Could you explain the difference between backlinks and tags

Could you explain the difference between backlinks and tags?

Also, how this is useful when writing embedded notes?

Would be really grateful if you could provide any resourceful example if available in GitHub or Somewhere to easily digest (to understand how this works in terms of writing new notes using existing taken notes, where tags and backlinks are used)


Backlinks are a tie to another note in the database created because you linked to the note you are viewing in that other note. You don’t create backlinks - they are created automatically when you link to a note.

Tags are keywords you enter that can be used as search items.

Usage - link when you want to tell the program (and your later self) that two items have a connection. Tag by asking yourself “under what search terms would I want this information to show up”.


One of the big differences between tags and links in Obsidian shows up in the graph view (assuming that you have toggled tags to be visible under “Filters” in the settings for a graph):

  • Clicking on a link node opens the linked note.
  • Clicking on a tag node generates search results for notes containing that tag, in the side panel.
    • In the settings of the side panel (showing search results), if you toggle the “Collapse results” setting to expanded, you see the line that the tag shows up in, giving you more context.
    • In the same settings, if you toggle “Show more content” on, then you see more information.
    • HOWEVER: if a note has a tag that appears only in the YAML metadata, then the search results don’t show any context; only the note title is listed.
      • For example: if you always put a #needsRevising tag only in the YAML metadata, then the search for that tag will return a (clean) list of note titles in the side panel. If the tag is in the main text, then the search results will reveal the specific context in the note that needs revising.

One thing I like to do is to “pin” the graph of the whole vault, so that when I click on various nodes, the note opens in a new pane. Then, I can close the pane and I’m back to the full graph.


Here’s a couple of previous discussions on the matter:

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Thanks for this information, which is actually a pretty awesome mini workflow, especially pinning the graph!

It’s strange to me that YAML acts differently in certain ways. Another example is that tags in YAML are not clickable. I’m sure there are reasons, but it throws me off.

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I have practically gone through your answer today, as a newbie. It’s awesome. Thank you very much @AutonomyGaps .

However, I didn’t understand below. What do you mean by pin? How can I do that?

Also, I would be grateful if you could answer my next question;

Let’s suppose I am taking notes on an article.
Wang, X., & Guan, Y. (2021). COVID‐19 drug repurposing: A review of computational screening methods, clinical trials, and protein interaction assays. Medicinal Research Reviews, 41(1), 5-28.

I save this article’s summary as Wang et al , and use tags #COVID19 #Drug #Protein in the body

And Let’s assume I have taken notes for several articles like this.

Now in the graph view, I only see Tags are linked to file names (.md files)

Is it possible to see the relationships between Tags? e.g. is #Covid19 link with #Drug?

or everytime do I have to create tags and backlinks together;
e.g. #COVID19 #Drug #Protein and [[COVID19]] [[Drug]] [[Protein]]
for future use of understanding relationships and searching properties?

If I do this, for example in the graphview if I click [[COVID19]], it will create an empty .md file isn’t it?

What is the purpose of that. I mean why we need an empty .md file?

Can I pull all the COVID19 related notes to this .md file?

Apologies for the long question. I am sure you have an expert answer to my question :blush:

  • “Pinning” is explained in Help, under “Working with multiple notes, (3)”
  • When you click on a tag, you are actually activating a search.
    See also: Tags vs page/link
  • Connecting “link nodes” is actually connection the titles of notes (md files).
    Hope that helps! Clicking on a node creates a new page only if you haven’t made a note corresponding to that term!
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Thank you. This is helpful.

I mean, what if I click on a backlink / in Graphview; it is generating a new note. Is that not a new .md file?

Yes, but only if you have introduced [[Protein]] in the text of your notes without creating a note titled “Protein”, with content in it. These are referred to as “orphans” in Obsidian: empty backlinks; you can select to have them excluded from the graph. Also, there is a very nice third-party plug-in called “Dangling Links” which shows you all of them in a sidebar. I view this dangling/orphans as a sort of “to do” list: topics that I’d like to flesh out (they are important enough to be a node) but haven’t done so yet.

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Thank you very much @AutonomyGaps it is very kind of you to share your experience selflessly. Really grateful. Thank you again :pray:


The answers in this thread really helped me too. I was struggling with some unanswered questions and they got answered very plainly here. It is great to have such knowledgeable people that share their information.