How do you use UIDs?


I’m new to Zettelkasten and I dont know what is the use of GUIDs (eg. 202006080640).

I’m understanding Obsidian Workflow by @nickmilo and @mediapathic and found these GUIDs

  • Diet MOC [[201903282354]]
  • Physical Training MOC [[201903282112]] — Anything exercise-related, but no workouts

Wouldn’t it be better to just [[]] the main idea?

  • [[Diet MOC]]
  • [[Physical Training MOC]] — Anything exercise-related, but no workouts

Can anyone share how and why they use it?

Thank you!


Now, I don’t use them myself, but I imagine they are useful because:

  1. You don’t have to name each concept and thought. If you strictly follow the Zettelkasten principles, you have one idea per note. Not every idea can be summarised in a note’s file name (title), but with automatic IDs you don’t have to worry about it.

  2. You can have two notes with the same title. Let’s say you have a note called “Norm”, containing info about the concept of measure from analysis. Now you’d also want another “Norm” note with information about some protocol concerning your job. With UIDs, those files can coexist.

It might be nice if @nickmilo chimed in.


As a newcomer to ZK, I’m still trying to figure out what might work best for me too. This comment on by msteffens explains it well, in my opinion: “A unique ID for a Zettel note is very helpful as it provides a stable, unique (and rather short) identifier that doesn’t break. If instead, you’re using a textual ID (such as the Zettel note’s file name), you have to make sure that it stays unique and that links pointing to it won’t break should you want to rename it. While some software tools may help you to globally rename a textual ID and all links pointing to it, external links are usually harder to rename. But if you don’t plan to use your links in external applications, then this may be less of a problem. OTOH, being able to link into your Zettelkasten from the outside is a huge opportunity that I wouldn’t want to miss.”


Something that I just realized today. If you keep a daily note in the format of YYYYMMDD and then create any zettelkasten note that day you’ll be able to see unlinked backlinks to that day which is nice in way.

It gives context to what you worked on, or what you deemed important enough to create a note of itself.


@subie The short answer is that you are 100% correct.

Before Obsidian, I relied on UIDs as a search. That’s how The Archive on MacOS works. Backlinks would not auto-update. So the UID was the way to navigate, because it would never change.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching (maybe over-dramatizing a little), looked at the current state of markdown, and speculated into the future. My assumption for the future is that auto-updating backlinks will become such a standard, that not using Timestamped UIDs will still be future-proofed.

@Eugleo Good points on those notes with the same name.
@nomad Glad you linked to msteffens, I’ve always gotten a lot out of his/her ideas.

@argparse Very cool to know this!


Thank you everyone for your input!

@nickmilo I thought I won’t be using UIDs, but after learning more about its uses, I will be adding this to my notes. I will be using this format :
[[Diet MOC 201903282354]]
[[Physical Training MOC 201903282112]]

@Eugleo I came to the same conclusion as you, I will be using the Ids for quick notes and because we have an auto update feature, then I can rename all the links with ease.

@nomad Thank you for the great link, the thread was helpful to see different way of using the IDs.

@argparse great tip! I just tried it and it works!

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I’ve been on a long journey with UiDs.

When I started using the archive, I hated them, but eventually gave in. I wanted to try the method as the creators were using it so I could fairly evaluate it.

At first I hated them, because they junk up the filename with non-readable garbage.

I saw the light when I started linking to notes from within paragraphs using only the UID in brackets. Much cleaner than including the whole filename inline.

Then I got used to them. And they represented a finishing touch. It signaled that a note had grown up into an official zettel.

Anything with another format of file name was easily identified as a raw, unprocessed note.

However, the UID-only links don’t work in other apps.

And now I’m wondering if it’s more useful to have the UID for the theoretical long term, or if it’s more useful to have a semantic for the short term, given features like the graph, and keeping some humanity in the system overall.

To @nickmilo 's point, these automatic filename fixing features might become standard in text editors moving forward. Negating the need for a UID on every file.

You could still use a UID if you didn’t have a good name for a file, but you wouldn’t need to.

Also, if there ever comes a point where an export was needed, and a unique ID was needed, I’m sure something could be scripted to make that happen by using the file’s creation date.

All of that being said. I’m at a point where I am rethinking everything.

I do like the uniformity of the file name structures. Looking at the collection of files, they look nice and orderly and polite. And I like that they separate the riff-raff from the zettels.

But I don’t want to do it unless it’s in service of real, practical, utility.


This is the real practical utility -

What you say suggests that the lack of such visual order niggles your mind, reducing your ability to focus.

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Very insightful @KevinR. The Date Timestamp UID is such a compelling solution for a unique identifier that it makes it difficult to ignore or at least begs you to take into consideration when deciding to use or not use it with your Zettelkasten. It can be a burden and a benefit. What do I gain using it, what do I miss out on by not using it? With all the struggles for getting started with the Zettelkasten Method it creates a lot of angst. It did for me. I use them at the beginning of the file name as a convention. It is habit now. But I still find myself asking do I really need this. Your point about it representing a finishing touch is a good one.

I do like how Obsidian is giving me a fresh view of how I setup and use my Zettelkasten. Obsidian feels good working with my notes. It has me reconsidering conventions I thought were settled. It is nice that Obsidian works well with or without UIDs.


@Mike Obsidian doesn’t work without UIDs :slight_smile: It won’t allow you to name a file the same. :slight_smile: yes I’m being pedantic and get what you mean (Time IDs vs. Word IDs).


Looks you went the other direction while working on your theme with UID only file names, What was that all about? Test data? I have been curious since I saw that.

@Mike ya I’m experimenting with titles. Haven’t landed on a preferred format yet. Direction I’m currently going in is with some notes having just a TID and some having a TID + traditional title combined.

The funny part is my public zettelkasten uses luhmann IDs :upside_down_face:. On my to do list is to collect a bunch of the discussions from various places on IDs, synthesize them to a degree and then think about IDs using my layers of structure framework and the core note functions.

If you’d like I can try to remember to mention you when I create a note sequence on IDs.


Yes please, thank you.

Would this idea work?

[[YYYYMMDDhhmmss|whatever words you want]]

Rather than zettelkasten auto titles, having this as an available stamp would make it easy to have as a note title, but could be inserted anywhere in a document for easy linking. As is, it shows only the words but prompts for a new file.

If you don’t want to do that, but only have it as a marker in a file, you could precede it with <!–
And it would disappear from preview but still be searchable. And that could easily be reversed if you decided you did want a new document.


Interesting… I’m new to this and was leaning toward doing the opposite. Naming and filing a document is a fraught decision that I often avoid by saving work in progress to the desktop as “asdfasf.doc” when I leave work and forgetting about it the next day. :wink: Having a timestamp as the default reduces the friction of creating a note. Once the note has matured enough that I know what it’s trying to say, I can aspire to rename it with a declarative phrase as recommended by Andy Matuschak.

But I could see how a UiD only might be less intrusive when writing. Has anyone used their zettels to compile a draft? Were the links easy to clean up?

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Obsidian allows to link to headings in the document using syntax [[file#heading]]. It will even suggest the headings in a file when you press # after picking a file in the suggestions.

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I’m in the exact spot right now: I use [[UID]] links in my Zettelkasten in The Archive, mainly for readability but also since that doesn’t break links should I change the title and file name of a note.

But that also means that moving my Zettelkasten into Obsidian is not as easy, since my current links doesn’t work.

How did you solo ever this, @KevinR?

I stopped using UIDs.

Obsidian will change links if you change the note title. And I think (crossing fingers) that this will become a common feature in other apps. I’ve also been slowly getting rid of them on my old notes as I work with them.

Someday I might be sad, but I’m tired living with practices that make my everyday experience worse in the name of avoiding a hypothetical problem in some hypothetical future.

I have thought about appending note titles with a UID for the purpose of avoiding duplicated note titles in the future. But I haven’t been diligent about it…still on the fence.


Hmm. Don’t know if I’m ready to do the same. But, on the other hand, I have (and can continue to have) my UID in my YAML frontmatter. If I get rid of the UID from the file name for now, I could easily revert that change with a script should the need arise again.