Using Obsidian for world-building

For world building, I switched to using a companion app.

I’ve had Scrivener projects that have turned to treacle when they have contained more than a few hundred files—especially when doing things like running global search-and-replace runs.

And things get more tricky if you need to sync the project to multiple devices, let alone whether or not those devices are running different operating systems.

You mention being on the fence because of buying, so if cost is a consideration, you could try other apps before you settle for Scrivener. I use a writing app with wiki capabilities that can handle thousands of files in one project and sync between multiple devices in seconds using any sync service the user wants to use.

Another bonus is that the interface on all the devices is 99.9% identical, whereas with Scrivener there is a world of difference in terms of look and (interface and app) functionality when switching between macOS, Windows, and iOS. There is no Android version of Scrivener.

You can use multiple tabs or have tons of files open in their own or windows, which is really useful when world building. You can also run complex searches to bring data together or embed notes, images, etc using wiki-style syntax. Way more powerful and user-friendly, in my experience, than Scrivener for complex projects (especially ones with thousands of files).

You can edit the files with different apps (if you want to) and you can leave projects open on your devices and still sync content cleanly. I wrote this sentence on a Mac. This one on an iPhone. And this one on the Mac again. The file was open on both devices at the same time and the text appeared on both devices within a couple of seconds of typing. For fun, this line was written in a different app (VS Code) while the file was still open on the Mac and iPhone. And this sentence was added in TextEdit. Scrivener could not handle something like this.

For personal use, all of the above is free.

And you can still import work into Scrivener if you need to or just run the two apps side by side.

Try different apps and see which one works best for you. Horses; courses.

If you don’t mind me asking, what companion app have you been using?

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I don’t know what sobs uses, but it sounds like Obsidian (that’s what I use).

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That is what I was kind of thinking too

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I looked into Obsisian but I had troubles with drawing tables because I can’t copy a table inside as I can with Word or also Scrivener. And the fonts are the same too. So, there is visually nothing that I figured out that I can to make between the text before or after the : and that makes it difficult to read.

Weather: Always summer and hot
Food: Mainly fish

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I would like to know this as well.

Tables aren’t fun in Markdown. There’s a reason the “Advanced Tables” addon is the most popular extension: GitHub - tgrosinger/advanced-tables-obsidian: Improved table navigation, formatting, and manipulation in

Regarding the formatting… :thinking: Would bold do the trick for you? Like:
Weather: Always summer and hot

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Haha, November_Sierra of course this is an idea but it looks sloopy as the text does not start right at the same point behind the colon.

** Weather:** Always summer and hot
Food: Mainly fish

I think this will bother me with a huge workbuilding bible.

What theme are you using?

Hi Sobs,

You are completely right with everything you wrote. What is the companion app that you are using?

I looked into Obsidian but I had troubles making character sheets look nice as I could not copy a table in Obsidian as I can in Word or Scrivener.

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Of course, that’s what tables are for (and they are fun with “Advanced Tables”, or at least somewhat manageable ). Or / and you could use the “DataView” addon (which, funny enough, is the second most popular addon). But that might be overkill.

Theme: Minimal (with the recommended “Minimal Theme Settings” and “Hider” plugins).


Looks less scary, doesn’t it?


Hello, all.

Yes, Obsidian.

It has improved a lot in the year or so since I first tried it, and the recent out-of-beta-at-last version has sharpened its offering even more.

I rarely use tables, and only simple ones when I do. I don’t need the extra plugins that have been mentioned.

The tables offered in Scrivener for macOS use Apple’s text engine, and it’s not a great user experience. I’m more happy making simple tables in Markdown than using Apple’s text engine. If I want anything more complicated, I switch to Pages or Numbers.

For me the biggest plus points of Obsidian have been the speed and reliability of syncing between devices and the fact that Obsidian on a Mac is almost identical to Obsidian on an iPhone. That’s not the same experience with Scrivener where the interfaces are very different and the functionality on iOS is much reduced. With Scrivener I feel as if I am using two apps and have to adjust accordingly. With Obsidian things are more seamless. For me, less friction leads to more writing. Happy bunny.

And I am terrible at remembering to close apps, so the ease of leaving Obsidian open and being able to type on any device without having to contend with conflicts is another major source of joy for me.

It’s not for everyone, of course. But right now Obsidian works best for my needs and capabilities, with Scrivener being used occasionally for some random cat herding, such as using ‘import and split’ to break up long documents (from clients) before I get to work on them in Obsidian.

Companion apps.

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That does not look scary, Nov Sierra, but one word might be short, and the stuff that after the colon might be long. I fiddle a bit around with the tables in Obsidian and then it looked like this in the “table”

Weather: Always hot
Clothes: Men wearing … and women wearing … xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and it goes on without a break

And the table is not pleasing to the eye. Of course, it is also possible that I overlooked something or used a strange theme.

I also used italics and normal font but the switch between them in Obsidian also didn’t come easy. I used theme Nightowl because I am one.

The thing is, when I am writing, then I am writing. Imagine that you novel blooms and you have great ideas and then you are stopped by some app that doesn’t do what you want.



Yeah, you’re probably better off with Scrivener (you don’t even need actual tables for your use case; which is good news, because tables in Scrivener are also shit, thanks to Apple’s text engine). If you mainly write and just mildly organize as you write, use Scrivener. With Obsidian – it’s the opposite. It can’t even remember the last cursor position without a half-baked addon.


I have an older Scrivener version, not yet updated to 3.0. I like the dark screen mode. It is easier on the eye and Obsidian has this too.

I really want to find my stuff again, Nov Sierra, and as longer a fiction project gets, as more organization is necessary.

We all know how it is when in your mind, you remember something but how to find it again. Applying a Wiki function [[text ]] could solve the problem.

Actually, finding important details again in what I have written before is the main issue that I want to solve and that a project can become too voluminous and slows down an app, e.g. when you add pictures of your characters and pictures of settings, and so on.

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I could pretty much have written that word for word about a year ago.

I have taken to using a mix of YAML headers and a lot of inline metadata.

Basic Field:: Value 
**Bold Field**:: Nice!

Having that second colon …

Weather:: Always hot
**Clothes**:: Men wearing

… gives me the option to use Dataview to run full queries to collate and compare information quickly, or just run ad hoc trackers from thousands of files with metadata that can be written in any part of them.

For me, the simplicity, speeeeeeeeeeeed, and depth of Obsidian marries well with my chaotic mind and my workflow; as well as being able to write everywhere without thinking about the app or how to sync files. I can leave my Mac running Obsidian and wander off to grab a coffee and still carry on writing in the same file on my iPhone if an idea suddenly occurs to me. With Scrivener, I constantly ran into errors as it is a single-instance-running app.

Some people want styles, detailed layout, lots of different fonts and colours, etc. I just need to write—anywhere and everywhere—so plain text and Markdown are ideal. Clutter free. I am definitely writing more each day and understanding my own work (and worlds) in new ways. Obsidian makes connections between files and words and ideas and propositions that I can’t see in Scrivener. Perhaps others can.

It sounds as though Scrivener might suit you better. Great to have different options to explore.

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Scrivener has Dark Mode support and dark themes, but I can’t remember if versions before 3.x had it (outside of Composition mode).

I’d say the biggest advantage of Obsidian is actually not finding what you’re looking for, Scrivener can do that, but finding what you didn’t even know you’re looking for. As far as I can tell there’s no visual equivalent in Scrivener to Obsidian’s Graph View (and it doesn’t need one!).


Sage. :clap: :owl: :+1:

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Last observation from me (for obvious reasons).

Is there a more apt world-building example for a writer than a thesaurus?

I think it was seeing a thesaurus written in Obsidian—and knowing I could not do something that complex and huge in Scrivener without far more effort and time—that flicked the switch in my head, making me realize how much ‘data’ I could throw at it and then organize that data endlessly in different ways. Certainly not linear, but also not something that every writer needs or wants. It is much more than just a writing tool.

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I get it, Nov. Sierra. Thanks!


That thesaurus in Obsidian is amazing. What a huge task!

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