One vault vs multiple vaults

What’s the design philosophy behind Obsidian having the option to have vaults? From what I gather, vaults have separate preferences for styling for instance and they allow separate directories to be used for file attachments.

What I am curious about is what is the concept of the vault as envisioned by the developers here and what workflow is it designing with in mind?

One obvious way to use it is to use separate vaults for separate projects but then why not just use folders for that purpose in case there’s linking possibilities between all of them?

Speaking in terms of PKM or more appropriately building a second brain, our brain links every thought with every other things without caring much for categories like, Project A or B, or work or personal, etc. So in that case, an argument can be made using just one vault for everything. The Zettelkasten approach also encourages this and although I am new to the concept, I’ve mostly seen advice to avoid using subfolders even.

So, what’s your workflow with regards to vaults in Obsidian, whether you follow zettelkasten or not? Do you use one vault or many? What are the pros and cons?

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One explanation I’ve seen is that some users have a need for rigid demarcation, as between home and work.
In practice, if you only use one vault, you should be unaffected by the possibility of creating others.

Personally, I’d tend to one unless I have projects where I know I will only want links and tags from other notes in that project. It would avoid distraction from notes that aren’t relevant. I’d probably set one up before writing a final version and publishing. I’d just copy relevant notes in. Should help focus.

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Yeah so far I’m using only one because I’ve not felt the need for another or seen the benefit of having more than one. The only benefit I saw was that due to the lack of filtering options in the graph view, vaults was one way to have different views. The help docs in particular were cluttering up the graph view in my case so I had to delete them but with an update they’ve now fixed that.

I see your point for having a focused mode sort of. Although, I think it can be achieved using folders just as well? Instead of expanding the folders from the file explorer, if one double clicks it, the folder opens in focus mode showing only files in that folder. This should be easy to discover as is pretty standard for file managers already. One internal change this would need too is, when a folder is opened this way, all link/tag suggestions should only

It would, but separate vaults do it already. I don’t mind one way or the other. One other possible advantage is speed in terms of the documents that need to be loaded, but I don’t know if that is an actual consideration.

I think the division into different areas can make a big difference for systems with a large number of links.
I noticed on Roam that I often went to work on one task after a while and was engaged in a completely different task. I was just carried away to another area by the links. There was no such problem in Evernot, where the organization was stricter.
Now I use one vault, but sometimes I think about dividing it into areas

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Vaults do it already but we cannot link ideas across vaults, can we? The folders could allow linking while maintaining the separate focus.

The vaults currently also have another advantage that they can be opened in separate windows as opposed to folders which can open files only in split panes.

Again, I’m not vouching for one approach and am still undecided which is better in the long term. So I want to hear arguments both in favour of single and multiple vaults.

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You bring up a good point I think! Many people complain the same about going the deep end of the wikipedia in that same sense.

So I am curious though about your workflow. How are you maintaining that strict organisation in Obsidian? Do you use one vault per project?

P.S. After giving some thought to it, I think there could be a sort of link relevance that could be calculated for each link in the current note (and the ones opened in the last hour for instance) to gather links which could be more pertinent to what the user is focusing on and those links could be slightly emphasised while other links slightly de-emphasised. I guess it could take away a little bit from the discovery through following links but it could be a toggle able view like we have preview for now so we can quickly turn it on or off when focusing. What do you think of that?

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I adhere to the methods of P. A. R. A. On every project has its own folder, each area has its own folder. Everything is stored in one vault.
So far, I have been using Obsidian for a very short time to develop some kind of approach. I always have a lot of small projects and 2-3 large projects in my work. It was from the big ones that he often jumped to the small ones
Before that, I started using Roam 3 times and returned to Evernote each time. There were 3 reasons for this:

  1. Poor Roam design. I was sensitive to this factor
  2. a Lot of chaos, which I was not ready for, and I did not want to rebuild, because I was not sure that I would stay with Roaming
    3.the block search in Russian Didn’t work, which killed 50% of the Roam capabilities.

Obsidian allows me to combine 2 approaches in peace. There are back links and folders. Plus, it attracts the fact that these are ordinary text files with which I can do any automation. For example send any task marked #todo to Todoist
Well, I liked the design. I like this one

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I offer an angle: Maximum number of notes Obsidian can handle with ease。If you want to put all the notes in your life in a single vault, consider its performance.

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An alternate use case would be looking at scope or the “Why not both?” approach. When I use the word scope, I use it mainly in a programming context where you have a local and global scope. Although obsidian handles this a bit different, it could work quite well.

Lets say you have a large set of interconnecting ideas, but distinct projects. You have your journals, books you read and the notes you took, random factoids you found at 3am on wikipedia, over 9,000 different references to tv-tropes, etc. You get the idea :slight_smile:.

Then, for example, lets say you are working on some writing like a novel. You would have a folder for writing projects under which you would have a folder for that book. Inside that folder you would have a typical structure with folders and files for drafts of each chapter/section as well as files for notes/research such as a “characters”, “settings”, or “Timelines”.

Now you might want to link and discover ideas between this novel and ideas you have else where. You are writing a character and want to reference your notes on the [[hero’s journey]]? No problem. Doing some world building and want to reference that paper you wrote on world politics two years ago. Great, all in the same vault.

Later, however, you want to focus in on your drafts and do edits. Avoiding distractions from all the tags, preventing yourself from getting lost taking a [[wiki walk]], and mitigating the distraction of the cool graph of all the linking objects of your work, are all needed.

Again, no problem. Just open the folder for the novel as it’s own vault and edit it there. You could even have different settings and CSS. Fewer panes, less distracting colours, whatever you need. Then later, you can pop back out to the main vault and you are back into the global vault.

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Great idea. I think this is a good example of thinking outside the box. Thank you.

Nested vaults eh? I tried that the very first time I downloaded Obsidian. I’ll admit it sounds like a good idea to have the best of both worlds. But one must be aware that there could be serious bugs doing that. The devs don’t recommend doing it even though the app allows it. Here’s one example of someone losing data doing that, especially with daily notes. I know it could be rare, but something like that happening once is one too many times since you never know what you could lose at what time.

Here’s what I’d suggest until this becomes officially supported after there’s been enough testing of nesting vaults. Move the project folder out of the vault entirely and open as a separate vault and work on it. Once done, recreate the folder in the main vault, and move back only the files from the project vault. One could also just remove the hidden .obsidian folder from the project and move the folder back but moving the notes should be easier for most people.

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This is typical in other software. E.g., LaTeX will have standard style definitions, local (site) style definitions, user-level style definitions, and directory-specific style definitions. It’s good idea and makes lots of sense.

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I think it’s my turn to ponder the merits of a single vault versus multiple vaults for different, major focus areas. I have three vaults at the moment:

  • A work knowledgebase that I use to capture work-related notes, and things that I learn on the job;
  • A Dungeons and Dragons vault where I store notes and resources relating to my DnD games such as research notes, characters’ information, campaign notes, and so on;
  • A general notes vault where I capture a variety of notes that don’t fit into the other two categories.

My general notes vault is probably my most active vault.

I wrote a note earlier about an idea that I had about DnD game prep that was based on Sönke Ahrens’ suggestion that we cultivate a habit of making notes about things that interest us, and then link those notes (I understand this to basically be at the core of the Zettelkasten methodology) together as a foundation for later work.

When I captured that note into Obsidian, I found myself torn between adding it to the Dungeons and Dragons vault, or the general notes vault where I already have a body of notes about Obsidian, note-taking, and related topics.

So now I’m debating whether to merge all my vaults into one monolithic vault where my main focus areas (work knowledge, DnD, and others that may arise) are really just distinguished by how they are linked, and categorised.

If I were to merge the contents of the vaults, they’d initially be in folders that I’d copy across to the general notes folder (I wouldn’t use nested vaults, just relocate the files themselves). Over time, though, new notes would be added at the vault’s top-level, making the folder structure largely irrelevant, and difficult to unscramble later.

The only option that I can see addressing this dilemma is a way to cross-reference notes between disparate vaults, if such a thing is even feasible.

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@seabirdr ~ Is there an official “maximum number of notes Obsidian can handle with ease”?

I’ve seen a wide variety of numbers discussed (ranging from 8,000 - 20,000), so I’m not entirely sure what kind of constraints I’ll be up against here.

In addition, I’m wondering to what degree the following factors affect performance:

  • Image number
  • Image size
  • Embeds
  • Transclusions
  • Processor speed
  • RAM, etc.

At this point (in my earliest planning stages), my strong preference is to use 1 vault – but, to be honest, my biggest concern right now is performance since I have a tendency to gather LOTS of notes. [For example, I currently have 46,000+ “thoughts” (nodes) in my main “megabrain” database in TheBrain.]

Will look forward to any thoughts you (and others) have about performance-related considerations relative to the one vs. multiple vaults decision.

Thanks in advance.

I would imagine this depends on how you are meassuring performance. TheBrain doesn’t show all the connections with infinite depth if I remember correctly, so you can’t really see all the notes that you have in one Graph view like in Obsidian.

I would imagine that Obsidian might struggle with lets say showing 50,000 nodes, depending on the hardware and operating system, but this would probably happen only in the full graph view and not in the local one which is the equivalent to TheBrain’s approach.

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Thanks so much, @sol, for taking time to share your thoughts and feedback. Much appreciated!

I would imagine this depends on how you are meassuring performance.

Agreed.

TheBrain doesn’t show all the connections with infinite depth if I remember correctly…

That’s correct, although visibility in greater depth can be achieved using TheBrain’s Outline view.

… so you can’t really see all the notes that you have in one Graph view like in Obsidian.

Thanks for the heads up on this. Since I’ve not yet begun testing the desktop version of O, the only graph view I’ve seen is in published versions ~ and, as far as I can tell, Obsidian online only displays one generation of links at a time.

I would imagine that Obsidian might struggle with lets say showing 50,000 nodes, depending on the hardware and operating system, but this would probably happen only in the full graph view and not in the local one which is the equivalent to TheBrain’s approach.

Ok. Thanks for letting me know. Its encouraging to know 50,000 notes might be workable. :slightly_smiling_face: