Zettelkasten Forum

How large can you go?

My current slipbox is about 8500 notes. Over the last several years, I've added between 1500-3000 notes per year.

Yes, some of these are redundant, unnecessary, or ill-formed. I've tightened and improved my focus for notes during this time. And as I find old notes that are unneeded, I archive them elsewhere. Sometimes I even devote time to going through and culling them. Since they are still findable via search, there's no reason to keep them in the main slipbox unless I intend to build on them and refine them. Still, my process of archiving unnecessary notes does not generally lead to any rapid decreases, while my process of note creation seems likely to stay at the same pace.

I have two concerns: a practical one, and a conceptual one.

Most significantly, will my tools be able to keep up? Even the Finder frequently lags and balks at large lists of files in a single directory. I haven't hit a wall yet with The Archive, but I do wonder if that and other tools will be able to keep up.

Less significantly for now, are there conceptual limits I should expect to hit? Have I perhaps hit some of these already? So far as I can tell, I've been able to deal with conceptual scaling by introducing appropriate systems and mechanisms, including things like structure notes and "tag maps".

How large is your slipbox? How large can it go?


  • @ctietze See? The testarchive need to be 100k+ :)

    (9629 notes)

    I am a Zettler

  • I just duplicated my notes until there were 50,000

    The Archive still worked extremely well!

    I noticed that it took slightly longer to display the note text after clicking on the note name, and slightly longer to delete a note.

    Search, linking, and new note creation were still instantaneous.

    I can't comment on what conceptual limits there might be.

  • @Charles A question - your description is a bit short on details. Do all your notes have the same title and the same UID?

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @Charles A question - your description is a bit short on details. Do all your notes have the same title and the same UID?

    Hi GeoEng51,

    I have around 1000 notes in my archive (most are quite short). All have unique titles/UIDs.

    Out of interest I quickly made a new folder, then repeatedly copied and pasted the contents of my archive folder until there were 50,000 notes in there. So there were about 50 copies of each note.

    It wasn't a very scientific test :D

  • During development, I fire up The Archive with a test folder containing some 45k notes of 200 words length on average or so; the contents are taken from public domain books like War and Peace , split into multiple files. You'll be amazed how many Tolstoi novels you need to get that many unique files! (Which, on the flip-side, indicates that you can write a huge book with less notes than you might've thought.)

    I'm running out of large books to populate the test archive, but I see how 100k is better :)

    @micahredding Dealing with tens of thousands of notes isn't a hard programming problem, so app developers should be able to cover your needs. I'd be worries about what e.g. Windows does with a folder with that many files. Windows is notoriously bad at dealing with many small files (that's a limitation web developers run into when they develop server software, which usually is made from thousands of small utilities and files that need to be loaded). Unless a future Windows version improves file handling significantly, you'll be safe with macOS or Linux, but may have trouble moving your notes to a Windows computer in 10 years time :)

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

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