Obsidian Tutorial for Dummies

Hello Everyone,

I’m new to the community. I watched a number of YouTube videos that commended Obsidian Forum for being very accommodating of new users.

First off, I’m a legal academic in Africa with zero education on coding. I mention this because it feels like you have to know some basic ‘moves’. Feels like an outsider trying to get into a community without understanding the ‘language’ the community speaks.

What I’m trying to do

Basically, i’m trying to set up obsidian

  1. Build a more efficient zettelkasten system for my research work (broader goal)
  2. Help me make notes from the pdfs i’m reading for different writing projects i’m working on. I use mendeley a lot - but just read that mendeley is going to be retired so doesn’t look like there’s much hope for creating a plug-in (is that the right name? that helps me move my annotated notes from there into my obsidian. (For literature notes)

That being said, how can i do the following things?

  1. Keep track of the articles I’m reading and the ideas collected from them? - For example, What I would normally do when i’m starting out on a new research project is
  2. Put all collected information into a folder and manually add the references to Mendeley OR use mendeley importer to do the same thing.
  3. Makes notes (mostly in word) or in note books based on annotations made in the pdf document (mostly read in adobe reader). I use Mendeley plug in for word to keep track of page number etc.
  4. From there, it’s not a linear process anymore. I’d go back and forth to create themes, synthesis, critically analysis etc, until a get a rough draft of sorts that’s ready for revision
  5. Revision is another animal all by itself…

Anyway, this is the kind of work flow i would like to set it obsidian. But i don’t understand how tags, templates, links etc can help me do this. To add to that there are all these shortcut functions like ## {{[[ that I am not familiar with.

Things I have tried

I found out from help docs Mendeley isn’t linked to Obsidian. Although Zotero is, there is a limit on space. That’s a problem for me. I have so many pdfs and I can’t afford to be on so many paid services. I’m already very invested in Mendeley ( I was very sad to find that Elsevier is planning to retire it… :face_holding_back_tears)

Welcome! Unfortunately I don’t know Mendeley, so I can’t really help. You didn’t mention the Obsidian Help. It’s a good place to start:


And, of course, all of the plugins have documentation and you can find many solutions here on the forum as well. Using search, or just browsing, you will encounter lots of discussions about the information you want.

That being said, it is useful to create forum help topics for specific problems you are trying to solve that have not yet been addressed. Using Obsidian is a great way to learn it. YouTube videos can be extremely helpful. But in terms of building your system and understanding exactly how you can best use the many tools available in Obsidian, there is no singular answer.

I saw this yesterday, and thought it might be relevant here:

Good luck!

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Other than the videos and the help, i just started using it, trying things out until I had what i needed. You don’t need to be a programmer to use obsidian but to be honest it helps. Maybe add at least one plugin to give you a toolbar for markdown commands so it’s more like a word processor. I suggest you try Editing Toolbar.

Thanks! I’m trying out the editing Toolbar.

How are you getting on with that?

Not bad at all, thanks. I even managed to try out templates …

Nick Milo’s Obsidian for Beginners videos have been helpful.

Danny Hatcher put up some from-scratch videos (2-3 maybe) in the last few months. I think you won’t even need to put him on .75 speed, on either of those. Or maybe you will… :wink:


Oh but i had to :rofl:

Check Obsidians plug-in repo with your most important keywords, otherwise you’ll feel confused and overwhelmed.

For pdf/epub try Annotator
For your projects try Projects
Also check out Dataview

If you’re interested on how to structure your vault search this forum for Starter
- the very first hit talks already about a zettelkasten starter kit. Explore this kit
or other ones and have a bit of fun too!

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