Better text marking functionality

Sooo… I am EXTREMELY happy with Obsidian.
:+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1: :+1:

Yet, the current text marking is mostly non-existant, and I very much hope it to be a placeholder for greater things to come.

A few things that bug me:
There is one color only, there are no annotations, and when I highlight blocks of text that include a bullet list, the highlighting will look confusing as it is not visible after the first bullet but the plugin “Extract Highlights” reveals that the portion of text is still marked.
Yet, especially this area could bring so much added use. A few suggestions:

  1. More colors, ideally customizable.
    A lot of people are using different colors for encoding important bits that point their thoughts in certain directions. This would be a GREAT thing to have, especially when applied through shortctuts.

  2. Annotations
    Annotating texts is an important feature: both for texts written by users of imported via books or websites. there is just so much to be gained from that, especially when combined with links to other texts.

  3. Managing both highlights and annotations
    Best practice for me is the Android app Moon+Reader or the crossplatform Calibre library/reader combination. They display highlights and annotations in a separate pane. The entries found there take you right to the respective passage in the text so essentially it serves as a bookmarking feature, as well

  4. Exporting all these items
    The addon “extract highlights” is a step in the right direction. But there could be so much more. Extracted highlights would ideally be listed in the new file with all the structure around it: headers to separate an otherwise barely navigable mess of fragments, formatting such as code, quote, numbering, bullet points, checkboxes or callouts.

Please put a text formatting section into your roadmap. This will seriously improve Obsidian for all sorts or people writing with it scientifically, creatively. Hell, even people writing childrens stories would benefit from that!

All the best. And KEEP ON ROCKING!


Oh, and while we’re at it:

  1. The possibility to natively use all these wonderful tools on EPUB and PDF files.

  2. A smart solution to bookmark the last position when reading or reworking longer texts.
    It is not easy finding the last spot on the next day.


The Highlightr plugin enables this (at the cost of littering your text with HTML).

  1. Annotations

I use comments placed after highlights.

==I highlighted this text.==%%And commented on it.%% 

(Actually I use <!--HTML comments--> for better readability and compatibility.)
  1. Managing both highlights and annotations

I use an embedded search: List all highlights in document(s) — without community plugins. It’s not completely smooth, but it works well enough for me. If someone would package up the same basic idea in a plugin, that would smooth out the rough edges (maybe someday I’ll learn how).




Yes, I am aware of several hacks that try to work around the lack of marking functionality. But, sadly, they all have limitations and most of what I mentioned above is not at all possible.

A good example is the plugin I mentioned above: “Extract highlights”. It provides quite a few good options to add to Obsidian. But it suffers from the drawbacks that come with the built in hightlighting capabilities.

For instance, marking this passage consisting of a normal paragraph followed by bullet points like this:

  • will make this entire highlight look
  • like one written long article
  • with odd hyphens inside
  • when extracted

Also, I feel that this type of functionality is so close to the core of what Obsidian is built for. Honestly, I think it would be strange to even outsource this to a plugin.

After all: this program is about knowledge management!

Wow, really?
Is there really nobody interested in this? I am amazed …

My workaround is to make liberal use of specific callouts.

liberal use of specific callouts

That sounds interesting. Is there any way for you to share a screenshot?

And: Do you have a solution for the “other half” of annotating: easily listing important references and pointing to the respective position of the original text.

I would be very interested in your workflow.

I for one, am really interested. I’d like to have everything you described on your first post.

BTW: I also use Moon+Reader and love its annotation features: I use several colors and several underline and highlight styles, each one with its own meaning (squiggly blue doesn’t mean the same as squiggly red, which are totally different from straight line blue). It is perfect for people who like to really dissect a text.
If I had that AND the linking capabilities of Obsidian, I’d finally be happy.

Are you familiar with this tool?

It makes importing of annotation files exported from MoonReader much easier

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One of the reasons is that many people (most people?) are specifically here because we’re looking for a Markdown editor, for reasons like compatibility and longevity of text files.

Markdown is by it’s nature a simple format, so if you’re looking for more advanced text formatting, it might be hard to shoehorn Markdown into that arena.


it might be hard to shoehorn Markdown into that arena

@AlanG. You are right, I know this and I am also interested in things like compatibility and longevity of files.

On the other hand, Obsidian was never intended to be only a Markdown editor. It was designed as a knowledge database.

And as such: quite honestly, it needs at least a decent way of dealing with highlights and annotations. It was the first thing I looked for.

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Sorry, that’s my poor wording. It goes without saying that Obsidian is a knowledge database. What I meant is that it’s one based off Markdown, as opposed to a proprietary or complex format with more advanced features.

AND it’s designed to work on almost any operating system that exists, hence it has to be fairly simple. It is also extensible, so stuff can be added to the base if there is a request. It was not designed originally as a database for anything. It has evolved to do many things.

I wasn’t and it’s going to be really useful, thanks a lot!

That is precisely the object of my post.

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It’s the struggle of trying to use standard Markdown or HTML markup such as div, definition lists, comments, asides, footnotes — as equal citizens — that makes using the rigidly-unrigid, non-standard Obsidian-flavored CommonMark-ness, that inhibits the use of even standard .md or HTML tools for annotation…

I made a plugin that might be helpful

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Nice ideas there. Thanks for sharing