Using Obsidian to collect quotes; Journler mimic

Things I have tried

More historical context than attempts to use Obsidian features … for the moment.

Back in the dim and distant past when Apple’s macOS was variously known as Mac OSX or System X I used a program called Journler to collect significant quotes. Those quotes were typically copied from books or scrapped from web sites then manually classified by author/topics/categories/tags and more importantly filed away using “Smart Folders”. Typically those smart folders would contain all quotes that I had gathered for a particular author or a specific category even though I had not created the text in the folder. For example, a quote from Jane Austen’s novel Emma was created in the Jane Austen folder but categorised as a) Self Improvement, b) Quotes, and c) Interpreting. It also had tags of Jane Austen and Reflection. The combination of all that meant is was stored once on the disk but accessible directly in the Smart Folders Jane Austen and its superordinate Smart Folder Quotes plus the Smart Folders Self Improvement and Interpreting.

Journler also had date/timestamps for creation and modification.

Since Journler was a 16-bit only program and macOS is now a 64-bit enviromnet I cannot use it any more. I have tried to replicate this functionality in Scrivener which sort of works and when importing the files from Journler sets the create date timestamp accordlingly but there is no Smart Folder capability and the closest I can get to it is creating intra-file files, which are not ideal.

What I’m trying to do

More a case of what I would like to do. Recreate a better replace using Obsidian. Partly motivated by the recent DnD character sheet customisation post

as it inspired me to think Obsidian rather than Scrivener was the way to go.

However, I’m a novice Obsidian user and much of its arcane is currently beyond me. What I really need help with is some guidance on features that could be useful. I have looked at the Obsidian help website but while useful features might be there the explanations can rather obscurantist or esoteric for new users.

What are you wondering about, how to import Journler file(s), or how to format within Obsidian? Or maybe both? Or something entirely else?

In any case, it could be helpful if related to import that you provide an example of how the journler files look.

The smart folders you speak it feels like should be easy to replicate with tags and/or fields in the frontmatter, and likewise with creation and modification dates (if you want them manually updated in addition to the metadata always associated with any file).


+1 @holroy’s suggestions and questions.

I agree some examples would be helpful, including describing what functionality you get from “Smart Folders”. Did it collect all the loose notes into one view? Did it give you a random shuffle? Or automatically make metadata?

Also, you’ll likely find the Dataview plugin to indispensable for whatever you end up structuring. Dataview can do searches, inline queries, grouping, tables, and read metadata. (I’m sure it can do more than I know. Definitely give it a look.)

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It has been years since I last had an opportunity to use Journler (macOS upgrades being the main culprit) making my memory rather hazy about the details. However, our friends over at and their Way Back Machine (a godsend for finding old web sites) have a copy of the online help files.
Journler Topics
with a description of the “Smart folders” concept
Journler Smart Folders

I am not trying to clone Journler — if I was I would grab the open-sourced code from github and rebuild it — but to get something that is close enough not to have to curse everyime I access it, which my current Scrivener does.

Some quick points:
text was held in RTF/RTFD — easily converted to Markdown
“smart folders” appear to have been inspired my Mac OS/OSX folder actions
source code was open sourced over a decade ago when development was stopped.

Embedded searches might also come in handy.

In Obsidian you’ll probably end up with a file containing your search results/data rendering rather than something emulating a folder.

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From what I can guess you’re asking, I can share my experience.

I create my notes with specific tags to group them, and then I use the dataview plugin or search queries to create indexes. That should replicate your smart folder functionality.

You can get quite far by just compiling a search query using the built-in search, then embedding that search query in a “query” codeblock to run it in a page.

Does this help a bit more? Otherwise, I’m willing to sit with you and explore what you’re trying to do, and point you in a direction?

That looks good. Will try that and see how I get on. I suspect part of my problem is being overwhelmed with features in Obsidian and then behaving like a magpie (pica pica) with shiny things.

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