Exclusively Obsidian: Day 1 Thoughts

This week I am ditching Roam to work with Obsidian exclusively. I'm just calling this little series "Exclusively Obsidian". They won't be very long and they will likely be stream of consciousness posts. I will try to encapsulate what it's like being a big Roamcult guy to trying to give Obsidian a chance. So let's get into day 1...

Design

The design isn't horrible, but it's definitely not Craft or Bear level. There are a few things that I had to fix. And honestly, the default theme is one of my favorites. But the line at the top had to be fixed and the top left corner just seemed like a mess.

So I decided to make the main page be all one color and the resize handle the same color. Now it all looks like one page.

This looks much cleaner to me. I also added Avenir Next as my main body font and Lato as my headers. I also noticed that there was a difference in the font from the editor and the preview mode. I looked in the code and found out that the editor mode font was using "-webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased" but the preview mode wasn't. I made them both use antialiasing and now they look the same.

I changed a few other small things related to spacing and then I was ready to go.

Daily Notes

The biggest thing that I have to try to re-learn is that Obsidian is not and outliner. I can't keep trying to make Obsidian an outliner if it isn't. I need to try and use Obsidian the way that it is meant to be used. I can't try to make Obsidian Roam.

So for me this meant trying to figure out how to structure my daily notes. With Roam I just make a new bullet for a new thought and then if I want to write more about that bullet then I can just tab underneath the bullet and write some more. That's not quite the case for Obsidian. Yes, I can use the Outliner plugin, which I do occasionally, but I normally use a header 3 for a meeting I have and put my notes beneath that in nested bullets, but with Obsidian I need to do that a little different.

WIth Obsidian I have turned on "Fold Heading" which means that anything underneath a heading will fold beneath it until a header with a high or equal level appears. So if I do a header 3 for "Meeting Notes" then everything I write after that will fold beneath it unless I create another header 3. This is annoying, but not a deal breaker.

What I did instead was create a top section with a header 3 called "Daily Notes" and all my quick thoughts will fold beneath that and then there is a header 3 for anything else I need beneath that like meetings or random projects.

What I Love

Readwise

Readwise integration is fantastic. Having a folder on the sidebar where I can go and click on "Books", "Articles", "Tweets", etc. is amazing. I love it. With Roam I have to go to the Readwise page and view the backlinks. Not the best.

What's interesting is that Readwise still puts the highlights on bullets just like Roam. You would think that they would just have the text take up the full page. But not a big deal, just an interesting observation.

Google Chrome Extension

I have been using this Chrome extension to clip a full webpage into a markdown file and it's been great. I have to take the downloaded file and copy and paste it into my vault, but that's not a big deal. It makes the articles super readable. It's easy to go through and highlight my favorite parts.

Tags

I love the tag bar on the right sidebar. I love that it collects my tags and I can sort them by most used. That's great and it reminds me of Day One and the way they handle tags. Love that.

What I Don't Like

Editor/Preview Mode

I know this is being fixed so I won't focus on it too much, but I absolutely hate, hate, hate, having to switch between editor and preview mode. It adds more to have to think about. I'll be reading an article I clipped and I'll want to highlight a section and forget that I'm in preview mode and I'll have to switch to editor mode and then highlight. This is my absolute biggest pain point.

But WYSIWYG is currently being worked so the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter for this problem.

Strict Markdown

I've written about this before, but I've been trained that what Bear uses is Markdown when in reality it's more of Markdown Lite. So I got used to creating a header, tabbing over below it, and writing. I visually like the way this looks and my mind can parse information this way.

No go in Obsidian. In strict (real) Markdown if you tab underneath a header it creates a codeblock. No way around this. I've spoken to several people in the Obsidian community that pretty much have told me, "That's just the way it is." I don't know why this annoys me so much, but it does. There was one user who gave me some CSS that removes all the formatting for the codeblock and that seems to be working for now.

Day 1 Conclusion

Today was my best day working in Obsidian. I've tried it tons of times with no real joy in using it. Today I finally started to enjoy using it. I have a theme I like, I have the plugins I like and I have a good workflow.

I still miss things from Roam, but I'm starting to like Obsidian more. Tomorrow I'll be working more with templates and setting up more complex workflows for my work.