Zettelkasten Forum

Interesting Tagging Idea from Bear

I've been using Bear for a couple of years, although I took a break for 2 months when distracted by work :>( Going back to Bear, after now starting to use TA and having read about Zettelkasten, I paid more attention to how Bear organizes notes. In Bear, you can nest your tags, in such a manner:

" #stories/ideas/agency "

There is a pane in Bear that lists your main level tags, and then underneath each tag, any sub-tags, to whatever number of sub-levels you want.

This concept is quite powerful. I understand it is still a method of categorization and that you are stuck with whatever structure you set up. But it seems easier to find things with nested tags than with single tags. I guess the equivalent in TA would be to use multiple tags and a Boolean search. Can a case be made for nested tags in TA?

Bear also has a method of linking from one note to another, but I find it clunky and less useful than TA. In some ways, it is a matter of emphasis - are tags your primary way of accessing information, or do you more rely on previously established links from one note to another? If I hadn't encountered the idea of Zettelkasten, I'd never of thought about this - haha - one of those happy, serendipitous learnings. But in any case, focusing more on linking notes and on how they should be linked, is a learning exercise in itself.


  • I used nested tags for my bookmarks for a couple of years, and I began to regret it when things began to overlap, like #webdesign/typography and #print/typography (not a real example case). Boolean searches to express set intersections, set unions, and the like are way more powerful and also don't narrow down your future options, unlike a hierarchical tag taxonomy that you cannot as easily migrate our of.

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

  • @ctietze said:
    I I began to regret it when things began to overlap,

    I found the same. I tried to use bear a bit in my day job but, as that’s project based, each project has at least some tags the same (#scope #bus_case or whatever). Not only was this confusing when working on multiple projects but additionally caused a problem once some projects had finished but their stuff was still showing up.

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    In Bear, you can nest your tags, in such a manner:

    " #stories/ideas/agency "

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding how tags work in Bear but are this really nested tags (where one tag can potentially have multiple parents)? If not, isn't this converting a tagging system into a conventional folder system (with all of its disadvantages)?

    I mean, with two hierarchical tags like #stories/ideas and #startup/ideas, can you still search for #ideas and get all results that are tagged with either #stories/ideas or #startup/ideas? If not, how does this differ from a conventional folder setup?

    In a true hierarchical tagging system, one would usually be able to:

    • assign a tag to multiple parent tags
    • search for the child tag to get all of its associated records (independent from the parent)
    • search for a parent tag and optionally get results for all records tagged with just its children tags
  • Thanks for responses everyone - most helpful!

  • @msteffens I was using the term "nested tags" only to mean that there was a hierarchy of tags, one under another. You are right that, in the way they are used in Bear, the tags are not independent of one another and that they are very like a conventional folder setup.

    The other comments above are applicable - keeping the tags independent and then using a Boolean search on terms of interest to you is a more powerful way of using multiple tags.

    I found the way Bear implements a string like:

    " #story/ideas/stop_time "

    to be interesting. Each of "story", "ideas" and "stop_time" are treated as individual tags, but they are connected to one another in a "hard" manner, in a strict hierarchy, so that if one searches on "stop_time", he (or she) gets the full string of associated tags. That is of course very constraining, but it does allow them to easily show the complete "folder" system in a separate panel, from which, if you remember how you've tagged something, you can find your note.

    In the end, I guess Bear's system is not that innovative.

    I would like it if TA had a way of listing all tags in one's Zettelkasten, such as a menu item that lists them in a dropdown window.

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