One vault vs multiple vaults

Never an easy answer is there? I’ve got one single vault at present and am reluctant to split vaults because I use [ ] as actions throughout and then collate them all into a @today page via search for everything that’s due across my personal and work life. As soon as I split them, I lose this functionality and introduce more friction and risk of missing something critical. The flip-side is a blending of work and private information where there should be a demarcation.

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I wrote my first project using Zettelkasten (ZK) in Devonthink (DT). I can definitely see the potential. Although Devonthink has a powerful AI to run searches and bring notes together, it doesn’t easy show the relationship between the notes (zettln) like Obsidian does. Also, even though one can link and back link in DT, it’s cumbersome. (Indeed, ZK is labor intensive, but my hope is that I’ll get the time back in the writing process due to my great notes.)

My questions: 1) In general, how is the ZK in Obsidian experiment working so far?

  1. The ZK labels make the titles of the notes very long. They often run into each other in the graph view. The graph is of limited help if I can’t read it. (I know I can get the name of any one note by hovering over the dot.) Any thoughts on managing the long zettle-titles?

I’m only a beginner with this, so not sure my answer to your question 1 is very authoritative, but so far I’m loving it. I find Obsidian a fantastic tool to record and link thoughts.
As for question 2, I’m finding that I don’t need the ZK type labels in Obsidian. If you want, you can keep dates and times in the front matter as data fields, but I don’t bother with that (at least not yet).
If you use Cmd-O to open notes, you avoid the issue of having a duplicate title as Obsidian will only create a new note if an existing one of the same title doesn’t exist. What else do you need the ZK label for?

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Newb here, but maybe that gives me perspective on your situation.

I think there are reasons to have more than one vault, for example, you want to have a work vault and a personal vault. You might even want to Publish one of them and not publish the other. One might be for school, where you have 1000 notes eventually on Physics. That could make finding Personal notes difficult.

But if you are simply a “folder oriented” person, like many of us folks that dislike putting everything in one pile, then I think you have to challenge yourself to accept the new paradigm of “tags not folders”.

I’ve already had two experiences of seeing connections between two notes in my vault, connections that I had never thought of before. One has lead to me writing a paper. That wouldn’t have happened if I segregated the information more. Its really the whole point of the ZK method.

Wish you the best.

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I’ve had the same struggles to decide if I should use one or several vaults.
I came up with the following solution:

As we can see each vault being a separate folder, there is the main folder that contains all the vaults, right? Well, I just open that main folder as a vault in Obsidian and it will contain all other vaults within and also shows me the linked information. If I need to zoom in and focus on a specific area, I could open that subfolder or “sub-vault” for that matter.

Does this make sense or am I missing anything?

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That’s the nested vault solution. It’s what I do and I think it has massive advantages and nothing has ever gone wrong. But there can be risks, dependent on the way you work. It’s worth checking out the various threads on nested vaults.

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Thanks for giving it a name that I can search for. :slight_smile:

So how does this work with plugins and hotkeys configuration which is individual to each vault? I tried opening the parent vault. But it seems I have to populate it with the plugins that I use at the child vault level, no? In your opinion, is there an easier way to work this out?

Nested vaults give a range of advantages and disadvantages. I doubt they would be an ideal solution purely for hiding multiple folders - there are other ways and feature requests for related things that you might prefer to support.

Yes.
The ability to have different plugins, hotkeys etc for different vaults can be seen as an advantage (it is to me), though obviously it isn’t if you want everything the same way.
My suggestion for for easily managing the setups would be to directly copy/edit/paste the relevant files in the original .obsidian into the same folder in the new vaults. Ideally you would have a working knowledge of how and where Obsidian keeps its settings before mucking about too much - but it’s pretty simple really.

Hi @Dor , thank you for clarification!

I tried doing that but some of the plugins don’t show up in the app even though they show up in the plugins folder. What I did was copied the plugins folder from the .obsidian folder of the source vault into the plugins folder of the .obsidian folder of the destination vault. I could see the plugins of the source vault now in the destination vault’s folder. But when I launched Obsidian and went to “community plugins” section, I didn’t see those new plugins.

I am obviously doing something wrong. I saw that there was also a community-plugins.json. Maybe I should have copied that over too? I didn’t copy over the entire .obsidian folder because I was afraid of some conflicts in the destination vault. Is that what I should be doing?

You’d definitely need the .json.

You wouldn’t want to copy the whole .obsidian to every vault - for instance cache would be inappropriate. Have a look at the content of each file in the folder and decide whether you think it would be reasonable to copy it in or not. I’d suggest testing everything out with two dummy vaults, one nested in the other. This is the type of approach where you’d need to know how to do your own troubleshooting. Obsidian could change its approach to storing settings at any time, so be warned.

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I like using one vault for the convenience of searching and opening notes without knowing where they are, creating links between all notes, as well as the ability to move notes between folders (I don’t see a way to move notes between vaults).

Using one vault also works well when using git repositories for different folders. I’ll document my set up here in case it’s helpful to others:

I use git because I like how it handles syncing, I need to collaborate with others, and I’d like to use some services that use git to publish. I have a few groups of notes, in different folders, which are sourced from different git repositories:

  • A git repo of my main set of notes for PKM.
  • A git repo of my company’s internal wiki/operations manual, which several people collaborate on. This git repo must be separate because it shared with others.
  • A git repo of public notes that are published to my website. This git repo must be separate because its contents are made public.

I’ve combined my git repos into subfolders, like this:

  • /main-vault/ ← The one vault, contains the .git folder for my PKM notes and a .gitignore file that excludes company-wiki and public-notes from this repo.
  • /main-vault/company-wiki/ ← A second git repo shared with colleagues.
  • /main-vault/public-notes/ ← A third git repo pushed to netlify to generate a public website.

Obsidian on macOS considers all these one vault and manages the notes together, which is convenient. In Obsidian on iOS, it works similarly by using Working Copy’s “Setup Folder Sync” function.

To keep the notes in sync on macOS I use git-sync, and on iOS I set up Automation Shortcuts that run automatically to push/pull in Working Copy every time Obsidian app is opened or closed.

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I was a “one vault” person. However, after using Obsidian for 16 months, I had way too much stuff in my first vault to be able to use it efficiently. (I was surprised that I only had 514 notes; it seemed more.)

My workflow became too complex. I needed to search for items and scroll, scroll, scroll… Worst of all, I felt overwhelmed. I procrastinated way more than I should.

Plus, I found myself avoiding adding useful notes to Obsidian. I put these notes into Evernote instead.

Finally, I decided that I needed more vaults.

So now I have three. My original primary vault, with two additional vaults for project-related materials.

Whew! It’s a huge relief. I’m back to working efficiently and enjoying Obsidian with three vaults. :slight_smile:

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I use one vault for my clients and all relevant information to do with them / their cases (I’m a therapist) and one vault for everything else.
In the “everything else” vault (mainly handling with thoughts and content I consume / process) I have some folders such as “admin”, which for the moment is organising general admin / life reference docs. If this or other folders get too huge, I would just make another vault and move them there.

In this way I’m preparing myself for the potential future problem of ending up with way too many notes in one vault - like Angela99’s response above me - but enabling a simple way of moving general “safe” categories of notes to a new vault to declutter if needs be.

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I think that’s the key issue for you here.
From outside, a vault is just a folder. From inside it governs searches, graphs, suggestions, links, tag panes etc. And the same settings apply to everything in the vault.

It’s a (permeable) barrier. Similar to the way the database programs (Evernote, Roam etc) limit the information they work with, except that none of it is locked up. I’m not aware that the devs have ever explained why they chose this structure, but it is presumably to do with speed and performance.

You can choose to do that. Many people do.

Tossing is a rather pejorative word in this context, suggesting that you have already decided what works best for you.

With different vauts, you can have differents configurations for differents projects. I really like Obsidian for this features : you can define differents parameters fort differents vaults. You can separate projects as well.

I have my Zettlekasten in one of them but I don’t want it to be mixed with my Encyclopedia from my novels, which is also a vault by itself. I also write my novels inside Obsidian in a separate vaults, as I don’t want to mix up my long form writing awaiting for publishing with my worldbuilding or my zettles. It is not like folders at all, it is a separate window with different assets.

My encyclopedia needs some features, my zettle other ones and my novels writing need something quite differents from the others. When I work with my Zettlekasten, I don’t want to be distracted with the amount of work awaiting in my novels. When I write my novels, I don’t need to be distracted with every articles awaiting in my Zettlekasten. And when I build my univers, the set of features and CSS parameters are quite differents from the one I set for writing my books.

You can also accomplish some feature differences using workspaces, if you want to keep some different notes in one vault. For example, perhaps pane layout and note templates are different for your encyclopedia and the novel writing.

As with everything, there’s a couple ways to do most things in Obsidian.

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No it would not be enough. I use the folder structure to compose my novels, differents features for my encyclopedia, CSS snippets are not the same. Layout and templating are not the point here. So I could not use Obisdian like this if vaults was mixed up. I have already tried a lot of things.

As the question was “why using multiple vaults” my answer is “because it is usefull in a lot of cases, for mine for example”.

I prefer a single valut.
Also worried about the overload of files, which affects the experience of daily use, especially the search/auto-suggestions.
Although nesting is not officially supported, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

My current approach is to create separate vault by year, and then have a global vault with all the years.
For daily use, only the year sub-vault is used.
When using the global vault, avoid manipulating files that belong to sub-vault and also exclude synchronization of sub-vault files.

I am still a bit concerned that the nesting will make files lost or corrupted.

I don’t know about better, but one possibility is to use large files.

Files have the advantage of retaining their internal structure and sort order and access to all the features programs have for working within a file. And linking etc is as automatic and nearly as quick (link to headers and blocks). But not graph presumably - idk because I never use it anyway.

Always worth remembering that an atomic note can as easily be a bullet, block or header as a separate file.

I started using long files when I realised they were the best solution for longform writing. I then realised I could do the same with my atomic notes. Converting via opml gives an amazingly useful kanban overview in Workflowy.

I still use nested vaults - and still never had a list or corrupted file or needed to resort to backups - but I now have fewer files.