Implementing a Zettelkasten System with Block References in Obsidian

Hi everyone,

I’m looking to replicate a Zettelkasten workflow in Obsidian, similar to the one described in this Implementing a Digital Zettelkasten using Block References in Roam Research with Beau Haan. The system uses block references, nested notes, and various note types (fleeting, literature, permanent).

Has anyone implemented something similar in Obsidian? Any advice on templates, plugins (like Dataview), and best practices would be greatly appreciated!


Morgan Eua implements Zettelkasten in Obsidian. And she made an excellent video about it.

Obsidian is not really “Block” oriented, so that may be difficult. The more obvious way to implement a Zettelkasten is through small individual notes in separate files, much like the original “Zettelkasten” system where one “Zettel” is one atomic note.

IIRC, notes versus blocks is the main difference between Obsidian and Logseq. I ended up with Obsidian, because my brain doesn’t process blocks.

If OP is looking for a block-based offline alternative to Roam this video by a Logseq user might by an inspiration. It also explains Luhmann’s historical Zettelkasten quite nicely:

It’s an interesting thing.
I’ve viewed only the first half of the video, need to complete the view.
To the point I’ve reached I still haven’t understood the most important thing. Why. In detail, if there is a benefit using a “block based zettelkasten” instead of a “note based zettelkasten”. In Obsidian is simpler to obtain the second, maybe. I use it and I don’t notice any drawback.

Maybe the purpose is having a more frictionless workflow, but I think this property can be obtained using the canonical model, too.
In my method I use bullet list notes as “workbenchs” for making zettels, and I can confirm that this is a good way of doing: some of the block properties can be obtained writing our thoughts in bullet lists and the evolve these lists into notes, supported perhaps by structure notes or map of contents. This feature, anyway, doesn’t require nothing special, is simply a writing style.
I want to investigate further. Probably studying the block based Zettelkasten can enrich my note based Zettelkasten.

Which feature of that model makes you want to obtain using Obsidian, rather than using a note model?

You were asking for best practices. I recommend separating the method from the tool.

  • Zettelkasten is the method
  • Roam and Obsidian are tools. So are Logseq and Zettlr and many others.

If you want to learn about the method Zettelkasten, I recommend reading Sönke Ahrens’s book How to take smart notes. There you’ll find concepts like “conversation” and “fleeting notes”.

The website is a classic resource for everything related to the Zettelkasten method.

The Zettelkasten method is named after Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten. The German word Zettelkasten literally translates as slip box. A Zettelkasten is box full of paper slips or paper notes.

Implementing the Zettelkasten method in Obsidian is simple, because Obsidian is designed to write and manage large collections of notes. And it is designed to easily search and link those notes.

The tool Roam has a very different design concept. It is built on outlines/nested notes/blocks or however you want to call it. Mimicking Roam in Obsidian doesn’t make sense, because Obsidian is not designed to work like Roam.

What part of the video did you like? The method Zettelkasten or the tool Roam?

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The second part of the video is where it all makes sense. It is really interesting approach. You should check out the whole thing. It is fascinating in my humble opinion.