Please make this a core feature in obsidian, windows/linux/mac-like file exploration mode and keyboard functionality. Pictures shown

Kindly make this a core feature in obsidian, allowing a more traditional file exploration. Below I have made some basic microsoft paint pictures to illustrate the idea. Any questions or comments, lack of understanding, or mistake on my part to explain. I will answer in this thread.

This is for a more traditional file explorer with : Lack of keyboard functionality being a huge issue for me.

I made a post but it was long and removed for other reasons, if you’d like to read it it’s here. Hopefully this is not deleted. If there is an issue just let me know and I’ll edit it. Thanks!


I, personally, don’t see the necessity of your proposed feature:

  1. First, obsidian is not intended as a file explorer but as a kind of zettelkasten, note-taking app or PKM system. Sure, its flexibility allows you to make use of it for a couple of other useful things but that’s not what it’s originally meant for. If you want to organize the files and folders on your hard drive, that’s what file explorers are made for, so make use of them. The strength of obsidian lies in its capability to connect different information regardless of where exactly they are stored. Thus, I would rather advice not to work with hundreds of folders and subfolders in obsidian as that doesn’t make much sense anyway.
  2. Second and strictly speaking, there isn’t any difference in what obsidian does and what you wish it would do - at least I can’t see the difference: if you click on a folder, you will see a list of all its subfolders - that is exactly the same result as compared to working with your file explorer! What do you mean with “terrible mess” here?
  3. I agree that often it would be helpful if one could navigate through files and folders by keyboard. Luckily, there are already a couple of feature requests for this, for example here, here or here.
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  1. Having this feature wouldn’t negatively affect you whatsoever or anyone if you don’t want it, it could only benefit. The same way Its silly to advise you to work with more folders, it doesnt make any sense to advise me to use less as if I’m doing something wrong. My things are organized exactly how I’d like, and it doesn’t affect you. But not having keyboard functionality and the columns affects me and others I have spoken to. If it wasn’t an issue then I wouldn’t make this post. It doesn’t matter what it’s “intended” for, anyone can use it for anything they like, if someone wants to use it as a file explorer, what’s wrong with that? Having multiple columns isn’t bad or wrong. I’d like multiple columns and keyboard function. If you don’t, great, but if it was a feature it would only benefit.

  2. It’s clearly not the same result, it only shows folders in one vertical column, with no keyboard functionality. It wouldn’t hurt anyone who enjoys using their mouse for everything, so I don’t see the need to protest if you don’t want it.

If the features outlined here were core, it wouldn’t impede you or anyone else whatsoever. Maybe not necessary for you, but necessary for me, and I’m not the only one. A zettelkasten note taking app like you describe would only be improved for all those who want to use it however they like. The columns feature makes perfect sense. What’s the point of enlarging the file explorer when it’s just blank space? In fact, a zettelkasten like you describe, which is just a word, has multiple boxes. Obsidian now just has one super long sliding cubby or box which is not like a zettelkasten at all. Other people have this issue, not just me.

I didn’t want to offend you - and of course I don’t want to tell you how you have to make use of obsidian! But this forum is for discussion and there are already thousands of different feature requests, and for the devs in order to decide which possible features might be really favored by a big part of the community the way different proposals are debated in the forum play a central role.

And I even didn’t depreciate your request - I just pointed to the fact that actually your post implies two different features:

Firstly, to allow navigation by keyboard. I completely agreed with you that this makes sense and mentioned some already existing requests for this. If you want that feature, it would make sense to join these requests, give them a like, a +1 or whatever.

Secondly, to implement more of a file explorer functionality in obsidian. I just think that this isn’t one of the most urgent requests as compared to a couple of others. But this is my personal opinion. Other people can join the discussion and argument for or against this proposal. I am just afraid that this might obsidian somehow lead away from its actual strengths. If you only want obsidian to be able to show your files and folders in several parallel columns once you enlarge the left sidebar, it would make more sense to open a distinct feature request, or rename this one in order to make it more clear what your main goal is.

One last thing: of course it matters what a program is intended for because this is what describes its essential capabilities. Sure, these may be extended step by step - but for the moment it makes more sense to ask “what can this program do and for what parts of my workflow could it be meaningfully applied”. I think it might rather lead to frustration if one expects that one single app is the final solution for every single task (but yes, I know this idea is very appealing - but still rather unlikely… :wink: ).

One final sentence: a “Zettelkasten” actually doesn’t have boxes, at least not in the sense of “folders”. The only reason a physical zettelkasten exists of several boxes or drawers is due to the limitations of physical space. Except for that, Luhmann for example didn’t have any thematical order besides a numbering system that - in our digital age - is rather comparable to “links”.

I second this, but i would add a card or ‘thumbnail’ grid view besides lists- where instead of thumbnails is some lines from the start of every note. Even better if filterable(search) on the top.

It adds another layer for exploration and discovery - i lost count of how many times ive realized how 2 different things should be together, get the same tag or linked from similar views in other apps- from file explorers in thumbnails to google photos, hepta, eagle app…

If theres a random sorting its even better- clicking links or browsing the graph lead us through already made links, checking unlinked mentions can show some missed links (but again, links that would normally or obviously exist)…

…while a link-agnostic overview browsing like this (even more with random sorting) would show unrelated files next to each other- an artificial ‘proximity’ that is proven to spark insights, like realizing an actual link between things one never tought before.
Btw is part of the reason why whiteboards and moodboards are a thing- our brain evolved to seek patterns EVERYWHERE, all the time. Is the reason we often find ‘shapes and faces’ on clouds, or heck even magical thinking. Once 2 things are next to each other we unconsciously check if theyre a group, pair or if theres a pattern in between

…and that would just be an overall quality of life feature, for things like rearranging a vault (bulk moving through folders) and such

It’s probably not going to give you everything you want, but have you tried the File Tree Alternative plugin?

It reduces some of the pain points (and just a bit). Ive just came back to Obsidian -first time around there was too many such pain points, no live editor like now, and i really needed whiteboards so… yeah, canvas brought me back - and ive spent most of my free time over a week now basically researching plugins, and or hacks to try and wrangle some of the many pain points left.

Btw i found multiple alternatives to some of those needs i have- i think 3 or 4 total ways of seeing files in a grid/thumbnails for example, some 3 or so helping handle the filetree itself a bit better… but ive been slowly digesting- bunch of alternatives, a bunch of other needs and plugin links being collected…

And that is part of the problem. Each plugin ‘hack’ and workaround to try and achieve some things, in many instances(such as the files and views) with a lot of limitations, different limitations each, different ways to apply, each with its own learning curves and quirks and can’s and cants…

I love plugins everywhere, extensability is something i like and want in pretty much everything- but the answer to feature requests shouldnt always be plugins. Imagine browsers or Obsidian without tabs for example; Browsers didnt have then, and quickly the novelty became the norm, because it was a core need(even for users that didnt realize it). Recently ive seen some trends in browsers like tabs ‘sleeping’ to free memory, sidebar sites, restore session- all things that started as plugins, with many alternatives, that were very popular because of how much needed they were, how better it added to the usability.

…I dont think its a coincidence i found like 3 alternatives for each ‘half’ of this feature request(not to mention a bunch of minor ones, like recent files, color notes… each reducing a few % of the pain of the file tree)- and yet none solves it all in a simple way. File tree alternative does one way, does another, folder note can show files as grids (IF theyre on folders, IF you make a note for each folder prior)… i think i saw one theme (minimal) that i think can show notes as cards(have yet to test), but then i fancied another theme…

Dont get me wrong, i like having the options and i will use more then a few of those (already using folder note for example, but i may change? unsure)- but this is one of the areas that feels like a huge gap, a big hole missing in what shouldve been core. The hours and pain it would save from users like us that miss this, the many users who wont go to all that trouble but would use, like and benefit if it was already there… i have been hunting and testing dozens of apps for years now, and a minority share this shorcoming with Obsidian.
The main pattern of most modern apps in the genre is offering list and grid/card/thumbnail view (names vary)- or even in lists making filtering and bulk actions in said trees easier.

I have hopes the team will ‘see the light’ on this subject, as they have on live editor, new windows and canvas (some of my biggest pains in the past). Sadly they havent yet and now Obsidian just tipped the balance of too much pain x benefits for me so… pain there is.

Meanwhile im open to any more sugestions on plugins. Ive been slowly listing and testing then (i have bigger lists saved on a browser)- any indications are welcome!

There’s obviously a long list of feature requests, and a lot of different opinions on what’s vital enough to be in the core app.

I have no inside information, but I assume that whether a request gets implemented depends on technical feasibility (limitations of the current versions of Electron and Code Mirror can preclude implementation of some features), the amount of coding and testing time it would take relative to the advantages (cost-benefit analysis), how many users are asking for it or would find it helpful, and whether or not it’s consistent with the developers’ vision for Obsidian.

The original feature request above was posted almost a year and a half ago, and as of this writing has only four likes, so most users probably don’t consider it to be as essential as you do. Some feature requests I’ve wanted have been implemented, and others—probably most—have not. I’m still grateful to the core devs for everything I do get with Obsidian, and I’m grateful to the plugin devs, because without them my list of feature requests would be much longer.

Yeah yeah, me too, im more then grateful - id love to give a hug to everyone, on top of all that they provide the base app for FREE (im from Brazil, freelancing not by choice) and they just implemented my most wanted feature (the canvas. i was splitting my ‘pkm’ between different apps on that alone).

I just vented a bit, been a long week trying to iron out all the smaller things (wich im glad im even able to, only Obsidian and Logseq allow this level of customization), and thats on top of years trying to find what tools would be the best fit for me. Obsidian is the closest any app ever got to my golden ideal, since all the last updates+ ever increasing plugins i was almost sure this time i would be able to reach it, but after a week exploring im slowly realizing i will have to contempt and workaround some things.
But mabe something good will come out of this frustration, ive already been considering learning to code, maybe this will be a push to eventually making plugins myself.

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