How to Use Backlinks in Obsidian

While using Obsidian, you might find that you need additional information to support your notes. But rather than copy everything and add it all to one long note, you can simply link to it. Backlinks are a great way to link notes with ideas, sources, and important information. This allows you to see common themes among your notes, boost your creativity and connect you to references and context.

How to Use Backlinks in Obsidian

Backlinks in Obsidian are links you add to a note that link it to another related note. Using Obsidian backlinks, you can link anything in your notes bi-directionally. This means that if you link page four to page seven, Obsidian will also insert a link on page seven links back to page four.

How to Create a Backlink in Obsidian

Obsidian backlinks are created with the Wikilink format of double brackets. For example, your note would look like the one below, with the brackets linking to a different page:

“I have updated my [[previous ideas]] with the following new ones.”

The information in the brackets is the link to the additional note. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Open the Obsidian note to which you want to add the link.
  2. In the note text where you’d like the backlink to be inserted, type two brackets. This will bring up a list of other notes.
  3. Select the note to which you’d like to link.
    • Alternately, tap the link key twice and then type in the name of the note you’d like to link to.
  4. The new backlink is now created.

Obsidian, by default, links to the new note; however, it does not create it unless you follow the link. On the link, using a Mac, press “CMD + enter.” On Windows, press “CTRL + enter” This takes you to the other page, and the note is saved in your vault.

A great feature of Obsidian is that it handles all updates to the links between your notes in the background. For example, if you’ve linked file C to file F and you move file F, that link remains connected because Obsidian is in sync with all changes to your notes. This also applies to renaming notes; this won’t affect the backlinks.

Aside from linking your notes pages, you can also create links to specific sections within notes.

How to Show and View Backlinks in Obsidian

Obsidian has a backlinks plug-in that shows all backlinks for and mentions of the active tabs. There are two sections that you can use to see backlinks: Linked mentions and Unlinked mentions.

  • Linked mentions are backlinks to notes with a link to the active note. This is when you link a page with another using the bracketed format mentioned above. [[backlink]]
  • Unlinked mentions show all unlinked uses of the active note’s name.

Linked and unlinked mentions help you see how your notes are connected and help you create more ideas.

The Obsidian backlinks plug-in does the following:

  • Collapse results – you can expand every note to show any mentions inside.
  • Shows more context – if you’d like to see more details about the mention, you can choose to display the entire paragraph.
  • Sort your mentions – you can categorize how you view your mentions.
  • View the search filter – you can filter your mentions using a text field.

How to See Backlinks for an Obsidian Note

It’s possible to view all of the backlinks for a particular Obsidian note. To do so, select “Backlinks” (link and arrow icon) from the tab on the right to see any active note backlinks. If your Backlinks tab isn’t showing, open the Command palette and select “Backlinks: Show backlinks.”

Until you collapse it, the backlinks tab shows all the backlinks for an active note, and when you switch to another note, it automatically updates. If you’d like to see backlinks for a note that isn’t active, you need to open a “Linked” backlinks tab. Here’s how to do this:

  1. Open the “Command palette.”
  2. Choose “Backlinks: Open backlinks for the current note.”

A separate tab is opened adjacent to your active note, which shows the link icon confirming it’s linked to your note.

Aside from viewing backlinks in a separate tab, backlinks can also be viewed at the bottom of a note. To view backlinks in this way, do the following:

  1. Open the “Command palette.”
  2. Choose “Backlinks: Toggle backlinks in document.”
    • Alternately, in the backlinks plugin preferences, select “Backlink in document,” which will automatically toggle all backlinks when a new note is opened.

Advantages of Using Backlinks

Using backlinks in Obsidian can provide you with additional context for the notes you’re viewing. When referencing another note using a backlink, you’ll get a summary of all activity related to that specific note, or you’ll see how the note relates to other thoughts, ideas, or notes.

Another great feature in Obsidian for backlinks is the knowledge graph. This graph displays pages that are linked and where they’re linked. This helps you see your project from a different angle. You can further categorize this graph by adding filters, changing node forces, or editing display options. To get a fresh perspective on a project, the knowledge graph has an animation feature that links your note pages individually.

Using Placeholder Links

When typing a note in Obsidian, you can add a placeholder link to return to later. This can be done as with any other note: if you click on the link, it creates the note. But with placeholder links, there’s no need to make the note first and then link it later. For example, if you’re writing notes on coordinating an event, you can use a placeholder link to create a space for possible vendors and related businesses when you begin creating a note for them. You can also link a placeholder note to a future date, and when that date section is created in your daily notes file, the link will become active.

Using an Auto-Link Title Plug-in for an External Link

You can add external links to your notes, for example, website links. To do this, you can use a plug-in like Auto-Link title. Using this plug-in lets you copy any browser URL and paste it into Obsidian, which will automatically link to the site, extract the page title, and create an Obsidian link using that title. It also makes your notes look cleaner.

The Difference Between Tags and Links in Obsidian

In Obsidian, you can use links and tags together, but there are some essential things to remember.

  • When you use links and edit an Obsidian file name, all the links in that folder are automatically changed to point to the right place. This doesn’t happen with tags.
  • Clicking on an Obsidian tag creates a search for all files with the tag.
  • By clicking on a link in Obsidian, you not only open the linked note (unless it’s a placeholder link), but you also will create a new one if it doesn’t already exist.

Map Your Thoughts and Ideas With Obsidian Backlinks

With Obsidian backlinks, you won’t have to read through pages of notes trying to find specific important related information related. Additionally, when you tag any concepts within your notes or use internal links to connect to other notes, you create a graph that Obsidian uses to assist you in keeping track of all those similar ideas or thoughts.

Obsidian backlinks are made with Wikilinks double brackets method, and a backlink plugin can show you all backlinks for all active tabs. You can also use the command palette to see your notes’ active backlinks.

How has using backlinks in Obsidian helped you keep track of your ideas? Let us know in the comments section below.

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