Lesson 5: Working with the sidebar

Roam is not just a note-taking tool; it’s also a powerful writer’s tool. So far, we’ve been writing blocks on pages and cleaned up those pages using filters. But when you use your notes to write, you sometimes want more information on your screen. Enter Roam’s sidebar.

In the first lesson we had a look at Roam’s basic components, the left sidebar being one of the most noticeable. You probably use the left sidebar daily, to navigate to the Daily Notes page or to a page you’ve marked. But, much of Roam’s power comes from the right sidebar. In this lesson, we’ll focus on the right sidebar (from now on just referred to as the sidebar).

The right sidebar

By default, the sidebar on the right is hidden. Using the keyboard shortcut Cmd-/ (macOS) or Ctrl-/ (Windows), you open it. But, you can’t write in the sidebar nor drag blocks to it in this state, so what’s the use?

In the sidebar, you can open (branches of) blocks, pages, and references. Any link can be opened in the sidebar by holding the Shift key when clicking the link with your left mouse button (this also works to open a result from the search bar in the sidebar):

Roam sidebar
Click image to enlarge

Here, I Shift-Click‘ed  on the Parent A link, opening it in the sidebar. In this case, the page is empty so we only see a bullet without text. However, from the sidebar we can start typing directly on the page or drag blocks from the main window.

Furthermore, we get three options on the right: to close the page in the sidebar (Sidebar close button), to pin it to the sidebar (Sidebar pin button), or to filter it (Roam filter option). When you pin a page to the sidebar, you can close it (Sidebar close button) but any time you reopen the sidebar any pinned pages also open in the sidebar.

Apart these options above, we also see the number 1 in this example. That’s the amount of linked references the page has; in this case the reference is from the February 12, 2021 page. We can see the linked references by clicking the number:

Linked references in sidebar
Click image to enlarge

To open a block in the sidebar, Shift-Click on a bullet. You can edit its entire branch from the sidebar:

Block open in sidebar
Click image to enlarge

When you have several items open in the sidebar, you can reorder them by clicking and dragging them:

Reorder items sidebar

And those are the basics of the sidebar! In the next lesson, will expand on the usefulness of the sidebar by adding another power tool to our arsenal: block references.


Start using the sidebar any chance you get. Are you writing something on a page and need notes from another page? Instead of navigating away, search for the page in the search bar and open the result in the sidebar using Shift-Click (or Shift-Enter when selecting the result using the arrow keys).

If you don’t like to use your mouse, use the keyboard shortcuts to open links in the sidebar. For example, when you’re editing a block, you can open a link under the cursor by using the Ctrl-Shift-o shortcut (works on both macOS and Windows).

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