Zettelkasten Forum

Drafts Version 20 Provides Support for Links

Version 20 of Drafts for macOS and iOS was released today. This version provides support for links. Drafts is a powerhouse application, and is now additionally a very capable alternative for a digital ZK.

I've learned a great deal from use of The Archive, but after several days with working with the beta version of Drafts V20, there is no doubt in my mind that Drafts has leapfrogged existing TA capabilities.

Drafts can be thought of as a superset of TA. There is no missing functionality, but there is a great deal of added functionality. Making full use of Drafts for a ZK requires a Pro subscription, which I believe is $20 per year -- well worth it IMO.

A few advantages: (1) Drafts has both a macOS and iOS version. It syncs through iCloud. (2) Drafts is highly scriptable, and provides excellent options for Shortcuts on iOS. (3) Drafts is extendable through use of "Actions". Literally hundreds of useful Actions can be downloaded from the Drafts Directory -- contributions from a very active user community.

In addition to providing link support, the developer provided example actions with Version 20, collected in an Action Group that can be downloaded and assigned to a ZK-related workspace. (What TA refers to as files, Drafts refers to as drafts). These new actions (activated by press/tap on an icon or assignment to a keyboard shortcut) include:

  • Insert a link in "this" draft to a selected draft
  • Back links: Find all drafts that link to "this" draft
  • Open the last draft
  • Create a new draft that is cross-linked to "this" draft
  • Create a new workspace - a workspace is a method of organizing drafts
  • Insert a special kind of link that loads a named workspace

A useful navigation option added with v20 is: Display a list of recently opened drafts.

I've added a couple of additional actions related to date and time stamps and one that opens a draft at random from those with a selected tag. I'm looking forward to getting access to additional actions that will no doubt soon appear as the community begins to use the added functionality and added scripting options. Actions sync through iCloud. All of the actions described above work on both macOS and iOS.

The remainder of this post describes how I migrated files from TA to Drafts. It looks complicated, but took only about 15 minutes. My description assumes that you will, where necessary, refer to the Drafts documentation. One advantage of Drafts is that its documentation is extremely good.

For purposes of illustration I assume that the files being imported from TA make use of three tags: #red #white #blue.

  1. Import: In Drafts on macOS use File > Import to import files from the folder used by The Archive. All links should immediately work.
  2. Workspace: Select all the drafts that were just imported (a file in The Archive is called a draft in Drafts) and use the File > Tags menu to assign the tag "colors" to all of them. Then create a "Colors" Workspace that includes all drafts with the tag "colors." Configure the workspace to sort Flagged drafts on top. Choose what information to display in the drafts list (left-hand panel). I only display title and tags, but whatever works for you. (Optionally) set a Flag on each structure note -- flagged drafts will appear at the top of the drafts list (left-hand panel). More on Workspace configuration options later.
  3. Tags 1: Tags are handled differently in Drafts. The first step is to assign the tags "red" "white" and "blue" using the Drafts methodology. To do that I shifted to my iPhone, opened Drafts and selected the "Colors" workspace. All of the imported files were immediately available - Drafts syncs through iCloud. In the drafts list (left panel, analogous to the left panel in TA) use a search for #red to display only drafts with the #red tag used in TA. Then, press (not tap) the Select button to "select all". Use the Operations option to add the tag "red." Repeat with "white" and "blue." Total time to do this is about 15 seconds per tag.
  4. Tags 2: The files are now correctly configured, but you will have superfluous entries of #red, #white and # blue in your newly imported drafts. You can leave them as is without causing a problem. But, I wanted to get rid of them. (If you don't want to get rid of them, skip to step 6). I therefore stayed on my iPhone and opened the Shortcuts app. I created a new shortcut with three actions: (1) From the Drafts actions (there are lots of them) choose the action: "Get Drafts from..." Drafts makes use of four "folders" Inbox, Flagged, Archive and All. I think of "Inbox" as being "Not Yet Processed" and "Archive" as being "Processed and Filed for Future Use." To be safe choose the All option for the workspace "Colors" - or whatever workspace name you used. (2) From the Scripting options choose "Repeat with each item" -- the default "in Drafts" will be added and is correct. (3) From the Documents options choose the action: "Replace #red with in ... The default Repeat Item will be added and is correct. You are replacing a # formatted tag with a blank. Drag this third action above End Repeat. You will obviously use something different from #red, but I'm sure that you get the idea. It took me much longer to write this description than it did to actually create the three-step shortcut.
  5. Tags 3: Give the shortcut a name and run it. Change the tag name and run it a second time. Continue until you eliminate all the old #tags that you no longer need.
  6. Workspace Configuration: You can have many different workspaces in Drafts. We recently moved into a new house, so I have one devoted to "Warranty." I have another called "Dogs" and one called "Books" - etc. These workspaces are not ZK-related, but can exist alongside a ZK-related workspace. A particular strength of Drafts is its use of Actions. Actions are organized into "Action Groups". You can assign two action groups as the default choices for each Workspace. You can easily get access to other groups, but the two groups you assign will show up by default. I assigned my "Markdown" action group to my ZK-related Workspace. I also assigned a new "ZK" action group. If you start working with Drafts you'll soon find that organizing the very large number of available actions into relevant groups and assigning them to different Workspaces is a key to success.

I know this sounds complicated, but the migration took me less than 15 minutes, most of that time sitting in a recliner playing with my iPhone.


  • The beta version of the application Drafts adds the ability to create a variety of different links in a draft. As with The Archive you can link to other files by title - files are called drafts in Drafts. You can also link to Workspaces. A workspace describes a group of drafts with UI configurations automatically set. You can create links based on search terms, to Bear notes and more.

    Drafts has both macOS and iOS versions that sync through iCloud.

    Drafts has a ton of other capabilities. But, for the first time the new link functionality makes it a strong ZK option. The speed of development for Drafts is amazing and the developer is looking for more Beta testers.

  • Thanks for the update, this is good news. Drafts is great. How does it handle links, does it use [[link]] notation?

  • It looks like it supports wiki links using the [[bracket]] notation... sort of.


    It looks like you have to prepend the token with an indicator declaring what you want to "search" for. Like [[d:Title of Draft]] to open by title. or [[s:Search String]] to search by a string. That doesn't seem very flexible, but its better than no linking at all. The difficulty is that its not cross-application. Once you use this still of linking you won't be able to easily migrate somewhere else without some work. With the way that something like The Archive works, I can easily work in either it or vim using vim-zettel or even just vimwiki without too much trouble.

  • edited May 2020

    A great development! In the most recent beta [[links]] without any tokens will work – no need for the d: anymore. The tokens remain for doing other things, like Google searches.

  • I imported my ZK notes from The Archive and all the links worked immediately.

  • The Drafts developer is adding new capability rapidly. This evening he provided an example Drafts action called “New Linked Note.”

    Start on a structure note and click/tap this new action. You will be asked for a title and be given a set of tags to choose from. When done a new note with your title, tags and link back to the structure note will be created. The structure note will have a link to the new note.

    Actually, you don’t have to be on a structure note. You can create a new cross-linked note from any other note.

    Actions sync through iCloud so this functionality is available on iOS as well as macOS.

  • Thanks for letting us know. Could you possibly post a link to the example “New Linked Note” action?

  • I'm not sure how to reply to your request. From a UI standpoint, a Drafts action is associated with an "Action Group". When you define a "Workspace" you can associate two Action Groups by default - and switch to others as necessary. To activate an Action you click (macOS) or tap (iOS) on it -- or use an optional keyboard shortcut.

    A default set of Actions is provided with the application upon purchase. Hundreds of others are available for free download from the "Actions Directory" to which the developer and many users contribute. When the developer provides new functionality he will frequently provide example actions showing how to use it. The "New Linked Note" is in that last category - available for download through the Slack site used by Beta Testers.

    The basic idea with Drafts is that you create text - and then decide what to do with it. You could for example, take meeting notes in Drafts and use an Action to email the notes to one group, text them to a second group, identify actions in the meeting notes and send those to your task manager, and then file the meeting notes in Dropbox, or elsewhere. All of that takes one click/tap.

    After finding an action in the Directory that you think might be useful you can download and then (optionally) customize it. I have minimal JavaScript capability, but yesterday I was able to download an Action that provided a menu from which tags can be selected and modify it for my own set of tags.

    You can, of course, use Keyboard Maestro actions on the macOS version of Drafts. A downside to doing so is that they are not available for the iOS versions of Drafts. Drafts actions sync and most can be used in macOS and iOS. In addition, Drafts provide excellent options for the Shortcuts app, providing another method for automation.

    With the new linking capability, you would find that Drafts resembles The Archive closely in terms of the basic interface - a list of notes in a left-side panel and a larger editing screen to the right. I migrated my ZK notes from The Archive to Drafts in about 15 minutes. After a couple of days of working with Drafts in this mode I have come across no function available in The Archive that is not available in Drafts. But, the ZK capability of Drafts is only a small fraction of its total capability.

    Based on comments made on the Slack Channel I believe that the new production release of both the macOS and iOS versions of Drafts that provide the linking functionality will be available in the next few days.

  • Merged the two topics created by @bjbarry -- the one with the better title is at the top, but also the most recent. Which is confusing. Sorry for messing up the chronology!

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • The coolest thing about all this… (with a little bit of javascript knowhow) you can script Drafts to automate creation of backlinks, add tags, all kinds of things!

  • I agree except that you don’t have to know JavaScript. Actions are freely shared and the two you mention are already available.

  • The Drafts developer just posted two new actions as further examples of what can be done with the new Drafts linking capability and the scripting functionality also added with version 20. These actions are now available for free download on the Drafts Action Directory.

    Transclusion --> Preview
    Replace any [[Wiki-Style Links]] to other drafts with the content of the draft they are linked to and output the full content to a preview window.

    Transclusion --> New Draft
    Replace any [[Wiki-Style Links]] to other drafts with the content of the draft they are linked to and output the full content to a new draft.

  • @bjbarry

    Talk a little bit about getting your notes out of drafts. Can you do a full export to plain text, what do you lose if anything at all in exporting, the backlinks?

    What about handling images, external links to pdf's, etc. compared to The Archive?

    Are workspaces how you move between separate Zetelkastens, sort of like folders?

  • I have never tried to export multiple drafts. There is discussion about doing that on the Drafts Community forum. Involves a script (provided by several volunteer JSA experts) that is used inside a Drafts action.

    You can link to external images and view them from a draft. You can link to a Bear note, a Google search, a Wikipedia search - I don't recall all of the options. More options will no doubt appear soon. The developer's release cycle is amazingly fast. Check out this link for what was added in Version 20 last week. The first beta release for V21 came out yesterday.


    You are correct about workspaces. You can have more than one ZK but you can also use Drafts for many other purposes.

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