How to use tags in Obsidian - organizing notes in the knowledge base

How to use tags in Obsidian - organizing notes in the knowledge base

One way to structure notes in a knowledge base is by tagging. This method allows you to avoid the disadvantages of a strict hierarchical directory structure and flexibly manage the categorization of your notes. In this article, I will describe how I work with tags in a popular knowledge base application, Obsidian.

What are tags

Tags are keywords, labels that you can write at the note. They serve as additional markup, providing a better understanding of the context of a particular document and organizing the knowledge base into logical groups.

You can create an unlimited number of tags - projects, topics, categories, people, and so on. Unlike structuring through directories, where a note can be in only one category, in the case of tagging we can bind essentially an infinite number of labels.

How to use tags

To create a tag, simply enter a hashtag (#) followed immediately by a keyword. For example, you could enter #project1, #topic2, or #person3.

The spelling format can vary, but the text must contain at least one non-numeric character. You can use:

  • Alphabetic letters.
  • Numbers
  • Underscore (_)
  • Hyphen (-)

Popular standardized programming spelling formats:

  • #camelCase
  • #PascalCase
  • #snake_case
  • #kebab-case

When you enter text after a hashtag, Obsidian prompts you to select one of the tags you've previously created in a dropdown list.

Select the appropriate option with the cursor or keyboard arrows and press "Enter" to paste the selected value in the list.

You can nest tags within each other to create a hierarchy - use the slash /. This can be useful for organizing your notes in more detail.

You can also specify tags not only in the text itself, but also in the YAML metadata block. This is an additional markup format in Obsidian which is hidden in read mode and visible in edit mode, e.g. so that keywords and spelling variations do not get in the way. But this method has a disadvantage in my opinion:

If a tag is specified in the text of a document - it works as a button, and clicking on it opens a search for that tag. As you can see in the screenshot, if the tags are hidden in YAML, this function will not work.

Additional tricks

Let's assume that you have filled the knowledge base with some amount of information and filled in the tags. Now let's understand how it helps to work with information specifically in Obsidian.

Search

You can use the search bar to search for notes by tag. For example, if you type tag:#test, Obsidian will show you all notes with the tag #test. You can also combine this filter with keywords.

Manage

You can see all the tags of the current repository as well as the nesting structure and the number of documents mentioning them by opening the "Tags" view. To do this, click the slash icon in the right sidebar.

Visualization graph

Obsidian has a cool visualization tool, the graph. It displays linking notes to each other, but there's also an option in the settings to display tags as standalone items.

They will be filled in green to distinguish them from standard documents.

This visual representation allows you to quickly understand the structure of your knowledge base, making it easier to find and stimulate new ideas through random links.

Editing

When I first started learning Obsidian, I didn't like that you can't work with tags like in a database so you can edit them centrally. For example, if I want to rename a tag in all places where it's mentioned - what do I do? Open every note?

Luckily, this is where Obsidian's extensibility concept comes in, and one of the plugins that I think is a must, as I wrote about in my selection of the most useful plugins for Obsidian is Tag Wrangler.

It seems to do nothing special, but in the tag panel is a wonderful context menu, which among other things has the ability to rename each item.

You can merge multiple tags into one in the same way — just rename everything to the same name. 

That's it, we looked at the basic functionality of working with tags in Obsidian. If this article was useful — you can subscribe to our channel not to miss new articles and notes that are not posted on the site.

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