Drafts Used for a Zettelkasten

Do you mean the reviews of the book?

I can guess why this is. The reading is nevertheless worthwhile.

Please ignore the bashing of GTD-guru David Allen in the first chapters. He acknowledges his work later on implicitly and explicitly.

And I do not agree with his software advice. (Drafts is a better choice)

Do not forget that paper is still a competition to software.

I love that - you can see why but would still recommend it! I will give it a go… thank you very much.

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“The Archive” is a software product designed from the start for use with a ZK. The developers run a site devoted to ZK use. You can learn from some of the discussions, but you can also get lost in what seem to me to be theoretical distinctions of no great importance.

I first experimented with a ZK using The Archive. But, with Version 20, Drafts emerged with much more ZK-related functionality. At this point, The Archive’s functionality is a sub-set of what Drafts offers, both for ZK purposes and for a lot of other things.

On the other hand, The Archive developers are good sources for improving your understanding of how a ZK is supposed to work – particularly if you are an academic.

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thanks for that context. that is often a great misunderstanding. as a software engineer with a documentation stream and a dad of four / philosopher / soul pilgrim at night my Zettelkasten requirements are very different then those of a academic scholar (is scholar the right word?)

I am working with a mixed system (drafts and paper) - we will see how this works out.

I would just love to have a system

Thank you for this. I would love to see someone’s system!

Please read this post with the understanding that I probably don’t know what I’m talking about.

The Zettelkasten (hereafter ZK) method has its origins in academia, particularly in that sub-set of academia that is most involved with research of books and scholarly articles. The book “How to Take Smart Notes” originates from that background.

The theory of a ZK is that: (a) When narrowly focused notes are, (b) organized using so-called structure notes (notes comprised mainly of links forming Tables of Content), and are also © linked to each other as logical connections are identified – then the resulting network will generate new insights. As the size and complexity of the ZK grows, critical mass will be achieved. At that point following link sequences will reveal new knowledge. It is an exciting idea.

But, the methods of a ZK can be applied to more pedestrian pursuits. Examples: (1) A lawyer preparing for a complex lawsuit, (2) A police detective investigating a series of crimes with a gazillion facts but no obvious solution, and (3) An investment banker organizing information related to a major acquisition or merger. In these examples, having the ability to quickly establish a link between, say, note 53 and note 417, which is in turn linked to notes 87 and 286 has obvious value. It would not take long for a system like this to grow large enough to overwhelm conventional methods of organization. But, using the ZK method, connective “threads” that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible to find, become immediately visible.

You can step things down even further in terms of sophistication. Because I’m old and because of the virus it seemed prudent for me to create a system that would guide my wife and daughter in the event my “got run over by a bus” moment suddenly arrived. I used ZK methods for this project.

I started with what I called a “Master Index” with links to second-level indices (i.e., tables of content) for subjects such as Notifications, Estate Documents, House and Property, Finances, and Dogs. Each second-level “structure note” (i.e., table of content) has links to notes with “actual” information. For the Dogs ToC there are links to notes for: Vet, Food, Microchips, Licenses, etc. The last entry in the note Vet is a link “up” to “Dogs” and the last entry in “Dogs” is a link “up” to the Master Index. The last entry in every note (I should probably call them drafts) is always a link “up.”

This up and down organizational structure is easily extended or revised. You may find (as I did) that the need for detail grows rapidly beyond your initial assessment. When you realize something is missing, it is easy to add a new link and note. The system becomes incrementally more useful.

Links “up” and “down” are not the only options. Notes can link to other notes – to peers. Here is an example. We have a pest control service that comes bi-monthly. I get a computer-generated telephone call to my cell phone telling me when they will next make a service call. When the job is complete I am sent an invoice by email. Reference to the pest control service appears in several notes: Notifications (to change email and telephone number),Routine Bills, as well as Utilities and Services. It has its own note under the category House and Property. All of these notes are linked to each other.

This structure (it lives in its own Drafts workspace) is not a ZK in the sense described by “How to Take Smart Notes.” I don’t expect any profound insights to suddenly emerge. (Gads! I just realized that the dogs know how to lubricate the garage door!!). But, it is unquestionably a convenient structure for organizing information, even the sometimes complex but routine matters of everyday life.

Bottom line: It is important to distinguish the ZK Method as it was originally conceived in paper and is now being used digitally in academia, from less sophisticated but more frequently encountered organizational challenges. Because of its amazing flexibility, Drafts can be used at whichever level of sophistication you need to address.


Woah. That is a fantastic overview. Thank you very much! I am very excited to delve into this further but being an accountant l am concerned it may not work as well as I am hoping.

@Bjb this is an excellent overview of the ZK method. One of your previous posts helped me define the difference between “smart notes” and a distributed notes setup in this new bi-directional wiki-link world.

I would pair what you shared with two additional posts. Each helped me structure my Drafts migration:

  1. A case for MOCs - Knowledge management - Obsidian Forum
  2. Maps of Content Starter Kit - Obsidian Forum

The new challenge that has emerged is:

  1. Smart Notes by John Ahren pushes us to take thoughtful notes.
  2. How we connect those notes
  3. The emergence of Roam & Obsidian, et al. And Bi-Directional linking as a digital means to create a digital reference network of notes.
  4. Making sense of it all simultaneously
  5. many of us rethink our cut and paste note taking methods.

I’ll say after having tried most every markdown / bi-directional note system out there - only one scratches all my itches.


Speed. Mobile. Search. Flexibility. Automation. Minimal lock in (Database but notes are exportable based on standards - unlike some others.)

The lack of auto-text bi-directional links (on the roadmap as I understand it) is a pro not a con. Using actions to create backlinks forces you to think carefully about your structure and connections. The manual process keeps you closer to the thoughtful notes written. Something I appreciate about Drafts.


Note that you don’t have to create backlinks to be able to follow a link back to a linking draft. Backlinks can be derived by actions so that when you run the action you are presented with a list of drafts that link to the current draft. Here are a couple of actions that do this.

  • Action Group: Example - Cross Links
    • Action: Back Links
      • Navigate to other drafts which contain links to the current draft. If only one linked draft is found, goes directly to that draft, otherwise prompts to select from found drafts.

  • Action Group: ThoughtAsylum - Management
    • Action: TAD-Load a Linked Draft
      • Generates an ad hoc list of back linked drafts - i.e. any draft that includes any type of draft wiki-style link (title, display title, with or without the ‘d’ identifier, or a UUID link). Drafts are displayed in last modified order along with a set of information to help you distinguish similarl or identically named drafts. Selecting a draft will load it into the editor.

I’ve used both - excellent actions that improve the wiki-link experience.


Masterful description of how one can benefit from the concept immediately.


is this script shared?


Beside the Crosslinking by agiletortoise it is this one

I’m not sure I understand. It’s shared in that post?

its quite long and has many links… just for quick grabbing

https://actions.getdrafts.com/a/1eC (here’s my small change to bjb’s original script)