Nested Vaults (vault within a vault)

I’d like to discuss the potential implementation of nested vaults as an obsidian feature.

I’m aware of the warnings against using nested vaults. In this post I present my personal reasons and use case of nested vaults.

I might be missing certain reasons from the developer’s side to avoid implementing this feature, so I’m happy to learn why it might not be a good idea too.


Have you searched for an existing request?

This is the most important post I keep in mind when nesting vaults.

Nested vaults - usage and risks

I also consider obsidian publish to be able to benefit form the use of nested vaults for a cleaner files side-bar

Obsidian Publish Nested Vault

this is better defined by another feature request, this could solve the need for nested vaults in obsidian publish.

Make Folders Vault Floor for Obsidian Publish


Use case or problem

My current use of obsidian is one vault for everything. I keep as few sub-folders as I possibly can.

The only important sub-folder I maintain is one for my “Zettelkasten” in it I keep my most concise and important notes.

I don’t want the clutter of my root vault to interfere with the clear visualization of this Zettelkasten sub-folder.

This is why I nest this Zettelkasten sub-folder into it’s own nested vault.


Benefits of nested vaults

  • clean navigation of files without the clutter of other notes
  • links suggestions activated by [[ only show files in this relevant nested vault (instead of all the other notes in from the root vault
  • Clean Graph View (limited to only this Zettelkasten sub-folder)

Proposed solution

By following the instructions set in this post

Make Folders Vault Floor for Obsidian Publish

I’ve been able to maintain my nested vault without any problems, so far.

Perhaps, my worry is the possibility of future updates to mess up nested vaults.


My request would be to make Nested Vaults a part of Obsidian.


Teaching

I’ve started creating content online teaching obsidian, and regardless of the benefits I see with this approach. I’ve stopped my self from teaching nested vaults due to it’s current risk to break things.


Thoughts?

The benefits are clear to me, specially when it comes to a clearer view of a sub-folder. I’d like to know if other people’s use cases benefit from nested vault.

Of course I understand that if it’s only a few of us using nested vaults, then it doesn’t make much sense to implement this, since there are workarounds and way to keep using it, by being careful.


I’d like to know other’s experience with this concept, as well as seeing if it’s possible to make this a feature for future obsidian updates.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

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I see more benefits from nested vaults every day (when the block links were launched there was a warning that ^^ could take some time in large vault and I thought “But not if you’re nesting!”), so I’d teach them but warn about the possibility of clashes.

I’ve never had a problem with using them, and they’re a fundamental part of my structure and workflow. Of course, that’s just me - and I also use the OS for file operations, edit Obsidian files in other programs all the time without ever encountering problems.

But incorporating them as a normal feature would bring trade-offs.
The great thing about vaults is that they are securely walled in. This allows them to be fast, reduces visual clutter, allows different CSS and workspaces for different folders & etc. And while the walls are secure, access remains possible through the ceiling and floor.

The fundamental risk comes from potential clashes between vaults separated by walls. The program can’t protect against that because the vaults are entirely independent. And that independence is desirable.

The only option I could see would be Obsidian checking for the possible existence of higher level vaults, and then for possible other sub-vaults of that higher level vault. But that’s a lot of checking.
I can imagine other approaches, but all would make the program heavier in use. An approach with hidden UID file names with aliases visible would deal with it, but at the cost of making OS file operations more difficult.

I’d like the devs to accept that it’s a very useful technique in Obsidian.
There could be some use in a utility that checked a set of folders for clashes - but that can be done anyway in the OS. So mostly, I think, its about users understanding it and maintaining procedures that prevent problems.

But very happy if someone can find a way of doing it without losing any of the technique’s current utility.

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Thanks for the valuable information. I agree, it’s such a powerful feature.
It’s good to know you are also using other tools to modify files.

I also use secondary tools to do certain things in my obsidian vault

The three tools I always use are:

  • vim
  • spacemacs
  • atom

So far I havn’t had any problems either.


Thanks for the suggestion, perhaps nested vaults can be taughts to beginners, as long as the it’s clear the potential risks.


That’s another excellent use of nested vault.


The more a vault grows the more benefits I see in nesting to keep things easily searchable and not bloating the root vault.

All with the benefit of still being able to access everything from the root vault when needed.

Thanks for you take on it!

The wonderful thing about nested vaults is that they can wear two hats at the same time.
Vault and sub-folder.

An odd thing for me to like really, since conceptually I’m a fan of large flat collections with minimal use of folders. But OSs grant folders functionality that isn’t shared with anything else, so I will use them when they reduce friction rather than increase it.

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The three tools I always use are:

  • vim
  • spacemacs
  • atom

So far I havn’t had any problems either.

I only use simple Windows utilities. Bulk Rename etc. And EditPad Pro. Grep if I have to. But I only do words, not code.

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Got you, for bulk rename I tend to use ranger (terminal file manager) with vim bulkrename, but I wasn’t sure if renaming outside of obsidian messes up links, I tried it a couple versions ago, I havn’t tried it in 0.9.6


That’s perfectly said, the double function as vault and sub-folder is exactly the reason to use nested vaults

I’m extremely careful about renaming. I would expect links to be messed up. Obsidian reads the current file state so links from a file should be fine, but links to a file would be lost - except where those links are themselves renamed (which is easy enough to do in any text editor).

And why shortest path is safest for moving. And wikilinks.

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got you, that makes sense! Yeah for highly linked files I always rename them inside obsidian

but yeah for flies without links bulrenaming with other tools works great!

+1 really want this feature implemented!
It’ll be seamless in switching between vault <-> sub vault (sub folder), rather than making/opening a new vault for sub folder.

Another feature requests that related to this :


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Hoisting and focus are really quite separate requests. Simpler and can be done without nesting and some people would use them even if they had nesting. Probably best for nesting not to be conflated with these.

+1 for Nested Vaults or similar functionality

This would also address the need to synchronize and collaborate with others on one vault, but keep a personal vault of notes one-way linked to the collaborative vault in a separate, local-only vault. (For example, think of a knowledgebase collaboratively built by a team, and personal notes on the projects, people, etc. in that vault that should not be included in the knowledgebase, but that need to link to it.)

I am interested in a similar solution: could Obsidian load more than one vault concurrently? Thus, rather than nesting a vault, multiple vaults could be used in parallel. There are definite downsides to this (e.g., interlinking only works when the same vaults are open), and it might not be a superior solution to nesting, but perhaps it could overcome some of the risks of nested vaults.

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Yes. Separate instances, separate windows.

To achieve this the personal vault would have to be a higher level vault with the collaborative vault nested. Or they could both be nested in a higher level vault that you control.

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I would say the current possiblities (I’m in version 0.9.6) are good enough. Having the ability to have a root vault with sub-vaults / sub-folders that can be opened separetly works alright, and allow for most of the benefits of nested vaults.

Most of this this is already possible without breaking things.

The idea would be to keep in mind this use case, so that future versions of Obsidian don’t break nested vaults.

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That would be the fear. It feels as if the present benefits emerged serendipitously without being part of the plan.

I think the only threat would come from an attempt to have centralised settings, but that wouldn’t fit well with the idea of everything based on markdown files. Plugin developers could see this differently.

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Adding my thumbs-up for this. What I really want is to be able to have a messy inbox with an ordered deep structure. Access to the deep structure from the inbox is important, for moving things in that are ready to be integrated. But freedom from the mess is important when working in the deep structure.

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So to clarify: Is it safe to have Level 1 Vault open, which contains Level 2 Folder/Vault, at the same time the Level 2 Vault is open? And is it safe to do work in Level 2 from both open instances of Obsidian?

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@joeshirley I do exactly that with both vaults open and havn’t had issues at all. (I modify text freely from any of the levels and it updates on the other level)
Just keep in mind that future updates might create conflicts, but for now that’s what I’ve been doing without any trouble so far.

@joeshirley
Yes and yes.
But be aware of what you are doing. I’ve not tried to find a way of breaking things, so I can’t be sure it’s impossible. Pretty sure it could be done tbh.

That said, it’s something I do routinely. All my vaults are under a top vault (with a few intermediate tiers set up purely for the nesting advantages), and I will usually have more than one open. Even sometimes on the same file.

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Great, thanks. Also looking over the post from @Dor on “usage and risks”

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