Most of the themes in Obsidian are just not that attractive to me. Some use monospace fonts in the body text. Some use wacky colors for every attribute, which I find very distracting. I’m not a huge fan of the variable size header styles in most themes. So, I’m pretty excited when I find a theme that works for me on all devices and also makes writing feel nice. The Blackbird theme is in the lead this week. I previously enjoyed the Tokyo Night theme but prefer the much darker background of Blackbird.
As a bonus, I grabbed the Blackbird sample text off of GitHub and keep that in your vault. It’s a great way to really test a new theme before I get a surprise while writing. I added a few more test cases, such as footnotes and admonitions
I went a little crazy with plugins but this was no accident. As I previously wrote, most of the value in Obsidian comes from plugins so I wanted to see how well they played together. The road gets pretty rough with too many plugins. The editor can be unpredictable with conflicting plugins and I really have no idea how conflicts are resolved. Some plugins just break the editor on iOS since they were designed for use without a touch interface. None of this has stopped me from enjoying the creativity of a highly motivated community. I also really love seeing how crazy everyone gets with plain text.
I’m getting a bit skeptical about some of the plugins I’ve tried, simply because their development is stalling. While I’m happy to try some new trick, if a plugin has a low number of downloads, and the GitHub commits are more than two months old, I’m likely to jump ship at the first sight of trouble.
The Plugin Changelogs plugin3 is a nice addition to the Obsidian configuration panels. It displays a dropdown where you can quickly display the change log for a any plugin. I’d love this in every app.
I’m in love with the Templater plugin and have a lot more nerdy stuff to say about it in another article. For the time being, I’ll explain what it is. It’s a templating engine for inserting text that can also control Obsidian functions like creating , moving, and renaming documents. All of these templates using plain markdown with some Eta template text that exist and sync like any other document in Obsidian. There are powerful ideas here and I’m solving some of the trouble I have with Obsidian keyboard shortcuts and iOS finickiness.
There are frustrating gaps in keyboard navigation. I have really high standards for keyboard navigation with text editors. If I can’t tab from the title bar to the text body, then they blew it. Obsidian is missing a lot of navigation keyboard controls and I think that’s because it focuses so heavily on the command palette. Obsidian has nice options for assigning keyboard shortcuts for commands like opening the sidebars, but navigating them is so much effort, that I rarely use them. Even the command palette in Obsidian is not keyboard friendly. Sure, I can open it easily without a mouse, but I can not navigate the list without a pointer.
Here’s a general tip for people using Obsidian on the iPad: remap your Caps Lock key to escape. This will make the command palette in Obsidian much less domineering.
The editor view in Obsidian has some serious A.D.D. The window can spontaneously scroll while typing, especially while working at the bottom of a document. Text pops in and out of formatted styles while scrolling documents and the UI has weird glitches like overlapping fields, especially on iOS.
All of these are forgivable in the early days of an editor but they all increase distraction and friction. I’m still enjoying Obsidian but these rough spots will start to chap over time and I could see them pushing me away to an alternative editor. Fortunately all of these files are plain text in a bunch of folders, so I could move any time without much difficulty. Standards are great!
Even with all of these rough edges, I continue to be impressed with the Obsidian development team and their community. Everyone is considerate and open minded. There’s a bit too much focus on knowledge graphs and systems, but it’s all a fun distraction.
Yes, I’m vaccinated because I’m not a ding dong. Some travel is necessary to get by in the world, but I’m also the guy that is always wearing a mask indoors. There are more of us than the nutters so let’s support each other in making our way through this stupidity. ↩︎
Yes, I created a pinned note in Obsidian for writing these things down as I worked. It’s a nice feature of Obsidian ↩︎
That is a pretty awkward sentence but I didn’t name the plugin. ↩︎