Add ability to use Obsidian as a markdown editor on files outside vault

Use case or problem

I’d love to be able to use Obsidian to create open, and edit files outside my vault. With the editing and interface features that have been added—and the ways I’ve been able to customize it—Obsidian blows away any other markdown editor I’ve tried, and I’d rather be editing and writing everything in it.

Proposed solution

Enable Obsidian to create, open, and edit markdown files system-wide.

Current workaround (optional)

Current workarounds are:

  • Move files temporarily into my vault, then move them back afterward.

  • Use another markdown editor, none of which comes close to Obsidian. Typora has some limitations (inability to fold sections by headings in the Mac app, for example) and weird idiosyncrasies (like not being able to see or edit the # symbols at the beginning of headers once they’re rendered), and there’s no mobile version. And the latest version of iA Writer that came out today for macOS and iOS is a disappointment.


@pdworkman, @rjp, and I aren’t the only ones who want this. As Benjamin D. Lee says in his post “Obsidian is (almost) a Typora killer”:

Obsidian is not without its downsides relative to Typora. However, I think these downsides can be fixed relatively easily. First and foremost, it’s not possible to open an arbitrarily located Markdown file in Obsidian. Instead, it has to be located within your notes directory. I’ve gotten around this so far by temporarily symlinking but this hack isn’t anywhere as slick as just opening it in Typora. Obsidian should follow VS Code’s approach when opening files that are not in the current workspace: just open the file anyway. [emphasis added]


Off-topic, but: What do you find disappointing about the new iA Writer? (Your post alerted me to it. At a glance I’m pleased with the changes, tho I’m guessing it doesn’t update links to renamed files.)

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The new Mac version of iA Writer hasn’t fixed some of the things that have bothered me about it for a while. The folding headers and navigable outline features that the Windows version has had for years are still missing from the Mac and iOS apps. There’s also its lack of attention to small details. For example, I hate that it doesn’t at least make the markdown characters light gray so they’re legible but don’t distract from or blend into the words they surround. Boldface is especially bad—not only are the double asterisks not ghosted to a subtle shade of gray, they’re rendered in bold along with the word they surround, making it harder to read. (I’d be even happier to see them simply hide markdown characters when the cursor isn’t adjacent to them, the way Typora and Obsidian’s live preview do.)

Other apps haven’t stood still, and by comparison iA Writer feels increasingly unpolished, which would be understandable in a free and open-source app but not in a paid commercial one.

Instead of making it a better writer-focused markdown editor, their team has spent time and development effort adding PKM features like wikilinks. I’m not exactly against that—I love those features in Obsidian—but I’d much rather see them make the app better at performing its core mission rather than chasing after the Obsidians and Logseqs of the world and trying to compete in a space where it’s always going to be far behind.


Makes sense.

They fixed a lot of the things that had bothered me (like the terrible tag styling), so I was feeling pretty positive after reading the release notes. I probably still won’t use it much, tho; maybe for first drafts (but then again I’m in Obsidian all the time anyway so why bother?).

I didn’t know the Windows version has foldable headings! Those have really improved my work in Obsidian and I’d really like them in iA. I knew about the outline, but I didn’t like that it’s mixed in with the file browser (if that’s still how they’re doing it). Foldable headings mostly fill that need for me anyway (if there’s a way to fold them all at once).

Anyway, thanks for sharing.


Upvote! I’d love to see this too.

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This one gets my vote, too!

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This is a must for the roadmap.

Just let Obsidian open a special „vault-less“ window with all markdown which are not in a vault. But still allow plugins and customisation in that „not-vault vault“.

Maybe have prominent button floating around „add markdown-file to vault…“ and than let select a vault or create a new vault!