Storing notes inside the file folder

At work I have two laptops: my company’s, and the government department’s that I work for.

I’m managing a migration-to-cloud project. My system is split across these two systems, and on each I might store a file in my own OneDrive (ugh), or on the shared Teams area (UGH!).

Or in my email! On either system.

I have stuff all over the place at work. An index is essential.


OK - I didn’t consider two computers, ala work etc.

OTOH - wouldn’t this be the case for two separate JD systems - one on the work PC, one for personal stuff?

Or - if work stuff would reside in some space, ala 20-29 then you wouldn’t need to index it on the home computer, no? Or is it because you need to work on work stuff also on the home computer, so need the index-structure and don’t have access to it at home?

My work situation is one single project/system, which I use across multiple domains/computers. Let’s say I work for consulting company BIGCO and the government department whose project we are executing is the Department of Fun, DOF.

The numbers are all intermixed. I have 26 Communications and that includes a weekly project status pack to my stakeholder that’s produced on my BIGCO laptop. It’s 26.01. Its master version is in the BIGCO Teams shared area, but then I email it out every week and get comments/queries by email so they live in BIGCO > Outlook > 26.01. (Yes, I create numbered folders in Outlook. For everything.)

Then I have another comms pack that contains sensitive DOF data — server names, IP addresses, the sort of thing we usually keep on the network — and it only exists in the DOF Teams area. It’s 26.06 and again might have an Outlook folder.

These are all real examples. Another: I have category 11 Accounts, requests, access that collects all those things. 11.01 might be the setting up of my DOF account, 11.02 is about my security pass at BIGCO, 11.03 is my request for MS Project, and so on. These items are scattered around my world but I don’t care! I have an index which tells me where they are.

How do I do that? Easy: every index item looks like this. (This is a real one, which I’ve obfuscated.)

I use Bear’s hashtags, which are hierarchical. You get a nice sidebar of clickable tags. The first line in each note is always the location of the thing. In this case, I submitted a request and the response came via email so that’s where that thing is.

Then I have some notes, which is me helping future me with keywords. I know at some point I’ll want to look up my ‘division’ or ‘branch’ again, and this request has them. I’ve already used this to help someone else raise a similar request.

With my index, I found my old request in ~5 seconds. Literally seconds. I open Bear, hit Cmd-Shift-F, type a couple of words, and there it is. People watch over my shoulder and literally exclaim out lout. “Wow … how did you do that?”

(And by the way, I could grab that screenshot without moving from my kitchen table where I’m having my morning tea because my index is synchronised to this iPad. From anywhere I can immediately tell you if I have a thing, and where it is. I make sure that the contents of the notes don’t contain anything sensitive.)

You could do this without an index, but in this situation I’d consider it essential. And look at how simple it is: it’s just a note. That note took me less than a minute to create. It’s not some heavy operation and I’ve already been paid back in the time that it took.

I think I’ll make the new website page for ‘the index’ really clear that if you have a single system in a single place then maybe you don’t need an index. I think that’s the confusion here. But as soon as it spreads out, which is inevitable in many situations, you need one. No question.

It might be a neat home/work split, but I also use an index at home for other reasons. Basically the same as the scenario above though: I have some things that are only files, some things that are only emails, and some things that are only notes. How would I track those without an index?


Yeah, thanks for this example - I think that makes it clear why it’s powerful to have the index, to bring everything together, and it can stay scattered as needed across systems and it’s not a problem.

My question about the screenshot:

What purpose does the tag serve? It’s basically the same as the PRO.AC so what further utility does it bring? In the index file I’d assume you have this PRO.AC.ID live under the PRO.AC so is the index needed for any searching or something?

Bear detects your tags and makes them selectable items in the sidebar. Selecting one filters your notes to that tag. It’s really nicely implemented.

If you put a / in the tag it nests them in folders. And they autocomplete with tab when typing them out.

This gives me a view of my categories in my sidebar. The index builds its own structure. Given how little time it takes to do, it’s worth it.

And just to be 100% clear, I have a bunch of systems — each of which has a PRO identifier — whose index is all in Bear, all thrown in there together. Each index entry is a note. There are many hundreds.

This is why Bear’s hierarchical tags, and the simplicity of the PRO.AC.ID notation, is nice. To find/show all BIGCO-DOF notes I can either filter by searching for BICGO-DOF., or just click the top-level tag in the sidebar.

(Also BIGCO-DOF is how I obfuscated this example, actually I use a letter and two numbers as outlined here. L43 in this case, which you may be able to figure out if you’re a spy. :wink: )

So do you not store the notes in the JD directory structure? I mean I guess it’s just visual representation what you’re talking about with Bear as in your screenshot - you can see a tree structure of the subdirectories - here achieved via tags, right?

That’s neat in Obsidian - you always see the tree in the structure:


And so on, so I guess there’s no need for the tags and filter - as I see the ACs etc as collabsible tree nodes, so the orientation is simple.

OTOH - if you say each index entry is a note - these might live on different systems - the index you have in just one file right? With the entries being links to these separate notes - now these would be in your JD structure on the local machine right? So - if you’d have - but maybe Bear doesn’t have this - a collapsible tree view of the JD structure - you wouldn’t need tags and filtering? Or am I still missing something?

Also - taking your email reference before, coupled with other systems:

So let’s say you sent some email in a BIGCO project on the work computer, which is relevant and you want to create an entry for it in the JD structure somewhere, with a number, with a reference to the work email - so that you know where it’s at.

Obviously you’d record it in the index file - but would you create a note for this entry, with the directory in the JD structure on your home machine, with the directory containing a note - and the note giving the description mentioned above - saying this is in the work BIGCO email?

Or how do you concretely do it?

I do not. Bear has its own internal system — you add a note and it’s just in Bear. This then synchronises via their cloud service to all of your Bear apps wherever you run it.

Basically the same as Apple Notes. You don’t ever see the file which is your note. It’s just in a managed database somewhere.

Yeah that’s right.

I have one note per JD entry, and in that note I say where the item is. I have this as the first line of the note so it’s really obvious. I just put:

  • Location: BIGCO laptop/email.

Another note may say ‘DOF laptop/email’, or ‘DOF/OneDrive’, or whatever.

So then do you really need the index file per se?

You can just have this right? You have the note for each entry and it’s automatically indexed when you list it in Bear - so then you see what the next number is.

This basically seems parallel to my thinking - of not needing the index as a file per se - on your setup you have the note for each entry with the appropriate tag and its location, pointing you to the system where it resides.

In my thinking I’d have it in the directory structure - there in the appropriate directories also have the individual Obsidian note files for each entry, giving me also the location - i.e. Work email etc?

It is an index - as you say - albeit not an index file, I was thinking you have one note file, or spreadsheet where you list everything.

As a side note - this way (as it basically seems to me the same, just with me it’s one main directory structure - with you it’s the note tag structure in one app) could entail many local separate directories - referenced via the main index.

I was thinking there are let’s say files you want to keep in a separate directories - but still have them in the JD structure - photos as an example.

I was thinking it might not be beneficial - in my case where I have the directory for all files - to also bring them into this and file it inside - as it would bloat it. Like this they could have a separate “Photo” dir and the subdirectories there - and these would then be indexed in the main index - with location “Photos” or whatever. This way you could have many file structures locally - where appropriate - yet all indexed centrally.

What do you think?

I don’t have a single ‘index file’.

My individual notes, as a collection, in Bear, are my index.

What is your workflow for updating the index?

Do you have one device - like a tablet that you hold it at. Or do you rely on web synch over many devices.

What about entry? Are you super dilligent - i.e. send an email from a work comp that can’t synchronize maybe the index - and immediately update the index on a separate device? Or somehow process it later?

Do it immediately. I have Bear everywhere, always available. (My BIGCO laptop is a Mac.)

In fact do it before creating a new email folder, for example. I have to — how would I know what number to use otherwise?

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Right. :slight_smile:

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Hey, Johnny:

Two more questions regarding this?

First: storing non-note files. So let’s say you will have a note 23.14 Project cost calculation

This note will say it’s a floor renovation cost calculation for you garden veranda :slight_smile:

I thought from the original explanation of your system that this’d be a directory - that might contain 3 files: a spreadsheet calculating the cost, a picture of the current veranda floor, and let’s say a presentation you need to pitch this to your wife - I know ridiculous, but from a corporate standpoint - in a corp environment you might easily have these three documents.


  • would this really be so? I.e. a numbered directory (I’ll get to the directory vs note below) and non-numbered documents in it?
  • or would you nowadays lean more towards:
    23.14 the note
    23.15 the spreadsheet
    23.16 the picture
    23.17 the presentation
    all numberd and thus named?
  • in either case - the note itself you’d have tagged in Bear as mentioned by you above. What about the documents - where do you have them - this’d be your home computer. So you’d still have the JD directory/subdirectory structure somewhere for these documents?

Now - it seems evident that for the documents themselves - not notes it’s beneficial to structure into the directory format right? And what about versioning in either of the above two alternatives? This is mostly appropriate for a corp mode - but I often work with documents that I send back and forth to my colleagues - we can have higher tens of revisions - and I want to usually keep dated versions of changes.

So - for the non-numbered document structure - there’d be:

DIR 20-29
SUB 23
SUB 23.14

and then:
2023-01-15 spreadsheet v1.xls
2023-01-17 spreadsheet v2.xls

Now - if your experience indicates all numbered documents is more beneficial - what would it be?

DIR 20-29
SUB 23

and then:
23.15 2023-01-15 spreadsheet v1.xls
23.16 the picture
23.17 2023-01-15 the presentation v1.ppt
23.18 2023-01-17 spreadsheet v2.xls

23.15 2023-01-15 spreadsheet v1.xls
23.15 2023-01-17 spreadsheet v2.xls
23.16 the picture
23.17 2023-01-15 the presentation v1.ppt

Or some other way? What’s your take on this?

It seems to me the numbered dir with documents in it is better from the point of view - if I have tens of revisions of documents - I’m gonna run out of numbers, unless I choose the last option of keeping the number same for all versions. But then the directory - if it’s all in one directory as in the last option - will be huge, not good.

So the first option - having each number its own dir is better from this perspective - then however I’m thinking it might be beneficial to have the numbers in the file names of the spreadsheet etc. also. But your experience might indicate otherwise.

Also - as in the first example - is it beneficial to keep different-character files in the same directory, i.e. a presentation, spreadsheet, and picture.

Your thoughts and experience will be much appreciated here :slight_smile: It’ll definitely help me think about it.

Yes, this option.

Yes, folder 23.14 would exist in my structure and would contain those files.

For versions, one of the ‘exceptions to the rules’ that I allow is the creation of an ‘archive’ folder within a JD folder. So then you’d have:

└── 20-29 Personal projects/
    └── 23 Home renovations/
        └── 23.14 New garden verandah/
            ├── archive/
            │   ├── Calculations v1.xlsx
            │   ├── Calculations v2.xlsx
            │   ├── Calculations v3.xlsx
            │   ├── Presentation v1.ppt
            │   └── Presentation v2.ppt
            ├── Calculations v4.xlsx
            ├── Presentation v3.ppt
            └── Picture.jpg

In this case, build a new garden verandah is the task, which is equivalent to a JD ID assuming the project doesn’t grow too large.

I made an analogy elsewhere on this forum:

For me, a project is a large activity with many many activities. A task is just something I have to do that might have half a dozen activities.

Building a new house is a project. Painting the garage (that’s already attached to your existing house) is a task.

I guess it depends how fancy the verandah is going to be, whether you’re getting builders involved, whether it involves structural change to the house. That sounds like a project. Or are you just going to the hardware store and buying some wood and coming home that afternoon and putting it together? That’s a task. :upside_down_face:

As long as you can find the files you need without stress it does not matter.

You might also, if it’s helpful, have notes related to the project. Your note might look like this.

23.14 Build a new verandah

  • Location: files in file system.

Building material notes

  • I looked in the store and the marine ply seems like better value than the pine. $4/metre vs. $15/metre and easier to work with.
  • Product code for the marine ply is 0341-331.
  • The guy in the store said they were getting stock on Tuesday.

Colour notes

  • Spoke to Lucy, she prefers Pantone #145.
  • There’s a sample in the drawer in the garage.

…and so on.

Thanks for the tips. :slight_smile:

So: how would you go about it in my system - having the structure as directories in Obsidian? Would you have the path:

20-29 Personal projects/23 Home renovations/23.14 New garden verandah/23.14 Build a new

Also - in case of PRO.AC.ID do you think it’s beneficial to have the full number on the last directory and file thus:

200-299 Personal projects/203 Home renovations/30-39 Technical data/34 Drawings/203.34.14 New garden verandah/203.34.14 Build a new

or is it better like:

200-299 Personal projects/203 Home renovations/30-39 Technical data/34 Drawings/203.34.14 New garden verandah/Build a new


20-29 Personal projects/23 Home renovations/23.14 New garden verandah/
Build a new

It seems beneficial to have the full number in the name of the note - but then it’s also duplicated in the directory name.

Also - about file system structure. If you implemented the separate multiple directory structure idea - having a separate directory for files of some type for storing specific files: it seems to make sense only in some cases - but I see, how you’d have let’s say “videos” and “photos” etc directory - and it these have the files referenced in your notes. Would you reduplicate the full JD path in these directories?

I.e. you might have 300-399 Personal stuff/324 Motocross/40-49 Technical aspects/45 Steering Column/324.45.38 Reinforcement/324.45.38 Steering column reinforcement

which would refer to some phenomenal video documentary “Steering and the art of motocross riding.mkv”. This video would be in videos. Would you have it in:

/videos/324 Motocross/40-49 Technical aspects/45 Steering Column/324.45.38 Reinforcement/Steering and the art of motocross riding.mkv

It is logically clean - but most of the subdirectories from the main JD system will never be found in /videos/

Or would you just put it as:

/videos/324.45.38 Reinforcement/Steering and the art of motocross riding.mkv


/videos/324.45.38 Steering and the art of motocross riding.mkv

What’s your thoughts on this? :slight_smile:

So, I’ve been experimenting with the individual variants of the above :slight_smile:

For videos, it seems:

/videos/324 Motocross/324.45.38 Steering and the art of motocross riding. mkv

…is the most sensible.

For the directories, I’m leaning towards:

200-299 Personal projects/203 Home renovations/30-39 Technical data/34 Drawings/203.34.14 New garden verandah/203.34.14 Build a new

…but not sure yet.

I’d love to read your thoughts on the above - especially what’s the best for directory/file naming based on your experience.

My general rule for when to put the JD ID in the file name itself is to do it when it will help you within whichever application you usually open the file.

So for example, when I’m viewing PDFs — say it’s my travel insurance certificate — I’d typically navigate to the folder first in my file system, then find the thing (probably 101.16.ID) and then double click to open; vs. opening Preview, the PDF application, and using the menu there to open. I just don’t do that with PDFs.

In this case having the ID in the file name is no benefit so I typically don’t bother. (Not that it would hurt. I’m just lazy.)

Whereas at work when I have Excel documents, I often go to the application first. Or it’s already open. So now I’m using the File > Recent menu or equivalent, and it’s here that I find having the IDs in the name really helps. I can scan that list of recent files, my eye leads me to the correct file based on its category or whatever, and I open it directly.

I find this scanning a list of recent files by number vs. name to be easier on my brain.

The other case where this is extremely useful is detailed in Numbers in file names: now officially endorsed.

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Thanks for this :slight_smile:

Any thoughts on the above idea of a separate file system for videos for instance?

Do you still see the benefit in maintaining a full subdirectory structure in it? Or is it easier to just have the PRO directories - as above with motocross - and then all the videos, properly named, in it?

I think this is a very strong point - I had a gut feeling, sort of along these lines, as to why it’d be beneficial - for having the numbers in the filenames too, for files of this kind.