Way to quick add notes?

I’m looking for a way to quickly add notes to obsidian when I’m in another application. Say I’m reading a pdf and want to write a note – I don’t want to open up Obsidian as a large window app. I just want a minimal editor window pop up - kind of like TickTick’s quick add bar for tasks. Right now I use a keyboard shortcut to launch terminal and use a custom function to create a new markdown file and add a string of text to it. This works fine enough but I’d rather use a markdown editor. Ideally it would be integrated with obsidian but that’s not necessary.

  1. Do you use any lightweight text editors alongside obsidian?

  2. Do you know of any extensions that open a smaller, more minimal window of Obsidian?

  3. When you’re working outside of Obsidian, do you have a workflow for quickly creating a new note?

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What operating system?

MacOS, though honestly would be interested in Windows as well

I sync my Obsidian in Dropbox. And I use Drafts 4 as a multi-platform way to quickly send notes from phone/tablet/computer directly to my Obsidian folder in Dropbox, using an action.

Otherwise, I don’t know of any quick-entry workflow, like a little popup or anything.

You’re on a Mac, so look at http://alfredapp.com - replaces Spotlight plus a lot more, so basically no matter what app you’re in you can pop it up with cmd+Space and type in a command. I’ve got a bunch of commands set up in it that I use all the time, but the two main Obsidian ones are:

  • log Bob called about fridge - appends a time-stamped line to the end of today’s daily note, so I just note anything that happens all day
  • idea build a rocket | it needs to be red - create a note the the vault root with title build a rocket and body it needs to be red

Youll need to purchase it (costs ~$30) to get the power pack, which lets you run little workflows as above - happy to tidy up and give you mine if you do buy it, they’re very simple. Alfred does a lot of other stuff as well - I was using it long before Obsidian and can’t imagine using a Mac without it :slight_smile:

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:point_up_2:t2:This right here. Alfred is amazing.

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At the moment, I use QownNotes for that as it is configurable for exactly this kind of workflow:

  • Autostart minimised in the system tray;
  • QownNotes lets you define a global shortcut for creating a new note - which is nice as it can thus stay minimised in the system tray all the time - you don’t have to switch to the application first! As a shortcut I use “ctrl + <”…
  • Then just type your thoughts, add a #tag if you like and close the note with another shortcut - the file is saved automatically in markdown in your specified (sub)folder within your vault.

That’s it! :relaxed:

(And, btw, Qownnotes is available for Mac, Windows and Linux)

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Whoa! I would really appreciate having access to these.

I love Alfred. I use it all the time. It never occurred to me to try doing things with appending to files. I know there is a “simple TODO list” workflow example. I’ll investigate this more. Thanks!

Yeah Alfred is incredible for launching, searching, moving files, copying file paths, math, snippet expansion. I use it constantly. I bought it years ago when it was first launched, and I still discover new things to this day.

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You could use the ‘Open quick switcher’ (cmd-o) in obsidian -> write a title and press enter -> you are writing a new note. Using a tool like BetterTouchTool you can assign a global shortcut for this.

These sound really useful - I’ve used Alfred for a long time and have considered the Powerpack but never really been sure what I’d do with it. Now might be the time it feels justified!

The key challenge that most of these suggestions fail to resolve is using and rendering Markdown in the pop-up quick note UX. (Although I, too, applaud the use of Alfred for quick appending things to a given note!)

I was thinking that Keyboard Maestro could work for this within Obsidian. Create a macro that:

  • Asks for a title
  • Optionally asks for a location
  • Opens Obsidian
  • Creates a new note (in the requested location)
  • Moves the window to the side, collapses all possible UI elements, and makes it small

This should all be trivial, save maybe the location component; I can build it if it sounds useful.

The one problem with this is that said note window would not “stay on top,” which would be a nice-to-have mechanism if I read the OP right.

Here’s the daily logging one:

I’ve tidied it up from my “just hack something” original and added some docs so that you can set it up how you might need it. Hopefully it makes sense, let me know if help is required. I’ll clean up the “new idea” one this evening and post it here as well.

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FWIW, those of us primarily using iPadOS, who do not have a portable Mac, as far as I know, Shortcuts can do all but the item listed above to create a Note (Zettel) using 1Writer or iAWriter which can ‘later’ be used by Obsidian.

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I am also an Alfred fan and long time user. In another thread I suggested using alfred’s snippets (expand text) or workflows (shortcut to execute a workflow) where there is no native Obsidian shortcut support, for example to create md checkboxes.

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…looks like something Autohotkey would be well capable of, on Windows

Just wanted to share that I meanwhile changed my workflow for taking quick notes whenever I am working outside of obsidian.

I gave up the QOwnNotes solution as 1. it actually makes no sense having a running application minimised to your system tray all the time eating RAM despite only being used a couple of times a day (if at all…) just for typing down a spontaneous thought and 2. it tended to crash regularly.

My current - really lightweight - solution is to use vim.

This is my workflow (on Linux):

  1. create an alias in your .bashrc by adding the following line:
    alias nn='vim ~/path/to/your/vault/quicknotes/$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S).md';
  2. Whenever you have an idea you quickly want to write down with as little distraction as possible from what you were doing at the moment, open a terminal with your favorite specified shortcut, type “nn” and press Enter;
  3. Write down your quick note using markdown syntax, add some #tags if you want and save/quit with :wq (which is the default vim shortcut).

Detailed explanation for anyone not so familiar with the above-mentioned commands:

The first step defines a short command (I chose “nn” for “new note” but you can choose whatever you like as long as it doesn’t collide with an actually existing terminal command) which, when typed into the terminal, will automatically be replaced by its alias. The complete command (‘vim ~/path/to/your/vault/quicknotes/$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S).md’) tells the terminal to start vim and immeditaly create a new markdown file with a date-time based unique zettelkasten id file name. The file is placed directly in your vault (I established a subfolder “quicknotes” in my vault so that I can easily find my quick notes later on in obsidian, edit them, make links to other notes if necessary and finally move them to my actual zettelkasten folder).
Vim is really doing a good job with writing markdown syntax!

One more thing: Vim starts, by default, in “normal mode” which means you can’t type any text. By pressing “i” vim changes to “insert mode” which is what you need to write down a note. In order to just being able to start typing after you opened your terminal, add the following line to your .vimrc:
au BufRead,BufNewFile * startinsert
This will make vim start in insert mode whenever you open a new file.

Both the .bashrc and the .vimrc files live in your home directory. If they don’t, just create them (don’t forget the dot in the filename!).

So, this is a really really fast and lightweight mode to quickly write down any spontaneous thought, have it saved in your obsidian vault and postponing any editing stuff (which would distract you from what you are doing at the moment) to any later point in time.

Edit: An even more time-saving way would be to create a new terminal profile (name it “quicknote” or whatever you like) and, instead of defining an alias in your .bashrc, tell your new profile to immediately execute the command 'vim ~/path/to/your/vault/quicknotes/$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S).md'as soon as it starts. Then define a global keyboard shortcut for opening your new profile. In my case, however, my terminal always crashes with a segfault whenever I try this - I spent some hours of searching but couldn’t figure out the reason for this… :frowning_face: If anyone has any idea what could cause this issue, I would be happy to hear about it!

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After posting this question and getting so much feedback, I should have come back and posted what I ended up doing – which is basically this.

I set up a bash function and an alias, one for very short notes and one for slightly longer notes:

For shorter notes, I use the function, with my note as a string argument. I’ve set it to append a single long running file instead of creating a new file, because I like reviewing all my notes in one place before organizing them.

function n() {
   now=$(date +"%m/%d/%y, %H:%M") && echo -e "##" $now "
      "[email protected] >> /Users/path/file.md;
}

For longer notes, I do basically the same as yours, but with the same single file as above.

alias nv='now=$(date +"%m/%d/%y, %H:%M") && echo -e "
""##" $now "
" >> /Users/path/file.md'

I also have a keyboard shortcut set to open terminal – so whenever I want to jot a quick note I just ⌘⌃T and type n "note to save".

  1. What about an icon for quick entries in the menu bar (macOS), throwing ideas into a chaos box/desktop folder in Obsidian without the need to open obsidian and disrupt my workflow?

  2. Isnt it possible to create an extension in macOS system preferences, allowing access to obsidian/desktop folder from other (markdown quick entry) apps?

I am not a developer and not native english, just a simple user. Sorry, if this question is already answered somewhere. But the mass of ideas and informations are too challanging for me to sort out a solution that works.

Kind regards and many thanks, if somone might answer my question in a “simple“ way.

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Hi ShaneNZ, I can’t express my gratitude to you in words. What a wonderful alfred workflow. Thank you so much…