Zettelkasten Forum

File-based Transclusion Comes to The Archive!

Something about @Artem's question "How do you organize and refer to your final work?" got me thinking that I should share a workflow process. I'm calling this workflow 'File Transclusion' to dress it up in fancy pants terms.

This uses two short and straightforward Keyboard Maestro macros. One to place the file in the /media directory and then forms the link, placing it in the clipboard for pasting, and the second calls the file and opens it in its default application. This all works beautifully with my Two Window Workflow keeping the target note in focus while reviewing the attachment alongside in a separate window. Simple is as simple does!

This video shows this process in action. The triggers are hard to grasp and hard to display. The trigger for the "Form Media Links" macro is ⌃⌥⇧⌘M which is a keyboard trigger. The "File Transclusion" macro uses a mouse action as a trigger. All I do is hold down the CONTROL key and select the link with my left mouse button, and it launches. So easy!

You will instantly see many use cases for this. You can imbedded, view, and edit any file or document in any file format right from "within" The Archive. So please lets me know how you might use this workflow with a post in the forum. I'm not sure if other zettelkasting tools have this feature.

My Use Case

Papers and articles that I factor into my zettelkasten are usually in the form of a PDF. I read, annotate, and highlight them but often don't finish digesting the whole article in one sitting. (Life often interrupts.) The link to the PDF goes on the draft of the note. The note is slid into my 'proofing oven.' Anytime I work in 'My Knowledge Project,' I visit the 'proofing oven' and will see the incomplete notes with the link to the PDF to continue reading and onboarding it. Right there, while the note is in front of me, I can select the link launching the PDF reader with the PDF loaded at the spot I last was reading and continue with the note in the other window.

A long explanation, but I think if you watch the video and see this workflow in action, you'll see why I'm excited about it.


  1. Use at your own risk. These macros will not modify your zettel except where you add the link.
  2. macOS security confuses files for applications making some use cases difficult.
  3. In putting this together, I found a difference between a Markdown 'image link' and a Markdown 'file link.'
  4. I used the default /media directory, but this works if you keep files in a different directory (with the appropriate changes to the macros.)

How might you use something like this without Keyboard Maestro? I think Automator or Alfred could be pressed into service. Hopefully, this kind of thing will be possible with the forthcoming scriptability in The Archive.

Questions, comments, suggestions, corrections, snipes, snarky or otherwise, join the conversation here on the forums.



Form Media Links Must be in Keyboard Maestro's Finder Group
File Transclusion Must be in Keyboard Maestro's The Archive Group

Richard Hamming. February 11, 1915 – January 7, 1998

Will Simpson
I'm a zettelnant.
Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing

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