Obsidian: Keywords vs Tags

Tags are commonplace in computer systems these days. They are a way to assign a piece of meta data to something that allows them to be associated with one another and usually to be searched for and filtered with. They are powerful, and in fact typically more powerful than a traditional folder structure. Tags are a brilliant concept and I use them in numerous places. However, it may be a little surprising to discover that I don’t really use them all that much in my personal knowledge management system application of choice - Obsidian. Let me explain why.

Fundamentally, Obsidian, and other personal knowledge management tools are used to associate separate notes so that you can easily see and utilise relationships. That can be extrapolated out to not only individual notes, but also would be tags.

Tags are a way of categorising by linking a note to the tag, but by switching tags to notes, those notes can categorise by linking and you also get additional benefits.

  1. You can add context because you can add additional content to the note.
  2. You can add order and structure to things by the order in which they appear linked within the note.

I do still make use of tags, but in a very narrow form. I use them more as a way of assigning statuses (e.g. #toupdate) to a note.

Tags are useful as properties of a note that don’t define relationships between notes, but are perhaps something I may want to search on. For meta data that I don’t need to search on I tend to use YAML entries in the note.

Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) systems are by definition, personal, and so there is no right or wrong way to do things. You should simply use something that feels “right”” and works for you. But, I would encourage you to spend a few minutes if you use tags in Obsidian to consider how you are using them, and if maybe, just maybe, it might be worth swapping some of them out for notes instead?

Author: Stephen Millard
Tags: | obsidian |

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