Questions about Zettelkasten

If anyone here is using Zettelkasten with DTPO, I would like to ask you questions about the system and your thoughts on what you see as potentially problematic in the way I use it at the moment. I have seen a number of posts here on Zettelkasten, but they involve technical questions, which are not a concern for me. I am more interested to know about how the Zettelkasten system works and what I might be missing out on.

To start with what elements should each Zettel have? So far I am adding tags, the citation (in abbreviated way, usually as a link to another file in DTPO) to a source I am referring to, and I might (but rarely do) add a link from another Zettel (i.e. usually a rich text file).

If something unfamiliar in the quotations I use from a source appears, I make it a link so that I can explore the new topic in another Zettel. I wish there was an automatic way to link the newly created file to the one it originates from. To work around this, I add a link the the original file which spurred my question.

My typical Zettel, when I work on a paper, would consist of one quotation from a specific source. But I think that the Zettelkasten system requires that I add my own notes too.

I also want to be able to use this system in Scrivener and in DTPO, and I am not sure what I need to do to make the transition seamless. I do not want to import and export files from DTPO and Scrivener all the time. But when I am in the flow of things, I use the Zettelkasten method in the program I am working, which is either S or DTPO.

Finally, I am aware that a book translated in English is coming out on the method, but before it is published, which may take some time, I wanted to ask you questions. I am also aware of a video on the method, but even though it is detailed, it is in German with no English subtitles.


I’m no longer an active Zettelkasten user – but a few other sources that you might find interesting, if you haven’t come across them yet:

Manfred Kuehn’s Taking Note blog. Kuehn has been writing about Zettlekasten for quite a long time – and has a different point of view on technique than Christian Tietze’s (the author of the book you mentioned).

The Outliner Software forum, which in the past (less so recently) has had long dialogs on Zettelkasten

“Dr. Andus” has also written about Kettelkasten in the past

Finally – nothing against using DEVONthink for Zettelkasten - but the superior software, in my opinion, is ConnectedText. Made for Windows – but can be run inside a bottle with CrossOver or WineBottle. ConnectedText was built to be fully featured wiki tool, which is best suited for Zettelkasten – again, my opinion. Kuehn’s preference, too.

Thanks for the links, Korm. I will dig there and may be post my questions to these fora. If you do not mind sharing, would you let me know why you no longer use Zettelkasten? Did you find a more effective system? If if so, it would be great if you can share it.

I’m not doing any research at this time that would benefit from the method. And Zettelkasten are very time consuming to maintain.

So far the most advanced—though not the easiest—Zettelkasten tool is a package to be used with Sublime Text:

The support forum for it is found at

Even though it is time consuming, it is an investment toward future productivity. Plus DTPO can possibly index your Zettelkasten.

Sorry, I know I’m sort of digging up a thread long since dormant, but I’ve become really interested in the whole Zettelkasten method lately and was hoping you could shed some more light on this for me.
I see you recommend connected text, is that in any way similar to Tinderbox, and do you feel that Tinderbox would be a tool capable of creating a Zettel in and handling all of the things which would make it beneficial to use?

Connected Text is wiki software. It is Windows-only and is not any way similar to Tinderbox. I do not recommend Connected Text. It is dying a slow, apparently inevitable death. The sole developer has not issued any significant updates for years and no longer participates in the user forum. So, save your money.

Tinderbox can be a fine tool for Zettelkastens, but also very complex. Well beyond the simple needs of good Zettelkasten software. I wouldn’t spend $249 just to experiment.

You can easily make a Zettelkasten in DEVONthink. Or you could look at take a look at The Archive, by Christian Tietze & Sascha Fast. The Archive is designed explicitly around Luhmann’s original concepts and is probably the best choice. Reasonably priced, too.

Gotcha, yeah I definitely wasn’t thinking of making the switch over to windows, I just know I had heard that name before and thought I had heard it in relation so Tinderbox somehow. I already bit that bullet and have been playing around with Tinderbox for a while now, though I’m sure I still am barely even scratching surface of what is possible same goes for Devonthink here.

I will be interested to see how it goes. I am currently using DEVONthink at this time for my system. I am a historian and need to organize my sources and thinking.

+1! Hi there! I’m not a skilled user of DT3S - although I really love it and appreciate how helpful this community is!
I’ll need to write a movie script and I need to compile lots of info already stored in Formatted Notes in DT3S. (Later on, I’ll copy & paste these notes into Final Draft, but that will be easy, so my questions here relates only to DT3S).
I’d like to know how to better use DT3S’s new capabilities to create a Zettelkasten system (all inside DT3S). I agree, Zettelkasten is time-consuming to create and maintain, but for the kind of work I‘ll do - which benefits from finding unexpected relations between diverse topics - it pays off in the long run… if we remember to follow Luhman’s “only one topic per note” rule.

My questions are:

  1. where inside a Formatted Note (the ones I mostly use) would be the best place to put numerous links:
    a) FROM other related notes in DT3S (from which the current note can benefit in some way);
    b) TO other related notes in DT3S (notes that will benefit in some way from the current note)?

I guess the options are:
.•. To place both kinds of links inside a note’s “Annotations” panel?
.•. To place both kinds of links at the beginning of each note’s text field (using the “…Add Link” and “Link To” menu commands)?

I’m wondering which method would be faster, and more “future-proof” as I enlighten myself better on the use of DT3S.

I use a single (and big) database. Inside this database I’ll create a Group called ZETTELKASTEN, where I’ll “slowly” build my Zettelkasten’s notes - by copying and pasting text from other notes. So, I have some other questions regarding this process:

  1. I know that all these links might already be enough, to make the system function. But I also feel that each ”Zettel” note benefits from having its own reference number. Is there a way to automatically (and sequentially) number each new note when I create a ”new Formatted Note” in this Zettelkasten group? (please see “3” and “4” below before answering this one)

  2. If the above answer is possible, can I manually edit a note’s automatic number, without making the next counter go crazy? (I’m asking this because Luhman did not organize his system by topic, but instead by numbers, letters and symbols. For example, when a new note was a continuation of a previous note’s idea (“23”), he would number the new note “23a” instead of “24”. And if it was a totally new line of thought BUT which originated from those previous notes, he would use a slanted bar, numbering it “23a/1”, “23a/1a”, etc. etc.
    Again, very time consuming, but just by reading a note’s number he knew exactly what kind of relation it had with his previous ideas (“one idea per note“).

  3. If there are more than one way to do what I asked in “2” above, which one is better and how to do it, specifically? Does the best answer relate to:
    … using “placeholder” % recordCounter%?
    … using “Bates Numbering” and “Placeholder Text?

I’m not tech savvy ”YET” but since a Zettelkasten system in DT3S will take a lot of time to build, I’d really appreciate any comments on which methods would be better to create a similar “semi-automatic numbering system” as stated above.

I really appreciate your help and admire DEVONtechnologies and this community. Thank you and all the best! :pray:t2::raised_hands:t2:

p.s.: I read the ebook “How to take smart notes”, which details Luhman’s method (Zettelkasten). (Beck Tench recommended it - it’s very nice indeed! Thanks for the link, DT!!)

p.s.s.: I also bought Tinderbox (inspired by the same Beck Tench‘s link that I saw in this forum) and TBX is really great to visualize these relationships between topics… but for the moment I need to simplify my digital life and create all of my Zettelkasten system just inside DT3S (due to my lack of computer knowledge, because I guess some of you who are more knowledgeable can be using Zettelkasten by connecting both DT3 and TBX, right?


I think the whole numbering thing in ZK is an artifact of it being done in the days before computers. Your entries already have a unique ID which is the DT item link, e.g.


And it’s easy enough to add a link to the end of a note

Continued in x-devonthink-item://D1CC60E1-DAF9-46B1-8DF1-D96257D39073

and/or at the top

Continues x-devonthink-item://D1CC60E1-DAF9-46B1-8DF1-D96257D39073

and DT automates the creation of Tables of Contents for you, which allows you to very easily collect links to a large group at once.

But … to tell the truth, I actually do all this in Ulysses, using the tools discussed by dfay (me) in this thread (now up to 1.23 million words with no change in performance):

The underlying approach would be the same though, and I’ve been applying it on a small scale to some projects in DT.

1 Like

There are a couple of problems with the DT link as a zettelkasten ID - one is if you convert notes from one form to another - such as from markdown to RTF or HTML. In that case you’ve got a new note object with a new DT ID, but it’s still the same zettel.

There are other reasons, such as portability to other applications.

1 Like

Yeah it’s the same in Ulysses - if you split or merge documents the urls change. But (and this would be the same in DT) by using the title of the target page as the text of the link, I’ve never had a note get lost - I can always search for the text and update the link. It’s definitely preferable (for me) to an 18 digit date/time stamp with no intrinsic meaning, which I’ve seen proposed.

1 Like

I agree about the Zettel id being out of place. I mean, you could use it, but you don’t have to. There is better technology now to allow a more meaningful way to connect notes. Personally, I use the auto-link feature in DT3 (a feature missing in Tinderbox and most other apps) to create links based on file names. I also use the alias feature to lead even more links towards a single more important page (I wrote about it here, and here). If I need to make any big changes to the whole system (to all the files, for instance), I use BBEdit to search and replace the whole folder without even having to open the files. I also use Ulysses at times to edit my notes or take new notes. Since they stay in dropbox indexed folder, that works rather well.

By the way, @jongilizwe, is the Alfred-GetUlyssesSheetURL working for you? I couldn’t quite figure out how to get Ulysses to authorise Alfred. If you have any tips, I would appreciate it.

1 Like

see the directions here: to get the token, then manually edit the python script

Should the URL be ulysses://x-callback-url/authorize?appname=alfred ?

Any app name will work but you’ll need to install xcall first as noted there and use it to call the URL – e.g.

02:16 PM [username]  /Applications -url "ulysses://x-callback-url/authorize?appname=Alfred"

  "access-token" : "4f4a79a712a04418aeaf047d3e2c4794"

Cool. I got it woking :slight_smile: Thanks!
There is just a minor setback however. I wonder if it happened to you and if you have a workaround.

I’d try the steps at

it’s definitely putting out unicode instead of utf-8

are you using python 3?

Sorry, I sort of gave up on it. I was too much trouble. DT3 is serving me well as my Zettelkasten. I love the automatic Wiki linking feature.

Just so you know, it was set to use python 2.

Thanks for trying to help out :slightly_smiling_face: