Digital Smart Notes in Obsidian Part 3 - How to Create Permanent Notes

The best part comes next. It's up to you to decide how you will utilize your permanent notes. I use them to write and discuss topics that spark passion. What will you create?

Digital Smart Notes in Obsidian Part 3 - How to Create Permanent Notes

The best part comes next. It's up to you to decide how you will utilize your permanent notes. I use them to write and discuss topics that spark passion. What will you create?

Welcome to Digital Smart Notes in Obsidian Part 3. In Part 2, I covered creating Literature Notes. This article will cover how to develop Permanent Notes from multiple Literature Notes.

As a quick refresher, I follow a workflow adapted from How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens. The high-level tasks described in the book are:

  • Make fleeting notes
  • Make literature notes
  • Make permanent notes

I take fleeting notes as I highlight sources. Those fleeting notes are synced with Readwise, which is synced with Obsidian using the Readwise Community Plugin. Then, I create literature notes in Obsidian using the method that I discussed in "Digital Smart Notes in Obsidian Part 2." Finally, we have arrived at creating permanent notes.

I know that it has taken a while to release this part of my series, but I'm glad that I have waited. I have incorporated some powerful new tools and workflows to streamline the permanent note creation process. I think you will be happy with the results.

Plugins Used In This Article

Here is the list of community plugins that I utilize for my permanent note creation process.

  • Dataview (Particularly the dataviewjs functionality).
  • Workbench (For collecting my Literature Notes and thoughts)
  • QuickAdd (New addition to my workflow for quickly filling in the Permanent Note Template)

Permanent Note Creation Process

When I create a new permanent note, I use three basic workflows.

  • Gather literature notes and main thoughts.
  • Create a permanent note with QuickAdd.
  • File permanent note to slipbox.

I use the Obsidian workspaces feature to switch my layout to the task I am performing during these three workflows.

Gathering My Thoughts

The first thing I do is gather literature notes that I feel are related. I will use these notes in the permanent note that I am creating. For this, I open my Literature Notes page and my Workbench page from the Workbench plugin. I also open the Workbench page in preview mode in the right sidebar to see what I add to it quickly.

Permanent Note Creation Blank Workbench
Permanent Note Creation Blank Workbench

Literature Notes Page

The Literature Notes page uses the Dataview Plugin with a dataviewjs query to create a table that sorts my literature notes by tag frequency. This sorting allows me to see where I have tag clusters forming quickly. When I have many literature notes forming around a particular tag, there's a good chance that those literature notes are good candidates for inclusion in one or more new permanent notes.

Dataviewjs lets you execute javascript code as part of a dataview query. This script execution allows powerful table visualizations that may not otherwise be available in the regular dataview queries. I have always said that one of the best things about Obsidian is the community. The dataviewjs query below proves that. I asked a question in the Obsidian forum about how to go about this particular query, and Christian Badger Bach Houmann, the creator of the QuickAdd plugin that I will discuss later in the article, suggested the below dataviewjs query.

```dataviewjs
// Get all pages with tag #litnote
const pages = dv.pages("#litnote and -#processed");

// Instantiate object. Target format is "Tag": File[]
const s = {};

// Iterate all pages
pages.forEach(p => {
    // Get all tags for page except #litnote 
    const tags = p.file.etags.filter(t => t !== "#litnote");
    
    // Push each tag to the 's' object with the file
    tags.forEach(tag => {
        if (!s[tag]) s[tag] = [];
        s[tag].push(p.file.link);
    });
});
// Create a table
const sorted = Object.keys(s).sort((a, b) => s[b].length - s[a].length);
dv.table(["Tag", "Files"], sorted.map(i => [i, s[i].map(p => p)]));
```

This query produces the results seen in the Literature Notes page in preview mode.

Literature Notes Tag Cluster Page
Literature Notes Tag Cluster Page

Workbench Page

Once I can view my literature notes by tag frequency, I look down the page at the notes and use the following steps to start thinking about my permanent note.

  • As I see notes related, I use CMD-ALT-CLICK to open the note in a new pane and automatically add an embedded link to the note on the Workbench page. The workbench plugin provides this functionality.
  • Once I have selected two or more literature notes, I can close the Literature Notes page.
  • I add a "processed" tag to each of the literature notes that I have used so that Dataview will filter them out of my dataviewjs query the next time I create a permanent note.

My screen now looks like the following screenshot.

Processed Literature Notes
Processed Literature Notes

I can now close the literature notes that I have opened and give the Workbench page my full attention to finish the rest of my thought process. The Workbench is open in preview mode on the right sidebar to easily see the embedded literature notes.

Use the area under the embedded literature notes to clarify your thoughts on the permanent note.

Populated Workbench Page
Populated Workbench Page

You are now ready to create the permanent note.

Using QuickAdd to Create a Permanent Note

QuickAdd is a new plugin that I am using to automate the capturing and creating of notes. It has a built-in GUI for creating QuickAdd scripts to aid in note capture. Many of my QuickAdd workflows are now replacing Templater scripts in my vault. QuickAdd is found in the Community Plugins. Once installed, create a "capture" choice with the following options (you can change them to suit your use case and folder structure).

  • File Name: 3.Resources/Zettelkasten/Permanent Notes/{{DATE:YYMMDD}} - {{VALUE:TITLE}}
  • Create a file if it doesn't exist, should be toggled ON.
  • Capture format should be toggled on.
  • Finally, to make it easy to call the Permanent Note Creation QuickAdd choice from the command palette, I toggle the lightning bolt next to the choice name in the main QuickAdd Settings section.

I use the following capture format for my permanent note.

---
notetype: "Permanent Note"
cssclass: permanent-note
---
**{{VALUE:TITLE}}**

***
#permnote | {{VALUE: Tags-Space Delimited}}
***
# Relevant Notes:

# Notes:
{{VALUE: Notes}}

# Literature Notes:\n
```js quickadd
return await this.quickAddApi.utility.getClipboard();
```

In the settings and capture format, you will see a few QuickAdd formats.

  • {{VALUE: <Variable Name}} : This is a named variable that is used to bring up a user input modal. The value that the user inputs will be stored and output to the note.
  • {{DATE:YYMMDD}} : This will input the date in the following format YYMMDD. I use this as part of the identifier on Permanent Notes.
  • jsquickadd: The js quickadd section runs a bit of javascript to capture the clipboard and output that value to the note when it is created.
QuickAdd Choice Settings
QuickAdd Choice Settings

You can find further details on using QuickAdd at the QuickAdd Git Repository.

The permanent note has a few sections.

  • YAML frontmatter that defines the note type and cssclass for styling.
  • Tag section: Includes the "permnote" tag for search and any other domain-specific tags that you want to define.
  • Relevant Notes: This section is where you would link any other permanent notes that you feel are relevant to this permanent note.
  • Notes: This is the brief notes section of the permanent note.
  • Literature Notes: This is where the embedded literature notes that make up the permanent note will go.

When you are ready, perform the following:

  • Highlight the embedded literature notes from the workbench page and use copy or cut to get them in your clipboard (I prefer cut because it clears the workbench, leaving only my thoughts).
  • Bring up the command palette with CMD-P.
  • Type in the name of your QuickAdd choice for permanent note creation and hit enter.

QuickAdd will present you with several modals for data entry corresponding to each user-defined section in the permanent note.

Permanent Note Title Modal
Permanent Note Title Modal
Permanent Note Tag Modal
Permanent Note Tag Modal
Permanent Note Note Detail Modal
Permanent Note Note Detail Modal

You can now delete the contents of the Workbench note if you would like.

Filing the Permanent Note to the Slipbox Page

I have created a slipbox page in my vault that has various main topic headings nested with other topics beneath them. Once I make a new permanent note, I find a space on that page under a heading or create a new heading for the permanent note.

File the permanent note by following these steps:

  • Open the Slipbox page. A section called Not Processed at the bottom of my Slipbox page uses a Dataview query to create a table of unprocessed notes. I use this to open the newly constructed permanent note quickly.
  • Open the new permanent note. You'll notice in preview mode that the literature notes are all transcluded into the note.
  • Find a heading/subheading or new heading that fits the permanent note. You can use the outline view in the right sidebar (Outline is a core plugin that needs to be enabled) to easily navigate the slipbox headings and get a good overview of the Slipbox page.

In this case, I will start a new heading for Philosophy (Philosophy -> Stoicism -> Dealing with Emotions) because I want to keep it as a separate domain. If you didn't care as much about the label of Philosophy and wanted to concentrate on the Personal Growth aspect of the note, you could file it under the existing Personal Growth heading.

Slipbox Page Before Filing
Slipbox Page Before Filing
Slipbox Page After Filing
Slipbox Page After Filing

Note: Here is the Dataview query used at the Bottom of the Slipbox page.

```dataview
TABLE rows.file.link AS "Note", rows.file.cday AS "Date"

FROM !outgoing([[Slipbox]])

WHERE notetype="Permanent Note"

GROUP BY file.link

sort date ASCENDING
```

At this point, you could also explore more of your Slipbox and see if there were any relevant notes that you would like to link under the Relevant Notes section in the new permanent note.

Conclusion

We have now journeyed through the three main parts of the Digital Smart Notes process. We read and highlighted, taking fleeting notes along the way. Then we turned those highlights and fleeting insights into literature notes. Finally, we created permanent notes from our related literature notes. The best part comes next. It's up to you to decide how you will utilize your permanent notes. I use them to write and discuss topics that spark passion. What will you create?

Harley Stagner

I'm an IT professional working in technical marketing. I truly believe that our thoughts are the most unique asset that we can offer to the world. This will be a curated collection of mine.

More posts from this author