Non-markdown FIle Management Best Practices

Hi Knowledge Managers,

This post isn’t exactly Obsidian specific, but I’m wondering if this community has any input for managing non-markdown files and keeping track of them in an inherently hierarchical filesystem. For some background, I’m a mechanical engineer using Windows, and I deal with a lot of MS Office documents, PDFs, and photos that I either need to produce, edit, or reference. Converting these to and from .md files to work with in Obsidian is not practical.

I love the way my notes are organized, easy to find, and linkable in Obsidian, and I’m wondering if there is any analogue to this approach for general file management.

My Current Approach

  • Guess early on at directory structure, trying to anticipate the structure of a project and where items will need to be located. Inevitably need to perform large re-organization a few times within project lifetime.
  • Number folders (e.g. 01 - Drawings) so that the default sort order doesn’t change. Helps me to quickly navigate by mouse clicks in explorer.
  • Name files with my initials and date, e.g. Filename_20201001_BSF
  • Generally keep all old versions of files. Periodically move these to the 00 - Archive folder in their respective directory. I rarely reference these, but my hard drive is never full and I’m afraid to delete them.
  • Requires having strong memory of where items were stored. If I don’t remember where I put something, finding it may be challenging.

Desired Capability

  1. Permalinks to files so that I can link to them from my Obsidian notes, and from other files. This means that something will keep track of files even as I change directory names or move files around.
  2. File versioning and merging. Rather than having dozens of old versions of a file, I only have the current version. Alternate versions can be stored under this, and accessed when needed. No more renaming files with dates, or sorting by “date modified” to figure out which one is actually current. This capability would include the ability to rename files as I better understand what they are (i.e First Motion Test Objectives -> Launch Lock Release Test Objectives) without splitting the version history due to a change in title.
  3. Ability to store files (or shortcuts) in multiple folders at once. Think of the graph view for my Zettelkasten notes as opposed to the hierarchical structure imposed by filesystems. In other words, all files could in theory be stored in a single directory on one’s hard drive, but would be easy to find through search or relational linking.

What I’ve looked at

So far I’ve done some searching and found Windows Explorer replacement solutions such as Explorer++ or fman which may do the job, but none of these fully fit the bill. Another path to explore is to use version control software such as git, but I don’t know if this is really applicable to the files I deal with–these seem to be geared for software engineers, but I rarely do any coding as part of my normal workflow.

I’d love to hear if you guys have any input for how to better manage files outside the realm of Obsidian. I’m starting a new long-term project, and having a clear and effective organization of working and reference files is going to be a key to success.


I have same problem. Windows and its lack of tag for all the file formats is problematic. I am thinking maybe Making folders parallel to .md files in Obsidian vault. Also should do the same for bookmarks in browser etc. It is not the best solution but it’s a solution.

Also I wonder maybe making a .md files in obsidian about other non-markdown files and manually copying a shortcut into each folder in windows explorer can help.

@Archie, what do you mean by making parallel folders?

I worry that the solutions you mentioned require multiple steps and are high friction–I think ultimately a software solution (outside Obsidian) is wanting here.

1 Like

By parallel folders I mean having the same file structure both for Obsidan / .md notes and other sort of files that are not supported by Obsidian. For example a note or folder for Project A and making a similar folder by the exact same structure somewhere else for reference material.

I agree that it’s not the work of Obsidian and another software is needed. That explorer++ that you introduced looks useful, at least it makes tagging possible in Windows

I see what you mean. My own practice for Obsidian does involve putting .md files into folders, but this doesn’t serve a strong purpose besides keeping them marginally organized. I rarely if ever open those folders looking for notes. I find notes through quick search, tags, and links. Quick search functionality is built in to Windows / Mac-OS if you remember what you named your file, but tagging and permalinking are not.

In essence, I’m looking for a relational framework for file management, rather than hierarchical. Think of the Obsidian graph view rather than a folder tree. While every file ultimately has to live in a hierarchy, (unless you care to fundamentally re-architect your computer), accessing them doesn’t have to be that way.

1 Like

Yes, putting notes scattered in folders makes it very hard to use, but I think maybe we should just put notes in a vault and then put a shortcut of that note in a related folder. This way at least one would be able to use Obsidian features for these cases.

I am using quick search and keywords in the windows right now. But there is a problem, specially if I want to keep an original filename, that makes naming too long and windows has problems with that too.

That’s exactly what I am looking for. For file management hierarchy and folders have a very limited use. The only way that of know for such relational framework is using folders and shortcuting files to many folders, but it is very inefficient and messy. So there is a need for a real solution