Drawing/Sketching support for users who use styluses/tablets

This is a great idea, very much looking forward to it.
I have a huion tablet (huion h610 pro). I use the stylus to handwrite-to-text everything in Obsidian.
If necessary I take snapshots of the PDF (like complex diagrams, tables, etc.) and add them to my Obsidian notes.

Where do you annotate your pdfs (using your pen tablet)?

@llayal, Adobe Acrobat is the native solution.

Chiming in on also requesting this.

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My impression is that Excalidraw already gives rather impressive pen support (I don’t have suitable devices, so couldn’t test myself), as presented in e.g. this video Link your sketches, a pen first knowledge mapping experience with Excalidraw - Obsidian 1.6.1 - YouTube

One can draw directly, and (at least for iPad?) adding text fields can be done with hand-writing recognition such that links to other files and even embeds are possible directly via pen.

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Excalidraw’s main shortcoming is performance. It deteriorates pretty quick with more freehand lines drawn. Freehand drawing of anything remotely complex (like, a sketch, not a diagram) is nearly impossible.

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Huh, that makes sense. It should be good enough for a reasonable amount of hand writing, but for full drawings I can see how one could easily reach the limits.

+1 for a first class ingtegration here.

Driving myself nuts trying to figure out a workflow here, I do daily notes mostly on my iPad in either goodnotes or apple notes and then (when i remember to) export to pdf and add to obsidian daily.

I wish i could just draw / sketch in obsidian and intersperse with text a-la onenote…

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I’d love to see the inclusion of a sketching/drawing option, at least within the mobile app like Craft has on iOS.

Use case or problem / Current workaround

Ahrens argues and studies show that handwriting is still one of the most effective methods of note-taking for retention. While I could write out literature notes on paper and then transcribe them to Obsidian later or import a scan/image from another app such as Craft, Concepts or Apple Notes, it’d be great to have the ability to sketch diagrams and handwrite summaries/key concepts directly within the Obsidian app to reduce friction and context switching.

Proposed solution

I’m no developer but in Craft on iOS, it appears that the developers are using the same drawing functionality as is used in Apple Notes. I’m not sure if Android has a similar option but if it does, it seems to me like that’d make it easier to implement on both platforms. That would meet my basic sketching needs and I’d imagine it’d work well for others as well. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of Notability within the mobile app although I wouldn’t complain if such options were implemented.

Closing thoughts

This would be amazing to see. Incorporating some of my old flow-based note-taking methods from college into the Zettelkasten method within Obsidian would be a game-changer. It adds some of Luhmann’s analog methods back to the mix in digital Zettelkastens while gaining the benefits of writing out the essentials by hand.

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I’m also a Craft and Notability user among other note-taking/research apps. The handwriting feature is the biggest feature I miss in Obsidian and it keeps me from using it more. I don’t know how difficult it would be to implement PencilKit from Apple but I can imagine a plugin that could enable it and on non-Apple systems it could display an image if it cannot provide full interoperability.

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Just installed Obsidian Mobile on my Boox Nova 3

Put my feet up, pen in hand, and was about to write some notes - then the keyboard pops up?

I was nonplussed for a while.

It works fine - props to the 2 devs. :: but, and maybe a niche expectation, but I was hoping to use a pen and the tablets writing ability to… well write notes.

Anyone else

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Have you tried the excalidraw plugin?

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Yes, I love it. My vault is too large to make use of Obsidian Mobile though to use Excalidraw on my iPad. Haven’t found a good workaround yet.

If you have iPad and Mac, you can draw on the notes app, wait for it to sync to the Mac and then copy/paste from notes to Obsidian.

It would be great, if it’s even technically possible, to be able to leverage PencilKit on iOS. It’s miles ahead (in my humble opinion) of any other way for handwritten notes.

I understand however Obsidian isn’t native and this might not be doable. Also you’re focused on a range of other platforms. But the same can apply for Samsung devices… native integrations to the key adapted platforms give a much better user experience.

I tried excalidraw and it’s a great tool. Well done to the developer. However it’s very different to the simplicity of PencilKit, as implemented by Craft and Bear 2 or Apple notes.

Craft’s implementation in my opinion is better than Bear 2, because it allows you to open a full page to draw / take notes with minimal distractions, vs Bear allows a small space with a lot of wasted space on both sides. The best approach would be having both options.

This is the main feature that I’m missing from Craft and it’s way my personal and business personal notes still sit on Craft and Obsidian can only be for my knowledge system.

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Excalidraw is good, but the performance is poor. I wonder, though, if the performance could be improved by using plain svg instead of excalidraw’s format.

SVG is also a plaintext and highly portable format, so it doesn’t go against Obsidian’s paradigm, while allowing storing strokes (curves) and text, as opposed to pixels, at the same time (this allows for transformations/better handwriting recognition/integration with native solutions on select platforms).

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If Obsidian can add drawing or writing support, it would be a big improvement.
Now I use my veikk tablet with OneNote, it’s more natural and quicker than with a keyboard + mouse.

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This is a good point and something worth testing out. I wonder if there is a way to just save excalidraw files as svg files instead?

Hi there,

OneNote uses InkML file format which is open source, and insert it to its notebooks as it would insert a picture.

I agree with most of the folks here that this would be a great addition to Obsidian. I’m taking notes for the past 20 years, first I used wiki engines to store my journal and other notes, and when hand drawing became widely available, I switched to OneNote and now I’m stuck to pay their fee to store all my handwritten files, while my older text based files are stored in an unsupported wiki engine, and its SQL database.

Reflecting on Dor’s comments, I don’t use typing or OCR because

  • handwriting is better for memorisation and understanding as its stimulates your nervous system much better than typing
  • good luck for OCR to recognise my writing (I write cursive)
  • I either journal, and I don’t need it to be digitalised neither to be searchable
  • I take notes on courses, or meetings where I annotate documents and take notes next to them (one of the greatest feature of OneNote)
  • I would like to store these notes as graph, to make editable within the app (no need to switch and import pdfs), have an unlimited canvas and be able to edit them latter

I think for Obsidian it would the easiest option to support separate handwritten files (like Canvas) then if there is traction, they could grow to implement integrated support like OneNote does.

I hope they would get there once, I would switch immediately.

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I’d really like a native draw feature that’d maybe put an overlay on top of each markdown file that you can draw on. Then a select tool to maybe create links on each pen marking.

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