Ever since Obsidian landed in early 2020, users of the note-taking platform have been asking for a live-preview, Typora-style editor. Now, that editor is here and it was worth the wait!
What the live preview editor is
If you’ve used Microsoft Word, you know what a live preview editor is. When you type and format text, the editor hides any weird markup that obstructs the text and shows bold text as bold, italics as italics, and so on.
The trick with Obsidian, as opposed to Microsoft Word, is it’s working off a file system of plain-text files, in
.md format. These files by default contain absolutely no styling information whatever. It’s plain ol’ text. But that’s where Markdown comes in.
Markdown is a standard of symbols used in plain-text files to denote formatting conventions in a readable, easy-to-type format. The trick is Markdown needs to be converted into HTML, the language web browsers read, in order to render the formatting. This is what the original editor in Obsidian did. You’d write in one view (the source Markdown view), and then you’d read in the reading view, which removes the Markdown formatting and shows the fully rendered text.
Now, the live preview editor removes that extra step of needing to use two views, and instead allows you to both edit your Markdown-based note and read it without the Markdown syntax visible all from one view.
Live preview benefits
There are a few primary benefits to using Obsidian’s live preview editor over the source/preview toggle used prior.
First, and probably most importantly, reading, revising, and understanding your notes is significantly easier using a live preview. For example, many times I have external links in my notes to websites or other resources I want to access from Obsidian. When seeing the Markdown source primarily, I often see something like this in the middle of a paragraph:
[look I'm a markdown link](https://blablahblah.com/2021/10/article-is-cool-dont-you-think?utm_campaign=blah&blah=blah...
That kinda gums up the whole reading experience, doesn’t it?
Instead with the live preview, all that’s hidden so all I see is a normal, underlined link and very little interruption to my reading through a note.
Also, if you have embedded files or notes in a note, they automatically expand in the note once you click off the linked text.
Forever changing the way I use Obsidian
I know for a fact this has changed the way I use Obsidian forever. While there are still some cases at the moment where you’d need to use the reader view (such as seeing the note preview on link hover), the majority of my Obsidian use is done while reading, revising, and editing existing Obsidian notes. Having the live preview option is a critical bit to make the Obsidian experience more usable and understandable for the long term.