Feature request: backlinks

Since this doesn’t yet exist as a major discussion here, I wanted to make a thread for the single feature I most want to see after the Panda editor is merged back into Bear: rich, native backlinks support.

I know this is a much-hyped trend, but having switched to mostly using Roam a year ago, I find it really important for organizing my personal notes. It’s not just hype. For example, my own workflow has switched entirely to the style of keeping most notes within a single dated note for the day, but linking them to the relevant topics and relying on backlinks to find them. It’s an extremely natural and effective way to keep day to day notes.

I sorely miss the basic polish of Bear, though, and want to return to it. But while Bear’s wiki link functionality has grown in great ways in recent years, the lack of ability to easily see backlinks (with context) still limits it.

This could be via a footer or header automatically rendered into the note view (like Roam, and Andy Matuschak’s backlink tool which he uses with Bear), or it could potentially be a floating inspector window that a user can call up which always shows the backlinks to the currently-selected note. I imagine this would be an optional feature, which some could choose to turn off.

I actually hoped to build a simple floating inspector view myself, directly reading from the Bear database, but the total lack of AppleScript support in Bear meant there was no way to poll the app for the currently-selected note ID. (Which raises a related tangent: I also wish Bear had at least basic AppleScript support for better automation on macOS. Just being able to get the note ID / URL of the note in the current active window would let me build something basic myself until a native backlink feature hopefully eventually makes it in.)

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I second these great suggestions. I use links a lot in Bear and from other apps (for example OmniFocus and Calendar) to Bear.

As a workaround to getting the current note in Bear within an Applescript, you can use something like

tell application "Bear" to activate
tell application "System Events"
	tell its application process "Bear"
		tell its menu bar 1
			tell its menu "Note"
				click menu item "Copy Link to Note" -- or "Copy Note’s Identifier"
			end tell
		end tell
	end tell
end tell
delay 0.2 -- sometimes the clipboard needs a 1/5 of second to register
set theNoteLink to the clipboard
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Also Bear provides a URL scheme for this: bear://x-callback-url/open-note?selected=yes. You’d need to work with another tool on top of this if you were trying to automate a process using the currently selected note, but you can already get at it.

Great call — I missed the selected=yes option!

The basic request for built-in backlink aggregation obviously still holds, but the ability to build a hand-rolled solution on top of Bear’s automation is now more feasible, at least on Mac.

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Yes, yes and more test to backlinks please :slight_smile: !

+1 to backlinks

I trust the Bear design team to make the right decisions, but in my opinion listing these in the information panel would be ideal as it would be unobtrusive yet easily accessible.

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@trix180 Is there an update from the team about whether or not backlinks will be included in Bear 2.0?

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+1 to backlinks

But it if it means that the release will be postponed then I prefer to include them as an update in later releases.

Hello, we are focusing on the info panel update for Panda. The idea so far is to accomodate backlinks in the info panel, but we’ll do that once it’s migrated from Panda (Note links and backlinks only work for Bear).

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I believe the info panel would be packed with TOCs (if it goes into the info panel) and backlinks haha. Cannot wait to see how Bear incorporates all things into one!

Yes yes, +1 for backlinks. The new Markdown editor and backlink support in Bear would make it perfect for all of my use-cases.

It’s great to hear this is on the radar. In the info panel would be a great start.

FWIW having them potentially in a footer of the main note view as in Roam can also be nice for link-centric organization schemes. It’s worth thinking about what will be done for things which are linked but otherwise have no content — do links automatically create the corresponding note (empty but for its back links)? This is a common thing for workflows in Roam to rely on and is surprisingly natural and powerful. Also, it’s important to provide context for the back link - the content of the text / bullet subtree where the link occurred, not just the title of the note where it was.

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No, we do not intend to create notes when a non-corresponding link is created but we’ll continue to create new notes when a link with a non-matching title is clicked/tapped. I agree regarding the context being necessary for backlinks.

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+1 for this.

Having it in the info panel would work well like you said. That’s sort of how Obsidian does it and it works well.

Backlinks are definitely not a trend like the OP says. It’s the next evolution for note-taking. And with Bear being so beautiful, I can’t wait until it gets it. I would love to go back to Bear. Nothing looks as good as Bear.

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Hi there,

Thanks for taking the time to leave us some feedback.

The plan is still to have them somewhere in the info panel, but as we’re waiting to do this until after it’s migrated from Panda, it’s not the highest priority at the moment.

Having said that, we’ll keep all the feedback coming in on this topic in mind going forward!

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For what it’s worth, I tried the obsidian app and didn’t really get much out of it. I know some people love it. Just worth stating that as a big bear user, it really wasn’t a game changing feature for me (and overall i strongly preferred bear, which is to say, it’s nice to have options and I’m glad bear has some deeply-held design features and while trying to accommodate users, doesn’t go out of its way to “reinvent the wheel” with features available in other apps. I would posit others share my feeling here)

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Feedback is worth a lot to us @Vindaloo, and we really appreciate all the comments left by our users on this forum, and via all our other various channels!

We do approach design and development like you mentioned above. We try to create and maintain a balance.

We listen to all feedback, weigh it up and see what is a right fit for Bear.

Bear is not (and wont be) all things to all people. We understand that Bear may not suit everyone’s current needs, and that’s ok.

We really appreciate that you understand our approach and that you support us. So FWIW, comments like this are in fact, worth a lot :blush:

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I appreciate the pulse coming from the Bear team.

From a user perspective, I’d like to say that it would be useful for some of us to know more about the purpose of Bear, the future as the Bear team sees it.

Something like:

  • The team’s goal is to confirm Bear as the best maybe editor for essays, blogging, notes, mainly text/images/drawing. That explains focusing on Panda editor, drawings, and TOC.
  • Or, Bear is going to enable also writing to create a knowledge base of notes. That would require backlinking, and maybe embedding linked notes, and more.
  • Or, We don’t really know

I don’t think implementing backlinking is copying what others do, as other guests here are suggesting. Backlinking is about purpose.

Users that use Bear for simple journaling, simple notes, simple blog posts, all things that don’t need to be connected to find and reused. That is the users base of Bear, and I would not be surprised if they would be happy with a great editor and better navigation and nothing more.

But other uses that want an amazing native application experience are looking to Bear for more.

I think it would be much appreciated to know where Bear wants to be in the near future and avoid a lot of threads.

We know that application innovation is not linear :slight_smile: but a bit of visibility would help many of us. Because creating content is time-consuming.

Personally, I need to write essays and notes very interconnected, so I need backlinking. But I love the simplicity of Bear. So, I am using Bear, copying/pasting the note references manually for tens of notes every day. Very tedious.

Note about UX: Bear on Mac has to Create a note from the text. That’s a great feature. But, the text you copy is still in the old note, and there’s no backlink to the source note. That would make the Nielsen-Norman heuristic partially happy :slight_smile:

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Hi @aspublic

Thank you for providing your perspective above. We do have a blog post here: The who, what, and why of Bear that delves into some of what you ask for above.

As this is an older blog post, your comment triggers the idea of maybe doing a refresher post. Or even a similar post containing some of your ideas above, so thank you for the suggestion!

Regarding back linking, the general consensus amongst the community at present is that it is desired and required.

Therefore, as mentioned above, the current plan for this feature is still to have them somewhere in the info panel. But we’re waiting to do this until after it’s migrated from Panda.

Regarding the note about UX, a couple of users have also mentioned this and it’s something we’ll Bear :wink: in mind moving forward.

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

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1+ for backlinks. Hope to see this feature in Bear. :blush:

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