Getting Started with Templates in Obsidian

A photo of a bunch of identical cookies on a baking sheet.

If you’re new to Obsidian, the first thing I recommend is to start creating notes.

There is no better way to learn how to use a tool than jumping in.

It doesn’t matter what your notes contain at the moment, that will come later. First you need to figure out what you want to store in Obsidian, and once you do that you can figure out how you want it to look.

If you need help getting started, here are a few handy resources for you:

If you’ve already done that, say you have at least 10-100 notes in Obsidian, then it’s probably time to start thinking about formatting your notes.

Formatting Your Notes

Why should you format your notes? A few reasons:

  • The more notes you have, the more important it is to use a consistent format. This makes searching and modifying your notes much easier
  • It results in a lot less mental overhead. If your formatting is inconsistent, then it will be harder to read through or reuse your notes
  • It makes your notes more enjoyable to create and read. Have you heard that creativity is all about constraints? Note-taking is the same: without constraints, you won’t be able to unleash your creativity

There are many different ways to format your notes, we’ll get into a few common ways in this article.

How Templates in Obsidian Can Help You Format Your Notes

One of the best ways to ensure consistent formatting in Obsidian is to use templates.

Templates are notes that are easy to copy into other notes. Sometimes templates include dynamic content that changes depending on the note, and sometimes they are just text. Whatever the case, templates are a quick way to create notes in a consistent manner.

Templates can contain anything. Links, tags, images, metadata, text, whatever you want. But I recommend keeping your templates simple at first, and adding more to them only as needed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: how do we set up templates in Obsidian?

Setting Up Templates in Obsidian

There are many options for templating in Obsidian.

One of the most popular options for templates is a community plugin called Templater. Templater is an incredible plugin, and gives you a great deal of control over your templates. But it’s complicated and advanced, and in my opinion most people don’t need the extra features that it offers.

Instead, I recommend starting with the built in Template plugin. This plugin doesn’t require you to install anything, and it’s very easy to start using. All you have to do is turn it on and configure it.

To turn it on, go to Settings > Core plugins and turn on the “Templates” plugin (if it’s not already turned on):

A screenshot of how to enable the Templates plugin in Obsidian.

Once you do that, click “Templates” in the sidebar, and you will see configuration for the Templates plugin:

A screenshot of the Template options in Obsidian.

I suggest you leave the default settings, except for the folder: you’ll need to create a specific folder for your templates to live in. This folder can live anywhere in your vault, all you have to do is create an empty folder (I call mine Templates), and add it to this field:

A screenshot of the Template Folder setting in Obsidian, with the Templates folder filled in.

Once you have your templates folder set up, you’re good to go!

Creating Your First Template

My default template is quite simple, and if you’re new to templates, I recommend that you start simple as well. Here is what I use:

---
parent: "[[Fleeting MOC]]"
tags:
- 🪴weedy
date: {{date:YYYY-MM-DD}}T{{time:HH:mm}}
---

This template only includes properties: metadata that I want to include in all of my notes. I don’t include any copy because I don’t typically include any default copy in my notes, only metadata.

I include a single link under “parent” (which reminds me to refactor my fleeting notes), a single tag, and a hard-coded date created field. This is all I need in most notes.

The only complication is the date field: that field uses a template variable to automatically create a valid date field that includes the date and time of when I created the note. It’s handy to have if you want to create visualizations based on when your note was created (like this).

I recommend something similar for your first template. Create something with minimal metadata, and add more as needed.

Remember that all good systems start simple: don’t overthink this until you’ve used it for a while.

Note: {date} and {time} are both template variables. There’s one other template variable available, {title}, which you can use to automatically copy the title of your note into the body of your note.
Those are all the variables offered by Obsidian at this time. If you have more complex template needs, you might want to look into the Templater plugin.

Inserting a Template

Once you have your first template set up, it’s time to learn how to use it.

There are several ways to insert templates into a note. The simplest is to use the ribbon: on the left side of your screen (or under the hamburger menu on mobile) is an icon you can click to insert a template:

A screenshot of the ribbon in Obsidian, with Insert Template highlighted.

The ribbon can be handy, but instead I recommend you use the command palette, or a keyboard shortcut. I like to use the keyboard shortcut ctrl+T (or cmd+T on a Mac) for templates.

No matter how you choose to insert your template, Obsidian will ask which template it should apply. It will give you a list of all the templates you have, and you can click on one or use your keyboard to select one:

A screenshot of the “insert a template” overlay in Obsidian.

Select your template and Obsidian will insert the contents of that template into your active note!

Why I Don’t Have Any Default Copy

I used to have a default structure for the contents of my notes. That structure included a header, a section for notes, and some footnotes. It looked something like this:

# {title}

Content goes here

## Related / Inspiration

## Footnotes
[^1]:
[^2]:

This worked well for a while, but over time I decided I didn’t need it, because I built other ways to do the same thing. For instance:

  • In Obsidian settings, I turned on “Appearance > Show inline title”. This pulls the title of the note down into the body copy, which eliminates the need for a title within the note
  • I used to include footnotes in my template because they are a pain to type. Now I use the footnote plugin, which makes this much easier

I also removed the “Related” header because I don’t use that very often, and when I do, it’s no trouble to just type it.

I like how clean my notes look now: since properties are hidden by default, my notes look like just content, which I prefer. Here’s a quick before/after:

A screenshot of my current note template compared with a previous template. The old template looks messy and is full of metadata, and the new template focuses just on content.

As you can see, format makes a big difference! I much prefer my new format on the right.

Changing Your Template

I thought I would show you the above example to show how I have evolved my template over time. These templates are not static: any time your template is getting in the way of your work, you should change it.

The best template for me right now is a barebones one, which includes only metadata. That said, I do have a few other templates I use for other things.

Daily Notes Template

I like to journal, and I have for many years. I find that journaling gives me peace of mind, and it helps me to see the progress that I make in my life, from year to year and decade to decade.

When I started using Obsidian, I was able to transfer my journals from the journal app I was using at the time (Diarly, in case you’re curious), to Obsidian.

I like to have my journal in Obsidian, because of all the extra features it offers.

I’ve written extensively about the features of my Daily Journal, but I haven’t yet published my current iteration. For your consideration, here it is:

## Daily Questions
Today did I...
- Workout::0
- RT::0
- Rain::0

## Journal Entries


## Day planner
- 09:30-10:30 Writing and Obsidian work
- 10:30-11:30 Client work
- 11:30-12:30 Lunch
- 13:00-13:30 Client work
- 13:30-14:30 Backyard work
- 14:30-17:00 Client work

## Notes

dataviewjs
await dv.view(“code/created-today”, {date: “{{date:YYYY-MM-DD}}”, path: ”});
“`

Tasks

done on {{date:YYYY-MM-DD}}
path does not include Journal
\```

It’s much more complicated than the previous template! But it’s tremendously useful for me, and not only does it help me keep track of my life, but it also sets me up for success every morning.

My latest addition is the Day Planner section, which I use in tandem with the recently redesigned Day Planner plugin. With that in there, I now consistently create my Daily Note every morning, and plan my day first thing. This has helped my productivity tremendously: more on that soon.

Article Templates

I do a lot of writing in Obsidian, some of which I intend to publish. When I want to publish something, I create it using an “Article” template.

My article template includes a lot more metadata, and a little more content. Here’s what it looks like:

---
date: {{date:YYYY-MM-DD}}T{{time:HH:mm}}
status: Idea
publishurl: []
tags:
- writing/idea
parent: "[[Writings MOC]]"
---

# Article Header

## Notes / Inspiration

You can see some of the same elements I have in the first template: a date, and a parent file. But I also include a “publishurl” to keep track of where I ultimately publish this article, a tag for tracking status (link to article about this), and a status.

On the content side, I do like to include an article title here (sometimes I like to experiment with titles, and I don’t like to constantly change the file name), and a section for notes and/or inspiration.

This template helps keep all my publishable writing consistent and organized, with no additional work from me.

Again, that’s one of the nicest things about templates: they help you maintain consistency across your whole vault.

Keeping Your Metadata Consistent

For more advanced users, if you struggle to keep your metadata formatted consistently, see this article on using Linter to organize properties.

I change my metadata frequently, and I like to be able to maintain a consistent order across my vault. If you feel the same way, see the above for a solution.

Conclusion

Templates are great for minimizing repetitive work. Any time you find yourself copy/pasting from one note to another, consider using a template instead.

Templates are also great for things that you have trouble remembering. For instance, I used a template for a while to add callouts to my notes. I struggled to remember how to make a callout, so I used a template. I also use Templates for all sorts of little Dataview snippets, such as my method to quickly create MOCs.

In any case, if you haven’t given Templates in Obsidian a try, I hope you do! If you use Obsidian often, they will save you a lot of time and trouble.

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