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

I think the idea of having Obsidian be able to edit text and Markdown files outside an Obsidian vault seems simple. But it seems like that’s not how Obsidian was built from the ground up, so in reality it’s not just removing a limitation.

I’d like to be able to just use Obsidian as a general text/Markdown editor, but I can see the difficulties in enabling this- even if Obsidian has a great editor generally speaking.

This is actually the only reason why I don’t use Obsidian 95% of the time. I don’t need to have a vault for every single isolated .md I use.
Wish I didn’t had to install Typora for something obisidian could technically do better.


Having the possibility to open isolated md files without extensions and settings would be already an improvement, but personally I wouldn’t use it if I cannot also use extensions and settings.
Moreover, separating the editor component from the rest of the app might be complicated for the developers.

However, I think there is a simple solution.

  • have an optional special vault in the computer, say V
  • when opening an md file, say F, search if it is in a vault (there should be an option to specify how many folders upstream (even 0) the search should go)
  • if it is in a vault, open its vault.
  • if it is not in a vault, notify the user, copy F temporarily in vault V, and lock file F to prevent changes from other apps (if possible)
  • Do all the edits; when saving, copy F to original folder.
  • When closing the file, copy it back to its original folder and delete it from vault V.

This approach seems (to me at least) computationally cheap, optional, and simple to implement. It could even be a plugin maybe

Am I missing something? Why couldn’t this process be implemented?


Your idea of establishing temporary vaults would mean setting up plugins and settings anew every time.

Sorry if I was not clear. This special vault should be unique, it should be set only once and would not be deleted after each use.
It would be in some folder specified by the user, and would be used anytime there is the need to work with these files that are not in a vault.

So it would be a special vault that doesn’t do linking?

Exactly, I guess it wouldn’t make sense for this special vault to manage links, because at any time in the vault there would be only the file(s) currently open.
(when the files gets closed, they are saved back to their original location and deleted from this vault.)

It is not acceptable for a contemporary, robust file editor such as Obsidian to not support a feature which simpler programs such as Windows’ Command Prompt, Microsoft Notepad, VIM, Sublime Text, and others, support.

The lack of it is enough to make me strongly consider switching text editors, and be glad I did not entrench my ‘workflow’ in the Obsidian ecosystem.

How many PKM apps do you know that can do this?

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I am not versed in the available PKM apps.
I switched to Obsidian from a plain text editor.

And therein lies the difficulty. Obsidian isn’t a plaintext editor, it’s a PKM app that contains a plaintext editor. Most PKM apps work with databases - Obsidian is one of the few that work with files.

The only PKM app I know that can open any file is Tangent Notes. Similar to Obsidian in some ways (much of its syntax) but not in others; has far fewer features and no plugins or themes. Foam and Dendron are VSCode extensions - there’s always a chance they will suit you better. I don’t know if they can open any file - they both limit their workspaces - but you ought to be able to achieve a similar look and feel with VSCode in standalone form.

The alternative is to use an editor as well as Obsidian. I will often work simultaneously with Tangent, Typora, EditPad Pro and Obsidian (I use it mostly for Canvas now). Writemonkey 3 too, which launched its latest version in January. That may or may not suit you, but it is pretty efficient.


Even without having the ability to edit files without opening an obsidian vault, I love the ability to open markdown files directly from my system and the vault that contains that .md file open to that file. That would be extremely helpful, alone.

@Galileji, I like your idea, but I am not sure it would be simple. Anything with file systems is not simple, especially since it would be different for Windows, Linux, and Mac. However, you could maybe make a plugin for just one of these systems and plugin developers with more experience on the other systems might run with it.

Zettlr can also open .md files anywhere.

I have plenty of markdown editors installed—iA Writer, Typora, Zettlr, MarkEdit, Byword, VS Code with markdown extensions—but I don’t like any of them as much as I like the text editor in Obsidian. That’s what prompted the feature request.

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