Drafts and Obsidian - why?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to use Drafts and Obsidian together. I understand that everyone has their own work flow but I’m really curious: what does Obsidian provide that Drafts does not? Is it just the mind-map functionality or are there other things?

(ps. I love Drafts!)

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This is not a setup I use, so others may have more specific comments, but for a lot of Drafts users they prefer to keep Drafts as their temporary storage where they gather fleeting thoughts, ideas, tasks, etc., throughout the day - and have another more curated long-term storage system for notes.

In the paper world analogy, Drafts is the inbox on their desk - Obsidian (or other system) their filing cabinet. Some things that hit your inbox end up going back out to someone else’s desk, some to the shredder - and only some to the permanent, organized reference source of the filing cabinet.

People have used Drafts like this for years with different back end storage systems - from Evernote, to files in Dropbox. Obsidian seems to be a new popular choice for this type of reference because of it’s enhanced abilities to cross-reference documents.

(Obsidian people feel free to expand on that or clarify if I am wrong)

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Hi there. I recently became invested in Obsidian once their mobile apps launched. The ability to link information across different entries is the biggest draw for me. There’s a lot of crossover functionality from Drafts. I like to start in Drafts, and then move it to Obsidian to merge with notes, or link to others. The plugin community is also great for those of us who aren’t that versed in Javascript and other scripting languages. Drafts is great because it can be whatever you need it to be.

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I’m also really drawn to the ability to link notes together and I’m a huge fan of the “wiki” functionality in Drafts. But I’m wondering: is there something about how Obsidian links notes that offers something that Draft’s does not? Is it just that this linking is slightly easier and more central in Obsidian than it is in Drafts?

Linking two notes is as simple as typing two square brackets [[ and then autocomplete takes care of the rest. You can also drag and drop to link, or other various ways. It’s super easy and autocomplete and quick switch is super responsive.

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It’s actually a really interesting question. Speaking as someone who’s run my notes system completely out of Drafts pretty much ever since the wiki link functionality existed, I’ve had to decide whether to switch over now that the mobile app’s gone public.

My conclusion right now is no, partly because I’m not really in the mood to redo all my workflows right now and partly because I’m a totally blind Voiceover user, and Obsidians accessibility right now isn’t great. It’s usable, particularly with a keyboard, but Drafts is in a league of its own where that’s concerned, so for now Obsidian’s a secondary system for me, with Drafts as the primary.

All that said, Obsidian is probably a better choice for most people, since it’s built from the ground up for a backlink/connected note type system. It uses files instead of a database, which makes it easier to use with other apps. Their version of preview is a lot better, being live. You can do things like check off checklists, and that’s reflected in the file in realtime. You can follow wiki links in preview as well, which Drafts doesn’t do. Also, it has built in transclusions. Just put a ! in front of a wiki link, and that file is embedded when you enter preview.

The built in backlinks support is a bit better too, and offers things like block links and unlinked mentions, which not only shows you backlinks you could make to the current page, but lets you link them right there. Also, the plugins and the community is better geared up for actually using the app that way. Drafts is still pretty heavily oriented to send the Draft somewhere else.

On the other hand, a huge amount of what I’m missing can be pretty easily scripted, or already has been. I’m actually in the middle of writing my own version of the Obsidian Calendar plugin and associated daily notes plugins. There’s no way to embed a calendar in the sidebar the way you can in Obsidian, but I’m currently using an action that gives me a calendar prompt and lets me jump to a journal file for that day, creating it if it doesn’t exist. I’ll probably release it at some point.

I’m already using actions to help with backlinks, and I’ve slightly modified Gregs example transclusion preview action to use Obsidian syntax. It works pretty well actually, since Drafts seems to ignore the ! in front of the links so I can still follow them normally in Drafts, but in either Obsidian or the transclusion preview thing in Drafts the files get embedded.

I do quite a few things like that, as well as my own system to export new or modified Drafts into working copy where Obsidian can see them. I need to do some work going the other way if I want to do any writing in Obsidian, but I’ll get to that at some point.

This is all just a really long way to say that either system can work, depending what you need to do. Just because Obsidian is the new hotness, it doesn’t mean you need to jump unless you’ve got a reason. On the other hand, that community’s a truly great place to steal workflow ideas from, :relaxed:.

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I love Drafts and won’t be giving it up any time soon. It is my quick entry for so many text based things. The dictation is flawless, and I rely on so many action groups and workspaces. But for me these are different programs that serve different purposes.

The main difference for me lies in the fact that Obsidian sits in a stack on .md files on my machine, the same files that other programs can read and act on - including Devonthink. I can collaborate on shared notes in a shared a Dropbox vault with a colleague or teach a class out of it (both of which I’m doing). But again, all the while based on a shell on top of lightweight, relatively future proof text files. I love it.

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I’m sticking with Drafts - with much the same expectations.

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I am one of those users.

For me, I think there is quite a bit of overlap in some of the things @yvonnezed has highlighted, but here are the reasons I use both Drafts and Obsidian.

1. I use them for different things

I’ve been using Drafts sine the first release, and it has been my place of capture. That is ingrained in my use. For me it is more than an inbox, as it is also the place where I can carry out various elements of pre-processing to prepare things for use elsewhere. in fact a variety of places.

Drafts is like a transport service for me. I go into Drafts and I can choose how I want to travel, what I want to take, and where I want to go. But I’m, always going somewhere. I may have favourite journeys, but I’m always ultimately heading somewhere else. For me Drafts is never my final destination.

Obsidian is one of my current destinations. It is where I keep notes on things I need to know and refer to. It is my personal filing cabinet. Things that end up in here are technical documentation, training notes, meeting notes, daily logs, process instructions, and the list goes on. Many of the things in my various Obsidian vaults started out being captured in Drafts.

I do work in Obsidian quite a bit, but the same is true of Drafts. Obsidian I guess I get into a particular mode of working when using it, whereas Drafts is my on the go capture spot as well as my dip in and out capture spot.

FWIW, prior to Obsidian, I’d used a variety of tools including things like MWeb and Quiver having grown ever more disillusioned with Evernote which spent over a decade as my filing cabinet.

2. Drafts and Obsidian do different things

Drafts and Obsidian do share a lot in common, and there are also many feature differences.

For me Drafts is about speed of capture and flexibility of text manipulation and processing. It isn’t a text editor, but something unique. Something special because of its no nonsense get the job done approach and huge flexibility in terms of its actions functionality.

Obsidian is about finding. It is about finding things you have made and finding relationships between them. It has a more complex plugin architecture which limits how much people can get into it to craft their own solutions. There is a higher technical cost. It is also more specialised focusing on Markdown as a format, though the previews are more interactive than in Drafts - e.g. allowing navigation between notes in a preview format.

To me they feel very different both in character, and the niches they occupy.

3. I have been using Drafts a lot longer than Obsidian

Some of the above is no doubt due to how long I have used each application. Drafts has simply been around longer and I have been using it for longer. I think it would take a massive upheaval of some sort to get Drafts out of my workflow.

I don’t have the same investment in Obsidian at this point. Still less than a year in fact, having looked at it several times from first release and only digging in once I was happy with its functional maturity and stability.

I think the level of investment I have means that I’m more likely to use multiple tools rather than drop one for another.

4. Obsidian is available on more platforms

This is quite a big one. Web capture, and remote access aside, I can’t get the full Drafts experience on Windows and Linux. Obsidian can go with me everywhere.

5. Lock-In

Drafts has a partial lock-in in terms of the data storage format. I know, and am quite happy that, I can get my Drafts data out of Drafts in any format I like whenever I want. Drafts is very good at getting content out as well as getting content in. What Drafts is not good at, due to its architecture, is round tripping. I can’t easily edit the content of a draft in another app which might be ideally suited to a particular task. I can’t hook a web integrations service in to keep a draft updated.

Obsidian is based on files. Primarily Markdown files. Obsidian is not using a proprietary format. It is a layer over the top of a file and folder structure. That makes this far more accessible for round tripping, which further supports why Drafts for me is the transport system, not the destination. Maintenance is more restricted.


Note: Mind Mapping vs. Obsidian Graph

You note mind mapping. There is a mind mapping plugin (maybe two now if I recall correctly) for Obsidian, but I suspect that you are referring to the graph functionality. The two are different.

Technically, it would be possible to reproduce the graph functionality for Drafts, even using the same graphing engine. It would also be possible to use the same in-note style markup and preview a mind map in a similar way. It would just require someone to develop that functionality - it needn’t even be Greg for Drafts, in the same way the Obsidian plugins are not all created by Shida and Erica.

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Yes, my back-end storage system is Notebooks App, which can sync across different devices and handles both text and other file types.

I use Drafts as primary text capture, as others here said. But notes as I capture them may end up in a variety of other places. Some are notes I want to keep for research, some are snippets of a piece I’m writing as it occurs to me (I write fiction, so I’ll sometimes dash out a very barebones scene or scene note) and I also have email draft ideas, to-do notes, grocery list items, and many others.

So Drafts is just where things that occur to me are stored, and it acts as a hub. At the end of the day or start of next, I ‘process’ all the text.

So a story snippet will get sent over to Ulysses where I write fiction, blog posts, non-fiction. The email I shoot over to email app, and the to-dos go into Trello as a card to get assigned to me, assistant, or in group Trello where I’m coordinating others gets assigned to someone. Grocery list goes to a shared grocery list my family keeps on their preferred Reminders list on iCloud. Notes, research, personal archive, goes to my Obsidian files.

So you can see my list of actions below. Drafts is the hub of a web to wherever things need to sit. I also keep a daily journal in Noteplan. I know I should keep it in Drafts or Obsidian, and I’ve seen how other people do it, but I don’t like my daily journal cluttering up my writing or my research notes. But Drafts pops up to a key combo and then I type, and then it goes away, so if ideas pop in, I can clear them out of my head quick, and then later I can send them where they need to live.

After decades of trying to keep everything in one perfect app, the idea of just using Drafts as a text hub has been super helpful. I even have added notes via my watch on the go while on a run, and I’ve gotten used to telling Siri to start a new Drafts note when on a long car ride and ideas occur to me.

So as a result, for me, using Obsidian for the long term notes, as others noted, and Drafts for the inbox, makes letting it be that hub and not the permanent place, seems to fit with it as a ‘processing notes’ sort of thing, even though it’s far more powerful than just that. Keeping different types of containers for differing types of text seems to match my organizing principles.

I also really like Obsidian’s graphs and some of the other plugin features.

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To me it’s not either or.

I pass lots of notes to Obsidian for notemaking, linking and building my personal knowledge managementsystem.

To me Drafts is as powerful as ever, and it’s where most of my text begin. Some is passed to Obsidian, some of Omnifocus, some to Reminders, some is sent as mail or messages - and so on.

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Drafts is an amazing app

But lack of support for images is an obstacle to it being the only app I use for notes

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Hey, for a text only application I think the image support is pretty good…

Sorry. It’s Friday. I couldn’t resist. :flushed:

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I also use Drafts and Obsidian. Most has already been said, so I’ll just highlight the few things that come to my mind that haven’t been mentioned yet.

Obsidian has a huge degree of customizability due to all the plugins, with more coming almost daily. With the proper combination of plugins, you can use it form writing longer texts (plugins: longform, languagetool, pandoc, citations, …) or for data analysis (plugins: dataview, metaedit, advanced tables, a few csv plugins, charting plugin). Some people even use Obsidian as the software for roleplaying games (dice plugins, map plugins, etc.). Drafts has a different sort of customizability which mainly derives from relatively easy to implement precise text actions. It would take me only a few minutes to make an action that precisely moves the cursor in the editor in a certain way, for example.

Metaphorically speaking, Obsidian is a toolbox, while Drafts is a Swiss knife.

Also worth mentioning is that are both play together well together well due to their strong markdown-orientation. Factor in that both can be also be easily automated by non-coders with URL Schemes, it is just really attractive to use both of them together (as opposed to, let’s say, Drafts & Notion).

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You raise the question in my mind of which to write automation for - and indeed if there is some duplication.

Drafts is my inbox and capture tool (OS integration + actions).
iA Writer is where I focus on writing (beautiful interface + publishing).
Obsidian is where I create and discover connections (backlinks + local files).