An opinionated reflection on using folders, links, tags, and properties

This is an opinionated post on how to structure your Obsidian vault using folders, links, tags, and properties. It’s not “the right way” so please don’t get mad at me.

Disclaimer: I’m not asserting that any of this is “original”; everything you’re about to read is just me thinking out loud about how I’ve been using Obsidian lately after a lot of experimentation


Use folders for the type of files contained within them. Note that most of the below folders are for “sources” and/or “creations”, and one or two are for “areas” (personal, professional). This isn’t necessary but I include it for the sake of example, demonstrating some flexibility.

  • academic-works
  • books(non-fiction)
  • conceptual-ramblings
  • films
  • government-publications
  • industry-publications
  • journal
  • letters
  • news
  • novels
  • organizations
  • people-of-interest
  • personal
    – family budget
    – meal plans
    – personal relationships
    – rennovation plans
    – travel plans
    – other personal documents
  • poetry
  • professional
    – professional development
    ---- job applications and CVs
    – project-folder(entrepreneurial or otherwise)
    ---- meeting notes
    ---- project note
  • speeches
  • stories
  • videos
  • visual-art

Links (and files)

Use links for convenient navigation between files, visibility on “where have I used this?” or for embedding short notes and images, but not for the hope of magical serendipity, hierarchy, or relationships. Controlled use of links, i.e., controlled vocabulary is advisable compared to wanton linking.

(and files)

Also, links represent existing or potential files. A popular use for files in Obsidian is to build knowledge via the creation of MOCs, index notes, atomic notes, fleeting notes, source notes, literature notes, permanent notes, evergreen notes, and notes notes.

MOCs and Index Notes

Some people describe these as the same thing and others distinguish between them. For the purposes of this post, they are the same in that they compile information related to their given title. For example, a file called Psychology could contain all of your notes or links to notes about psychology.

This is a great approach for some. My preference, however, is not to use either unless I were taking handwritten notes and using the digital MOC/Index to keep track of them, therefore I prefer to assemble notes into MOCs/Indices for convenience only and based on the tags rather than links contained in other notes. How? Do a tag search, or add tags as aliases to your file.

  • edit 2024-03-13_16-15: I add an additional thought here that atomic notes as described below could grow into something that resembles an MOC. My purpose here is not to say that these types of larger notes are not useful, but in terms of “getting there” I prefer the approach as described below. Maybe this will change one day.

Atomic notes

I don’t describe my notes as atomic because it suggests that they should be small and static. But I do follow (loosely) the concept of an atomic note in my “knowledge notes” are named using statements rather than broad categories (MOCs, index notes). For example: “some claim about some niche aspect of some topic.” The note contains a paragraph or two about this claim following the basic concept of PEEL writing and a formatted bibliography of sources. The note is allowed to grow over time. Tags are assigned per the below section about tags, i.e., according to a controlled vocabulary.

Atomic notes are put into my “conceptual-ramblings” folder.

“Fleeting notes,” i.e., random ideas or questions that you may have spontaneously or as a result of reading something, or tagged per the below, but also receive the tag “#is/question” or #is/idea" but need not necessarily be tagged as such and can simply await further learning. Tagging this way is merely for convenience and indexing if that is important to you.

Exceptions follow…

If I have an idea for a research paper, I create a file that will be the draft of that paper and use the naming convention described in “Source notes.” I don’t bother tagging it with anything other than the topics which are relevant. If I have random ideas or questions to be addressed in that paper, I will embed or merge atomic notes as appropriate, or simply write them into this draft as if I were scribbling something down on a piece of paper.

Business idea? Create a note for it in the professional folder and dump your ideas and contacts into it. This is also true for other writing or visual art projects, such as poetry ideas, ink painting inspiration, etc. I went for a run and the muse inspired me with some beautiful rhyme so I create a new poem in my poetry folder with the one or two lines I thought of. I saw an ink painting I liked or a landscape that inspired me and would like to do my own painting of, so I create a file in the visual art folder and then replace it with a photo of said painting once I have done it, or I keep the original note to add details about the painting. As you like.

This approach is flexible enough to allow you to add tags for in-progress or whatever if you want to, but it’s not necessary unless you start 100 projects and haven’t finished any of them; arguably still unnecessary in that case.

Fleeting notes

See “Atomic notes”

Literature notes

See “Source notes”

Permanent notes

See “Atomic notes”

Evergreen notes

See “Atomic notes”

Source notes

Source NOTES are taken in Markdown files named according to the following convention: type_author_title_date (or type_author_date_title if you prefer); they are filed in the folder corresponding with their type.

Source FILES may be EPUBs, PDFs, or other file types which you may keep in Zotero or something like it. If you use Obsidian to store these files, they have the same name as the NOTES file described above and thus are sorted next to the notes files in the same folder. Images copied and pasted from a source file and embedded into a source note should also be named accordingly with a suffix such as _table-1-description or _image-of-a-unicorn.

Source notes are the notes you take while consuming some kind of content. Capture quotes and thoughts to be processed later. Processing means deciding what is valuable and deleting what is not. What is valuable because either a new “conceptual rambling/atomic note” or is added as evidence to an existing one. This means you could either treat the Source note as a kind of MOC/index containing links to atomic notes, or simply delete it when you’re done, keeping the Source file. C’est comme vous voulez.

Regarding tags in source notes, I would remove them after they have been processed.


Use tags for topics that are usually 1-3 words, such as “Psychology” or “Physics”. I prefer tags for this kind of indexing because nested tags allow for hierarchy in a way that links do not satisfactorily do. I also prefer tags because I like to keep the body of my notes clean and I also don’t really like using aliases. Folders could achieve the same hierarchy but you can’t have a file in multiple folders, as we all know.

Important here is the concept of a controlled vocabulary. I like the Library of Congress Subject Headings, after experimenting with other approaches. The only downside to following the LOC categorization is that it is incredibly thorough and can take a little bit of time to sift through to find, for example, to what “Broader Term” the term “Emotions” belongs to. But for me this is worth it to ensuring some degree of structure and coherence in my use of tags.

This matters because tag searches (not links, viewing backlinks, etc.) are my primary mode of “discovery.” What have I written about black holes? Tag search. What ideas do I have for a research paper? Tag search + path search.


Properties are for minutiae. URLs, publication date, tags if you prefer them here rather than in the body, author name, series, etc. Properties are for properties/metadata that is at a more “granular” level. You don’t have to use Properties, but it looks tidy and the devs put a lot of effort into this, so we should thank them with our participation. I don’t use links in properties.

Bonus: Plugins

I believe in future-proofing, so I only use plug-ins for things that improve my quality of life. For example:

  • Change case to change the case of my text selection
  • Hider to hide UI elements
  • Natural language dates for convenience
  • Tag wrangler for better tag management

Anything that would disrupt or determine the integrity of my notes or note-taking method is not used.


The goal of this approach is to simplify and consolidate. Maybe it’s only simple for me, but it feels good so I thought I should share.

Other people will probably have better ideas, but after three years I feel like this is good. It’s flexible enough to accommodate other approaches. For example, you can still create MOCs if you want to since we can add tags as aliases to notes. If you want to do everything the exact way I describe it, but add “status” and “task” metadata to notes, you can do that.


Please critique, comment, or ask questions to your heart’s content. I plan to sign up for Obsidian Publish and I will synthesize any feedback, giving credit where credit is due for any changes to the above.


Just leaving this here because I think it’s really cool.

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