Editor: Add a toggle to disable automatic merging of changes (non-obsidian sync)

This started happening to me recently. Glad to know it’s not unique to me. But still annoying. It’s forcing me to be a touch typist! Also glad to know it’s not just iCloud sync that’s causing this. So, come on, Obsidian, fix this!

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I just lost (fortunately only) one line of text due to a merge. It was a work task, so rather important. Only noticed it by chance, as I didn’t see any merger warning.

This is what happened:

  • Systems: MacOS and iOS, both latest versions of Obsidian and OS instaed

  • Sync: Obsidian Sync

  • Was working in a note on Mac. Then opened the file in Obsidian iOS and added some text.

  • When I opened the note in Obsidian Mac, it [edit: the line of text] was gone.

  • I don’t know if Obsidian on iOS wasn’t able to download the latest version from server before I started editing the note, or if I closed Obsidian on iOS too quickly before it could upload the change

Sync log showed the merger of the file, but it wasn’t merged, my line of text was simply deleted.
Not knowing if some of my text might get deleted behind the scenes without me being notified of it causes me some trust issues.
Some kind of sync conflict warning as proposed by @luckman212 in @EleanorKonik’s feature request would be really helpful :+1:

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I’m also getting this, and it’s the one really big problem I have with Obsidian. I hope it’s the top priority for the team – I can’t imagine anything more important that your customers losing their data, as we are.

The merge is really unreliable – it may merge perfectly or it may wipe overwrite with an old version. I’ve also had “modified externally” messages pop up, where a file is overwritten by an old version, for no apparent reason.

I’m using Obsidian Sync between Android and two Windows devices (and I don’t have any other kind of sync on my vault).

I don’t mind doing a manual diff check (preferably with an in-app tool). Just don’t throw away my work without telling me!

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+1 for this problem!

Text keeps disappearing from my notes as I type them due to this automatic merging of changes! It’s horrible!

The problem started with the latest version of Obsidian. Previously everything was working fine.

I’m also using iCloud to store and sync my vault between my Windows machines and my iPad. When this error happens iCloud bugs out and I cannot start up Obsidian anymore. Also I notice a bunch of copies of my notes (indicated by numbers like Note; Note(1); Note(2)) in my iCloud drive. This prevents Obsidian from starting up again because indexing never finishes.

I have to manually delete copies of those files and then Obsidian stars up again.

Devs, please look into this!

Both posts (March, November) fingering the latest version. I don’t think it can be the same latest version.
The sync providers mentioned are iCloud, Box and Sync.

Some of the problems may be purely down to the sync service. If it reverts the underlying file, what would you suggest Obsidian do? Overwrite when it finally saves, or save current version as copy2? This is the case whether autosave is functioning or not, since turning autosave off simply defers the issue to the save at the end.

afaics, Obsidian’s only options are merge, overwrite, lose the edit or create a second copy.

Personally, I want Obsidian watching and updating the file because I might well edit a file it has open in another program. All the programs I use work this way. And I see no evidence that autosave is producing widespread problems - there would be far more problems reported if that were so.

I disagree with this. An editor should never yank the words you’re typing right out from under you. If you feel that is the best option, fine—all I am asking for is a toggle to control the behavior. If 98% of people prefer to just accept whatever the merge algorithm thinks is best and never be bothered, that’s fine. But for the other 2% (which could be thousands of users) what’s the harm in allowing them to get a prompt:

The file has been changed externally.
What would you like to do?

[ ] Keep Obsidianʼs Version
[x] Merge Changes
[ ] Keep External Version
[ ] Keep Both (copy)

OK, how many problems would you like to see before you “see evidence” ? This thread alone has 600+ views, and 8 other users commenting that they’re having the same problem. Anyone in software/QA knows that only ~1% of users bother to report bugs. I ran a quick search and easily came up with 5 more threads in addition to this one… not enough??

No. Most of the threads are about sync problems, and many do have issues with their sync services.
Autosave is different.

I guess it’s worth noting that I dislike the opinionated merge behavior of Sync (in all of its various permutations) so much that it’s the primary reason I don’t use Sync, to the point where I literally won’t buy an iPad even though people rave about it so much, because I couldn’t use Obsidian on it, because of how strongly I prefer Dropbox’s conflict resolution behavior of “making a new file.”

I don’t talk about it much because I told Licat that way back during the early part of mobile beta and I assume he has his reasons (I know a lot of people prefer this method!), but I just want to note that @luckman212 is not alone in finding this frustrating.


afaics from the reports, Dropbox just works better with Obsidian than iCloud and Box (which has more issues reported than I would have expected).

One of the problems with the number of threads on sync problems is a lack of clarity about exactly what the problem is and where it arises.
There are race conditions, idiosyncratic and unpredictable sync services, save and autosave. Potential of conflicts, vaults not opening and files disappearing. I’ve seen complaints about file duplication, file loss, data deletion (as above) and data duplication. I suspect that no algorithm change will cope satisfactorily with a sync service that simply doesn’t play nicely with Obsidian vaults.
I never have a problem with toggles, though I can see why Licat might have. Here, I can see the one mentioned above, but also a toggle about autosave on/off/frequency (I make the assumption that the file changes described above are caused at autosave - presumably Obsidian isn’t watching the file more closely?).

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Thank you for your reply. I’m not passing blame on anyone, I was just frustrated last night.

Anyway, I think you might be right. This might be my error since I left Obsidian open on two different PCs. That might’ve caused errors, or it could be down to iCloud’s bad conflict resolution.

I’ve switched over to Google Drive for now, and will see how it behaves in the future. Sometimes I do forget to close programs on one of my PCs and I generally don’t shut down but rather put them on sleep. Seems like one of them woke up and caused conflicts for me…

I don’t know it was your error, what you did was normal, and ought not to have caused problems. But I tuen my computers off far more often now than I used to; easier than having to deal with things.

With Google Drive I’d caution against allowing streaming, since that seems to be a source of sync errors with Obsidian.

Yeah, I’ll start shutting them off now. I was in a hurry last week and just put my laptop to sleep, didn’t close any programs.

I use x3 devices: iPhone 8+, iPad 2019, laptop on Windows 10-11. Synchronization via the iCloud is used. x2 problems arise every day:

  1. Duplicate notes files are created.
  2. The notes are automatically merged.

I use only x1 application at a time, most often it is a laptop with Windows. Accordingly, applications for iPhone and iPad are closed. Background sync is also disabled. What is happening seems to be one big lottery, since on different days, subject to the same conditions, there may be only x1 merging of notes or maybe x2 - x3. 1-2 duplicate files can be created or 3-5.

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@ayli.voltok the merging being discussed in this thread has to do with sync as far as I’m aware. I don’t think Obsidian merges notes based on what external cloud services do.

Cause and effect

That is not true, I don’t use Sync and I’ve definitely experienced the merge conflicts.

Specifically iCloud sync

Right. Licat added this explanation (I’m paraphrasing):
Merging happens also (in addition to Sync) if the file was changed externally and Obsidian is open as well (before Obsidian has gotten a chance to save the edited file) within the 2s window

I was using iCloud many months ago but haven’t in a long time. So Sync or other cloud services might make this problem worse, but it definitely isn’t the only cause.

So what else changes the local file in the background?