Future proof knowledge system: Plain text with Obsidian

Makzan’s Dispatch 2020 week 35

Hi friend,

Last week, I shared about how I capture notes inputs from different sources. This week, I would like to share how I store notes in plain text format.

Plain text storage is a future proof storage system. Content is not locked into any software, any system. In the future, whatever storage system or service our technologies become, the plain text will be compatible with it.

During the last 10 years, I keep recording thoughts in plain text format. I used Notational Velocity, and later nvALT for managing plain text notes.

But plain text files are dump. They are not smart. That’s why I created my own software to manage relationships between notes. The context of notes include tags, bi-directional links, creation date, and note-replies.

The software I built fits my needs, but it is expensive to build and maintain software just for my own use. And it is so personal that open-sourcing it will require extra efforts that I can’t spare now. I was always thinking about how to combine the benefits of software functionalities to make the notes smart and yet keeping the simplicity of the plain text format.

I find the answer when Obsidian made its debut months ago.

I have a folder containing my 10 years of notes, in plain text format. They are collected from my previous different systems that I have used. The folder is stored in a cloud drive with backup to local and external hard disks.

Obsidian uses the folder in file system as a vault. Within the vault, Obsidian indexes all the links between markdown files and creates connections between them into a graph view.

Since the files are just plain text files in the file system, there is no lock-in to any one software. All the meta information and linking relationship are right inside the markdown files.

Besides Obsidian, I can also apply different software to those files.

For instance, on the iPhone and iPad, I use 1writer to edit the files. When writing long-form, I use iA writer. In Mac, I use nvALT for lightweight access. I use DEVONthink for folder organizing and filing suggestion with its powerful category learning.

By creating links between my notes, I connect the hidden dots and transform the written notes into my knowledge.

Next week, I will share another part of my knowledge system, images clippings and documents.

Links worth sharing

Web content accessibility guidelines 2.2 is in public draft review

Making Facebook.com accessible to as many people as possible

Meanwhile, the new Facebook login page uses an image as close button:

Leading-Trim: The Future of Digital Typesetting

Simulate Mobile Devices with Device Mode in Microsoft Edge DevTools

Enhancing User Experience With CSS Animations

Omastsuri—Open source browser tools for everyday use

Several useful tools. Bookmarked.

Code worth sharpen

What happens when there is min-width and max-width conflict in CSS?

min-width wins.

Also from https://codepen.io/argyleink/pen/gOrraWq

  1. no min / max? use width

  2. width > max-width? use max-width

  3. width < min-width? use min-width

  4. min & max? use min-width

Until next week,
Thomas Mak