Obsidian Starter Kit - Zettelkasten Style! (Unfinished)


11/30/2020 Currently transferring over all my notes from the below linked forum based zettelkasten to my Obsidian Publish site. This includes rewriting notes, doing a better job connecting all of them, and filling out notes that were previous just outlines. This has been very slow going as I’m busy with life. In the meantime if you want a good zettelkasten guide, check out the one over at Zettelkasten De.

7/10/2020 ON HOLD while I do research and build up a forum based zettelkasten and do research on data, information, and knowledge more broadly.**

In the meantime I am also working on creating a shorter guide.

I’m actively creating a Zettelkasten starter kit for people working in Obsidian! Here is my current table of contents, let me know if there is anything you’d like to see covered?

If you are brand new to Zettelkasten, check out Learning More about Zettelkasten in the meantime, which is a collection of links to various blog posts and resources about zettelkasten.

Table of Contents

  1. Getting Comfortable with Obsidian
  2. What is a Zettelkasten?
  3. What is the purpose of a Zettelkasten?
  4. How is Zettelkasten different from other methods?
  5. Playing around with Niklas Luhmann’s Zettelkasten
  6. Setting up your first Zettelkasten
  7. How to use a Zettelkasten
  8. My Modification of the Zettelkasten Method
  9. How Zettelkasten fits into my Larger Workflow
  10. Zettelkasten Case Studies
  11. What knowledge and information is worth acquiring?
  12. A Final Word of Note - Note Serendipity
  13. Example of the Zettelkasten Method being implemented with the topic of “Personal Knowledge Management”

The reason people use a unique number, such as YYYYMMDDHHMM, is that when they change the name of the note, all the links to that note are broken. And those breaks happen because the app they use does not automatically amend those links.

Obsidian is one of the few apps that does make those amendments. And since there cannot be 2 notes with the same name, that makes the name of the note unique.

Therefore, in my zettelkasten, which I am transferring to Obs, I do away with those horrible numbers in my note titles, I just use words, humanly understandable words.


I’m not a fan of unique number with hour and minutes, but I do love the 2020-05-20 format for easy sorting in all my documents, not just Zettelkasten.


I would love to see the output side covered. A lot of Zettelkasten content is about capturing and organizing but I almost never stumble upon posts in which someone shows how they use their ZK for actually creating new text.


@sirlaughalot: creating new text is individual, there is no good or bad way, any way that suits you is good. As for output, people use it to write anything ranging from a simple article to a thesis, and everything in between.

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the most important thing is a workflow guide. There is no real workflow guide out there for roam or obsidian. either it’s not a zettelkasten or it’s terrible ineffective.
The book “how to take smart notes” is really hyped but actually there is no manual on how to take these smart notes. Clearly it depends on what you want to reach and which software. Backlinking is an old idea and it’s now turning famous. It would be great if you could try to show an example workflow. With Literature Notes, Permanent Notes, Reference Notes. There are some discussions in the nerdy Zettelkasten Community. Like “Folgezettel” (following note) yes or no. Dont care about that :smiley:
I love you for doing this!

Currently I am working on a perfect workflow for getting my notes, which I made while reading, listening, thinking etc into obsidian.

After your manual I would try to write a Workflow before Obsidian, then we can connect :wink:


@Mises Obsidian is not a priori a zettelkasten app. It is a note-taking app one can use for taking notes (duhh) in any which way one wants - there is no right or wrong way, only a way that suits the user. Therefore there is no point in writing a manual.

IMO, in the digital world there is no zettelkasten protocol anymore, although 2 principles still apply: take the shortest possible notes (“atomicity”, as Christian Tietze over @ zettelkasten.de calls it), and interlinking the notes as much as possible. The latter principle will help to gain new insights and ideas when you want to work on a topic.

I read info from various sources, then copy/paste interesting bits into a new note, or write a new note myself, followed by the assignment of tags. When I have assigned tags, I see for each tag which other notes have it and decide if I can establish a link. Sometimes I even decide that an assigned tag does not make sense so delete it from my new note.

I personally don’t believe in Folgezettel, I think it was relevant for Luhmann, or if you want to have a physical zettelkasten like him. However, over at zettelkasten.de there are those who are firm adherents of Folgezettel, even in a digital set-up - horses for courses , I guess.


As a researcher, blogger and author I politely disagree with the view that there is no good or bad way. :wink: Good writing has an awful lot to do with knowing how to do it and honing your skills.


@sirlaughalot I fully agree with you on that. If you read my comment to @Mises you will see that nowhere do I state there is no good or bad way of writing. I said there is no good or bad way of taking notes. Taking notes and writing - I assume you mean writing for an audience - are not the same. Note-taking is a rather private affair: those notes can be used to produce a piece for an audience, or they can be kept private, as e.g. a journal.

Therefore, there is no good or bad way of taking notes (whether for a zettelkasten or anything else), there is only the personal way. I am aware some people use the Bullet Journal, or the Cornell note-taking system, which could also be applied in Obs, I suppose, but using those is still a personal decision, and filling them is very personal.

I guess we are on the same page when it comes to note-taking. I agree that this is very personal. That‘s why I referred to the output side of things in my initial post. :sweat_smile: ZK / general notetaking content almost never addresses questions on how to use your collected notes productively, although this is the main purpose of all this note-taking. Therefore, I‘d like to see a part on this included in the guide.

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@sirlaughalot I think it is difficult to find a guide, if at all, precisely because note-taking is so personal. I think (sorry to use that term again) the best way is to 1st decide what your note-taking objective is, then to read up about it.

For example, if your objective is to create a zettelkasten, you read up what you can find. If you need an efficient system (time and quality wise) to take notes in class you could read up about the Cornell system, or other systems. If journaling is your objective read up about the Bullet Journal or another one, and so on.

I 1st had 1 objective: a zettelkasten. I read a lot, discussed on the zettelkasten.de forum, then looked for a suitable app. I managed to put together a collection of 400 notes using a number of apps, none of which I was really happy with. I think I have found it with Obs.

While I was collecting those zk notes, I developed a need for a 2nd collection: notes about geopolitical issues and developments. But …… those evolved into rather long notes, so I broke the “atomicity” principle. I am OK with that, although I sometimes wonder if I could get more out of them if they were split into much smaller units. That, however, would take too much time to implement, time I am not prepared to spend so I keep them as they are. When Obs becomes more mature with a few more features I need (e.g. the in-doc ToC for my long notes), I will probably transfer the folders to an Obs vault, because ideally I want to have just 1 markdown note-taking app.


@lizardmenfromspace Name a few sources for background reading, such as zettelkasten.de.

@Klaas I’m confused why you are suggesting stuff while also trashing the very idea of a guide. :upside_down_face: Why even post in here if you don’t believe there are good and bad ways to take notes?

I suggest you start your own thread on why guides are stupid and you shouldn’t follow any for note taking. Then people can argue with you over there vs. here where I’m trying to get feedback from people who think a guide is a good jumping off point.


@lizardmenfromspace Whoa! What on earth are you on about?

  1. “Trashing” the idea of a guide? Let me quote myself: “I think it is difficult to find a guide, if at all, precisely because note-taking is so personal.” Trashing it? This even supports your idea of making a guide exactly because there aren’t many, if any !!!
  2. Why do you get upset with my not believing there is no good or bad way to take notes? That has absolutely no bearing at all on the idea of having a zettelkasten. I have a zettelkasten myself that I am happy about. And in any case @sirlaughalot asked me what I meant by “no good or bad way” and then agreed. He did not attacked me without challenging me, which, in my opinion, is the right way to discuss.
  3. I even give some pointers as to how I make notes in my zettelkasten.
  4. You make sweeping statements and attacks without so much as explaining what they are based on.

Now, it is not my intention to spoil your thread by having this kind of discussion, nor by expressing opinions that do go along with yours. If I gave the impression I think guides are stupid I apologise. I also apologise for expression an opinion that does not suit you, and for engaging in a discussion with others who replied to me - I did not know I was not supposed to. Or perhaps I upset you by mentioning other sources? I don’t know.

So, on that note I’ll not bother you with my comments anymore. I humbly suggest, though, that you clearly put the rules of the game at the top of the page to avoid others inadvertently upsetting you.

I do sincerely wish you the best of luck with your guide, I think it is a good idea, and if the guide is good, you’ll have a lot of success with it because there seems to be an increasing interest in people building their own.

1 last suggestion about the content, if I may: it might be useful to discuss the difference between paper notes and digital notes in the zk context, and it might be useful to review a few of the digital apps available. There is one app in particular that you may have heard about, Obsidian, which, for my use case is the best one :wink: and which may well turn into a leader.

P.S. I just realised my comment to @Mises that “there is no point in writing a manual” is what upset you. In all honesty I thought his comment was in reply to my preceding comment, and I would be incapable of writing a decent manual. In any case, I was wrong about @Mises’s address, and apologise for my clumsy reply, there is no excuse. I have left all of this reply in place because, notwithstanding your anger, I believe I have shown I am a supporter of the zettelkasten concept, and do believe if someone wants to write a manual he should do so. But, in spite of a manual, I continue to believe also there is no good or bad way of writing notes, everyone does what suits him/her best.


@lizardmenfromspace, thanks so much for taking this on! As an ideal audience for your starter kit, feel more than free to use me as your guinea pig for feedback to help you shape the final version.
Very much looking forward to this!

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Same here like to help

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It’s all personal about naming, but starring at weird computer-generate file names all day long, giving my private notes human names is refreshing.


Also just want to say thank you for putting the work in! Being fairly new to the Zettelkasten method I am very much looking forward to reading the starter kit and happy to provide initial feedback as well. :slight_smile:

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@sirlaughalot - Hi sir, there is a very good video that addresses exactly your question, I think: Nat Eliason - How to Use Roam to Outline a New Article in Under 20 Minutes. As you see, it’s for roam, but you can use it for obsidian also.


Thank you, I’ll have a look at it. :slight_smile: