Unofficial user guide to Org-roam (idea / outline only at this stage)


title: Unofficial user guide to Org-roam

Preambles

Org-roam is designed around the Zettelkasten method of organizing thoughts. We’ve all experienced frustration sitting before a blank page forcing ourselves to come up with an outline or a first draft. By contrast, Zettelkasten provides a more organic flow. Collect your thoughts as they come as small, separate ideas then review them at a later time. Upon review, you begin to tinker by linking notes together to create new, meaningful connections that may inspire more notes as you obtain more references and inspiration. Eventually, you can organize and group notes together to form a structure on its own that makes writing a draft a much less daunting task. The thinking was already done as you tinkered with new information, amassing a pool of knowledge at your disposal.

How to start Org-roam:

  • org-roam
  • org-roam-buffer-toggle-display

Think – Find, Link, and Tinker

Find:

  • org-roam-find-file
  • org-roam-find-file-immediate
  • org-roam-find-directory
  • org-roam-find-ref

Link:

  • org-roam-insert

  • org-roam-insert-immediate

  • org-roam-link

    • Sample
      “capture-at-point” or inline auto-complete with [[note title]]
  • File-Refs (website and academic literature)

Tinker:

  • org-roam-graph – mention org-roam-server
  • org-roam-jump-to-index
  • org-roam-switch-to-buffer

Capture

Added a sample chapter for Capture. Feedback welcome; or extend the content…

Capturing fleeting ideas:

  • org-roam-capture
  • org-roam-find-file
  • org-roam-find-file-immediate

Capturing website:

  • org-roam-protocols

Taking notes on academic journals, papers, and books:

  • org-roam-bibtex

Other

  • org-roam-random-note

Utilities such as:

  • org-roam-diagnostics
  • org-roam-unlinked-reference

Out of scope (maybe)

  • org-roam-dailies: I do not use it, so I cannot really comment.
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Overall this makes sense and I like the use of the word “tinker” with this, much like emacs you’re never really done working on it. Though I think the introduction paragraph could use a bit more edge polishing.

What are your thoughts on the following:

Org-roam is designed around the Zettelkasten method of organizing thoughts. We’ve all experienced frustration sitting before a blank page forcing ourselves to come up with an outline or a first draft. By contrast, Zettelkasten provides a more organic flow. Collect your thoughts as they come as small, separate ideas then review them at a later time. Upon review, you begin to tinker by linking notes together to create new, meaningful connections that may inspire more notes as you obtain more references and inspiration. Eventually, you can organize and group notes together to form a structure on its own that makes writing a draft a much less daunting task. The thinking was already done as you tinkered with new information, amassing a pool of knowledge at your disposal.

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Looks good :smiley: I’ve put yours in.

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I think most of this can go into the official manual. The preamble (introducing the Zettelkasten method) is similar to this section:

https://www.orgroam.com/manual.html#A-Brief-Introduction-to-the-Zettelkasten-Method
The manual is meant to be first and foremost a reference manual. It should document:

  1. What interactive functions exist, and how to use them
  2. What user options there are (e.g. completions everywhere, or roam link auto-replace)

The manual right now does a poor job of both 1 and 2, mainly because I have yet to figure out a good way to order things. The structure above looks fine and practical for this purpose.

In addition to that, I’d like the manual to also detail how to effectively use the software in a separate section, separate from the reference documentation. This can tie in all the information (and link to) parts of the reference documentation.

Not sure if you think this separation makes sense to you.

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That’s fair, though my intention is to offer a personal meaning to Zettelkasten as a way of organizing thoughts whereas when I read the manual it mostly summarized the components and how it behaves like a slipbox. It was after reading a bit of How to Take Smart Notes, an article or two, and a few videos walking through Zettelkatsen setups\origins did it finally start to click conceptually for me.

The Zettelkasten method of note-taking is designed to increase research productivity: in particular, it acts as a research partner, where conversations with it may produce new and surprising lines of thought. This method is attributed to German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, who using the method had produced volumes of written works.

Unfortunately, I am not within the research field so “increasing research productivity” is not something I can relate to nor do I know what “acts as a research partner” meant. Working backwards from what I know now, I can infer what is intended and see the connection but it did not inspire that “NOW I get it!” moment I was looking for.

What is there is mostly ok to me but I feel there is an element missing that helps someone without a sci research background understand the significance. That doesn’t mean I got it right, but I feel its a small change that can help others like myself in the future.

Would you be open to a PR updating the zettelkasten page in the manual to include some of those ideas?

Personally, I see opportunity for a more playful tone. I’ve been recording some thoughts in my own Zettelkasten for a possible article about the method, one such passage:

Think of your Zettelkasten as a sane person’s version of those cliché conspiracy obsession walls. You know the ones with the photos circled in red marker and red string connecting various people to places, events, and locations? Instead of strictly proving a nefarious crime comitted by a shadow organization, you are creating connections between research references and your own thoughts as new information is discovered. This in turn may inspire new connections as well as new notes, expanding your understanding well past the sum of its parts.

If you do want to document a shadow organization conspiracy, org-roam uses org-mode text-files which are far more portable than a whole conspiracy wall. Enable org-roam’s encryption features to keep your intel private and secure!

@jethro, a separate section for the purpose you describe makes sense to me.

I like the concise style and tone with the third person of the manual you have so far (I also like the content and its growth). I would like to preserve the style and tone as much as I can so that anything added to it (within the current part, or in the separate one) flows naturally.

At the same time, the samples I have done are written with the second person (you).

I will start writing some, and show you (Jethro and the community); I would prefer to let the outcome speak and decide for itself.

@Eccentric-J, I think the style you presented is an interesting avenue to pursue. I would not be confident that I could keep it for the entire user manual; you might be up for the challenge. Or it could be a good personal blog. Personally, though, my preference for this genre is leaning towards using the following ones as my guides.

To test the water and see if the direction I have taken is good, I have done a sample chapter on Capture.

Feedback and correction welcome.
I could not maintain the neutral third-person tone of the official manual. I need to see if my voice works for the purpose…

Also… I would love if others contributed to some chapters (fork or PR to my repo).

Thank you.
Let’s continue to roam in the wild in 2021 :tada:

One of the things I struggle with is the difference between org and org-roam or, in other words, what org-roam brings to the table.

What is the benefit of org-roam-capture vs. org-capture? What’s the difference in links? Tags? etc.

So far, for me, as a newbie, it feels like the major benefit is the ability to generate a graph visualization + backlinks (I am really looking forward to header-level links since I often find myself in need of those).

I realize that a lot of these questions are driven by the fact that I am somewhat new to org-mode and very new to org-roam, but I think helping users contrast the two would put them in a better place.

Backlinks is the main benefit, which is key because it enables a Zettelkasten like workflow to taking notes. Recommend starting with this section of the manual: Org-roam User Manual

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I was going to say “yeah, I’ve read it”, but either it got richer since the last time I had opened it or… now after using org-roam/org for some time it suddenly makes more sense.

So, thank you for sending me back to the manual :slight_smile:

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If you have a sort of GTD (Getting Things Done) approach to the topic, then

  • org-mode is for the actionable items

  • org-roam is for the reference material which is usually non actionable

I’d actually say this is not a good representation of the difference. GTD with the Org roam approach works as well. The only reason it’s not very good is due to the slow performance of Org agenda when multiple files are involved. There are workarounds for that, albeit not perfect just yet.

I’d say one difference that is significant is this:
Org roam promotes splitting things up into small chunks and in how many files you want. Org mode limits that by not having good concepts outside of the single file scope. So Org roam in my view extends Org mode into the multi-file domain. And adds backlinks, which is nice :slight_smile:

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