What's the point of the graph view? (How are you using it?)

Hi everyone! I’m curious how you all are using the graph view, if at all?

I’ve been using Obsidian for just over a year now after migrating all my notes from iOS and Evernote, with the specific purpose of capturing thoughts for standup comedy jokes.

My initial reason for moving to Obsidian was because it had a graph view, which I thought would be fantastic for uncovering hidden relationships between various jokes and topics that may not be readily apparent. Unfortunately I never found the graph view useful because it didn’t work the way I had imagined. Thankfully though, Obsidian is so blazingly fast and looks so good visually, that I have still found Obsidian a great note taking tool.

But I’m sad that the graph view isn’t what I dreamt it would be, and I’m curious if any of you have found a good use for the graph view within its current functionality, because I’m struggling…

The graph view turns out to be nothing than a bunch of dots which represent notes and tags, but you can’t actually do anything with it.

Is there anyone else out there that feels the graph view could be an incredible tool?


I am recently new to Obsidian and haven’t had the chance to play with the graph view yet (still migrating my notes from notion), but if the standard graph tool doesn’t live up to its name in your case, you could always step up your game with the ExcaliBrain plugin, which adds a plethora of new features (note: it requires installing ExcaliDraw as well, which is also an uh-maze-ing alternative to Canvas!) - there’re a lot of videos on these on YT, including from the developer himself, who is so cool!

Graph view itself can be made more useful by making use of color grouping, saving various states & filters as bookmarks… but if you want to form more relationships and discover more stuff, ExcaliBrain might be your go-to solution.

I do know that some people use Graph view exclusively and are more than happy for their use cases, so it all depends on each person’s goals (including myself who thinks ExcaliBrain is a bit too feature-abundant for my use cases)


Like you i tried the graph view but have never found it helpful so i have it switched off. There is a plugin called Excalibrain which has a better form of graph view. I don’t use that either. Neither feel natural or intuitive to be honest. I’m sure there must be a better way, maybe using AI?

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It might be a difference between visual and non-visual thinkers? I’m absolutely non-visual and have also disabled the graph view. Couldn’t find any use for it. I don’t use Canvas either.

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I use it to see where I am.
I imported 2,500 unlabeled notes from another platform and I need to import as many more. At the same time I use the daily note and cardboard as task management and diary-
I can easily see the weights that my professional notes have compared to my daily life. I can see how much weight the unlabeled notes have on the total, a way to see where I am.

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@ObsidianOverlord9000 said:
Unfortunately I never found the graph view useful because it didn’t work the way I had imagined.

When you are talking about Graph View, did you also choose the Local Graph?
More about at: Graph view - Obsidian Help.

It’s much more intuitive to use. With Graph View itself, it needs more ideas for filtering your notes. Without using a consistent tagging system it may leed to some confusion. What I can recommend is the Bookmarks feature from Obsidian. It can also be used to bookmark some of your sophisticated filter options in Graph View.


Thank you everyone for your thoughts and for sharing your experience!

I’ll definitely take a look at the Excalibrain plugin. It seems pretty loaded with features, I just hope it would be easy to integrate and synchronize between devices with.

I do hope the Obsidian team takes a look at some quality of life and general improvements to the graph view, but I think maybe they need help with distinct use cases.

So far, just like one of you mentioned, the only use I have had for it so far is to see “where I’m at”, in other words, I just use it to see which notes have no tags on them yet. Untagged notes all appear as an outer ring orbiting all the tagged notes, making them easier to identify.

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If you click the settings icon → filters → Search
This is a full text search.

Search for a specific word, find all notes with that word, displayed as a graph.
See what is connected to what, perhaps you will now find unlinked notes that can provide insights, new ideas, new connections.

UI/UX wise, I would really like a search at top of graph, not in the settings.

Also Hover editor is really handy here, for quick edits.


And with bookmarks now you can save those specific Graph Queries for later use

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An excalidraw drawing is stored just like any other file so it should always sync correctly between devices.

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To be honest, I never use it.

I do use canvas and mindmaps in other software, but I have never seen the point of graph view other than “hey look at this!” To me, fiddling with criteria to get what I wanted was a complete waste of time.

Sorry for the bluntness, maybe graphs (in this parlance) just don’t float my mental boat.


Yes, and for me it was the same experience when looking at all these hairballs of ideas and connections.

Learning to filter my own hairball was the next step to get more insights from my Zettelkasten. Here you will find an example: Search and retrieve notes. How do you search in Zettelkasten? - #4 by Edmund


My vault is not structured in any manner and I leave articles as is, no zettels for me. My onboarding process is nothing more than assigning a tag and, now properties as I capture it. Further classification comes during research and writing. We have much better tools today and do not need to adhere to Luhmann’s methodology.

The only thing even approaching atomic notes are the highlights I’ve made in my Kindle device. As a syntopic reader, I’ve acquired most of the books on most of the domains I will be pursuing in life (over a thousand books now). Those highlights come into obsidian, one note per book.

When I’m looking for an idea to write about I use the core search plugin. The idea comes with a basic set of keywords in my mind to start the fishing expedition. If I’m not getting a complete research picture, I’ll pick up the kindle. The extraordinary thing about the Kindle device is that you can search across all the content of the entire library using much the same search criteria as the Obsidian core search plugin. From there I get a great deal. If I still need more fodder, we have LLM’s now and Claude is my copilot.

The insight about the idea (my mental graph) builds in my mind as I peruse and tailor the search results and craft the missive. The missive becomes an artifact and represents my new thoughts & knowledge about the idea (hairball). My terminal beginner mindset loves this approach.

We all make sense of the world in different ways. For me, the Obsidian graph is in the way; words are the thing, my discovery tool of choice.


There is no use, chaotic patterns have no meaning, time changes are uncontrollable and cannot be remembered

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@writtenfool Thank you for your insights about working in Obsidian without visual support. I’m just looking for some key benefits to improve my own process.

My onboarding process is nothing more than assigning a tag and, now properties as I capture it.

I’m highly interested in your strategy for using tags. Are you using nested tags? Do you have some simple rules to work with?

Sorry for the long post, I don’t know that brevity is possible:)

Soon after properties was implemented, I made a commitment to cleaning up my vault. It held a lot of carnage from previous attempts to “structure my knowledge” by using complex workflows and following methodologies and related pedagogies - each requires different and complicated sets of metadata and enforced workflows (I suck at the enforced thing). Success in any of those also requires a certain mindset, abilities, and plugins.

What I began to notice was a core set of tags and link names that I used for most of my thinking and writing projects. In the case of nested tags, there were implied hierarchies, many of them overlapped and redundant. Some tags were in yaml but most were peppered thru out notes.

I did try to use graph to assist but I found myself spending more time tweaking the graph criteria than optimizing my vault; but the effort did provide some nice looking and informative graphs which I bookmarked and intend to return to later :slight_smile:

It became obvious at this point that I needed to make a distinction between tags (properties in general) and links.

So I made a rule (unusual for me) - tags and properties ONLY go in yaml frontmatter and they apply to the note.

If I need to distinguish some chunk of a note and don’t want to move that chunk to its own note (atomic, if you will), I make a link out of keywords or phrases in that chunk. Links, to me, make sense in the body of a note. Links are how I get to MOCs (or whatever word you want to use).

Today, for example, I was reviewing an article and found a word called Autotelic and thought I had never heard it before. A quick search revealed I had seen it, added my thoughts, and made links to it but never created the note “Autotelic”. So I did, and, poof! , down in that backlinks section (Linked mentions) at the bottom of each page popped a complete history of the links of that word in my vault and below that was all the unlinked mentions of every occurrence of the word itself; the out of the box functionality in Obsidian is extraordinary!

I have now inserted a yaml frontmatter block at the top of each note with at least one tag at least one property. New web content comes into my vault via MarkDownload and created a template in that browser extension.

I also removed all the nested tags as they became too numerous and confusing, despite the hierarchy. Stay with me…

For all notes I imply a workflow by doing the following:
- a processed_date property - when I bring in notes and don’t get to them right way, I can search for notes that don’t have the property with -[processed_date:]
- a list property called pertaining - if say, the tag for a note is writing and I’m using this note to write about subtext, I’ll assign pertaining to “subtext”.
- a list property called assigned - if this note has a direct relationship to a section in an essay or chapter in a book, I’ll add a link to assigned to the heading in that section or chapter.
- a list property called role - if something in this note applies to a character in a story, I’ll place a link to that role in my character list for the missive.
- each of the above also has a related date property (i.e. pertained_date, assigned_date, and role_date).
- which leads me to another property called status, it is either pertained, assigned, or roleassigned.

For me, this process is iterative. During research for projects, I add significant new properties (including tags) that apply to the new project or have discovered other linkages. I can add more tags and pertaining properties.

I now create hierarchies by a combination of tags and list properties as defined by search query. This is the only way I know how to solve many to many relationships. I bookmark queries and name them accordingly.


Now that’s an unusual use case. Love it!

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