning of that very free use of folders. It’s giving me ideas.

PS. This is my first posting on a forum like this. Thanks for your patience!

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I like this.

However, the file explorer won’t let me drag a note to a folder that’s out of view, so I’m finding that rearranging stuff gets cumbersome the more longer the list of folders or the longer the list of notes in a folder. How do you deal with this?

Yes, but am not sure how common that is. Quite a few of the examples in Nick’s IMF vault do have commentary and some notes are linked to multiple MOCs.

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Yes.
There are some compatibility issues if you want to access your notes using some of the markdown editors available on iOS and Android. How do I work with Obsidian on Mobile?

Using folders to keep your files neatly sorted by creation date limits your ability to sort for anything else.

In the file explorer, I like to sort by edit time (newest first) to go back to things I was working on, before getting distracted. The more folders you have, the more places you need to look for work-in-progress. Sorting by edit time (oldest first) could help rediscover notes that you haven’t looked at in a while.

Sorting AZ and scanning the list of file names can be a convenient way to browse, if you’re not sure what you’re looking for or can’t remember the exact keyword used. The more folders you have, the more expanding and collapsing you have to do to get an overview.

So far, I’m finding searching for dates to be a more flexible approach, since 2020-06 also allows me to find meeting notes from June that I wrote up in July, or mentions of events embedded in a longer discussion. However, this could easily get cluttered up with cross-linkages as my vault grows.

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Comandra, somehow I missed your reply. Thanks for those helpful pointers of the disadvantage of this approach.