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Introducing Obsidian, a different kind of note manager.

Hello! Today we will talk about Obsidian. If you didn’t know it, you will surely be surprised. Actually, we promise you that it will make you see things from a different point of view. In fact, this tool is focused on deep productivity. In other words, it demands a commitment from the user, which not everyone is willing to give. This, of course, in exchange for multiple advantages.

At this point, it is important to separate in two the direction behind the note-taking. On the one hand, we have the light use. In this sense, any note-taking application is valid. We are talking about apps like Google Keep and others. On the other hand, there is the deep or hardcore use. It is well known that there are users whose productivity depends on these notes. Therefore, they squeeze all the features of a classic like Evernote, for example. Well, we can say that Obsidian is one step further. Stay with us, to know why this proposal is different from any note manager you have seen in the past.

What makes Obsidian a distinctive note manager?

To put it in simple terms, Obsidian is a classic note manager in the background, but modern in form. It is classic because it offers the typical panel with the available notes. There you can write them almost in plain text, like Windows Notepad. Nevertheless, we affirm that it is modern because under that facade of simplicity hides a great power whose benefit. However, it requires a learning curve that will scare more than one person.

It is not our intention to scare you. In fact, at first glance, its design is not groundbreaking. It includes a side panel where the notes are and a few buttons with different functions. In addition, in the center, there is an open note and a second one in the background. To the right there is another block with some graphics that we will unveil later. On the other side, in the mobile application we can distinguish a list of tasks. In the following lines we will see, why Obsidian is a special note manager, despite this non-original design.

Obsidian, a self-managed knowledge base

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The first thing you should know is that Obsidian is an application, not a service. This is very important because in this difference are its advantages, but also some of its cons. So much so, that its developers do not define it as a note’s application. In fact, they define it as a powerful knowledge base that works on a local folder of plain text files.

This implies that all the notes you take in Obsidian will be saved in a local database (a folder with files). In addition, the maintenance of this database is the responsibility of the user. In other words, you are in charge of keeping your notes safe, as well as of synchronizing them between devices. This is a good example of the advantages and disadvantages of Obsidian, being an application and not a service.

Therefore, the ease of downloading the application or accessing via web from a second device, logging in and having all your notes there, you will not find it in Obsidian. However, there is one important element to highlight. In fact, the issue of synchronization has been solved as a service. In fact, there is a service model behind Obsidian. However, it does not behave in the usual way. Before going any further, it is essential to develop this idea.

Free or not?

Obsidian is a free application. And yet, a pricing plan is listed on their website. In exchange for payment, you contribute to the development of the project and have access to early versions of the application. It also offers community badges to distinguish yourself in the forum (indispensable, isn’t it?). Finally, it also offers technical support and licensing for commercial use.

There is also Obsidian Sync. This is a service that facilitates the synchronization of notes and costs $8-10 per month, depending on whether you pay monthly or yearly. There is also a note publishing service that costs twice as much. In both cases, these are add-on services. Therefore, this is where it seems that Obsidian’s developers are going to make business. At the moment there are only these two.

However, the publication is a utility for a very specific audience. Besides, to be honest, exporting a note for publication is a matter of a couple of clicks, even if the procedure is manual and not automatic. On the other hand, synchronization can be managed by the user for much less, or even for free. You just need to put enough effort into it. Everything will depend, of course, on the type and degree of use you make of Obsidian.

Markdown and plug-ins, the core of Obsidian

As mentioned, Obsidian stands out from the most popular note managers. In this sense, it is based on the Markdown markup language, an indispensable piece to format everything you write down. In fact, this may discourage some users. Remember that instead of pressing a button to put bold, italics, or a link, you have to enter a code. However, applying the elements of basic formatting in Markdown is really simpleā€¦ although the more you ask, the more complicated it gets.

We will not go into details about Markdown, since it is not the subject of this article. However, we will see 3 major advantages that encourage people to choose it.

  • The first is that Markdown is very easy to learn, at least as far as basic formatting is concerned.
  • The second is, derived from the first, that precisely because of its ease, Markdown is a great ally of those who write a lot and prefer to be away from the keyboard as little as possible. For example, to take the mouse and click on a button.
  • And the third and most significant is that Markdown is an open format in plain text. Consequently, it guarantees its compatibility in the long term.

In short, if you write a lot, you might be interested in Markdown. If you look closely, it’s everywhere. In Obsidian, it is even at this level. Another very interesting fact in this regard is the live edition. In this respect, it differs from most Markdown editors. Remember that you have to choose between the code view with highlighting or the read view with the final formatting. Obsidian offers one that combines both and is one of the wonders of the application.

It’s not all Markdown

Either way, it is unfair to say that Obsidian’s usefulness is limited to only knowing Markdown. Certainly, it is the most advisable, especially in the medium or long term. However, another of the application’s features is its support for plugins with which to extend the default capabilities. These plugins are very interesting. For example, one of them allows you to install a toolbar with formatting buttons, so you can use Obsidian as if it were Word.

Obsidian’s best feature is in the plugins, as there are hundreds of them. Besides, most of them are developed by the community, as it happens for example with code editors like Visual Studio Code. If you are interested in Obsidian, but it lacks customization options or functionalities that you would like, it is likely that some plugin will cover the need. Besides, there is always the possibility that you can develop it by yourself.

With plugins, you can transform Obsidian into a complete productivity suite. So it will work as a word processor in terms of functions and with extras such as calendar, tasks, contacts.

At Obsidian, everything is connected

Obsidian is pursuing an ambitious goal. Nothing less than being your second brain. That’s where the idea of creating a knowledge base comes from, since everything is connected in Obsidian. Therefore, it behaves like a wiki that allows you to link some notes with others to create a graphical visualization that will remind you of a neural network.

This is undoubtedly one of Obsidian’s hallmarks. What is certain is that it is only useful for those who adhere decisively to the idiosyncrasy of the application. However, it is the interconnection between the notes, the internal links, that help create that knowledge base with which to drive a second brain in writing. In this way, you can replace almost any other note or personal information manager.

So far, this brief review about Obsidian. We do it at this precise moment, since its version 1.0 has just been released. In addition, this version has brought new features such as a more than welcome visual revamp of the default themes, as well as a feature as interesting as the tab stacks. However, its developers warn that this does not mean that Obsidian is considered feature-complete or bug-free. There is a long way to go before that.

Finally, the app is available for PC (Linux, Mac, Windows) and mobile (Android, iOS). Bye!

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