Have Obsidian be the handler of .md files / Add ability to use Obsidian as a markdown editor on files outside vault (file association)

I’m sure the file explorer will be developed further at some point. But major changes seem unlikely to be anytime soon - it’s not on the long-term road map and features that are already are likely to be very time-consuming.

Joining the feature request as this is a really important element in allowing more workflows which is what obsidian is all about. Someone mentioned that you’ll need a rewrite for this? That sound really incorrect, the solution shouldn’t be complicated or difficult. If the item is in an exsisting vault open it inside of it. If not in a ghost vault.

Ghost vault options

  • Just a default vault centered on the current folder where any settings or customization is either
    • Grayed out
    • Going to create a new .obsidian folder ie create a new vault in current folder

In case it’s still relevant, I made a Zotero add-on that lets you open existing Obsidian notes for items in Zotero: ZoteroObsidianCitations . It also adds a tag to the corresponding items in your Zotero database, which you can color so that Zotero items associated with MD notes are visible at a glance.


1 Like

Of course, having obsidian be a better file explorer with keyboard functionality and better view would work as well. Then I wouldn’t need to use the file explorer.

The Quick Explorer plugin makes it easier to browse and preview in Obsidian using the keyboard. It’s not as good as Windows’ own explorer, but I created it because of the same frustration

I’m not allowed to open md files with obsidian in the file explorer.

You can drag and drop them into Obsidian and then open them, but that’s probably not what you want, as it’ll make a copy – even if the file was already in your vault! (I’d love to see Obsidian check whether dropped files are already in the vault, and if so, not import a new copy, as it would make for better interop with both File Explorer and NotebooksApp.)

I personally use Typora for non-vault files, but for File Explorer integration I do have a Windows Script Host script registered as a menu item for .md files, that converts the file path into a URL and opens it in Obsidian. (Assuming it’s under a vault.) The script is in Python, and looks roughly like this:

import os, urllib
(filename,) = list(WScript.Arguments)
    "obsidian://open?path=" + urllib.quote(filename)

This will only open markdown files that are within some Obsidian vault, however. If it’s not in a vault you’ll get an error message. The registry entries I used to enable it were:

@="Open with Obsidi&an"

@="C:\\Windows\\SysWOW64\\wscript.exe \"E:\\Users\\pje\\cyghome\\DSI\\automata\\Open_In_Obsidian.pys\" \"%1\""

But please don’t ask me for help on adapting this to your system, because I honestly don’t know for sure how I set WSH up to begin with nor am I even certain what version of Python was used (though it’s probably in the 2.5-2.7 range). It’s been a decade minimum since I first set up the Windows Script Host stuff and haven’t touched it much since. (Also, the registry entry for Typora.exe is obviously not what you’d change if that’s not your system-default markdown editor!)


I wanted to request this as well. I uses Quicksilver Mac OS to open individual files, which is much more convenient than having to launch Obsidian and then use open the file I want within Obsidian.


I wrote a small program to implement that on Windows. If the .md file is in a Vault, it will open the Vault, otherwise it will use the fallback method to open the file.

File list


I would love this feature as well. Following

This seems to address some of the requests on this thread: Make Obsidian a default app for Markdown files on macOS - #12 by pseudometa

1 Like

I’ve learned how powerful a feature this can be since switching to Tangent Notes (has this feature as well as using a structure like Obsidian vaults). Automatically means that I use my powerful system file explorers, with the associated manual file sorting, word count column showing for all text files including rich text, with content search for all sych files. For someone who uses docx, odt, pdf as well as plaintext this is a huge advantage.

Being able to use a system explorer rather than the program’s explorer brings a bundle of advantages and extra power. Hopefully it will come to Obsidian some time.

I definitely don’t consider myself any sort of “programmer” or “coder” or whatever, but I do enjoy automation and this thread stuck out to me. I was trying to see if there was a way to create a Quick Action shortcut on my MacBook that would open a Finder folder directly with Obsidian. That was a pretty epic fail.

However, I think I came across something better. Does anyone use the Obsidian extension for Raycast? If so, do prefer that method versus some kind of Finder shortcut? It seems to be a simpler method that doesn’t need me to take my hands off the keyboard.

Anyway, just thought I would throw out the suggestion. Alfred could work too, but I’m not a big fan. It’s not nearly as customizable as Raycast.

This doesn’t work for Obsidian.

Thank you a lot!

Found your answer via Google.

Thank you.

It’s odd to me that I’ve installed Obsidian and it would not already have created this file type association.

Hi there, I’ve been thinking about that topic for a while now and I would like to share my idea on implementing it, even though I don’t know all the details for sure.

The idea would be to have a default Obsidian vault configuration created by the Obsidian app when installed. Like many other softwares, Obsidian could create a dotfile in the $HOME folder (or ~) where a lot of dotfiles are located, such as .profile for example.
Then, the app associate all .md files to the Obsidian app.
And when the user clicks on a Markdown file, the app would check if it is in an Obsidian folder (so if there is a .obsidian folder), if not, it falls back to the default config, set in the $HOME directory.

Therefore, Obsidian would be able to open any Markdown file, but all the features wouldn’t be available, obviously. It would simply be a Markdown editor, which is the goal, when editing a random Markdown file on the fly !

Moreover, we could think of the default config to be customizable by the user, just like any other vaults. So, some plugins could be defined and configured to be generally available when opening a Markdown file with the default config.

Finally, the default configuration vault could be accessed by the vault opener window so that we can easily configure it, even though we don’t open it with a file but just for configs.

Hope that this idea brings value to the discussion !


Use case or problem

I’d love to be able to use Obsidian to create open, and edit files outside my vault. With the editing and interface features that have been added—and the ways I’ve been able to customize it—Obsidian blows away any other markdown editor I’ve tried, and I’d rather be editing and writing everything in it.

Proposed solution

Enable Obsidian to create, open, and edit markdown files system-wide.

Current workaround (optional)

Current workarounds are:

  • Move files temporarily into my vault, then move them back afterward.

  • Use another markdown editor, none of which comes close to Obsidian. Typora has some limitations (inability to fold sections by headings in the Mac app, for example) and weird idiosyncrasies (like not being able to see or edit the # symbols at the beginning of headers once they’re rendered), and there’s no mobile version. And the latest version of iA Writer that came out today for macOS and iOS is a disappointment.


@pdworkman, @rjp, and I aren’t the only ones who want this. As Benjamin D. Lee says in his post “Obsidian is (almost) a Typora killer”:

Obsidian is not without its downsides relative to Typora. However, I think these downsides can be fixed relatively easily. First and foremost, it’s not possible to open an arbitrarily located Markdown file in Obsidian. Instead, it has to be located within your notes directory. I’ve gotten around this so far by temporarily symlinking but this hack isn’t anywhere as slick as just opening it in Typora. Obsidian should follow VS Code’s approach when opening files that are not in the current workspace: just open the file anyway. [emphasis added]


This feature would also make it possible to designate Obsidian as your system’s default app for opening markdown files. It would be wonderful to be able to simply double-click any .md file anywhere on your system, whether inside or outside a vault, and have it automatically open in Obsidian, ready for viewing or editing.


Off-topic, but: What do you find disappointing about the new iA Writer? (Your post alerted me to it. At a glance I’m pleased with the changes, tho I’m guessing it doesn’t update links to renamed files.)


The new Mac version of iA Writer hasn’t fixed some of the things that have bothered me about it for a while. The folding headers and navigable outline features that the Windows version has had for years are still missing from the Mac and iOS apps. There’s also its lack of attention to small details. For example, I hate that it doesn’t at least make the markdown characters light gray so they’re legible but don’t distract from or blend into the words they surround. Boldface is especially bad—not only are the double asterisks not ghosted to a subtle shade of gray, they’re rendered in bold along with the word they surround, making it harder to read. (I’d be even happier to see them simply hide markdown characters when the cursor isn’t adjacent to them, the way Typora and Obsidian’s live preview do.)

Other apps haven’t stood still, and by comparison iA Writer feels increasingly unpolished, which would be understandable in a free and open-source app but not in a paid commercial one.

Instead of making it a better writer-focused markdown editor, their team has spent time and development effort adding PKM features like wikilinks. I’m not exactly against that—I love those features in Obsidian—but I’d much rather see them make the app better at performing its core mission rather than chasing after the Obsidians and Logseqs of the world and trying to compete in a space where it’s always going to be far behind.


Makes sense.

They fixed a lot of the things that had bothered me (like the terrible tag styling), so I was feeling pretty positive after reading the release notes. I probably still won’t use it much, tho; maybe for first drafts (but then again I’m in Obsidian all the time anyway so why bother?).

I didn’t know the Windows version has foldable headings! Those have really improved my work in Obsidian and I’d really like them in iA. I knew about the outline, but I didn’t like that it’s mixed in with the file browser (if that’s still how they’re doing it). Foldable headings mostly fill that need for me anyway (if there’s a way to fold them all at once).

Anyway, thanks for sharing.


Upvote! I’d love to see this too.

1 Like

This one gets my vote, too!

1 Like