Obsidian 1.0

Obsidian, the personal management and idea connector that we have all been losing our collective minds over, is now officially out of beta with their release of version 1.0. Congratulations to the small Obsidian development team that made a very big app.

While I don’t use Obsidian for everything, I’m in it daily and use it for many things. Here are some of my favorite things about this application:

  • The file format is nothing but a folder full of markdown files. While you add some extra syntax to get those additional features from Obsidian, it is all universal and future-proof. If Obsidian were to go away, you’d still have all your data in a usable format.
  • Despite the universal nature of the files, you can do nearly anything with this application that involves words. At this point, there are 25 core plug-ins in the 668 additional community plug-ins. You can use this app to take a few notes or build an entire system around it.
  • The Obsidian community is fantastic. The people using the app are generally enthusiastic about it and friendly to people coming into it. The folks who decided to build on the Obsidian API to develop their plug-ins are intelligent and generous.
  • The Obsidian developers get it. They are entirely transparent and constantly working on improving the application. I particularly love how they publish for their Trello board so you can see what they are working on next. 

I love this app. I’m actively producing a new Field Guide about it right now. If you’ve been waiting for Obsidian to leave beta, you’ve got no further excuses.

Using Obsidian for Task Management (MacSparky Labs)

I spent three weeks running Obsidian as my primary task manager. I learned that task management in Obsidian is a lot better than I expected, but probably still not the answer for me. In this video, I walk through plugins and workflows to manage your tasks in Obsidian…

This is a post for MacSparky Labs Level 3 (Early Access) and Level 2 (Backstage) Members only. Care to join? Or perhaps do you need to sign in?

Linking Your Thinking Conference

I am fully invested in the emerging idea of linked thinking and how it can help us use technology for our own good. When Nick Milo asked me to participate in his Linking Your Thinking Conference, it was a no-brainer. I’m doing a session this Wednesday morning at 9:00 PDT, all about how I link from Obsidian to other places. This is part of how I contextually compute. Registration is free, I hope to see you there.

Project Management with Obsidian (MacSparky Labs)

I’ve been busy evolving a project management system from inside Obsidian. This system relies upon the use of status folders (instead of tags) and the DataView plugin to auto-sort and display relevant projects. I believe this system could work for all sorts of work but it is, admittedly, still a work in progress. In this video, I walk you through how I’m using it and what I’m up to… This is a post for MacSparky Labs Early Access and Backstage Members only. Care to join? Or perhaps do you need to sign in?

Automating Idea Capture with Keyboard Maestro and Obsidian (MacSparky Labs)

This is a post for MacSparky Labs Members. Care to join?

With all of these changes lately, I’ve been exploding with new content ideas. I needed a way to capture and manage them so I built a little Keyboard Maestro script to take an idea and format it into a special note, and then save the note to my Obsidian database. Here’s how I did it …

Sensemaking Obsidian Seminar

Mike Schmitz and Nick Milo are two of my favorite people on the Internet and they’re joining forces this Thursday to do a webinar on Sensemaking with Obsidian. I know they have both been working on hard on this one and I’m looking forward to seeing what they are up to.

Why I’m Leaning Obsidian

Over the past year, I’ve spent way more time than I will ever get back looking at Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) options as they continue to evolve. Three options that have received particular attention from me are Roam Research, Obsidian, and Craft. While I could make a case for any of these three, I’m leaning toward Obsidian.

Why I’m Leaning Obsidian

I continue to be impressed with Obsidian’s feature set and release cycle. We get updates weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. Obsidian’s developers have thus far made a stable, fun-to-use Electron app (I didn’t even know that was possible) that gives you all the expected PKM tools: Wiki-style links, backlinks, and graph view. Just take a look at everything already completed on the Obsidian roadmap. Like all of these apps, Obsidian makes contextual computing so easy. I embed links to OmniFocus task lists, DEVONthink libraries, websites, and anything else I can tie to a URL with no problems. Obsidian also supports creating links to files on your file system or just embedding files right in your Obsidian library.

Moreover, they have added the ability to add third-party plugins, which has spawned a rich assortment of interesting additional features from third parties. Simultaneously, the Obsidian developers plow forward with their app. (They are now close to releasing a mobile app.) Best of all, everything is based on a collection of Markdown files, which means you control your data and can easily get it out of Obsidian if you get drawn to something else new and shiny. Of use to me, but not necessarily everyone else, they have already put together their own end-to-end encryption solution with version history. I’m able to sync my data with my own encryption key.

Why I’m Not Leaning Toward Roam

Roam Research is a web-based linked-text system that lets you link ideas between each other with ridiculous simplicity. Roam, of all the options, is the most granular. For Roam, every carriage return represents another block and linkable entity. Obsidian and (to a lesser extent) Craft are more engineered around the document model. That makes Roam perhaps the easiest solution to laser focus on linking one bit of data to another (which is good) and less useful for writing (which is bad). Along that theme, Roam also uses a weird variant of Markdown that makes writing in Roam even harder.

My biggest gripe with Roam is the data model. With Roam, all of your data goes into their cloud. They don’t have end-to-end encryption. They don’t even have two-factor authentication. If you get a user’s login email and password, you get everything.


Craft is the newest entry and, to me, more attractive than Roam. It’s the only native Mac/iOS app in play. It also has a very responsive developer that seems to be iterating fast. Craft is the clear winner if you are primarily working on iPhone and iPad. Roam is a lousy experience on mobile, and Obsidian has yet to release their mobile app. In the end, however, it was the idea of local Markdown files, end-to-end encryption, and the lightning-fast development that pulled me toward Obsidian.

These aren’t the only three apps in this space. I’m getting emails from other developers nearly weekly now that are building similar tools. The PKM gold rush is on.