Zettelkasten

Posts from 2020

First Teaser for the Second Edition of the Zettelkasten Method Book

This little snippet is from the section One Sentence Summary in the chapter How to Write Good Notes. You will read from other sources that a Zettelkasten is idiosyncratic. It can hardly be understood by another person. The reasoning is that you write in your own Zettelkasten in such a way that only you can really understand. But the thought of the future self does not allow such a weak position: You are not yet who you will become. The future self is someone other than oneself. Technically, we always write for someone other than ourselves. It is difficult to be understood – even by yourself. If you write in such a way that you can be understood by as many other people as possible, there is a high probability that you will understand yourself later, too. In the span of two decades we all (hopefully) develop considerably. We are not just a little bit different. We are (hopefully) a completely different person. Arrange your Zettelkasten in such a way that anyone could operate it.

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Backlinking Is Not Very Useful -- Often Even Harmful

Disclaimer: I talked with Christian about what backlinks are. I don’t mean it as a technical concept like software and web developers would use the term. To me, a backlink is a link that allows you to go to files that refer to the very note you are looking at. Practically, it does not matter how the backlink is generated, by hand or presented to you by your software. Automatic backlinks are not only automatic when there is software that is showing them for you. If you create a backlink apparatus by habit it is still automatic. The automatization software would then be in your head.

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Introduction to the Zettelkasten Method

English OriginalChinese Translation {{TOC}} Why are you reading this introduction? The chances are that you either have an immediate need to solve the riddle of knowledge work, feel overwhelmed by your master’s thesis, try to level up your blog, want to write a book because it’s cool, try to get on top as a consultant, excel at research, or something like that. But the Zettelkasten Method is more than just a tool to finish some work or project. It is a holistic method on how to deal with knowledge in your life.

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The Archive v1.5.7

Today, v1.5.7 of The Archive is available on the “Cutting Edge” update channel. It’ll become available on the regular, stable, “Release” channel in about a week. Most notably, you can now hold the Cmd key when you click on links to open them in a new tab, just like in a web browser. And a lot of you mouse-less nerds will enjoy the ability to jump between links in a note with a shortcut (Ctrl-Tab by default), and open the link under the cursor (Ctrl-L). This can speed up navigation within your archive a lot!

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Leave Breadcrumbs on Bookmarks for Your Future Self

A little trick from my desk: You can rarely process a book in one session. The question is how to continue from where you stopped the next time you pick up the book. If you use a slip card as a bookmark, there is a neat solution for you: Just write a hint on the slip card. Take a look at this example (annotated because most of you neither speak German nor can read my scribbles comfortably):

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Alfred Macro Collection for The Archive

Paul Ryley (@pryley on the forums) whipped up an amazing Alfred macro collection for The Archive. – Huuuuge thanks go out to Paul for taking the time to working with The Archive better for Alfred users! That means you get a ton of macros to remote-control your Zettelkasten in general and The Archive in particular from Alfred. Alfred is a tool for application launching, global hotkeys, text expansion, and macro invocation. The macro stuff means you can bring up Alfred with a shortcut, then select e.g. the “Search The Archive” macro, and type your search term there.

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Don't Dehorsify the Horse

The Zettelkasten Method seems to get more and more popular. With popularity of methods there always comes a problem: Overzealous Orthodoxy. Some people, for various reasons, try to state what a Zettelkasten is and what not. A good example is the use of categories: Do you have a Zettelkasten if you use a Zettelkasten? Some people argue that you wouldn’t have a Zettelkasten if you use a Zettelkasten and the very point of a Zettelkasten is to ditch the categories.

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Video Demo: TextMate as a Zettelkasten App

TextMate is a free, open-source macOS text editor that we mention on this site since forever. It is also damn good at navigating files in a big folder. So it’s a good alternative to dedicated Zettelkasten software. In this video, I demonstrate the basic interaction patterns for TextMate to get a plain text Zettelkasten working: how to navigate around, make use of the folder-relative “Open Quickly” command, and create new notes. You know, everything you really need to be productive.

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The Archive Turns 2 Years Old

The dominating topic of this month is COVID-19. Nevertheless, The Archive is celebrating. We don’t let pessimism grip us and carry on. Last week, on March 15th, was The Archive‘s 2nd anniversary. Just like we’re all supposed to not celebrate big birthday parties or gather for festivities in general, this year’s app anniversary is toned way down as well. Here’s to what has happened in the past year.

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Make [[WikiLinks]] Clickable in Marked 2

In the forums, @mjknight shared a Marked 2 preprocessor script that you can use to transform non-standard [[wiki link]] to become regular Markdown links that you can click on. Marked will expand the path, so in my case ~/scripts/marked_wikilink_preprocessor.rb becomes /Users/ctm/scripts/marked_wikilink_preprocessor.rb and it shows a faint "OK” next to the path text field.

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Emulate Automatic Link Suggestions in Your Note-Taking App and The Archive

If your note-taking app of choice doesn’t support auto-completion to suggest links while you type, what can you do? Not all software can implement the exact same feature that I’d like it to have. Then I try to figure out ways to use a tool to do what I want, breaking down the feature into more basic steps, each of which I could do manually, if needed. This works surprisingly well most of the time.

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Insert a List of Backlinks Into All Your Notes

Andy Matuschak shared a script called note-link-janitor with us the other day that maintains a list of backlinks in all of your Markdown notes. And yes, by “maintains” I really mean “maintains”: if it doesn’t exist, it adds a ## Backlinks section at the end of each Zettel with a list of incoming links, and it updates the section on subsequent runs. This means you can run the script as often as you’d like, and it always produces an up-to-date result – as opposed to, say, naively adding a new ## Backlink section time and time again. When you run the script regularly, you’ll always have an up-to-date backlink list in your notes. Neat.

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