The Canvas json is a great advance

The Canvas json is a worthy alternative to opml (mindmaps & outlines), docx, pdf, books, video, and even PKM apps with links and backlinks. Great for creation and presentation.

It combines a brainstorming option with a finished, readable presentation making few assumptions about the nature of the data. Outlines, documents, videos are all necessarily linear; mindmap is hierarchical. The Canvas is spatial, allowing everything on it to be taken in visually (the most developed human sense) and attention to be focused at any point. In a zettelkasten it allows cards with links (including folgezettel if desired).

When collecting, or creating, it allows cards (large and small) to be added, with no assumptions about where they should be. Arrows and flowchart arrangements are possible but not required.

The format won’t suit everyone and all circumstances - there’s the possibility that there will be a point where there’s too much on a board for everything to be taken in (though boards within boards will mitigate this).

And unlike all the whiteboards I have seen before, everything is in files that can be read by many programs - the json can be read by other programs, even if they don’t yet have the ability to parse the content.

I’ve not worked out all the ways I might use it, but already feel that a canvas will be ahead of markdown files as my first port of call for many new notes (even if the aim is a note, I’ll often not start with a clear idea of the idea sequence). For me it feels more revolutionary for my workflows than Obsidian itself when it first appeared. Despite my already having Heptabase, Scrintal and OneNote.

Kudos to the team!


Those are great points.

I have only created a few canvas files for now but it does look useful as a format, for bringing in that extra ability to do ‘sense-making’ of material before adding info to multiple MD notes.

A few other points I’ll add:

  • Canvas (JSON) + MD file formats together are convenient for version control. If someone wants to push a vault to a platform that supports version control, it is straightforward to do see a ‘diff’ for files over time. That is either icky or not feasible with proprietary file formats and XML, for example.
  • Within a few hours of experimenting with a canvas file, I was able to recreate the graph layout through Python code. That was a pleasant surprise! :ok_hand: