One vault vs multiple vaults

I’m thinking the option of separate vaults could be really helpful for backups. If, for instance, I can figure out how to export my old email archives as markdown, and/or my blog as markdown, they can sit in their own folders – and they aren’t things I need to access very often. But Obsidian would be able to open them, making reading, searching, etc. very easy.

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This must have been added after your questions was asked and may be common knowledge by now.
I just discovered that you can drag and drop the link. Open both vaults. Grab the note from one vault and drop into the note on the other vault.

This thread has been useful in getting a glimpse of how other people use Obsidian.

I’d also point out that the question of one vs. multiple vaults can sometimes be a legal one. @tjex mentioned using it for work notes as a therapist. I’m an instructor at a college. I could see a lawyer using Obsidian for their notes, though a doctor might be a stretch. There are laws that limit disclosure of information from certain professional fields. You wouldn’t want to be trying to show a housemate your recipe for bread in Obsidian and accidentally show a note about some legal case you’ve been working on and have privileged information about (for example). While I would probably want to encrypt my work vault, I probably don’t need to encrypt my recipes and notes on my favorite video game.

I currently have a separate vault for work (student information, grades, feedback, etc.) which would be protected under FERPA in the U.S. There’s still a lot of research notes and other things in that vault that have application elsewhere, though, so once I finish this contract and move to a new job, I’d probably scrub student data from the vault and keep everything else.

Considering how little folder hierarchies impact Obsidian directly, the only use I’ve noticed for folders is in making groups of files easy to share out and manipulate. Once I have established a repeated use-case for sharing groups of notes, I find a way to put them into a folder. An example would be lesson plans. There’s usually a few files related to each lesson plan, and when I need to send notes to a substitute teacher, I can just grab that folder and export it.

The point about settings being applied per-vault, and how sometimes you want different settings for different projects or groups of projects is an interesting one, but it’s not a problem I’ve encountered yet. I generally prefer things to be uniform and follow repeated patterns.

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Like many have already said, I am a person whose work requires rigid separation due to the nature of my work. Keeping work and personal separated will allow me to limit the amount of notes that I will end up losing in the inevitable situation that I no longer work at the company.

besides a pure necessity to separate, I could also see fiction writing benefiting from a separate vault, to keep notes about that specific fictional world separate from the author’s nonfiction notes.

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Am I right in thinking that there’s no real lock-in or punishment to choosing one option or another?

That is, is moving from one to multiple vaults simly a matter of dragging the relevant folders/files into the other vault?

I just really wish Obsidian worked off a single environment for plugins, settings etc … because I like the config I have and I don’t want the extra labour of managing distinct environments.

I’m contemplating going from one to multiple. I’m not an extensive user but, having finally settled on a particular project to make notes on (language learning), I find that the majority of use is within that folder whilst everything else is still kind of nascent/half-use. I’m thinking about bringing a bit of focus to things - well, focus around that one purposeful area and then we’ll see about the rest…

Maybe the alternative is I adopt a PARA approach. With area folders:
a) it feels hard to access the active information within, in a distinct project folder
b) there is a distraction from what are different area categories.

I think the P of PARA is for active projects, which are later moved to areas.

Moving my language learning folder to a Projects folder, rather than buried down a few layers in what is otherwise exactly the right themetic area, might bring some immediacy to it, negating the need for a vault split. Just a thought.

We are moving in similar directions! I’m planning to start a couple more vaults for specialized purposes (the main one will still cover many different things) and am migrating to a PARA-ish setup. So far I like it pretty well; we’ll see how it holds up over time.

The only punishment to multiple vaults that I know of is the environment stuff you mention and the diminished linking between them.

A new reason is Canvas, if your use of any single canvas covers multiple vaults (eg dashboards).
Nested vaults work well and give a degree of linking as well as separation.
Otherwise, if linking between these vaults is important, then they ought to be folders only.

The environment stuff is certainly a cost to multiple vaults since all updates etc need to be done per vault. I use few, rarely updated plugins, and even fewer themes (usually default unless it glares too much), so my cost is relatively low but I still go through the update routine every time I open a vault.

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Nested vaults don’t work on mobile, as far as I know.

Long time since I used mobile, but they worked then (Android).
Still seems to work.

Might be an iOS issue.

Reasonable presumption.

Of course, there may be issues on Android that I’d encounter if I actively used mobile. Which I might when Canvas comes.

There’s a general situation on mobile with limited resources compared to desktop, for some at least. And the quality and design of sync arrangements. I have the mobile resources but I still don’t have my large over-everything vault on mobile because I never needed it there.

I find it difficult to keep everything in the same Vault.

But I would love to do that! This is what stops me:

  • context separation: I don’t want my personal notes mixed with my work notes (I want to show a note to my colleague from my screen)
  • namespace cluttering
  • search becomes more difficult - this is also true if I archive something but want it to be less visible

What I do now:

  • Vault for work. If I change jobs, or start a completely different project, I may create a different folder
  • Parent Vault that has different career-related areas of knowledge, and has my current and previous work & learning projects as subfolders. If I have something that’s relevant not only for my current job, I move it to this vault.
    This is not bad now, but I don’t know whether it will work long-term.
  • Vault with my personal life is separate.

In the ideal world, I would like to have one Vault for everything, but easily “turn off” and “turn on” folders to make the contents less visible in search and in the interface. This setting should be different for different machines.

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