Thought on tags

I’ve struggled to understand when and how to use tags. There was so much tension in this that I almost gave up on Obsidian.

I made a tweak in my system, and it brought a lot of clarity. (I also changed my Obsidian theme, which made it more of a joy to use for me.) I tag a lot, and now examine the top tags in my weekly review. If something emerges, I record that theme and switch those tags to links so it all becomes part of my graph, which now takes on a learning map kind of function.

In this way, tags sort of serve as receptors for larger themes and thoughts.

Just wanted to share, as I’ve heard others struggle with how to use tags.


Tags are just an information retrieval system. Same as index, table of contents, and search.

They can retrieve specific information by giving notes unique tags or search multi tag combos. Each tag in the multi tag combo would be what you consider a theme because it brings up a lot of notes with any given tag.

If you were to tag this post, a unique tag would be #tag-purpose. The idea being that you will only bring up 1-3 notes by clicking on the tag. You can treat unique tags as an alphabetical index by just browsing the tags pane.

If you were to use multi tag combo it would be #tag #purpose #use, such that you aren’t pulling up the 50 notes you have on tags with #tag but instead only pulling up the notes you have on the purpose of tags by using both #tag and #purpose in your search.

Hope that helps!


I like to think of tags as utilities, that help me search for certain types of notes.

For example, my daily notes template includes a #to-review tag. At the end of my day, I search for this tag as well as #TODO to make sure that everything gets moved to the appropriate task list. If the items make it onto the list, I remove the tag since I won’t need to find that specific note again. The #incomplete tag is helpful for giving me direction when I have some extra time to fill out my knowledge base.

I use tags for to-dos, such as #review-notes and #write-article. For categories, I use backlinks, but having this separate little list of tags helps me click on them when I feel inspired (or bored) and get started easily.

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I’m not sure how I’ll use tags in the long-run, but I’m currently using them to organize my thousands of messy notes into MOCs. The ultimate goal is to have topical MOC index pages, with links to all the separate notes, but I really don’t know what I want those topics to be. (actually, the ultimate goal is to move all of them to some sort of Archive, with only quality Evergreen notes remaining, but this is a first step). I could surely adapt the MOC topics as I go, but its a lot more effort (for me) to create and organize links than it is to add tags (and make use of the tag browser and tag-specific autocompletions)

So, one by one, I am adding tags to each note, trying to be consistent and concise with the ones that I use, but also letting the tag list grow as necessary. The plan is that at the end, I’ll extract the list of tags (likely screenshot and OCR of it in OneNote), organize them into similar groups, then do bulk find/replaces in VS Code for all of the redundant tags. Then, using the Markdown Notes VS Code extension, I’ll find all references for each tag, and do another OCR extraction of the names, and convert those to [[link references]] in Excel. (this part would be much easier if we could Copy page links from Tag and Backlinks Panes).

Its a seemingly ludicrous workflow, but I was utterly paralyzed for days by trying to set up MOCs and populate them with links. I’m making plenty of progress now, so I can’t argue with that. I’ll let future, semi-organized and enthused me worry about the rest).

As I said, I don’t know how I’ll use tags once everything is “organized”, but I do like what is written here about Topic vs Object tags - I’m currently using them to set up the topics and will likely later use them for objects, which are more specific.