Tags, and links, and tags, oh my

Hi folks! Long-time org-mode user here, new to org-roam. I really like what this tool is all about and where it’s going!

So I am trying to figure out how and when to use:

  • org-roam links which function a lot like tags
  • Standard org-mode tags

Let me pitch a scenario… I have been (poorly) maintaining something of a database of trip ideas. When COVID-19 dies out, I’ll use it again :slight_smile: The idea is that when I hear of an interesting place, I save it, and then if I find myself in that part of the world, I have exploration ideas ready to go. org-roam’s free association seems perfect for this.

So let’s say I want to add Yosemite National Park. I would probably link it to “trip ideas”, “California”, “Fresno”, and so forth.

Now here’s the problem. Let’s say I decide I’ll be in California sometime in the future. I’d like to see all my trip ideas related to California. But the backlinks to “trip ideas” will contain ideas from all around the world. The backlinks from California would contain more than just trip ideas.

Now I could create a “California trip ideas”, “Fresno trip ideas”, etc. page also but that just seems excessive.

I’m really confused what purpose roam tags serve (whether via #+ROAM_TAGS or the directory method). They seem to only show up in the helm completion for things like C-c n f, and nowhere else.

What I’d like is to be able to construct a query to show me the notes that have ALL the given tags, as I can with regular org-mode with C-c a m (eg, C-c a m, then enter “california tripideas” and I’d have a match.)

Can somebody give me some guidance on what might be right here?

I’ve also looked at some other pages:

But none of them really answer my fundamental question, which is: what is the point of an org-roam tag when every org-roam page already acts like one (and we have org-mode tags)? And, at a lower level, do they help me here?


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So I learned that Deft can really help with the searching problem; entering, for instance, “trip_ideas california” in Deft will get me what I’m after (assuming I have a page with a title of “Trip Ideas”).

But the remaining questions still stand. Thanks!

Not available yet, but I intend to build a sophisticated query system that will construct the appropriate SQL query and present the desired results. Might not be available so soon though, I think it’s a relatively big task :stuck_out_tongue:

If the answer to this question isn’t already in the docs, it should be.

It allows you to type notes, so make them easier to access.

For example, academics like me might take “bibliographic notes” with the “bib” or “biblio” tag, etc.

It’s not for tagging the content of the notes.

Does that distinction make sense?

Hi @bruce,

Thanks for the reply, but no, not really… I mean, why not link a note to a page named “bib” in this example? Why would I set a bib tag instead of linking them all to “bib”? It seems, actually, that tags are somewhat less useful because there’s no automatic display as with the backlinks sidebar, or am I missing something?

See jethro’s example. You can’t do that with standard org-roam-links.

I don’t see an example from him?

Sorry; in another thread.

See here:

Thanks for your thoughts and that link!

So in my example case here, assuming we ignore the Deft option, perhaps I would use tags for things like tripideas, california, etc. I guess the distinction is in the interface: tags can be combined and filtered with C-c n f and Helm, while non-tags require Deft which may be slower - but don’t show up in backlinks, clouds, etc.

I suppose I can see that for things like categorization: I’d have no need for “meeting” or “bib” to show up in the cloud, because it’s not topical.

In my example case, though, something like “California” might be both a page and a tag. I would probably want to reference it in other notes and take advantage of the backlinks, and yet also want to combine it with other tags and such, as in “california tripideas”. I suppose I could still use deft for the latter, but trying to make a word be both a tag and a page seems error-prone.

Also, how about more topical tags? Eg, history, politics, safety? Should they be tags or pages?

Everyone’s personal use case is going to be slightly different, but generally things like “history” and “politics” are waaaaay too broad to be stand alone pages. You should also consider whether you really need those tags, though. If you have 500+ notes tagged #history, is that useful? A lot of people find that tags like that don’t help them find what they want a year later.

One possibility would be to create a page, “Trip Ideas”, and keep all of your trip ideas in it instead of linking ideas from different locations. Any single idea in the page could link back to another page like “California”. Now if you are in the “Trip Ideas” page you can search for “California” or more specific terms, and if you are in the “California” page your backlinks buffer should have a “Trip Ideas” headline that shows all the links from “Trip Ideas” that are specific to California.

Maybe I’m re-floating and old thread here, but I just wanted to show how I manage this Kind of situations:

For example, to have notes about cli commands, from tons of different things I may want to come back later for reference I use #+roam_tags like packages in coding
#+roam_tags: cli.kafka.ksql
#+roam_tags: cli.kafka.connect
#+roam_tags: cli.kafka

You can imagine how many notes could be under this hierarchies. For retrieving notes then I use org-roam-find-file with simple regexes.

Every cli command I have documented:

Every cli commad from kafka or kafka components:

You can go as deep as you want and even search from childrens of the hierarchy that could be in more than one parent. With programming languages is great because all have things in common but with different implementations. For example String. Let’s say you want all your notes about strings, but from all the different languages you have in your notes:


With that I’m able to get all this information that has a more hierarchical nature really quickly. I borrowed this Idea from the approach of dendron to note taking.

Hope this can give you some ideas of how to organize your trip notes

I’ve also looked at Dendron which looks very interesting, but I simply do not want to use VSCode no matter what, but curious if there are more things which could be borrowed from it and added to Org-roam?