Problems with implementing up to down Zettelkasten notes in obisidian

In the book ‘How to Take Smart Notes,’ it is mentioned that the Zettelkasten note-taking system is ‘top-down,’ meaning that you create notes and the ideas generated from them are like children of that note. However, the issue arises when using Obsidian, as there is no clear differentiation for these ‘child notes.’ This is because the links do not have that type of specificity. Consequently, even though the notes are related, it is unclear whether the ideas stem from the connected note or if the note itself encompasses another idea.

If you use a timestamp as your unique ID they they’re chronologically sorted into a parent->child relationship. If you want a more visually structured approach there are two plugins that come to mind: ExcalliBrain (inspired from TheBrain) and the Breadcrumbs plugin that allows you to explicitly define parent/child relationships. On the forums, I’ve seen people use the FolderNote plugin to achieve a similar parent-child relationship. Here is a more detailed explanation: Parent and child Notes (Roam-like style) - #2 by Archie


If you google a bit for discussions around Folgezettel (following slips) and the branching numbering scheme for it or how Bob Doto and Sascha Fast discuss it, you may get some ideas on what works for you. Although the Folgezettel have a tree structure I don’t see them as top-down in a hierarchical sense, but as ‘reasoning sequence’ with the top being the start of it. The starting point of the tree and its main branches is emergent and not pre planned.

Personally I don’t use the branching numbers Luhmann had, I usually phrase a note so that the nature of a mentioned link becomes clear when I reread it in future. (directly ‘following on from LinkedNoteX etc’ , or indirectly 'if I combine LinkedNoteX and LinkedNoteY it turns into z) (these are however all links from ‘down’ to ‘top’
I also sometimes (not often) use what I call ‘little trains’ (one link to a ‘higher’ or overarching idea, one link to a more detailed/partial note, one link to a neighbouring note on the same level of idea/abstraction, one note to an example)
Any preceding note (from which you could follow the top-down path) would show such links as backlinks, i.e. the top-down path.

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Thank you both for your answers, I will try Excalibrain + Breadcrumbs, then I will come back and let you know how it went.

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There are few methods for implementing what I think you want

  • the already cited folgezettel
  • using a note that contains your “top-down” costruction, tipically in form of an outline: can be an index note / Map of content, or simply a dedicated note (I use them and I call them “train of thought notes”. You can also implement a train at the bottom of any standard notes).
  • specifying the link to the note that originates the child note into a property. I do this too, for example I have up:: [[Note A]] if note A is a “parent” of the actual note, or birth:: [[Note B]] if there is no parent-child relation, but the current note is derived from Note B. You can use every property you want, giving them the mean you want. I place them in a callout at the top of the note.