Use Tags. But how?

I’ve learned that tags are best thought of as specially designated search terms.

I choose using tags for Zettelkasten with two different goals in mind:

  • to build up an index
  • to define clusters

Both methods of tagging support further searching:

  • The terms in my index are leading me to important entry points in the slip-box.
  • The terms which define clusters are leading me to a number of similar notes that belong together.

While tags for indexing should link only a few important notes, the entry points for further investigation, the tags for clustering connect larger groups of notes with similar focus.

What‘s your preferred strategy for tagging? And what‘s your benefit from using?

More about the 12 Principles For Using Zettelkasten

Interesting posts:


You forgot a vital third use: tags that are never actually used for searching and only function as psychological reassurance that you’ll be able to find things again. :stuck_out_tongue: (I’ve reduced my use of these lately.)


Great idea :clap::grinning:

I came to the same distinction, but I called them keyword tags vs. thematic tags, the category not included in this would be organizational tags, for example I have the tags #Inbox/Rewrite #Inbox/Unfinished to represent notes that I didn’t like the rephrasing of and notes that I partially created but didn’t have the mental energy to complete (e.g. writing half a paragraph explaining an idea followed by “…”).


But then you can do this with links too. (Except for nested tags)
I add links to Map of Contents and links to specific subject (Cluster)


Can you share examples of each type? I’m having trouble seeing it.

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With tags as I see it:

For building a index, tag notes with (could be 1, could be more)

( I do some research about World War 1 - since i live in Belgium. So I’m using this as an example )

You can create page for these index / entry points. Use dataview to collect all notes from #history/worldwar1 for example.

You can add more levels to the tag like #history/worldwar1/Belgium for example.

For building a cluster
Are keywords that describe the current note. #ypres #trench #gasattack
That way you can search for all notes about #ypres during #history/worldwar1
Or you could later see that there where not only #gasattack during worldwar1 but als in other wars… when you go trough all notes with #gasattack.

But I don’t use tags, I use mainly links. Since the you have backlinks and with dataview you can collect note as easy as with tags.

I would add these to the note: [[World war 1]] - [[Ypres]] - [[Trench Warfare]] - [[Gas Attacks]] at the top of the note. These describe the note, so I can quickly see what the note is about.

For me World War 1 & Ypres would be Entry Notes (Map of Content)

In note itself I will have more links to when for example people, places, specific topics are mentioned.

When adding links to pages that don’t exist, I don’t create the note if it’s not necessary at them moment. That’s something explore later.

Hope this helps. Just my view it.


Asking questions to my Zettelkasten I found organizational tags very useful. Here’s an overview:

Today I had two ideas to extend my list of Organizational Tags:

  1. #type/question
  2. #type/insight

What are your suggestions?


I use these types: fact, concept, principle, process, procedure, template. And I use them to work my understanding. From facts and concepts, I try to derive principles, processes, and so on. Likewise, from processes, I try to infer principles and concepts.


See also related post and discussion in the forums.

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Thank you for this overview. A good structure for tagging will help to manage a growing slip-box. Here’s my way of tagging which also supports visual notes:


I’m not sure how you are thinking about the term organization. My use of the term is a category of tags that are about next steps or what else needs to be done in the note, hence why I start them out with #Inbox/ . So #Inbox/question would be one to tell myself there is a question that needs researching in this note. There is #Inbox/link to remind myself to return to this note and try to make more connections between it and other notes. I have #Inbox/Rewrite if I don’t feel the phrasing of what I written is adequate for future understanding. I have #Inbox/Unfinished for notes that I couldn’t complete (e.g. too tired, or the idea I wanted to convey is not coming to mind).

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Thank for your reply. It’s now clear for me how you are using the term “organizational”. Your tags are showing a workflow within Zettelkasten by tagging the status of your notes. I for myself choose a kanban board by tagging notes with the kanban status (backlog, todo, doing, review and done). Two concepts for same purpose. :grinning::+1:

I have basically three categories of tags. And I’m using a LOT of hashtags – in part because I migrated a lot of notes from software that didn’t interlink like this, so it helped me keep everything “findable” while I don’t have it all linked together yet.

  1. “functional” tags - This is things like #bknotes #todo and #projects. They have little to do with the subject matter of a given note, and are more about what kind of note something is.

  2. topical tags - I know the “official” zettelkasten stuff talks about topics in a negative sense, but I don’t see topics as inherently limiting; it’s just a matter of whether you limit them to “source” topics or “target” topics. So I have these tags mostly at the same few levels I do MOCs - high-level categories like “health” second-level categories like “healing modalities” and then (depending on the particular “category” in question), sometimes a third level, like “herbalism.” Basically, this helps me keep things sorted in MOC-like fashion, even if I haven’t kept my MOCs updated. And I tend to overtag, rather than undertag, so if I think I might want to be able to find something under, say, theology and health, I tag it with both.

  3. conceptual/idea tags - I largely only use these for/with quotes, but I also have tags for things like #greed, #heroism, #faith, etc. in order to find quotes like you might on one of those quote websites. These are often words/ideas that aren’t in the actual quotes, so they don’t necessarily link nicely by them, but I don’t really use these for the rest of my vault.

There’s another sort-of fourth category that’s really a subset of #2 – if I’m working my way through my notes and I find I’m stumbling across a recurrent idea that isn’t already well-connected by other means, I’ll start assigning those a hashtag so that I can go back through later and find them all to link them up. These are more of a temporary “working” tag that lets me flag things for myself so I don’t have to interrupt my flow to go find the other notes that “go with” what I’m looking at. These are generally topical, but at a more atomic level than the ones I consistently use.

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Thank you for all your ideas. - Your concept to overtagging is a big advantage of tagging. There is always a second choice for re-finding the note. Before that I preferred using folders. But then I was lost in trees of folders.

Here’s my main reason why tags are better than folders. For me tags are more flexible and could improve the chance for re-finding a note. With Obsidian Graph-View I prefer tags for filtering and setting colors to cluster ideas.


I wrote a post a while back about tags over on Medium on how to approach tags in your personal knowledge management (PKM) system. Tags work best when they’re useful at the level of an individual note:


I like this method, could you provide a screenshot of your tag/folder organization?

@Edmund wrote:

While tags for indexing should link only a few important notes, the entry points for further investigation, the tags for clustering connect larger groups of notes with similar focus.

The majority of my notes came over from my NValt days, when I used tags to identify topics as well as dates… less so for status.

But NValt was more flexble, with less tagging restrictions than Obsidian has. I used #2019 as a clustering tag so I could find things that related to that year, but of course searching for #2019 would give a lot of hits. So, I used ##2019 for indexing and only had a few of those, which were MOC-like notes.

But Obsidian does not allow (afaik) double #tags or does not differentiate from tags. It also does not allow numbers in a tag, which was quite problematic because I had extensive date tags, eg #20230102. I changed all my double ## tags to q- (so, ##2019 became q-2019… inelegant but works). And, because I also used hashtags in file names, [[]] became [[]].

I have not yet fully embraced Obsidian’s tags/nested feature, but I appreciate your examples to help me evolve my thinking on tag usage.

@kvelazquez wrote:

could you provide a screenshot of your tag/folder organization?

Thank you for asking. Hopefully my screenshots will some create more transparency.