It’s been discussed here that backlinks are in the works and that a panel is being considered. As a Bear user who’s used various methods of viewing this type of information in other apps over the past year or so, I thought I’d post my thoughts about some of them.
There are multiple ways to view a note’s related information - a side panel of backlinks is only one of them.
Backlinks (or linked mentions) are used in many other apps to help answer the question “What other notes are related to this note?”. Contextual backlinks can help answer “Why are they related?”
Here are some ways I’ve observed people answering these and other similar questions in Obsidian to which Bear is often compared here during backlink discussions:
A diagram showing multiple ways in Obsidian to view info related to a note named “The Salad Car”
- Search (for unlinked mentions)
- Search (for linked mentions or “backlinks”)
- Dataview Query (DQL or JS)
- Inline linked/unlinked mentions
- Panel of linked/unlinked mentions
In Obsidian, a search for a linked mention (#2) shows the same information as the linked mentions in a side panel (#5). The same goes for unlinked mentions (#1).
Some Bear users have found related information for a note by using search - either manual or X-Callback-URL search actions. So, searching for linked mentions provides the same information (i.e, note and context) as the proposed panel of linked mentions:
Snapshot showing Bear’s X-Callback-URL search action for a linked mention and context provided in note preview
With Obsidian, some users don’t like the look of inline linked/unlinked mentions (#4) or the side panel (#5). They prefer to use Dataview queries to get at a subset of linked information (“visits” in the example) in a more aesthetic table view (#3).
Snapshot of a Dataview query showing visits to a restaurant which is a subset of all linked mentions
Some users don’t use the backlinks panel but prefer to view them inline instead (#4). For them, looking down can be more natural than looking to the side.
As thoroughly discussed in this forum, some users don’t like skipping to the bottom of a note and prefer a side panel of linked/unlinked mentions (#5). In Obsidian, there are additional features such as aliases and linking. Will Bear have similar features to make further use of the mention exposed in a panel?
Some Obsidian users collapse the side panel and disable inline backlinks. They use the graph to visualize them.
Snapshot of a graph showing backlinks for a note
Of course, some people use any combination of the above.
People have different ways of accessing information that may be relevant to a given note. A side panel is just one of them. Since many users don’t use the panel in other apps for the reasons stated above, I thought I’d provide a summary of other related methods with some graphics for reference, lest a future backlinks feature in Bear ends up just being a search redundancy.
I hope that any Bear’s backlinks “viewer” developed:
- maintains Bear’s minimalist sensibilities and flexibility, first and foremost
- provides some additional navigation functionality beyond a simple list of mentions and context which is already available via Bear’s powerful search
- is either a tab next to the stats and TOC or a panel that floats, closes, or hides in some fashion
I have some things to say about improving one’s writing process and workflow to make all of this easier, but that’s another post.