Zettelkasten Forum

Newbie here, any completely jargon free plain English introduction available?

I am now retired but over the years have managed to scramble together a degree, masters degree and professional qualifications. But I was on the cusp of the changeover to computers and thus hand wrote stuff or had secretaries finish work. I am basically completely disorganised.q

I can vaguely see this is important stuff, I found you by reading about commonplacing, which I have mumbled about in my blog.

Is there a completely jargon free plain English introduction to this?

Post edited by Sascha on


  • This is related to where I am coming from.

    I think zettelkasten is something to do with sculpting words, much like the ancient Greeks sculpted stone, but I have not yet seen an overview

  • The book How to Write Smart Notes has a good overview. Keep notes about what you know or are thinking about, one note per idea. Each note has a unique index number so you can reference them, and link notes to related notes by referencing their index numbers. Luhmann literally used slips of paper in a card catalog, which still works, but apps like The Archive are easier. But it isn’t just a way of storing your notes—there’s a kind of workflow to it so that you end up with something useful, rather than just a collection of stuff.

  • @clivedurdle Welcome to the Zettelkasten forum - I've found it extremely helpful.

    I am a new ZK user and was confused when I first started reading about it. There used to be a "Basics" link on the ZK web site but it has recently been removed - maybe being re-written?

    Anyway, it referred to the following article which I found well written and clear:


  • :-) it is slowly dawning on me! I was wondering why reviews of the book split so strongly into one’s and fives. I think this is to do with the reader’s starting point, are they silo or gestalt focussed?

    The terms web, flow, non linear, relationships are used. It is a big change to switch gear from tabs and files and indexes and external structures like these to webs. Is the octopus a good example of what this is about?

    On gestalt, my background includes looking at quality, and of course people like Deming. Is this quality management for words? Instead of stores of stuff neatly stacked away in warehouses of words, we let the store help and become alive?

  • I have also experience in disability issues, where the word flow is fundamental. Has something been worked out carefully from beginning to end, as the monastic rule says, begin at the beginning :-) have all the liminal points been carefully tested?

  • Please rename the title appropriately.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited June 2020

    ? :-) it is! It is a pun on the Buddhist om

    I suppose I am foolishly attempting to eat two elephants at the same time! From commonplacing comes the concept of memory palaces. I have been messing around with trying to build a universe memory palace, so my mind attempts to map the structure of the universe.

    The slip Boxes feel like a way to structure stuff externally to reflect and reinforce the internal mapping.

    I suppose this is quite a Taoist idea.

  • A good title directly sums up the content.

    Something like "Hello, newby here" could be something appropriate. "Umm" doesn't tell anybody anything upfront.

    (This is by the way a rule of thumb of assigning titles in the Zettelkasten. :smile: )

    I am a Zettler

  • Yes @Sascha, thanks for the encouragement. I'm trying to learn to encapsulate the content when titling but often get stuck on this step. One thing that has helped me is not wedded to a title and because I use [[UID][ for links I can and often do change the title as the zettel and my knowledge develops

    Will Simpson
    I must keep doing my best even though I'm a failure. My peak cognition is behind me. One day soon I will read my last book, write my last note, eat my last meal, and kiss my sweetie for the last time.

  • Over on Facebook I chose a photo I took at the Natural History Museum of a duck billed platypus, which Darwin wrote about that it must have had two creators :-) I love ambiguity and feel it is very important. A book I vaguely remember was called the unfinished.

    And I have the impression this system is about relationships, are not therefore softer titles better as they allow things to relate that might not join with hard jagged edges?

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    Anyway, it referred to the following article which I found well written and clear:


    @GeoEng51, thank you for sharing this article link - SO helpful for this ZK newbie! Bookmarking it for re-reading and re-re-reading...

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