Obsidian and iA Writer – a quick and easy way to get your plain text apps working in harmony 🎉

Icons courtesy of https://obsidian.md and https://ia.net

I mentioned in my previous post about iA, Ulysses & Scrivener how I like to be able to see my files in the Finder, and how this can be useful. Here’s a perfect example, and how to make your text files accessible in both iA Writer and Obsidian.

Obsidian is an extremely versatile application. I’m not going into too much detail about it here as there are enough posts and videos out there already. The upshot is that Obsidian works with plain text, and offers a load of features beneficial to creators of any kind. I’m still experimenting with organisation, but having tried several alternatives, Obsidian feels right as a repository for my texts, ideas and miscellaneous information. The more I use it, the more I like it.

I’ve struggled for a long time with the organisation of my writing, notes, ideas, links and other bits and pieces. The ability to link files in Obsidian is extremely useful, and can feed the work. But for longer pieces, posts such as this, or when I really want to get into the zone, iA Writer is my preferred writing environment.

I wanted to be able to work in Writer, but also have my files available in Obsidian. I did a bit of overthinking and tried one or two things that were too complicated. Knowing I can be a bit like that, I looked for a simpler approach – and the answer was soon apparent.

To make my documents available in both apps, I moved everything from Writer’s iCloud folder to my Obsidian “vault”. This was a simple case of drag and drop – just as it should be with plain text. I then added the Obsidian vault to Writer’s library as an external source.

That wasn’t the end of the process, however.

By default, Writer uses .txt as the file extension, but Obsidian only recognises .md files. I went into Writer’s preferences and selected the .md extension. Now, any files I create in Writer will be immediately compatible with Obsidian.

Image courtesy of the author

Most of the files I’d already created in Writer still had the .txt extension, though. To make them visible in Obsidian, I had to change .txt to .md; with Finder, this is simple:

  1. Select the files in Finder
  2. If the extension is hidden, right-click, select “Get Info”, then uncheck the “Hide extension” box
  3. Close the file info window
  4. Right-click the selected .txt files in Finder, then choose “Rename” from the drop-down menu
  5. Use the Rename Finder Items pane to replace “.txt” with “.md”
Image courtesy of the author

Job done. All my text files are now available in both apps. I can write and edit in either, and use Obsidian’s linking, split-screen and other features if I want to.

Do you use Obsidian or iA Writer? Let me know what you do with these apps in the comments.

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I’m a writer, editor and Royal Literary Fund Fellow. Every now and then, I publish The Overthinker: a free mailing of thoughts, observations and other stuff about creativity, productivity, writing and life in general; sign up to receive it, plus other occasional updates.

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1 thought on “Obsidian and iA Writer – a quick and easy way to get your plain text apps working in harmony 🎉”

  1. Thanks for this post! I’ve been using iA Writer since their first version for iPad and have been dabbling with Obsidian for the past year, but feeling overwhelmed with the options and plug-ins. With v6 of Writer and the introduction of wikilinks, I figured there had to be a way to use them together, especially since they’re both Markdown and use the same [[back link]] convention.

    Somehow I never knew that you could add external files/folders to the Library (I’ve been quite content to rely on iCloud).

    In fact, it took me longer than expected to figure out how to do it, so for anyone reading: Go -> Add Location… or just click the + that appears when hovering over Locations in the sidebar.
    (I’m assuming I’ll need to do this on each device?)

    Happy writing!

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