Obsidian Mobile: Five Tips for Success

A few different examples of what Obsidian Mobile looks like.

Let’s talk about Obsidian Mobile.

If you’re like me, you want to be able to carry your notes around and access them on the go. There are plenty of reasons why you might want this:

  • Maybe you need to refresh your memory on an article that you read
  • Maybe you need to quickly write down an idea before you forget it
  • Maybe it’s a convenient way for you to create and access project files
  • Maybe you work for NASA, and if you forget the wrong detail at the wrong time then the world could explode!

Fortunately, if you have an Android or iOS phone, there are plenty of good ways to carry around your digital notes.

One of my favorite ways is to use the official Obsidian Mobile app (shocking, I know!)

Obsidian Mobile (with support for both iPhone and Android) is a powerhouse on mobile. There’s so much you can do with it, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind as you’re building your perfect mind palace.

Here’s how to get the most out of Obsidian Mobile!

Tip 1: Limit Mobile Usage

One of the big downsides to Obsidian on mobile is that it can get slow if you aren’t careful. Many people consider it to be a “desktop first” app, and one reason why is because—for big vaults—the startup time can be slow.

On Desktop I’ve never had any speed issues. I have a vault with over 6,000 files and 50+ plugins, and it runs as smooth as butter. But on mobile it’s a very different experience: the same vault takes anywhere from 10-20 seconds to start up.

But there’s an easy way to fix this problem! Use fewer resources on mobile.

Disable plugins you don’t need (both core and community plugins), and delete files you don’t need on mobile. If you use Obsidian Sync, I recommend using selective sync and only syncing the files that you need on your phone. If you use PARA, exclude your Archives folder on mobile. Easy as that.

Obsidian is quite fast on mobile once it starts up, so if you don’t mind a slow startup time, then you can still use Obsidian with as many files as you like. But do keep in mind that slow startup time may interfere with taking quick notes, or quickly referencing something.

Bonus tip: if you can adjust the settings on your phone to always keep Obsidian open in the background, then you won’t have to worry about this at all. If the app is always open, then you won’t have to sit through the startup time often, if ever.

Tip 2: Learn the Interface

The interface on mobile is similar to desktop, but it has some key differences. Here’s a quick tutorial on the Obsidian Mobile interface.

Navigating the Sidebars

The sidebars on mobile can be a bit confusing. The first thing you need to know is how to swap items in the mobile sidebar. For instance, if you’re looking at backlinks, how do you access other items in the sidebar? Counterintuitively, you tap “Backlinks”, and Obsidian will close the backlinks pane and give you other options. There’s also a little arrow button you can use, but I find it easier to tap the name of the current pane itself.

A screenshot of the right sidebar in Obsidian Mobile, with the backlinks pane showing.

Tap anywhere within that circle, and the backlinks pane will close, showing you all of the other sidebar options you have here.

That was the hardest thing for me to learn, because it’s so different than it is on desktop. Hopefully you saved yourself some confusion by learning this here!

Above you can see the right sidebar. Swipe from the right side to open this sidebar. This pane by default shows backlinks, outgoing links, outline, file properties, and plugin functionality (if applicable).

Swipe from the left side to see the left sidebar. This pane includes the vault switcher, the settings (gear icon), along with your file manager, search, and bookmarks:

A screenshot of the left sidebar in Obsidian Mobile, with the file picker pane showing.

Again, tap on the pane title to see other options. In the above example, you can tap “Files”, and it will give you other options. By default this sidebar allows you to access the file picker, search, bookmarks, and global properties.

To switch vaults, tap on the name of your vault, and it will give you the option to change vaults.

The Navigation Bar

Mobile is also equipped with a navigation bar that you don’t see on desktop. This tool allows you to navigate through your notes more quickly.

A screenshot of the navigation bar in Obsidian Mobile.

This toolbar includes forward and back buttons, a “plus” icon to create a new note (using the Quick Switcher, which is how I prefer to create notes), a tab switcher, and a hamburger menu.

What is behind the hamburger menu you ask? Well let me tell you: it’s the equivalent of the ribbon on Desktop. It gives you quick access to a number of simple features that you may use frequently:

A screenshot of the ribbon in Obsidian Mobile.

These entries will look different for you, because they depends on what plugins you have enabled. I rarely use the ribbon on mobile, but it’s there if you need it.

Tip 3: Use Mobile Exclusive Features

Obsidian has a few features that are mobile-specific that are tremendously helpful on mobile. Let’s go into each of them now.

Mobile Quick Action

On both iOS and Android, you can use the “Mobile Quick Action” by swiping down anywhere in the app. This is a special feature meant to speed up your most frequently used action.

By default the Mobile Quick Action opens the Command Palette, which is a great choice for this. Learn more about the command palette here. This is not a mobile-specific tool, but it is particularly useful on mobile, since often times you aren’t able to use keyboard shortcuts on mobile.

A screenshot of the command palette in Obsidian Mobile.

If you don’t use the command palette much, then you can bind the Quick Action to whatever you want. You can do that in “Settings > Mobile”.

Mobile Toolbar

The mobile app also comes with a special mobile toolbar. This toolbar shows up anytime you are editing text:

A screenshot of the mobile toolbar in Obsidian Mobile.

It allows you to quickly add to or format your text without keyboard shortcuts. Anything that is hard to type on a phone, you can do with this toolbar.

The default options are pretty good, but I suggest you customize these. Add anything you use frequently while editing text. For instance, I don’t often bold or italicize text on mobile, so I have swapped those functions out for things that I do use, such as footnotes and attachments. You can even add plugin functions to this toolbar, which can be super helpful!

You can add and remove actions from this toolbar in “Settings > Mobile”.

Tip 4: Use Another App for Quick Capture… For Now

If you’ve seen the Obsidian Roadmap recently, you might notice that “Mobile quick capture” is on the list. Personally, I hope the team uses that as an excuse to make some mobile optimizations as well, because the app can be pretty slow on mobile.

But until we have the official quick capture solution, I suggest you use a separate app when you need to add something quickly to your vault.

On iOS the Drafts app is an excellent choice. It opens instantly and allows you to start typing right away: exactly what you want from a Quick Capture app. There are also workflows available for Drafts that allow you to send notes straight to Obsidian.

On Android, my favorite option is Markor. It’s not the prettiest app I’ve seen, but it’s free and snappy. It also has a “Quick Capture” feature that allows you to… well, quickly capture notes. There are plenty of other good Markdown editors on Android, but Markor is my favorite for its simplicity. (it also doesn’t require a login, which is a pet peeve of mine. I refuse to login to a note taking app for goodness sakes)

Tip 5: Keep It Simple

You can set up Obsidian to do extremely complicated things. But on mobile, I would encourage you to keep it simple. Complexity has a cost, and the more complicated you make your vault, the harder it becomes to maintain.

Learn about Maps of Content and add a few of our favorite plugins if you so desire, but don’t go overboard. Simplicity is key to winning with Obsidian Mobile.

Conclusion

Obsidian Mobile is a capable and powerful tool, but it can take some work to get it set up properly. I hope that the above tips help you to WIN with Obsidian!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or place them in the comments below.

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