Quick Tip: Write Better Notes with the Obsidian Quick Switcher

A photo of a pencil and an eraser on a blank piece of paper.

Editor’s note: This tip is for intermediate users of Obsidian. If you’re new to Obsidian, see our article on Getting Started with Obsidian Notes.

Note-taking: it’s about remembering things.

Or is it?

When I started taking notes, I did it for one reason: to capture things that I knew I wasn’t going to remember.

  • An obscure programming topic? Make a note.
  • Someone gives me their phone number? Make a note.
  • Someone recommends a movie? Make a note.

Aiding your memory is a valid reason for taking notes. But it only scratches the surface of what note-taking can do for you.

Making notes not only helps you capture knowledge that you care about, but it also helps you create new knowledge.

Creating New Knowledge Through Note Making

In the modern era, all new knowledge comes from the intersection of ideas.

There are millions of topics to choose from. Do you like to:

  • Make ferment foods?
  • Make homemade sodas?
  • Put together jigsaw puzzles?
  • Collect coins?

Everything you spend time doing is based on idea. And every individual has their own unique collection of ideas that appeal to them.

But most people don’t have a system for their ideas. Today you might be interested in hand-knit yak wool sweaters. You do a bunch of research, find a sweater you want, and decide you’ll buy it when winter comes around. But if you don’t capture that knowledge somewhere, you’ll forget it.

On the other hand, say you have a trusted note-taking system. Instead of researching and forgetting, you create a note, called “Yak wool sweaters”, and you quickly note down the research you did, and the conclusion you came to. Then you forget it.

Six months later, it starts getting cold out, and you realize that you’re ready for a yak wool sweater. Without notes, you would have to go back and do all of that research again, possibly coming to a different conclusion. With a simple note, on the other hand, you only have to search your vault, and you’ll find exactly what you need.

The Problem with Using Notes to Aid Your Memory

You can see why it can save you tons of time to have a trusted note-taking system.

But you may have noticed an issue in the above story: it still relies upon your memory. You have to remember to check your notes for that handcrafted wool sweater. If you don’t do that, then you might as well go back to the drawing board.

This is one of the biggest limitations to paper note-taking systems. In order to find whether you have a note on a given topic, you have to be much more organized. With digital systems, you can just use search.

In Obsidian, there’s a quick trick to make sure you always do this. When creating a new note, don’t just create a new note. Use the Quick Switcher.

What is the Quick Switcher? The Quick Switcher is a core plugin in Obsidian (which means it’s included with the app). In order to use it, look for “Quick Switcher” in your settings. Once enabled, you can press ctrl/cmd+O to open it. It will look something like this:

An example of the Quick Switcher plugin in Obsidian.

To use the Quick Switcher, just start typing. The Quick Switcher will first search to see if you have any existing notes of that name, and if there aren’t any, then you can press enter to create one.

If you get into a habit of using this tool, then you may even surprise yourself. You may find something that you want to take a note on, only to discover that you already have a note on that topic, and you can now add new information to your already existing note.

Congratulations! Your notes are no longer a collection of barely useful sticky notes. They are now a conversation you have over time with yourself, and a way to ensure that you are always moving forward, and always learning.

One response to “Quick Tip: Write Better Notes with the Obsidian Quick Switcher”

  1. Edmund Williams Avatar
    Edmund Williams

    This is an excellent tip, thank you. I’m starting to use it every time I have Obsidian open to add information notes, simple and powerfull.

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