I am new to Obsidian, so sorry for my ignorance. I see that you can create pages and put links in this page to other pages. So is Obsidian justa Wiki? I am sure it’s a silly, provocative question, so sorry again!
This is a tough question to respond to, as you noted. What does “just” a wiki mean? If you are satisfied with wiki software, what brought you here?
“Just a wiki” would mean a page that would have links to other pages so that it creates a network of pages. I discovered Obsidian through the buzz about Roam Research. I discovered there were alternatives (Obsidian has the advantage of storing on the computer). However, I was wondering if there were additional functionalities compared to a wiki.
One of the tools you can use Obsidian as is a zettelkasten. A zk is a collection of “atomic”-sized notes that form a network with interconnections of links, tags, transclusions, and structure notes/MOCs/Hubs, with the network visualised in the app’s Graph View.
In that use case I think it is fair to refer to your collection of notes as a wiki.
Does it actually matter if it is a wiki or called as such?
To really get a feel for the app you need to try it, then decide for yourself what it is - a wiki, or …… whatever.
Thanks. I see two things in the list you give that seems you cannot do in a normal wiki: the tags and the transclusions.
Tags would be an additional layer of network that can be created, additional to the normal web of hyperlinks in a wiki. I guess they would give more flexibility in searches.
I am not to clear about transclusions. It’s new to me. I understand Obsidian allows to automatically create pages made of “transclusions”, that is, blocks that contain a certain key word. Obsidian would act as a kind of search engine that compiles in a single page all the blocks containing a keyword and scattered across various pages (a Google search result but with full paragraphs). So it seems a nice way to automate the creation of a page on a certain topic. This is something that cannot be done in a normal wiki, and seems a great advantage.
So if I understand well Obsidian would be a wiki with a search engine that allows to automatically create pages from paragraphs scattered in the database.
There is also the fact that Obsidian uses outlines. It’s not in a normal wiki and it seems interesting.
From my point of view, Obsidian has a few killer features that make it like a wiki but better (better for me, not necessarily better in a global sense).
- Graph view, with clickable links. (I do not have experience with Roam)
- Ctrl-Click to navigate in edit mode. I can make notes, click, move, and keep making notes. It’s much faster than systems where I need to commit/submit/save notes before I can navigate them.
- Markdown + Wiki-style links. I haven’t found many other systems that have integrated makdown as seamlessly into a wiki system as Obsidian. It’s really fast to write in.
- Local file storage. I don’t have a dedicated server, so it’s a pain to set up something that runs on Node.js or Rails or whatever, when all I want is to write text and sync it between a couple of computers. That I can use it offline because of that is a huge advantage too.
- Unlinked mentions & tags are both features I see occasionally in personal wiki systems, but rarely do I see them both at the same time and with the other features I want.
Ultimately, for my use cases, Obsidian wins not because it’s different from a wiki, but because it’s the wiki that works best for me.
Thanks Arcandio, very useful. It’s true that it’s not one or a few features that would make a software attractive but a package of features that correspond to one’s need. I have been using TheBrain has a knowledge management tool for many years now and it has been great. I do not plan to drop it. It has a sort of graph function, or better the software itself is a graph, so it’s very visual. It has been great to collect a large quantity of information (thoughts, documents, links, notes, images) and organize them. Helped my thinking too in areas where I had little knowledge and needed to collect and order.
Now, I have not been able to use it to produce information, or at least not directly. Therefore my curiosity for text-based databases like Obsidian, Roam, RemNote, and for the Zettelkasten method (that I am discovering at the same time). They seem to work together to make easier the process of collecting notes, combining parts and adding one’s own thoughts. That’s why I am trying to evaluate what would be the additional functionalities of these softwares compared to TheBrain. One of them is clear: notes in TheBrain do not connect at the block level. It’s difficult to combine different pieces of notes into one’s own thinking (Zettelskasten way). So, I guess, I’ll have to give it a try.
Another beginner’s question, why is it so important to write in markdown? Is it because the ultimate purpose is to convert the text into html for web publication? It seems so simple to do ctrl+B for bold (I know I am old school!).
@d_or2000: once you understand transclusions you’ll love it. It allows you embed part of or the entirety of another note into a note.
So, by doing in note 1
![[note 2]] or
![[note 2#some header]] you get that embedded in note 1. Note the exclamation mark.
That way you can knit entire notes together and see the effect. Making changes in note 2 is reflected in its embedded representation in note 1, after refreshing.
As for why write in markdown;
- its plaintext with markup, so you don’t have to leave your keyboard
- markdown does a lot of what a basic writer needs - I don’t use Word anymore
- you are not locked into a vendor’s format
The underlying reason is that it takes little space and is easy to process. So easy to use on devices with little power (phones) or transmit over the internet. And is easy to write programs to use it. One original purpose was for web writers. Pure text is best for all this though.
But it doesn’t do bold, which is where markdown comes in. Many programs will allow you to use ctrl+B as well as **.
I use it as a diary where I write what happened durng the day and link to events, people etc…
So, for example, when I review the week and want to see how the business deal went, i can see that we had major [[client calls]] on [[2020-07-07]] while at the same time I struggled from [[Stress]] related to [[Family]], and had bad [[Sleep]] and ate [[KFC]] causing [[Heartburn]].
Another thing I noticed was that my creative writing has been happening while I mention lack of [[Sleep]] and a [[Drama]] feel state.
As you have guessed, [[Drama]] is a separate note that has a record of all the times i was dramatic (u can also use backlinks, but i don’t mind writing it manually)
I have been using obsidian for a few weeks now, and for some reason I had ignored this function. This is a complete game changer haha. THANKS!
I 1st came across transclusions in TiddlyWiki, liked the concept immediately, but was not quite sure how best to use it.
When I changed to Obsidian and found it also supported it, I was happy. Then, when I started transferring my notes to Obs, it suddenly hit me. I really love this feature, and I am sure you’ll get to love it too, if you don’t know it, or maybe you already love it.
Furthermore, I checked out quite a few markdown note managers and had not come across one that supports transclusions, so Obs is unique in that.
It’s important to write in Markdown because you are writing in plan text rather than a proprietary format which my change or even be discontinued as time goes on.
It is likely that computers will still be able to read and process plain text files for as long as there are written files and the same can’t be said for the proprietary formats.
I used TheBrain for a while many years ago, but I found the data too-well locked up for me to make real use of, so I moved to markdown, where I’ve been waiting for an analogue of TheBrain to show up, until I found Obsidian. One of the features from TheBrain I’d love to see in obs is the ability to describe links. That was fantastic.
The most important reason I write in markdown hasn’t yet been discussed: it shifts your focus from formatting to content.
Rich text editors in which you can fiddle with detailed styling while you write encourage distraction. You worry about what your writing looks like when you should be focused on what you’re writing.
That said, simple markup tools can be helpful for those who don’t want to fiddle with markdown. A WYSIWYG editor is on the devs’ to-do list.
This was always one of the hidden things I liked about LaTeX. It leaves the typesetting to a typesetting engine, letting you focus on the words and math. A big strength of Obsidian for me is the built-in MathJax rendering of LaTeX-like syntax, so now I get the text-only thought production process, instant rendering in a linked window if I want it, and a great looking final product.
text is better for this
What’s Wrong with Markdown?
Interesting article with some good points. Nevertheless, the author only sees the original objective: an easy way to format that can then be converted to HTML, i.e. no HTML coding knowledge is needed.
He does not mention the fact that, when one has got used to markdown, there is no overriding, compelling reason anymore for a basic word processing activity to use a complex, bloated piece of software like Word. Instead, one can use markdown which will cover most requirements of the average non-novel/non-coder writer.
The reason I say that is because I count myself among that group, having ditched Word completely and not regretting it. I know there are others like me, and I suspect there are many more.
Having said that, I have no independent stats to back up the claim, so I admit I may be completely wrong.
There never was.
I don’t think I have ever written in Word. It’s only for layout. It’s worth remembering that word processors and word processing formats were there long before HTML existed. They were designed for secretaries and typists to type up letters, reports and envelopes. Many conventions came from typewriters.
Somehow the world became hooked on them, presumably when employers worked out that they wouldn’t need typists if they had a way of making employees do their own typing.
None of that is any excuse for markdown.