Storing Attachments

My first post here – let me say I’m very impressed with this app. I continue to play around to see what’s possible and I think I’m finding my way around thanks to tinkering, and by reading posts on this forum/Reddit.

One thing I have yet to wrap my head around is the storage of attachments. I know by default Obsidian creates a folder to house attachments. In all the note taking solutions I’ve used previously, the attachment was stored with the note - as one. I understand (at least partially) why that’s not possible in Obsidian, but it does lead to some issues.

  1. If I use the default setup, all of my attachments are stored in a single location. This is advantageous because I can move notes around and reorganize them as needed, and it has no impact on my system because I know everything is in the attachments folder. But as time goes on and I have 1000 notes, opening the attachments folder has no hierarchy that I can see, so I’m going to get a list of 1000 attachments each time I expand the attachments folder. That’s not useful.

  2. If I change attachment behaviour to “same folder as current file” that helps, but the system could break down over time if I reorganize notes and create new folder structures. The notes will move, but the attachments themselves will remain in the folder where they were created. This could eventually create chaos over time so in that respect, housing all the attachments in a single folder makes more sense, but it creates other issues – see point #1

I keep going in circles between 1 and 2 above when I think about storing attachments and future-proofing my setup.

Just curious what the thoughts of the community are? It may sound crazy but I’m almost thinking it would be nice to have a folder per note. E.g. a folder named NoteTitle and then within that, the markdown file and a sub folder containing all attachments belonging to that note. But I can see where that could also create chaos. Not sure how best to proceed…

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Are these attachments images or PDFs? 1000 attachments is so many :flushed:

If it does come to that you can have subfolders under the Attachment folder to break things down. I recommend sorting them outside Obsidian though for easy drag and drop of the items

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Attachments would be images and PDFs. I don’t think 1,000 is a lot. One can easily hit thousands of notes in their “second brain”. It doesn’t take long to build them up to a crazy number.

Personally, I think it makes sense to think about this in terms of your broader note-taking system.

For example, my main Obsidian vault is structured using the PARA Method. My attachment structure lives underneath that. Each project, area, or reference folder has it’s own attachment subfolder (if required).

Beyond that, I also ONLY put attachemnts in my notes if they actually add value to the note directly. If I’m referring to something, such as a PDF of an invoice, I keep that in an entirely separate filing structure outside of Obsidian and reference it by name in the note. The main reason I do this is not to overwhelm the storage requirements of my Obsidian vault.

This is just how I approach it. YMMV.

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1000 notes I understand but 1000 attachments in a vault is crazy to me I guess. But my vault is still young so I don’t see that right now but maybe I will reach that someday

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I find it useful to use Obsidian for notes and not documents. Documents like PDFs go on my drive, and in the note, I include a link to the file. (Won’t synch, but I don’t need everything to sync. Just important things.)

Some notes include images to show an illustration or diagram. I store these in the same folder as the note with the same title (and maybe a suffix).

This way, Obsidian stays a notebook with notes and documents stay with documents. (I use a version of PARA inside Obsidian and my documents folder, so the structure stays parallel.)

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I agree with @JaguarGod in principle. Having to think about managing app mechanics disrupts the note taking process. It’s inevitable but it should be minimized.

A user should be able to throw as many attachments into a note as they want in order for it to function as a truly personal knowledge management/development system.

Personally I find myself often decomposing a set of presentation slides or paper into a set of individual notes each containing one or a few slides/tables/figures from the source. Same with screenshots of videos I watch. These become atomic notes that can be reused in a variety of ways instead of leaving the material locked into the original format. This improves understanding, retention, and discovery.

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Well, for now you have 2 options:

  1. Manage attachments by yourself. E.g. When you work with note, you drag&drop attachments into note and after you done creating – manually create folder for attachments for this note and move all new attachments to there.
  2. Wait until this feature come in live.
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Exactly !
Also, a lot of my notes are « how-to’s » documenting how I managed to solve a problem or configure a server / whatever, each having lots of screenshots.

Zim, one of the best desktop wiki in my opinion, has a very clever and transparent way of handling attachments : for each note, a folder with the name of the note is automatically created if files are attached to it. I think the folder is even automatically deleted if the files are removed.
The folder follows the note if it changes name or location.


Even better (but it’s a bit out of topic), there are no folders shown in Zim’s interface : only notes and subnotes (pages and subpages, rather). A filesystem folder with the name of the page is automatically created and managed as needed if you create a subpage under the page.

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I believe there is a plugin that provides that folder-as-note feature currently.

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As for the number 1, I’m using Hook and EagleFiler to manage my binary files. In a nutshell, I copy the url of the attachment file from EagleFiler (where I manage my binary files) using Hook and paste it into my obsidian notes. I do think it is better to use obsidian to manage the image files (screenshots, etc.) but other file types are different. Most people have their own ways to manage the variety of binary files, and we don’t have to change the way to use obsidian. I believe we can stay with the validated workflows until we find the good reasons to change them.

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You are running up against a fundamental design choice of Obsidian and a fundamental limitation of storing documents as plain text. By using portable flat files in folders, it gets to be a big pain in the butt to deal with multifile documents. That’s just what it is, and as far as I know, nobody’s done a particularly good job dealing with it.

One of the core observations underlying Obsidian and other linked-note systems is that all deeply-nested hierarchical systems for organizing your notes suck, and perhaps are a trap. So your concern for the cleanliness of folders is a pain we all have felt, and still feel! but also is paddling upstream with what Obsidian wants you to do, as you’ve observed.

I don’t know your use case. But in my use case, I’ve reached a few (like 3) high-level folders that I sort my notes into, and there is no hierarchical organization below that. This is part of the approach that a lot of folks have arrived at as well, through help from the zettelkasten.de folks and Nick Milo and the like. EDIT: to be clear, there are hierarchies among notes, but they are defined by the notes themselves in their content. This approach is much more flexible than folder management, recognizing the difficulty of categorizing ideas.

So think through what it is you’re trying to do. Why is proper sorting by folder important to your use case? Can you solve the problem differently? Do you have a subproblem that’s better-suited to a different tool?

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You’re right, haven’t explored it for now but I was very happy to skim through its functionality :slight_smile:

It’s entirely possible for Obsidian to define a new .note format that is nothing more than a ZIP file containing a .md file of the same name and a folder _attachments that contains the images attached to that note.

Obsidian could then convert all existing .md files to .note files and maintain a seamless interface.

I’m not saying they should do that, just that it is certainly doable.

A clear downside to that is that it complicates the situation when migrating from one app to another. Also it makes duplication of attachments easy i.e. if you paste the same image into multiple notes it must be created as a separate file in each .note's _attachments folder, increasing storage space requirements unnecessarily.

Of course a way around that is to have all attachments go into a single central folder and then the .notes only contain pointers to those attachments, reducing file size.

But then we’ve come full circle and may as well just keep the .md files as is. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ll just point out that in the prevalent database apps, they’re stored separately but displayed together; it’s just that the storage isn’t visible to the user. Exactly as Obsidian displays embeds in the preview.

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