Just 2 view modes

Use case or problem

Current view modes in Obsidian suck.

You have reading view, editing view, live preview… why so many?

You can’t easily switch between them. Switching should be linear but if you are a new user you have to learn somewhere that in order switch to live preview you have to be in edit view which isn’t accented in the UI and is confusing for no reason.

Live preview seems like a half-baked WYSIWIG view - what was the point of that? Viewing and editing in it is a terrible experience with things constantly moving and jumping - it’s very distracting and disturbs your focus.

Proposed solution

Making a distinction between editing and viewing for a note taking app is WRONG. I don’t want to take my notes as developers write software, where I first edit my ‘code’ and then I see how it renders - for an note taking editor it seems bizarre and artificial. I want to be able to do both of those things at the same time. Why it’s such a hurdle?

There should be only two views.

  1. Raw plain-text markdown view. Yes, it can have all the extra stuff like ability to fold lists and headers, rendering different stuff with different font sizes, colors etc. But at the end of day I should know exactly how this text will look like if I open it in some simple editor that doesn’t have all that fancy stuff like notepad. And I think that current editing view does the job brilliantly.

  2. Truly WYSIWYG view. I can see my notes beautifully rendered and I can edit them at the same time having no clue how they look underneath because why would I care? There are a bunch of editors that does that job very nicely and I don’t see any reason why Obsidian shouldn’t have that.


Just to put a counter view out here. I understand why it would be useful to be able to easily switch between the two editing options (plain-text and a WYSIWYG editor). If it’s possible to implement a settings update that allows for that, great.

However, and I apologize if I am not fully understanding your point, if you are proposing the removal of the pure “reading view” where we see a rendered version of the note that cannot be edited without switching back to edit mode, then I disagree.

I understand why you may not want a distinction between editing and viewing in a note app for your workflow, but it is an incredibly useful feature for other workflows and use cases (just not yours). For example, I have several “mature” collections of notes that I have been maintaining for several years (Personal Knowleget Base). The vast majority of my interaction with these notes is to View/Read them, NOT to edit them. These notes are mostly used as a personal reference system. I edit them every once in awhile but mosty read them. So, I want to see them as fully rendered and formatted as “final documents”. And if I want to make a quick edit, a simple keyboard shortcut puts me in editing mode to make a change.

So rather than removing a view mode that would make Obsidian less versatile, and less adaptable to a variety of workflows, perhaps it can be augmented to allow both workflows, as opposed to limited so it only works for one use case?

1 Like

Thanks for your replay. I’m not proposing the removal of the reading view.

What I think would be much better is if you could edit your note in the reading view (which I guess would not be called that anymore). Your note would look exactly as it looks right now in the reading view, but if you wanted to add text or change something you just click and edit. So for example, instead of typing markdown-specific character like a ‘#’ for a header you could press a hotkey that would turn your paragraph into a header or have a ‘tool pop up window’ to make your text bold, italic, turn it in to plain paragraph, header, list item, etc. Just as it is currently done in Notion or Remnote or any other tool that have only one view mode.

Example: Learn writing and editing basics in Notion – Notion Help Center
Text Formatting | RemNote Help Center

I have to disagree. I think the focus of Obsidian is plain-text editing at the core of its editing functionality. For example, what you consider “half-baked” editing functionality is the perfect editing experience for me.

I want everything to turn into plain text when I click on it (images/tables/callouts/etc). I want to know that my Markdown documents are perfectly formed, because the reason I’m using Obsidian is to end up with Markdown for longevity. It’s critical that it’s readable even as plain text and preferable that it’s also nicely formatted as plain text.

Like @jmrq said, having a distinction between editing and viewing is also great and I really appreciate it. It’s just different strokes for different folks. But one good thing about Obsidian is if you really don’t like the editing view you are able to create a new one via a plugin.

Another great thing about Obsidian is that it’s trivial to add exactly this functionality with Templater.

Just to clarify my point a bit further;

What I’m suggesting is the features that @Reijo is looking for are already possible with “Live Preview” and “Source Mode”. “Live Preview” is exactly what @Reijo described (note looks like reading view, but click to edit like Notion).

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think what is missing for @Reijo is a simple way to move back and forth between “Source Mode” and “Live Preview”; basically ignoring the “Reading View”. That seems like a great idea to have an option or keyboard shortcut to move between these two modes easily.

But, as @AlanG mentioned, I am trying to emphasize that for my use case I still want the basic reading mode. I simply need a static, fully rendered, reading mode version of my documents as if they were a web page (think your own private offline website). I don’t want to click to enter edit mode and I don’t view that as a “feature”.

I think they’re looking for something WYSIWYG which doesn’t ever expose the Markdown plain-text nature of it, like when you click into an element in the current Live Preview mode.

However, the current mechanism is something I appreciate very much, vs the way Notion does it.

@AlanG Ah, thanks for clarifying! I see the use in that.

@Reijo I suppose I just want to make the case that no matter what enhancements are made to other view and editing modes, there is value in a “plain old fashioned” reading mode, with fully rendered documents. The “basic”, “plain” reading mode is a feature and should not be removed or changed.

After spending a month exploring Obsidian and diving deep into its capabilities, I’ve encountered a significant hurdle when it comes to writing in the live edit view. The constant shifting and distracting elements in the UI make it challenging to focus on the writing process. Additionally, as a heavy user of plugins and custom CSS, the content in the preview mode often doesn’t resemble the final rendered page.

I’ve pondered a mechanism that could provide a more intuitive editing experience, allowing me to simultaneously view the live render and the actual markdown content side by side. Presently, I need to focus out from the section to ensure that everything is formatted correctly. What I envision is something akin to an editable “bubble” positioned next to the focused section, offering a simultaneous view of the live content and the underlying markdown. This solution would provide a better editing experience without requiring excessive screen real estate.

You can open the same document in a split tab - with source view on the left and reading view on the right. That’s essentially the same thing with a full note “bubble”.

It’s not ideal. It takes up twice the space and forces me to shift my eyes away from the area I’m working on. Additionally, when it makes the other split view become ‘View Only,’ and if I change notes and open a lot of them repetitively, it can be confusing to determine ‘where is the edit’ and ‘where is the view,’ making it less ergonomic.

I’m quite proficient with CSS, so I’m writing some code snippets to fix the things that annoy me the most. Now I can work with the program in a more reasonable way. If anyone is interested, I can publish it on GitHub to collaborate and improve it.

One note: I write from both right-to-left (RTL) and left-to-right (LTR) intermittently.