Obsidian – iCloud or GitHub Sync?

Wasted A Lot Of Time with Git

I saw on a few places online where people had been synchronising their Obsidian documents over git. I can say that the advantage would be you would have a backup on steroids due to the versioning. This is what git is all about and I decided it would be a good idea to give it a try. I have the paid for version of Working Copy and I wanted to get into it and use it. I learned the basics of git and GitHub and I was off to the races. I found a tutorial in the Obsidian Community Forum and I followed that to set up pulling in a clone from GitHub of my Obsidian files onto my iOS devices. I should have guessed that it wasn’t going to be totally straightforward when following the tutorial exactly I still had a few problems.

Git Software Not Ready for Prime Time

It seems that most of the problems came from the software, Working Copy. Partly because I didn’t know how to use it properly, the interface is quite different from what I was using on the Mac. Sometimes I would do the exact same commands, press the exact same buttons in the software but get different results. Software is kind of like automation and you expect the same thing to happen each time you do a process. I was ending up with error messages to annoy me by leading me down a rabbit hole to try and fix the problem. As I was doing this I was learning more about git commands. It’s important to know that when you do a “Pull” it’s the same as doing a “fetch” followed by a “merge”. So I was using the pull, to pull in the information from GitHub onto the iPad. There were times I could give myself a high five and be happy that everything worked just as it was supposed to. Then I would go back into Obsidian, make a few changes and either commit or push the data back to GitHub. Then I would jump onto the Mac to pull the data in and something wouldn’t be right. “Hell’s teeth, what’s going on here it worked last time?”

The problem with using GitHub is there are too many variables in how it works. I learned on the Mac it was necessary to ‘stage’ files for upload and then use ‘commit’. In my mind it seemed that was all I needed to do. Then there were times when I would look at what was in GitHub and there was stuff missing. So I went back into the terminal or into GitKraken and tried to find out what went wrong. I sometimes saw error messages and problems and didn’t understand the message. I was always able to sort it out one way or another and get back to equilibrium, but it was a complete mess and a time suck.

Not as bad as I Thought

Then again – After spending more time with Git and using a couple of shortcuts to aide the process I’m starting to think it is workable. The shortcut does the Pull command and then opens up Obsidian. You then do all the work you want for the session in Obsidian.

Then you use the second of the shortcuts to push the changes you made back to GitHub. It’s important not to forget this part. Don’t work on other devices in the same files at the same time. Working this way I found it to be manageable and reliable. The human in the process has to be trained to work in a specific way.

A Better Way to Use Obsidian

While trying to use Obsidian using iCloud on one occasion I found the changes did not synchronise across from the iPhone in a timely manner. This is one of the reasons I was looking at using GitHub as my synchronisation method. I certainly don’t want to pay nearly hundred dollars per year to synchronise Obsidian. For some people this could be worth it. Those people who use Obsidian for all of their computer text needs. It’s an excellent notetaking application and the wiki linking is phenomenal. It’s an interesting and novel way to help your studies because you can link any note to any other note. When you are working on a very long notes, you can do internal links within the same note. So if you’re reading something and you see a link you can hover over the top of it and get a preview. Or you can tap on the link and jump to more information which might just be the vital piece of information you are looking for at that time. Then you have the graph view which is an automatic mind mapping style of view. This gives you an overview of all of your notetaking and you can directly see where links are going from and to. This could help you see connections between information you hadn’t spotted before.

Journalling with Obsidian?

I could also use Obsidian as my journalling software. At the moment I use Day One which is made for the purpose and I really like using. If I could get just as good a job done with Obsidian I would consider changing. I can put images and audio into notes just the same as with Day One. I might even be able to put videos within notes, I haven’t tried yet. One of the things I would miss from Day One is the reminders you get to look at ‘On This Day’. I really like to look back and see what happened over the years. Within Day One I have nine years worth of journal entries and it’s pretty cool to see that far back and know what I was thinking and doing on that day. Then there are the Day One widgets I have on my iOS devices I can go to directly. This helps me be reminded that I should create a journal entry for the day because I’m always looking at my iPhone and iPad screens. I don’t think I’ll get that with Obsidian. Maybe the €38 for Day One will still be the right choice. In Obsidian there is a Daily Note and also a community plugin called Periodic Notes. The idea is to have one note per day and put it all in one document. I like to split my journalling into sections. I have journals in Day One for family,motorcycle stuff, Culture and more. I can assign colours and it all looks great.

Still running into Issues With Obsidian

This morning I opened up the iPhone to have a look at Obsidian and I’m getting a notice to say is waiting for iCloud to synchronise Obsidian synchronisation files. It says there is one file left and I’ve got a button to skip if I want to. It was taking so long I decided to skip it and to go directly into Obsidian. I was just making some changes in the application on the iPad and even though I skipped the file which hadn’t been updated through iCloud everything was still okay within the files. The changes I had made had propagated through to the iPhone version of the application.

Another problem I run into with images is sometimes they come in upside down in Obsidian. This leads me to thing journalling is not going to work with Obsidian. I reckon I’ll stick with Day One.

iCloud Sync and Git

What I think I’m going to do is to use iCloud synchronisation as the main way to keep everything up-to-date across my Apple system. Then what I will do as a backup and as a separate thing is to use get locally on my Mac. I’ll just use the Mac to create a Git folder which looks at what’s going on in Obsidian. I can either use the terminal to do this or I’ll use GitKraken. this way I’ll get the ease-of-use of the synchronisation through iCloud and I’ll get the versioning available from Git. I will probably still use Drafts as my way to input text into any of the devices. I’ll just have to create an action which puts the text into Obsidian in the correct place.