Keyboard Hotkeys and The Command Pallette

Obsidian is great for Mac nerds like me who like to do everything from their keyboard. In this article, we’ll show you how to access commands via the Command Palette and set custom hotkeys for triggering commands using keyboard shortcuts.

The Command Palette

There are a lot of commands that are available to you via the Command Palette, which is sort of like macOS Spotlight for Obsidian. But you do need to make sure that it’s enabled before you can use it.

To enable the Command Palette, click on the Settings button in the left sidebar.

Next, go to Core Plugins and make sure that the Command Palette core plugin is toggled on.

Once it’s enabled, you can use the keyboard shortcut Command-P to access the Command Palette from any note. From here, you can see all of the commands that are available. So for example, if you want to get the Obsidian URL for a note (great for linking notes to tasks in your task manager), then select Copy Obsidian URL.

Hit Enter to execute the command and the URL will be copied to your clipboard. You may also see a notification in the upper-right confirming the action.

You may also notice that some of the commands in the Command Palette have the plugin name before them. For example, the commands added by the Kanban plugin will have Kanban: before the command name.

Typing a plugin name like this in the Command Palette after installing and enabling it is a great way to discover what it can do.

Keyboard Hotkeys

You can also see the hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts) associated with a command in the Command Palette. For example, if you toggle on the Daily Notes core plugin and look for the command options for daily notes in the Command Palette, you’ll see a command to open today’s daily note as well as the keyboard shortcut associated with that command (Command-Control-Option-Up arrow).

With this command highlighted, hitting Enter does the exact same thing as using that keyboard shortcut. You can also customize those hotkeys by going to Settings → Hotkeys.

This gives you a list of all the commands available in Obsidian, and you can customize any hotkey you want by clicking the box on the right and typing the desired keyboard shortcut. So if you go to your Daily Notes section, you can set a keyboard shortcut for opening the next Daily Note and the previous Daily Note. Let’s set these to Command-Control-Option-Right arrow and Command-Control-Option-Left arrow respectively.

Now when viewing a Daily Note you can use these keyboard shortcuts to cycle forward and backward by date.

Bonus: Assigning Mouse Buttons

I’ve actually taken this even further though, and I’ve programmed those specific keyboard shortcuts to specific buttons on my mouse (which is a Logitech MX Master 3). With this mouse, I can program specific buttons for specific apps with the Logitech Options software.

You can create global shortcuts or app-specific shortcuts. So if I go to Obsidian, I can now program my Next/Previous Daily Note shortcuts to specific mouse buttons like so:

And now when I’m in Obsidian, I can navigate back and forth in my Daily Notes using only those side buttons on my mouse.

Intro to Personal Knowledge Management

Personal Knowledge Management systems (or PKMs) are all the rage lately. Collecting and connecting information from bookmarks and blog posts in a sort of “personal wiki” using tools like Roam Research and Obsidian can help you see your ideas from different perspectives. This can have big benefits not just for lifelong learners, but for anyone who is looking to do their best creative work.

But before you can really make the most of personal knowledge management apps and services, you need to understand a little bit about how they work.

What is a Personal Knowledge Management system (PKM)?

What exactly do we mean by the term personal knowledge management? According to Wikipedia:

Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a process of collecting information that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve and share knowledge in their daily activities (Grundspenkis 2007) and the way in which these processes support work activities (Wright 2005).

Essentially, personal knowledge management is a combination of two other concepts: Personal Information Management (PIM) and Knowledge Management (KM).

Let’s consider both of these briefly.

You’re probably already familiar with personal information management (PIM). This is basically the way that you get and keep information in order to help you get things done. For example, maybe you need information sent to you via email in order to complete a task for work. If you send the email to your task manager so that you have the URL to that message when you need it, that’s personal information management.

The other concept you need to understand is knowledge management. This typically refers to creating or sharing knowledge and information inside of an organization. If you create standard operating procedures so that someone else can complete an organizational task, that is a form of knowledge management. It’s ensuring the free flow of information, making sure that the required knowledge doesn’t stay siloed and that others can access it when they need it.

Personal knowledge management combines both of these, but places an additional emphasis on sharing and creating. It’s a structure for information and ideas that allows them to be connected across different domains. This results in interesting connections being made, producing new ideas and giving a big boost to the creative process - whether that is expressed through writing, music, or any other medium.

If you’re not sure why you might want to connect your ideas, check out Connecting Notes & Bidirectional Linking.

3 levels of Knowledge

What sort of knowledge are managing with a PKM anyway? Let’s start by looking at the dictionary definition for knowledge:

facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education

This is pretty broad, and could mean a lot of different things. For example, I might have a vague recollection of a statistic I read about in a book but need to do a Google search before I can I can recall what it really means. Or I might have a favorite quote that really speaks to me and I’ve built my personal values around it.

In my experience, there are a couple different levels of knowledge:

  • Level 1: Having something (Information) - a lot of our digital information falls into this category. You have the ability to go find what you’re looking for when you need it, but you have to first think about it before you can locate it. If you have a video course that you bought but haven’t gone through yet, that would fall into this category.
  • Level 2: Understanding something (Revelation) - this is being able to recall something without having to look it up. At this leve, you’ve internalized the information and are starting to make connections, but it hasn’t necessarily changed how you act.
  • Level 3: Doing something (Application) - this is where you start to see the result of the information you’ve collected. You don’t just have it or understand it, it’s changing your day-to-day actions. This is the first level where there is an actual, visible output from the information that you’ve collected.

Why does this matter?

Because there is too much information.

FOMO (the fear of missing out) is the desire to have information from somewhere you don’t currently. But as soon as you get it, you probably feel FOMO for something else - i.e. Twitter, Facebook, email, Slack, YouTube, etc. By quickly jumping from one input to the next, you feed your desire to know what’s happening, but you’re unable to contribute to the conversation. You need to do something with the information and ideas that you collect. Like a plant, you need to develop and nurture those ideas to see what they can really turn into.

And one of the ways to incubate those ideas is connect them to others and see what happens.

How does a PKM help?

A good personal knowledge management system reveals connections between pieces of information. When you give your brain time and space to think, it is already really good at this. The problem is that it is easily overwhelmed by whatever urgent thing happens to be in front of it and it’s terrible at remembering things from a long time ago.

A PKM helps overcome these genetic weaknesses by serving as an external brain. It allows you to see the connections that are already there and make new ones, which is extremely valuable when you allow yourself to incubate these ideas for a long period of time.

While the term PKM has gained immense popularity recently, it’s actually nothing new. There have personal knowledge management systems in place for many years. Here’s some examples:

  • A Commonplace Book - basically a collection of notes, quotes, and anecdotes that you want to remember. Author Ryan Holiday has a great explanation of the commonplace book here.
  • Mind Maps
  • Sketchnotes

Some of the most prolific creators in human history have been using versions of the personal knowledge management system for hundreds of years.

Technology just allows to connect things in powerful ways that were unavailable to the creatives that came before us.

Why You Should Give Some Thought to Your PKM

Because you ARE creative.

You just might have forgotten how.

It doesn’t matter if you are a writer, musician, desk jockey or engineer - you have the ability to be creative.

Creativity, like everything else in life, is a system. There’s an input, a process, and an output. So if you haven’t been seeing much creative output, it doesn’t mean you lack something in your DNA - it means you need to change your inputs or process.

I know this because I’ve struggled with this myself.

I used to believe the lie that I just wasn’t creative. I remember playing guitar and writing songs, then getting mad when I realized that I had unintentionally picked up a melody or chord progression from another song I heard on the radio. I used to think to myself, “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I create anything original?”

But when I read Steal Like an Artist, I understood that nothing completely original. When someone creates something, they are simply connecting dots in new ways. That’s when I realized that if I wanted to get better at creating, I just needed to collect better dots.

“Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by.” - Austin Kleon

And all of a sudden, I was free.

I didn’t have to judge my creation as inferior because it was simply the results of the dots I had collected. And when I started changing my inputs (listening to podcasts, reading books), I found it easier to synthesize those ideas and create something new.

And that, in a nutshell, is why you should use a PKM - it helps you connect ideas and makes it easier for you to do your best creative work.

What Makes a Good PKM?

A PKM is not a single application. Rather, it’s a series of apps that connect together to make it easier to disseminate ideas across multiple domains. The goal is not to have information siloed, but be able to share and link it easily.

Here are some of the key components of a good PKM:

  • Note Taking - you need a place where you can take notes
  • Quick Capture - capturing an idea when you have it is important so that it doesn’t get lost.
  • Visual Thinking - this is simply a way of looking at the relationship between your ideas. One common example of this would be a mind map on a topic or a graph view in an app like Roam or Obsidian.
  • Read-It-Later - RSS can be a source of ideas, but not if it just stays inside your RSS app. Don’t overlook Read-It-Later services, and make sure you have a way to capture things you want to keep.
  • Project Management - whether you are a “knowledge worker” or a corporate desk jockey, you need a way to turn ideas into tasks.
  • Archive - this is simple a place to hold things when you’re done with them. You probably won’t need to go back into the archive very often, but it’s important to be able to find something later if you need it.
  • Output - remember, your personal knowledge management system is supposed to make it easy for you to create. If there isn’t any output, something is broken. After you’ve connected your dots, you need a way to express them.

You may take quick capture notes in Drafts, manage projects in Things, make mind maps in MindNode, and do all your writing (output) in Ulysses. That is a very valid approach to personal knowledge management.

But how do you turn your captured ideas turn into projects? Or how does your mind map in help your writing?

The Problem with the Filing Cabinet (The Trend Towards Zettlekasten)

When it comes to managing information, most people are familiar with the traditional filing cabinet approach. With the filing cabinet approach, when you have a thought to find something you know exactly where to look for it. Your folder hierarchy or tagging system may not mak sense to anyone else, but that’s ok - you can recall information in a flash with a simple search command.

The problem with this approach is that you have to have the thought first before you can find the file. In other words, it is a Think –> Find approach. Search tools allow you to find something when you need it later, but ultimately it’s not doing any good tucked away in that folder until you think of it.

The best PKMs borrow heavily from the Zettlekasten method made popular by German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. He was a prolific creator - in only 30 years, he published 58 books and hundreds of papers. He credits the secret to his output to an external system to think in which he termed a zettlekasten (German for “slip box”).

His zettlekasten was exactly what it sounds like - a slip box for idea, which he kept stocked with index cards. When he read something he wanted to retain, he would write the citation on one side and make brief notes on the other side. Looking at his brief notes, he would write his ideas, comments, and thoughts on a new card in the personal section. And whenever adding a note, he’d look for connections to other notes and keep them grouped together. This allowed him to view all of his related notes and ideas at once, which inspired the creative process.

With a zettlekasten, the value is not a single great idea - it’s the volume of ideas you collect and the way they bump into each other. It’s basically idea soup, where you mix everything together and see what comes out. The network is more powerful than any individual node.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since the original zettlekasten. Instead of carrying around hundreds of notecards, our computers let us connect these ideas quickly and easily and access them anywhere, anytime.

The most powerful version of this is the backlink. This allows you to retroactively apply links between ideas in your personal knowledge management system after they’ve been added. For example, you may have a master note on “Habits” that can show you all the other instances of the term habits in your entire PKM, and clicking on any of the links will instantly take you to those old notes and ideas.

This is different than a wiki-style link because you don’t need to manually make the connection when adding the new note (Mr. Luhmann would be extremely jealous).

When it comes to making these connection, there are many different approaches and the app you decide to use will have very opinionated preferences about how to do this. Here are a few of our favorites.

Roam Research

Roam Research is web note taking app built for connected thought. Roam allows you to write ideas and notes in plain text using Markdown, then connect those notes and ideas together using page and block references. It’s a powerful system that allows you to connect not just individual files together, but even specific sections of a document.

Linking things together in Roam is both easy and powerful. There are lots of incredible ways you can use these backlinks:

You can do just about anything in Roam Research if you take the time to set it up correctly. It gives you a ton of productivity building blocks that you can use to craft your own system. It’s also easy to extend the functionality of the app using custom scripts or CSS.

The big drawback to Roam for some people is that everything is cloud-based (no individual local files). You can export your Roam graph into JSON or Markdown files, but everything lives on the Roam servers. There’s also no native application, for iOS or otherwise. It is purely a web app - for good or bad. It also uses a variation of Markdown that is fairly annoying, and is very expensive ($15/month or $165/year).


The big competitor to Roam Research is Obsidian. Like Roam, Obsidian seeks to help you connect your thoughts and ideas using plain text and backlinks. The big difference is that while Roam is a web app, Obsidian works on top of your local text files. That’s right, you don’t have to upload anything. This makes it a great option for people who need more security for their notes than Roam is able to offer.

Obsidian is an electron app that runs locally on your computer, but it is blazing fast and handles local links much better than Roam does. The speed of updates of Obsidian is also pretty amazing, with new versions being released roughly every week. This pace of updates has quickly closed the gap with Roam, and the third-party plugin framework makes it easy to extend Obsidian in a bunch of really useful ways.

Obsidian is also completely free. If you want to sync your data between devices using end-to-end encryption, you can purchase that as an add-on for $4/month. There’s also an add-on which makes publishing text in Obsidian to a website easier for $8/month. Even with both of these add-ons though, it’s still less than Roam Research and a great option for your PKM.


Craft is an interesting app that isn’t really a direct comparison to either Roam or Obsidian. It’s essentially a document manager, but offers beautiful native apps for macOS, iPadOS, and iOS.

They also recently added backlinks which gives you the structure you need to use it for personal knowledge management, and they recently announced Craft Connect which allows you to send and receive info from a handful of our favorite apps. Here the are apps that are currently supported according to the Craft website:

  • Drafts
  • Things
  • OmniFocus
  • iA Writer
  • Ulysses
  • Bear
  • Day One
  • NotePlan

While it’s still fairly new, Craft shows a lot of promise. You can check out Josh’s impression of Craft here.


Hook is more of a utility than an application, but it can still very handy when building your own personal knowledge management system. It lets you to quickly grab a link to whatever you happen to be looking at on your computer that you can then use to get back there whenever you need to.

The beauty of Hook is that it allows you to connect just about anything to just about anything. Doesn’t matter if it’s a task in your task manager, an email in your inbox, or a local PDF on your Mac - just pop up Hook and you can easily grab a link to whatever you need. You can also use Markdown formatting for these links, which makes it perfect for pasting into plain text in an app like Roam or Obsidian.

Some Tips for Building Your Personal Knowledge Management System

Regardless of the apps you decide to use, here are a few things to keep in mind as you are building out your PKM.

Curate Your Collection

One of the mistakes that is easy to make at the beginning is to connect everything. But not every idea you have or new piece of information you come across is worth a note in your PKM. To really make the most of your network of ideas, you need to curate them by keeping the relevant information and discarding the stuff that won’t be useful. Figuring out the difference can take some time, but it’s worthwhile to figure this out.

Supplement Your Workflow

Don’t change everything simply because you want to try a shiny new app. If you’ve used Evernote as a collection point for years and have hundreds of notebooks full of information, moving everything to another app is a significant time investment. Look to streamlining your information workflow so that the apps you already use can communicate together better.

Consider Your Sources

As we mentioned earlier, there’s too much information to try and keep up with it all. So figure out which sources are worth paying precious attention to. By limiting the number of blogs you follow or websites you read on a regular basis, you can make more of the new information you do receive. By decreasing the quantity, the quality naturally increases.

Daily Questions in Obsidian

I’m a big fan of the mindfulness I gain from journaling, but have been searching for years for the perfect set of prompts that could completely eliminate the friction from my daily journaling workflow. I’ve tried many different prompts (and many different apps) over the years, but have settled on a practice called Daily Questions which has just clicked for me.

In this post, I’m going to share how I implement my Daily Questions inside of Obsidian.

What are Daily Questions?

I first came across the idea of daily questions when I read the book Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith for episode 96 of the Bookworm podcast I co-host with my friend Joe Buhlig. The basic idea is to answer a series of questions every day based on the criteria, “did I do my best to (fill in the blank)?” You simply give yourself a score on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being low and 10 being high.

The reason this has stuck for me so much better than any journaling prompts ever did is that the Daily Questions are based on your intention. Most journaling prompts I’ve seen are focused on the outcome, for example:

  • What did I read?
  • What did I learn?
  • What did I do for exercise?

If these work for you, more power to you. But what I found from answering these types of prompts for years was that I subconsciously resisted journaling when I didn’t have something impressive to put there. On good days it was easy to fill these out, but on bad days I knew I had nothing to put there so I resisted going into my journaling app.

I didn’t even realize how much friction was there until I started doing the Daily Questions consistently. Once I did, I saw how much easier journaling was for me and realized that I had been “doing it wrong.”

The other thing that made Daily Questions work for me was that it was a great fit for Roam Research. The sliders were the perfect UI for logging my daily questions, but there was still room for improvement: Roam didn’t have a mobile version, and it was still a little cumbersome to pull out trend data without having to go through all the entries manually.

So when I decided to give Obsidian a try, this was one problem that was front of mind for me to try to solve. And it took a little while, but I believe I’ve finally got it.

My Daily Questions Workflow

I’ll break this down in detail later, but here’s what I do every single day now:

  1. I create a new Daily Note in Obsidian that I use for journaling
  2. That note pulls in a template that has my Daily Questions prepopulated (along with a few other things)
  3. I answer my Daily Questions (usually on my Mac, but sometimes on iOS)
  4. I use a plugin to chart my responses over time so I can more easily see trends when doing my quarterly review

Here’s what my daily note looks like:

And here’s what the charts look like, broken down by individual question:

There are lots of ways you can customize this, but here’s what I personally do to get this data.

Setting Up the Daily Questions Template

The first thing you need to do is create your template with your daily questions. Here’s how I format mine:

  • I use a second-level header for the Daily Questions title
  • I use a regular line of text for the question, “Did I do my best to…”
  • I nest each question underneath in a bullet list, followed by a nested tag and a rating

Here’s what it looks like side-by-side in both Edit Mode and Preview Mode:

(Note that the Journal Entries and Gratitude sections are not necessary.)

I keep this template inside of a Templates folder, but you can store it wherever you like.

Now that we’ve got the template ready, let’s take a look at the plugins and settings we need.

Setting Up Daily Questions in Obsidian

First, there are a couple of Core Plugins that you need to enable. Core Plugins are extra functionality that is built into Obsidian but turned off by default. The two core plugins we need to enable are Daily Notes and Templates. You can access these by clicking on the gear icon in Obsidian and selecting Core Plugins, and then make sure that Daily Notes and Templates are both toggled on.

Once they are enabled, you can configure the settings for each plugin at the bottom of the Settings sidebar. Just click on the name of the plugin, and you’ll see the settings for that plugin.

Here are the settings you want to use for the Daily Notes plugin:

  • The Date Format can stay the same.
  • The New File Location should be set to the folder where you want to keep your Daily Notes (I keep mine inside of a Daily Notes folder).
  • The Template File Location should point to the template we set up earlier. This will tell Obsidian what text to prepopulate a new Daily Note with.
  • Open Daily Note on Startup doesn’t need to be toggled on (unless you want it to be).

Now click on the Templates plugin and set up those settings:

  • The Templates folder location should point to the folder where your templates reside (I recommend you keep these in a separate Templates folder, but you don’t have to. There’s more information on templates, see Using Templates in Obsidian.)
  • The Date format and Time format settings are fine the way they are.

Now we can start using our template to fill out our Daily Questions. Just click the Open today’s daily note button on the left sidebar of the Obsidian interface, and a new Daily Note will open with the template we set up. From here, we can fill out our Daily Questions:

Now we’ve got what we need to start collecting the data for our journaling habit, but there’s still one more piece to set up that can make reviewing this data a whole lot easier.

Introducing Tracker

One of the beautiful things about Obsidian is the ability to use Community Plugins. These are plugins developed by third parties that can significantly extend Obsidian’s capabilities.

The one that we want to use for making it easy to review our Daily Questions data is called Tracker.

(For more recommended plugins, check out A Few of Our Favorite Obsidian Plugins.)

To install Tracker, go the Obsidian Settings and then click on Community Plugins. If you’ve never installed a Community Plugin before, you’ll need to toggle off Safe Mode and click the Browse button to see the available Community Plugins:

Search for and install the Tracker plugin, then toggle it on just like you did for the Core Plugins:

Next, click Tracker in the settings sidebar to configure the Tracker settings:

You can leave the Default date format, but make sure that Default folder location is pointing to the same folder where you have your Daily Notes stored.

The Tracker plugin is now setup and can be embedded in any note. I use a separate note called Daily Questions which shows me graphs of each individual question.

To use Tracker, you have to use a code snippet. Here’s an example:

```tracker searchType: tag searchTarget: dailyquestions/spiritual line: yAxisLabel: Rating yMin: 1 yMax: 9 ```

Here’s what’s going in this code snippet:

  • The first line with the three backticks and tracker is activating the plugin.
  • The searchType is telling Tracker to look at the tags in the notes in the designated folder.
  • The searchTarget is telling Tracker what text to look for (our nested tag, i.e. dailyquestions/spiritual).
  • The line section has a couple of options for changing how the line chart renders.
  • yAxisLabel changes the label on the side of the chart.
  • yMin and yMax control the scale of the chart (this is a little wonky yet, ideally yMin would be 0 and yMax would be 10).
  • The closing three backticks indicate the end of the chart information.

(There are a bunch of other settings you can configure for Tracker via the syntax that you use here, beginning and end dates for setting date ranges. See the full plugin documentation for details.)

I use a second-level header for each category and use this exact same snippet under each one, simply changing the tag to reflect the appropriate question. What this does is pull all the values assigned to those tags and plots them on a graph with the values on the y-axis and the date on the x-axis.

Here’s the Edit Mode and Preview Mode side-by-side:

This makes it incredibly easy to review my data and notice any trends when I do my quarterly reviews.

Callback URLs in Obsidian

One of the things I love about Obsidian is that it offers support for callback URLs. For example, you could include a link to a specific note inside of a task in Things or a link to an email message from your Daily Notes in Obsidian.

In this article, I’ll show you a couple of ways you can connect things in Obsidian to other apps.

Linking to a Note in Obsidian

Each note in Obsidian has its own callback URL that you can use to access that note directly. To get to Obsidian URL, just right-click the note you want and select Copy obsidian url:

The URL is copied to your clipboard, and you can now paste that link in another application like Things. This allows you to manage the task (and all the associated metadata, like due date, project, etc.) in your task manager, and when it’s time to write you just click the Obsidian URL in the task to go straight to the note in Obsidian.

Here are the different components that make up this specific URL:

  • obsidian://open? tells the operating system to access the Obsidian application and open a specific file.
  • vault=Notes tells the Obsidian app which vault to look inside.
  • &file=Articles%2FObsidian%20vs.%20Roam%20Research specifies the file path in the vault. Articles is the folder, and Obsidian vs. Roam Research is the file name. %2F represents the slash in the directory path, and %20 represents the spaces in the file name.

This URL works on both macOS and iOS, provided that you have the Obsidian application installed and the vault names are the same. (Of course, the file must exist on your other device as well.)

Linking to a Task from Your Daily Notes Page

Another thing you can do is take tasks from your task manager and put those URLs inside of Obsidian. For example, you can use Obsidian like a digital Bullet Journal and link to the task you want to complete today in your Daily Notes.

(In the above post, I was still using Roam Research. I’ve since switched to Obsidian, but the flow is still the same. If you’re wondering which app is right for you, check out Obsidian vs. Roam Research for a comprehensive comparison.)

First, you need to make sure that you have the Daily Notes core plugin enabled. To do this, click the Settings icon in the lower-left and go to Core Plugins section, then toggle on Daily Notes.

Now you can create a new Daily Note by clicking the calendar icon in the left sidebar.

Next, get the URL of the task you want to add to your Daily Notes page. In Things, you can do this by right-clicking on the task and selecting Share → Copy Link.

Now we can go back to our Daily Notes page and add this link. If we use the formatting - [ ] then Obsidian recognizes this text as a task and creates a clickable checkbox for the item. Here’s what it looks like in split view, with Edit Mode on the left and Preview Mode on the right:

There’s a box with an arrow to the right of the link, telling us it’s an external link and will take us out of Obsidian. But when we click on this link, we go straight to the task in Things.

Grabbing URLs with Hook

On the Mac, there’s another cool way to grab links to just about anything using an app called Hook. For example, you can use Hook to grab a URL to a specific message in your email client. Here’s how it works:

Using your Mac, open the window of the thing you want to link to and activate Hook. You can set a keyboard shortcut for this (mine is set to Shift-Control-Option-Command-L), and the Hook window will appear on top of the application window:

The second button from the left is the one to copy the link, so click that and the link to the message is copied to your clipboard. Now you can paste that URL in Obsidian, just like we did with the link to the task on our Daily Notes page:

This is actually just the tip of the iceberg with Hook, though. Just like Obsidian creates bidirectional links between your notes, you can actually create bidirectional links between your files with Hook.

Connecting Notes & Bidirectional Linking

One of the most powerful features of an app like Obsidian is the ability to make connections between the notes that are in your library. In this article, I’ll show you the different ways that you can connect notes and how you can use the bidirectional links that are created to navigate your notes effectively.

Connecting Notes

Here is a note that I use as a workbench where I formulate my own thoughts on the topic of habits based on everything that I have read, learned, and collected.

This note has several components:

  • A picture of the habit cycle made popular by Charles Duhigg
  • An opinion note about the habit cycle where I identify what I don’t like about this particular model
  • A link of the Four Laws of Behavior Change by James Clear (which I like better)
  • A link to BJ the Fogg Behavioral Model
  • Additional resources on habits
  • Bible verses that talk about habits

Each one of these contains an internal link to another note inside of my Obsidian vault. This is denoted by the two brackets on the left and right side of the note name in Edit Mode, for example, the Four Laws of Behavior Change.

And each one of those links is also displayed as a node in the Local Graph over in the right sidebar.

Each one of those notes is called a linked mention, and will also show up in the Linked Mentions section in the right sidebar.

When you open a note, the linked mentions will show all of the places in your entire vault that link to the currently selected note. So for my MOC - Habits, there are two linked mentions here. You can use these linked mentions to navigate between different notes by clicking on the dots in the local graph. This opens the new note and updates the local graph and the linked mentions section instantly. So when I go from my MOC - Habits note to the one on James clear (which is actually empty right now), the right sidebar still shows me all the places that James Clear is linked to.

In this example, my James Clear note is connected to the following notes:

  • Atomic Habits
  • MOC - Habits
  • Bookworm 63

These three notes are also listed in the Linked Mentions section, but there is also a section here called Unlinked Mentions that shows every other place in my Obsidian library where James clear is mentioned.

This section is basically saying, “Hey, did you mean to link to this note when you used that term?” And you can turn any of these unlinked mentioned into a linked mention by hovering over the note and clicking the Link button that appears.

This adds double brackets around the term, creating another dot in the local graph and a link between that note where the term appears and the currently selected note. It also creates a two-way street for navigating the notes in our library. For example, I could go from my current note to my Atomic Habits note, to my British Cycling Team note. But these links are bidirectional links, meaning they go both ways. So I can go the other way - from British Cycling Team to Atomic Habits to James Clear to MOC - Habits.

Transcluding Notes

You can also link notes by transcluding them, which means that you embed them inside of another note. I do this a lot with my sermon sketchnotes where I embed Bible verses by transcluding them. So let’s go up here to my file explorer. For example, here’s a side-by-side view showing Edit Mode and Preview Mode of my sermon sketchnotes from May 30, 2021.

At the top of the note is the sketchnote I created live, and the underneath that I have headers for the actual verses that were mentioned. The key here is that each one of these verses is a separate note in Obsidian. Each verse will show up in my local graph to the right, but you’ll notice the difference here is that there’s an exclamation point before each link. This tells Obsidian take the contents of that note and display it in the note instead of just linking to it, which allows me to look at these notes and reread the verses that I have mentioned.

This is great for review purposes, but the big benefit is that I can now build my own cross reference library. Using bidirectional links, I can go from this note to the note for Philippians 4.6 and see all of other places in my library where I’ve mentioned Philippians 4.6

From here, I can even open all these other notes in separate windows or tabs and create a workspace inside of Obsidian where I can study this out.

These are just a couple examples of how you can use connections inside of Obsidian. But one last tip: don’t go nuts creating backlinks every place that you can. Be intentional about the connections that you make. Ask yourself, “when do I want to stumble upon this note again?” You want more signal and less noise. And if you’re intentional about the connections that you create between your notes, you’ll be able to leverage a ton of value from those connections in the future.

Changing Your Obsidian Theme

The appearance of the interface Obsidian is controllable by CSS, but fortunately you don’t need to be a web developer in order to customize the look and feel of Obsidian using Community Themes. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to install and use a new theme in Obsidian.

Obsidian ships with a default theme that actually looks pretty good, especially if you already like the look of dark mode on your Mac. But if you want to change the appearance using custom themes, it is very easy to do that. First, click on the Gear icon in the left sidebar to access the Settings:

From there, click on the Appearance tab. This will let you change quite a few things about the look and feel of Obsidian, including the selected theme.

Right now we’re looking at the base theme, which as I mentioned is a dark theme. But there’s also a light version available, so if you don’t like this dark theme, you can just select Light from the Base Theme section. Here’s what the light theme would looks like:

But in addition to the built in light and dark themes, there are a bunch of community themes you can use to customize the look and feel of Obsidian.

To use a community theme, go back to the Appearance section of Settings, scroll down a little bit, and click Browse for community themes in the Themes section.

This opens a gallery of community themes that you can filter by name or by theme type (i.e. show only dark themes). Clicking on a screenshot for a theme will give you a closer look, but you can also preview the theme and when you’re ready to install click Use to apply the theme to your Obsidian app.

That;s all you need to do. The theme gets applied instantly and the Obsidian is reloaded based on the included CSS. For example, here’s what the California Coast theme looks like:

You can even install multiple themes and switch between them from the Settings using the dropdown menu under Settings –> Appearance –> Themes.

Just select an option from one of your installed themes and the theme changes instantly, giving you a quick way to switch themes and and make your Obsidian interface your own.

Capturing to iCloud Drive & Obsidian from Drafts

Obsidian is great at a lot of things, but quick capturing text is not one of them. I prefer to quick capture my text in Drafts and then send it to Obsidian using Drafts Actions. Unfortunately, if your vault is stored in iCloud Drive, this hasn’t always been possible. But thanks to the Bookmarks feature added in Drafts version 28, you can now store text outside of the Drafts iOS sandbox.

(BTW, if you want more info on Obsidian for iOS, check out Using Obsidian on iOS.)

Setting Up the Bookmark

First, tap on the gear icon in the lower right of the Drafts screen to go to the Settings.

Next, scroll down to the Storage section and tap Bookmarks.

Tap the plus icon in the upper right to add a bookmark.

Give your bookmark a name. I’ll name this one “Inbox.”

I want to store these text files from Drafts in the Inbox folder inside of my Obsidian vault. So let’s tap on Select Folder, enable bookmark permissions, and then select the appropriate folder.

Make sure to select the correct folder and then tap Done, which will create a bookmark to that specific folder.

We’re going to use this in the next step when we set up the File Action inside of Drafts.

Creating the Drafts Action

Now that we have the bookmark set up, we can create our Drafts action. The first line of the text in the Draft is the title, and everything else is the body. We can use those tokens when we set up our File Action here in just a second.

Tap the Drafts icon in the upper right to go to access the Drafts Actions.

Next, tap the plus button at the bottom and select New Action.

Name this action (once again, I’ll call this Inbox), choose a new icon and color if you’d like, and then select Steps.

Tap the plus button to add a step and scroll down to select File.

There’s a couple things we need to change in this action. By default, this is going to insert a timestamp for the file name and use a .txt file extension (which is not going to work with Obsidian). So let’s change the extensions to .mdand change the time token to title. This will take the first line of my Draft and insert that text as the title for the file.

Next, let’s go to the template and remove the Draft content and put in the body content. So this will put all of the text below the first line into the contents of the text file that we’re creating.

Here’s what it should like so far:

You may have noticed that there’s a path field, but we’re not going to worry about that because further down we can choose the Destination. Choose Bookmark, then tap the plus button and select the bookmark that you created in the Drafts settings.

Once you’re finished, tap Save & Exit to save the Drafts Action.

Using the Action

Now we can trigger this action on the selected Draft. Just tap the button in the upper right and then tap the action that you want to use.

We’ll get a confirmation when the action runs, and can see the file appear in our Files app.

And since our Obsidian vault is looking at that folder, the text is now viewable inside of our Obsidian app.

As you can see, the first line of the draft has been inserted as the title and everything below that has been inserted as the body text in the note.

Appending Drafts to Dropbox Daily Notes in Obsidian

Drafts has long been the place that text starts on my iOS device. But lately I’ve been doing a lot more in Obsidian, and was looking for a way to get that text into Obsidian easily when I was done. While this is pretty straightforward using a cloud service like Dropbox to sync your vault, I then began wondering if I could do something more than just dump my text files in a synced folder.

Turns out you can.

Why Append to Daily Notes?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of Daily Notes, it’s basically a feature you can enable that creates a new note for each day you open the Obsidian app. I previously shared a video showing how I use this page for my daily journaling, but I know many people like to use these Daily Notes pages as the place to capture tasks, ideas, meeting notes, and the like. Backlinks make it easy to tie these notes to other related notes, so this is actually a pretty great workflow.

The problem is on iOS.

While Obsidian does have iOS apps that are currently in private beta, they’re not ideal for capturing for several reasons:

  1. Your vault needs to load when you open the app (takes several seconds)
  2. You have to navigate to the right note
  3. You have to navigate to the right spot in the note
  4. THEN you can capture your text.

That’s too much friction for me. With Drafts, I can just open the app and start typing. And once I set up a Drafts export action to append the text to my Daily Note in Obsidian, I can simply tap a button and be done.

(BTW, if you want more info on Obsidian for iOS, check out Using Obsidian on iOS.)

Setting Up Obsidian

Before this will work correctly, you need to make sure Obsidian is set up correctly. There’s a couple steps to this:

  1. You need to make sure your vault (folder containing all the text files Obsidian looks at) is synced to the cloud. Theoretically you can use any cloud service, but I prefer Dropbox for this.
  2. You need to make sure that Daily Notes are enabled (you can toggle this on by going to Settings –> Core Plugins –> Daily Notes).
  3. You need to make sure that the Daily Notes settings are using the YYYY-MM-DD format (this is what Drafts uses in it’s date token).
  4. You need the folder for the New File Location (this is where we’ll tell Drafts to look for the files). Note that this is a usually a subfolder inside your main vault folder.

Once you have these settings, we can go set things up in Drafts.

Setting Up the Drafts Action

The export action is actually pretty simple, but requires some formatting. Here’s how to set it up.

First, open the Drafts export actions and tap the + button to create a new action, then select New Action (we’re going to build this one from scratch).

Next, name the action and change the color and icon if you want to.

Tap on Steps and select the Dropbox step under Services.

Now you need to configure this step correctly. Here’s the settings you want to use:

  1. The Name should be [[date]].md. The [[date]] is the Drafts date token, and .md is the file extension that Obsidian uses by default. This tells Drafts to look for the file as the target for our text.
  2. The Path must be set to your Daily Notes folder, relative to your Dropbox folder. For example, my Obsidian vault is located at /Users/XXXXXX/Dropbox/Notes/Daily Notes, so the path I use here is /Notes/Daily Notes/.
  3. The Template is what text will be sent. By default, the [[draft]] token will grab the entire text in Drafts and send it to the file.
  4. The Write Type should be set to append. This will place the text at the end of the Daily Note. If you prefer it appear at the beginning, you can use prepend instead.

That’s it! Now tap Save & Exit, and you’re ready to use your new export action.

Sending Text from Drafts to Obsidian

Now you can type your text and send it to Obsidian. You can tap the Drafts icon in the upper-right and select your action, or use just tap the name of the action in the bar above the keyboard.

Whatever text you type will be appended to the file in Dropbox and instantly show up in Obsidian.

One cool thing about this is that both Drafts and Obsidian can do special things on top of plain text. For example, if you want to send a task from Drafts to Obsidian, you could do that by using the plain text task formatting: a dash, followed by a space, then left and right brackets with a space in-between. Then when the text appears in Obsidian, you can switch to Preview Mode to interact with the task element and check it off. Here’s a screenshot of Edit Mode and Preview Mode side-by-side using the default Obsidian theme:

Bonus Nerdery

If you go back and edit the Drafts action, you can find a couple of other cool options if you scroll down a bit:

For example:

  • You can assign this action to an external keyboard shortcut
  • You can add the action to Siri
  • You can automatically archive or delete the text in Drafts once the action has been completed.

I usually don’t assign keyboard shortcuts because I’m primarily using Drafts on my iPhone, but I do like to automatically archive the text after it’s been sent to Obsidian. This helps me keep my Drafts inbox a little more tidy.

A Few of Our Favorite Obsidian Plugins

Obsidian is a phenomenal notes app, but with a few free community plugins installed, it can become pretty much whatever you want it to be. In this article, we’re going to show you how to install community plugins if you’re not familiar with the process and share some of our favorites.

How to Install Plugins in Obsidian

There are two kinds of plugins in Obsidian:

  • Core plugins that ship with the app
  • Community plugins developed by others

The community plugins are where a lot of the magic happens.

To access the plugins, click on the Settings button in the left sidebar. Click on Community plugins, and toggle off Safe Mode. Then click on Browse and you’ll be taken to the Community plugin directory:

To install a plugin:

  1. Click the plugin you want to install from the list on the left
  2. Click the Install button
  3. Click the Enable button

Your plugin is now installed and ready to be used.

You can also toggle individual plugins on and off once they are installed at the bottom of the Settings–> Community plugins screen.

Now that you know how to install community plugins, let’s look at some of our favorites.

A Few of Our Favorite Plugins

Out of all the plugins we’ve tried, these are the ones we consider to be the best of the bunch. Keep in mind that these plugins are being updated and new ones are being added all the time, so you may want to check the directory frequently to see what’s new.


I use the Kanban plugin to track all of my writing projects, and link to the individual cards for each article that I’m currently writing. You can even link the cards in the plugin as tasks to your Daily Notes using a date-picker. Here’s what it looks like:

This screenshot doesn’t really do the plugin justice as ever card is draggable between the different swim lanes. There’s even a setting for automatically marking the task as complete when dragging it to the Done column. But behind all the functionality this plugin gives you, the file itself is still just a basic Markdown-formatted text file:

This is my favorite plugin, hands down. I can’t recommend it enough. And if you want to read more about how I use it, check out Mike’s Obsidian-Based Writing Workflow.


The Calendar plugin is currently the most popular plugin in the Obsidian directory, and with good reason. It gives you an easy way to jump between dates for your Daily Notes by giving you a clickable calendar view in your sidebar.

To jump to a specific date, just click on it in the calendar view. If the date doesn’t exist yet, it will prompt you to create a new Daily Note in the appropriate location. Dots appear under each day to indicate the amount of text in the note and whether there are any unfinished tasks linked to that date.

If you’re going to use Daily Notes in Obsidian, you need the Calendar plugin. It’s that simple.


Speaking of Daily Notes, the Review plugin can help you remember to review notes on specific days. You do this by activating the Command Palette (Command-P) and selecting Review: Add this note to a daily note for review from the desired note. This creates a second-level header at the bottom of the Daily Note for the desired date and adds a link back to the original note:

This plugin uses natural language to determine the next review (i.e. “Next Friday”), so it also requires a separate Natural Language Dates plugin. Just be aware it may not quite work exactly as expected until you install and activate both of these plugins.

For those interested in the concept of spaced repetition, this one is essential.


Queries are a bit of a hidden power user feature in Obsidian, but they don’t have to be. With the Vantage plugin, you can construct powerful search queries without needing to know all of the syntax Just active Vantage from the Command Palette (Command-P) and select Vantage - advanced search builder: Build a new search.

Here’s the code that creating an embedded search based on the screenshot above adds to the current note:

file:(2021-06-10 OR 2021-06-11 OR 2021-06-12 OR 2021-06-13 OR 2021-06-14 OR 2021-06-15 OR 2021-06-16 OR 2021-06-17 OR 2021-06-18) path:(PKM Course)  (line:(/- \[ \].*record.*/)) ((/- [^[.]].*\[\[.*Vantage.*\]\].*/))

But the beautiful part about all of this is that you don’t need to understand any of that code. You can build you queries in Vantage and the plugin translates everything for you.

Note Refactor

In the Zero-to-Obsidian workshop, I explained the importance of what I call atomic notes. The basic idea is to break your notes apart into smaller chunks in order to make the most out of the bidirectional links in Obsidian. So for example, in the screenshot below I have the Atomic Habits note open on the right, and a separate note that I broke out as it’s own note (The 4 Laws of Behavior Change) on the left:

Notice the link on the Atomic Habits page to the 4 Laws page. That’s important.

What the Note Refactor plugin does is take a selection of text and break it out as it’s own note while simultaneously putting a link into the original note that points to the new one. This makes a bidirectional link between the two notes and is visible in the local graph in the upper-right.

There’s lots of different formatting options you can use with this, but it’s an essential tool for build a library of atomic notes.

Update: You can now do this using a Core plugin that you can read about in Splitting Notes in Obsidian. But Note Refactor is still the power user tool of choice.

Better Word Count

Obsidian ships with a core plugin for word count, but the Better Word Count plugin is, well, better. It gives you options to toggle on or off the number of words, characters, and sentences, lets you customize the descriptors for each, and lets you count from a selection as well as the entire document.

It’s pretty simple as far as plugins go, but it makes Obsidian an even better writing tool. If you want to know more, check out Turning Obsidian into the Perfect Writing App.


The Todoist plugin allows you to embed interactive Todoist tasks into an Obsidian note. The syntax for this plugin is based on Todoist’s powerful web filters, which allows you to embed tasks that meet certain criteria. For example, here’s a simple query for the book publishing checklist I have in Todoist embedded in Obsidian:

On the left is the actual code written in Edit Mode, and on the right is the interactive rendering of the Todoist tasks in Preview Mode. As you can see, the task names, projects, and even swim lanes are displayed in Obsidian. The colors come over from Todoist’s priority levels, and each task is interactive so I can check the circle and mark it off as complete in Todoist.

This is a great plugin for anyone who keeps tasks in Todoist but wants a way to visualize those tasks alongside project information inside of Obsidian. If you want to see it in action, check out Syncing and Embedding Tasks with Todoist.


The Tracker Plugin is the heart and soul of my Daily Questions in Obsidian journaling workflow. What it does is take values (in my case, numeric values associated with specific tags) and plots them on a graph. Here’s a side-by-side screenshot of the code snippets in Edit Mode and what it looks like rendered in Preview Mode:

My use case is pretty basic: I assign values daily to the tags on a scale of 1-10 using my Daily Notes for journaling, then Tracker collects all of those and plots them on individual graphs by tag. But there’s a lot more you can do with with the Tracker plugin if you’re willing to devote a little bit of time to figure out how to make it work.


Another great plugin for visualizing data is the Dataview plugin, which turns your Obsidian vault into a database with powerful query tools. For example, I have a note for every episode of the Bookworm podcast I’ve recorded. Using YAML at the top of the document, I can apply individual values for both my rating and Joe’s rating (my co-host) for the book that we covered. Then using Dataview, I can tabulate all those ratings and sort in a desired order. Here’s a screenshot of the Dataview code in Edit Mode (which includes every note in the Bookworm folder and sorts them in descending order based on my rating) and the visualization of that code in Preview Mode:

I walk through the whole process in setting this up in YAML & Dataview.

There’s lots of other stuff you can do with this plugin. See this thread in the Obsidian forum for more inspiration.

Obsidian Git

WARNING! This one is super-nerdy.

Obsidian Git is basically a backup plugin for Obsidian, but instead of creating a local backup of all your files it sends all your changes to a GitHub repository. In addition to a backup, this also gives you a sort of version control for your Obsidian vault. You can set it up backup automatically, or use a keyboard shortcut to manually trigger a push/pull.

I learned the hard way that getting up Git on your Mac can be tricky. I don’t really use Git much, so I enlisted the help of a friend who really understands this stuff. But if you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a pretty good guide to getting started.