Using Outliner and Zoom plugins

I desperately want to have an outlining capability in Obsidian. I’ve been trying to use alphanumeric IDs coupled with short descriptive text I Once I’ve created a half decent collection of notes naming new notes becomes cumbersome and slows me down considerably. I have to keep referring back to the file list to determine what alphanumeric ID to use.

Just discovered the Outliner and Zoom plugins. I wan’t to give them a try but not clear to me from the documentation how to start. The plugins are said to be compatible. Are they complementary? I probably don’t understand, but Zoom sees redundant if you’re using Outliner.

I use the minimalist theme. Will these plugins, especially Outliner, work with it?

Moved to Help because this isn’t a plugin idea.

(I don’t use either plugin, but good luck!)

What kind of alphanumeric IDs are you using? Just a running number in a different base, or is there some other magic in it?

And how do you combine it with the rest of the title?

This is a sample name: “4.2a1b3b intuition the ground.”

The alphanumeric part indicates the note’s place in a collection of notes. At any stage a unit in the name—a letter or number—is incremented when the note is related to the same preceding note (or thought). E.g., “4.2a1b3b” would become “ 4.2a1b3c.”

When the note captures a thought that is a departure from the preceding note the unit at which the departure occurs is incremented, e.g., “4.2a1b3b” would become “4.2a1b4,” or “4.2a1c,” or “4.2a2.”

At least that’s how I understand it at the moment. It is not intuitive. It requires experience. And I’m not always sure I understand it.

Choosing the appropriate alphanumeric ID involves thinking about how the thoughts captured in notes are related. And thereby strengthens understanding—of the relation between thoughts and of the overall topic.

The short descriptive text string part of the name, e.g., “intuition the ground” is the easy part. (And it occurs to me just now that part might be enough, that I might be able to get along without the alphanumeric part.)

Thanks. No problem. As far as luck goes, I think I’ll need some.

Often I think Obsidian is just too cumbersome for what I want to do. Occasionally it occurs to me that I’ve only begun to explore the possibilities for doing whatever it is I want to do at any given moment. I can even imagine that I may not need outlining.

I’ve not used, only read a little bit about such a system, and I find it confusing. In theory you could say a parallell/related thought increments at same level, but a new idea/departure/… adds another level.

But how do you keep track of what each letter/number stands for? Given you’re working with “4.2a1b3b”, how do you know that the new thought is either a departure from this note, or actually a “sibling” to any of the notes above?! Or put another way, isn’t it very hard to know whether your related note should become “4.2a1b4,” or “4.2a1c,” or “4.2a2.” ?

Is it always a given that from any note in this system, that the next should either be a sibling or a descendant? That is from “4.2a1b4” the next note is either “4.a1b5” or “4.2a1b4a”? (Here I define sibling as “increase last alphanumeric”, and descendant as “add another alphanumeric” )

I might not be the greatest thinker of organiser of thoughts, but in my book I love the flexibility of just writing a note on whatever subject I would like, and then connect to it other as I see fit. Over time I believe what needs to be connected will be connected.

For this kind of use Obsidian and internal links (or tags) works magically, because you don’t need to think which alphanumeric you need to increment or add (at which level and so on), you just start the new note.

And every now and then you come to a point where the note is large enough, that it needs to be redone into multiple notes. At this point in time, you might have some issues reconnecting stuff, but then again you might keep the larger note as a disambiguation linking to the new notes, and after that you’d rather link to the new notes (and maybe even refactor some of the older notes).

All in all, live and let live when it comes to what deserves to be a note, and when to split. I’m much more in this camp, when it comes to creating notes.

Given only a few ways out of a note, like only one descendant and one sibling, it shouldn’t be too hard to write a template which does the correct operation and uses the vault to learn what the next alphanumeric for that level would be. So, would it suffice to have two new note templates? One for a sibling/related, and one for a descendant/departure?

If you on the other hand have many ways out of a given note, it becomes a lot more tricky. I guess you could populate a list to let the user choose from. Say you started in the note “4.2a1”, and it could suggest either of “4”, “4.3”, “4.2b”, “4.2a2” and “4.2a1a” (or would the last one be “4.2a11”). And of course compensate if any of these are taken, and increment approriately. Like if “4.2b” and “4.2c” already existed it would have suggested “4.2d”)

Does this even make sense, or am I just rambling now?

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

That’s the problem that’s been getting me bogged down, even avoiding, note taking. So much so that I’ve even been looking at alternative or complementary. Some have been able to link Obsidian with Logseq, which is an outliner. And then there’s the new Outliner Obsidian plugin. It might be enough.

It is hard. It is not given. Seems to seem obvious for some who’ve adopted the approach. Even some of those say don’t sweat it. There are options. Go with your best intuition. Eventually you will work your way into a consistent practice. Eventually it will become intuitive, at least somewhat.

It’s occurred to me just today, I think in the course of my initial response to you, that the alphabetic part may be enough, especially with linking and search, although I don’t have much experience with the latter. The capability for it seems pretty strong in Obsidian.

I’ve been around the block for a while, and I remember back in the day when we started computing various organisational stuff for collecting books, index cards, or what not. Someone then said, if you don’t have a clear structure outside of the computer environment, then your data will not be clearer inside the computer environment.

Applied to this use case, if not even you know how you’re labelling your notes, and how to progress from one note to another, then no software will be able to make it clearer to you.

We can suggest tools/queries/… which can automate part of the process for you, but we need to have a clear definition of what you want out of it. As I read you replies here, I’m thinking that you might want to rethink your note labelling, and either find a new structure, or redefine what you want out of that structure.

I think I have a pretty clear structure. Certainly at the top level. I could probably recite it to you right now. It’s carrying through on the naming scheme that is difficult.

I believe the folks who say there is a lot of learning, and deepening of understanding, that happens when you do it this way. It is fundamentally thinking about, learning about, deepening understanding, of the subject(s).

That said, it is difficult. To a significant degree discouraging.

There are aspects of Obsidian that I’ve barely begun to explore that may help me get to a more comfortable place with my note taking. I am fundamentally functioning here in outliner mode. Obsidian is different. Very different. I am now to it. Maybe there’s a solution for me in it.

But I am seriously tempted in two other directions: one is to let go of the alphanumeric component of my naming and just go with short descriptive phrases; the other is to let go of digital entirely and go with paper and pencil.

I’ve read a little recently about commonplace books. Apparently there are practices for collecting, organizing, and retrieving information using them that go back millennia. Back as far as Aristotle and before. If I understand correctly.

A related thought is to do my journaling, and fleeting notes note taking, in paper notebooks. And then process them—refine the writing, fit notes into an organized collection—digitally.

More to be revealed, for sure. I may be at a turning point.

I think this is a good idea. If you want to think more about how your notes are connected, you don’t need to do it in their names. You could make a section of the note and write the relations out in text with links, and let note names be note names.

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I’m not normally in favor of “+1” replies, but I do believe a lot of the strength in Obsidian is connected to having the notes floating all over with good note names, and then linking them back and forth, as you see fit, and as it evolves.

So I’m with @CawlinTeffid on this one. Not to discourage from you if feel that numbering scheme works for you, but more to say that using just note names I think will allow Obsidian to truly shine and prosper. Structure like sections and links, can always be added at a later time.

In the end, I think the main goal is for any of us to actually get started on writing notes and enjoy doing that. Then we’ll be able to benefit from our thoughts on a later stage, but if we enforce a system which stops us from writing down our thoughts and ideas, then we loose out on that opportunity.


You guys have about convinced me. Creating the alphanumeric ID part of the name has been a big slow-down for me.

Several years ago I got comfortable with Vim, the hyper versatile, modular, command driven editor. Somewhere in that context I started using the VimWiki Vim plug-in. In it I named notes entirely alphabetically. Indexes helped me navigate among notes.

I imagine Obsidian would be a lot more capable for that kind of thing. It’s only recently that I’ve started to see the utility of the graph for envisioning, establishing, and visualizing linking structures and possibilities. Previously I saw it as just a pretty add-on.

Starting to think about these possibilities is leading me to kind of let go of my insistence on having outlining capability, though I am interested in learning what will be possible with the new outlining plug-in.

As I leave off here wondering if I can just start lopping the alphanumeric part of my file names, i.e., whether the links will be retained.

So, thanks for stimulating my thinking.


If you do it in Obsidian, the links will be updated to match.

I did it. Alphanumeric part all my note/file names is gone.

And now that I understand its utility I’ll be making more use of the graph. And then there’s search, which I’ve also made little use of.

Still, I wish for outlining capabilities in Obsidian, i.e., that would work in the file explorer.

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So, I went and did it. I eliminated the alphanumeric part of the note name from all my notes. In a few cases where the alphabetic part of the name for two notes was identical I had to create a new name for one of the notes. But not very many.

Now I’m exploring the graph and local graph for how they can help me see how my notes are linked and how the linking of notes can be improved.

I feel free to just go ahead and write notes with out having to figure out what precise alphanumeric ID I should give to the note.


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