obsidian

Obsidian: extraordinary app

I wrote this post with Obsidian.

From the home page, we read that Obsidian is “a second brain” … “a powerful knowledge base” to be used locally for plain text files with Markdown markup.

In summary, this app allows you to write in plain text, i.e., without any formatting that contains style information; in essence, a simple sequence of characters without any specific connotation that could even identify paragraphs, sections, particular styles.

The app is available for the most popular platforms (MacOS, Windows, Linux) and for mobile ones (iOS, Android).

Apple users have the advantage of using iCloud to synchronize content between the various devices they use. Other users can opt for the synchronization service offered by Obsidian.

The knowledge base

We read on Obsidian’s website that the app is a “powerful knowledge base “ because, through the vaults and the content that flows into individual files, it is possible to build a digital knowledge system.

We can use the final result for personal use or - eventually - published.

Obsidian provides a paid service for the publication - with simple steps - of one or more vaults on pages published on Intenet and therefore reachable by anyone.

A new challenge?

The intuition of the Obsidian developers is extraordinary.

The developers Erica Xu and Shida Li wondered why they made another note-taking app.

I said it’s an extraordinary app, and that’s what the developers say when they explain why they made Obsidian.

In fact, on the “About us” page of the Obsidian’s website, we read:

In this sense, with most of the current note-taking apps, working with notes feels like writing code without syntax highlighting, code autocomplete or Git integration. All the things that programmers have been taking for granted for decades. That’s pretty sad, don’t you think? Today’s knowledge workers are facing new challenges all the time, and they deserve better tools..”.

Now, that’s what’s extraordinary: an app that’s particularly advanced compared to the others that are available.

I’m still discovering all the features of Obsidian, and it’s a pleasant discovery each time.

In this sense, Obsidian indeed represents a new challenge both in developers and users.

Developing an app to make it “smarter” is no easy task.

In the same way, the user who decides to use Obsidian is impressed and fascinated by its potential and appreciates it.

Let’s wait for further developments from Obsidian, and in the meantime - as users - let’s accept the challenge and use it fully.

Free?

Obsidian, as we read at this page, has three different “pricing” solutions and precisely:

  1. Personal, free for personal use;
  2. Catalyst for those who want to contribute to the project by paying an amount from a minimum of $25 upwards;
  3. Commercial, just for commercial use.

The Personal version is free, has no limitations, and is entirely usable by the user.

The choice of the developers is - in my opinion - extremely appreciable since the “full” use of the app is allowed for free.

The features (part one)

Let’s start from here to describe Obsidian’s features, proceeding from the beginning and then from creating the “vault” to move on to the most simple and obvious part that concerns the editing and then the mode chosen by the developers for writing.

The Vault

The logic of Obsidian is that of the projects called “vault”.

Therefore, every time we want to write something in a document, i.e., in a file, we must first create a vault.

We can consider the vault a sort of “folder”; it can contain the documents we produce or others we plan to insert.

We can create the files we intend to use to write content inside the vault.

Inside each vault, we can store several files even with lengthy text, and we can decide to concatenate those files between them. In this way, we will have the possibility to obtain a final result similar to a wiki. Then, it will be possible through the links to move from one part or file to another.

The plain text and the markdown

To better understand what plain text is, it can be helpful to refer to documents written with the best-known word processor Microsoft Word.

Probably, many of us have used Word at least once, and this software is known to be classified as WYSIWYG (an acronym for What You See Is What You Get).

WYSIWYG best expresses the approach used towards the user. The user can format the text by selecting it and applying the desired markup (e.g., bold, italic, etc.). The real risk is that the user, having to think about the formatting and what he (or she) sees, will be distracted during the writing, losing concentration on what he was typing.

The principle of the so-called plain text editors is entirely different and opposite to WYSIWYG. It favors the writer’s concentration, who can format the text by simply adding codes at the moment or a later stage.

In particular, in our previous article about Hugo some indications about markdown.
We said that markdown is defined as a “markup language”, i.e., a system to achieve text formatting by adding symbols.

Let’s take a few examples:

  • to obtain the bold it will be sufficient to type **bold** or __bold__;
  • to obtain the italic will be sufficient to type *italic* or _italic_.

There are many codes for markup, but, in summary, the logic is to enclose the text you want to format between symbols that are predetermined.
We will publish another post just on markdown.

Getting back to Obsidian, this app allows you to write in plain text with enormous potential and undoubted advantages for the writer.
The user can decide to use markdown symbols, or markdown and HTML, or other types of codes to define and format what they are writing. In short, the user has to worry about focusing on what he has to write, but at the same time, he has a powerful formatting tool.

This solution, for us, represents an added value and contributes to making the app extremely powerful..

Why?

First, Obsidian is intelligent and “understands” that we intend to use which code. For example, if we type a single asterisk, the app produces two by placing the cursor between the two asterisks to write using that markup.

Obsidian uses a plain text editor, so - as I said - the main advantage is to write without distractions and especially avoid any markup that could “dirty” the text we edit.

We can use the markup of the markdown and the HTML.

However, the Obsidian editor allows splitting the window in two or more to have in evidence - for example, the simple text and the final result visible with the markup that we will use.

obsidian window

As you can see from the image, there is a window with the editing on the left side: plain text enriched by the markdown markup; on the right, another window allows visualizing the final result.

We chose ad hoc that display configuration to make it even more straightforward what plain text is. Everyone, then, can customize their own choice of the number of windows to display (one, two, etc.) depending on how they are used to working.

We finish here the first part, giving us an appointment for the second part on Obsidian to describe other possible functions and configurations.

Stay tuned!