Eliminate "folders" as a concept

I searched but did not find a similar request.

Obsidian would be simpler to use if the concept of “folders” were eliminated entirely. Of course the file system would still have folders: the implementation would be similar to the “Folder Notes” plug in, but the user would not need to worry about that. The workflow would go like so:

  1. User creates a new “note”.
  2. Obsidian creates a new system folder with the same name.
  3. Each note can have child “notes”.
    3a) Each note has a “parent”, which is either root or another note.
    3b) Each note can have “children”, which are new notes: see #1, above.

I think that eliminating the concept of “folders” within the Obsidian interface would greatly simplify so many things.

I can’t think of any reasons to make the user manually keep track of “folders”. If there are use cases where this would cause a problem, I would be interested in hearing about them.

Thank you.

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Folders are very useful for some users, including myself. You can virtually ignore the folder structure by implementing a flat hierarchy to your note files and simply rely on connecting them through links and/or tags.

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“Folders are very useful for some users”

Can you describe a use case where you need to access the file system folder itself? I have not been able to think of one.

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I’m a freelance writer, and I use Obsidian for project management. One folder = one project. I work on dozens of projects every year, and need folders to manage them all.

Eventually, I move older projects into an archive folder, then delete them and archive them to an external disk.

When I saw the subject line of this topic I came here to say “AW HELL NO” and that I would stop using Obsidian if it eliminated folders. But it sounds to me like you’re talking about automating folders rather than eliminating them–one note = one folder. That sounds intriguing, but overkill. Still, I’m wondering if it would be possible to automate creating a folder when the user creates a folder note, and then moving items into that folder based on tags or properties.

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Exactly. The file system has folders, just like a gasoline-burning car engine has valves. But no one adjusts their valve timing manually anymore. What I am suggesting is that notes can simply have parents and/or children, without the user needing to manually create new folders and/or new “folder notes” later. It would just work.

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I’m not sure why you want to remove a feature many people use.

Many people combine Obsidian use with other programs, including file explorers, which use folders. Mirror in Obsidian makes this easier.

Seems to me that this would turn Obsidian into an outliner. There are many outliners, and generally they work best as database programs.

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I would like Obsidian to work the way you describe, but forcing it as The Way would go against Obsidian’s goal of flexibility.

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No, in an outliner the content of notes would be all lists instead of free-form text. The requested feature only affects the file browser — “folder notes” as a core feature instead of a plugin. Zim Wiki, an older plain-text notes app, does the same thing. It’s like how websites typically work — there may be hierarchy but to the visitor everything is a page with content even tho there may be folders underlying it.

Precisely. I mean, of course if you view the Obsidian directory in File Explorer, you’ll see folders. But is there ever a reason to view a “folder” as such in the Obsidian user interface? Even one example would be something. I can’t think of one.

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Some people may prefer the file browser view to match what they see and are used to outside of Obsidian — a folder there is a folder here. And if you wouldn’t normally write anything in a note with the name that the folder has, then this setup would create a bunch of useless blank notes, which would be annoying when you interact with the vault outside of Obsidian.

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Actually not. Outliners - Workflowy, Dynalist, Roam, Logseq - and mindmaps, typically have a free-form note attached to each bullet. And they don’t necessarily show the bullets, just the notes.

Here are some examples where currently the folder structure is needed/wanted to differentiate between the files:

  • template files for either the core plugin and Templater . They have different syntax, and it’s more convenient to have separate folders
  • various javascript folders. User scripts of Templater requires a folder for its user functions which can’t be shared by other plugins/script engines. Dataview benefits from having some of its scripts in dedicated folders as well
  • this one is more of a personal preference, but I keep journals in a few different categories in separate folders. One for daily notes, one for references, one for trips, and a few more. I believe “extracting” these journal notes out from the main folder keeps my vault cleaner and more organised
  • Various PKM schemes almost always use folders to some extent

So I do believe folders are here to stay. And even if in some contexts it’s natural to have that parent-child relation, it’s also natural for some notes to belong in different hierarchies which a locked folder/note structure like you’re implying wouldn’t easily allow for.

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Ah, I see. So the gist of it is that there are use cases when one does genuinely need to access the underlying file system, due to how plugins and scripts are currently implemented.

And that is definitely outside the scope of this suggestion.

Like I said earlier: I came to this topic to say nope nope nope, but now I’m a convert.

Yes, I need to see folders as part of my day-to-day Obsidian work. Indeed, I have a longstanding feature request to make the Obsidian file explorer better–make it operate more like the file managers built into the Mac, Windows or Linux.

However, it would also be great to automate folder creation and management. Because when I’m navigating my folders on a day-to-day basis, I’m usually doing it from a folder note rather than the file explorer.

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This feature request has zero appeal for me, and I’m concerned it would compromise the principle of plaintext files in standard operating system folders.

I don’t use the folder notes plugin, and wouldn’t want to see it sherlocked unless it could be fully disabled.

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It would make absolutely no difference to the actual system folders and markdown files. None.

If that’s the case I’d be okay with it, as long as it could be disabled.

I’d rather the dev team focus on implementing other features, but that’s okay. Everyone can’t all enthusiastic about the same feature requests, including my own favorites! :wink:

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But it would remove the ability to access them directly in Obsidian

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Okay.

Here’s a link to a feature request, although it isn’t exactly relevant to the discussion: Flat view - Folder toggle - (mode to only show files in Explorer pane)