Getting started with any note taking application can be difficult. When it comes to Obsidian, I find that the best way to get started is to create a home note, which will act as a starting place for you every time you open the application. Home notes in Obsidian can define the purpose of this vault, giving you direction, guidance, and a springboard to launch you into the rest of the vault.
Home notes can be incredibly simple or incredibly complex. My first home note was a list of links, and that’s all it was. Over time I have added and removed many things from my home note.
A Note on types of Notetakers
Tiago Forte says that there are three types of note takers: the architect, the gardener, and the librarian. I think many of the home notes below reflect one of these three archetypes, and one of the best ways to discover your archetype is to try out different types of home notes, and see what works best for you.
Obsidian is noted in the above article as a gardening app, and I think that’s partially true. Obsidian can be used by any of the three archetypes, but gardening is its strength.
The Simplest Home Note
The simplest home note in Obsidian is a list of links, and that’s all it is. It’s a “table of contents”-like structure that gives an idea of the contents of this vault. My first home note looked like this:
- [[Faith MOC]]
- [[Projects MOC]]
- [[Concepts MOC]]
- [[Books MOC]]
This is a great way to go, especially when you’re starting out. It’s dead simple to change, so you can play around with it until you figure out what works best for you.
LYT Home Note
Version 6 of Nick Milo’s Linking Your Thinking vault includes a more complex version of the above home note. In v5 of the LYT kit, Nick structured his note in lists similar to the above method. However, version 6 has something completely different.
Nick organized his new home note on current moods or desires. This is a nice way to work, because it gives you “leading questions”, and really helps discern the right type of work for the current moment. This is how Nick’s latest home note looks:
|I want to…||…play with ideas|
|Encounter some new things||🐦 , 📚|
|Process interesting stuff||[[Cooling pad 🧊]]|
|Develop my notes||[[Notebox 🗃 (Kit)]]|
|Develop my ideas||[[Ideas ✨ (Kit)]]|
|Evolve my ideas||[[Essays 🖌]]|
|Share my ideas||[[Artifacts 💠]]|
Nick then has three more tables: one for active projects, one for referencing existing knowledge, and one for thinking in general. I like the structure here: start with creating new notes, check on your projects, and then explore the rest of your vault and your mind. You can see the whole note at notes.linkingyourthinking.com/Home, or by downloading the LYT 6 Kit.
The Growing Index
Some people prefer a much more complete home note. A Growing Index attempts to include a path to every other note in the vault, one way or another. This technique often requires creating indexes-of-indexes. Your home note might link to twenty different indexes, and each index links to its own subset of notes.
If you haven’t used community plugins before, here’s how to do that.
Due to the nature of this type of home note, it’s hard to find good examples. Dataview only runs in local vaults, so a proper growing index only works locally. However, examples that come close include this recipe collection, the Quantum Well, and Intuitions. Bryan Jenks’ is index-like, with a sprinkling of other methodologies.
Dashboard home note
Another popular way of structuring your home note is to create a dashboard. A dashboard also involves lists, but it has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well.
There are several good articles on setting up your own dashboard. Dashboard++ is the original, and Mike Schmitz added his own twist to it. The dashboard is a little more complicated to set up, but it’s every bit as functional and versatile as the other options above.
Dashboard often use inline queries from Dataview to give you useful stats or pull in current projects.
Personally I love the use of the banner plugin. Whether you use a dashboard or not, you might want to try this plugin. I added it to my vault, and it gives me joy every time I open a note with a banner. The images help to break up the text, and make your vault feel more like home.
I currently use a dashboard-style home note, and it looks like this:
I call Andy Matuschak’s home note a “Springboard”. You can see it here.
Andy’s home note doesn’t attempt to be an index, or a table of contents. It contains a small number of starting points, and it allows you to dip your toes into the water without getting overwhelmed.
This is the ultimate “gardener” approach to a home note. It requires quiet and subtle changes over time. You risk losing notes this way, and it gives no impression of how much information is available “below the surface”. But it’s very calming and asks nothing of you, in true gardener fashion.
Springboards often have a “start here” note in addition to a home note, to help guide people in a particular direction.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how to set up your ideal home note in Obsidian. Again, I’d recommend trying several or all of the above archetypes, and modifying them to suit the way you work.
If you find any other methodologies not listed here, let me know! I’m always trying to improve my home note, and new ideas are always welcome.