Starter Course Lesson 2: Link Your Thinking

Ramses Oudt
Ramses Oudt
Starter Course Lesson 2: Link Your Thinking

How is writing on the Daily Notes page going? Hopefully you're getting used to writing in an outline and are seeing the benefits. Remember to indent blocks to associate them! This will come in handy down the line, but first we need to cover a central function in Roam: links.

As noted in the introduction, Roam is a networked thinking tool. Because Roam lacks a hierarchical structure like folders, you may find organizing your notes confusing at first. After all, how are you going to find back what you put into this app? That's where links enter.

Links are entry points into your piles of notes. What makes Roam unique is that you can also point to individual paragraphs instead of pages. In fact, pages are nothing more than a collection of blocks (paragraphs). Whereas most note-taking tools make linking to other notes a hassle, Roam has a keyboard-first approach.

Let's first look at how to link pages before diving into linking blocks in the next lesson.

Creating links to pages is simple in Roam; you just type them! No need to use your mouse, create a page, and then point to it. If you link to a page that doesn't exist yet, Roam creates it for you.

There are two main ways to link to a page:

[[Brackets]]

Roam uses wiki-style links, which means that you can type double opening brackets to create a link ([[ — Roam will autocomplete the closing brackets).

When a page doesn't exist yet, typing the link will create the page with that name. If the page already exists, you can select it from the dropdown menu that appears by typing the name.

#Hashtags

Another way to type links in Roam is to use the hashtag symbol (#). The difference between bracket links and hashtags is purely cosmetic as they function the same. However, many use them in different situations; brackets are often used for inline links, whereas hashtags are often used for metadata or for links that have less prominence (as Roam makes the color of hashtag links grey).

Hashtags can only contain one word, otherwise you need to #[[wrap them between brackets]].

Advanced users also use hashtags extensively as it's relatively easy to style them using CSS in Roam. We'll get to this in the advanced course.

Create pages with the search bar (without linking)

For completeness I also show you how to create pages using the search bar, although I don't recommend it (see section on bidirectional linking for why).

To create a page using the search bar, start typing a page name in it (use the Cmd-u (macOS)/Ctrl-u (Windows) shortcut to focus the cursor on the search bar without using your mouse). Then, select the option that starts with New Page: to create the page and open it:

If your database is made up of blocks—the atomic unit in Roam—why would you bother linking to pages?

As said, Roam pages are nothing more than collection of blocks. In that sense, they're the perfect place to write (short) articles about topics for yourself. The cool thing about Roam is that you can populate a page from anywhere, thanks to the powers of bidirectional links.

Whenever you link to a page in Roam, you actually create two links; one that you write, and one that automatically appears in the Linked references section of the page you link to. Each page has this Linked references section, showing all the blocks that point to that page:

If you didn't link to a page but did use its name in the text, you can see all mentions from the Unlinked references section. We'll return to that section in future lessons.

It's—obviously—also possible to link to pages outside of Roam, i.e. websites. To point to a URL, either use the trigger menu by typing /alias or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd-k (macOS)/Ctrl-k (Windows) to add the following shortcode to the block: [](). Between the brackets ([ ]), put the label (name) of the link. Between the parenthesis, put the URL.

Apart from linking to pages outside of Roam, you can also use the alias function to link to an internal page. This is handy for when you want to show a different label for an internal link. For example, [I worked on projects]([[Projects]]) will make the entire "I worked on projects" sentence clickable and point it to the Projects page.

Exercise

Keep using the Daily Notes to write notes, but start creating links for concepts you refer to often. That way, you start building your network of notes.

Whenever you're on a page, have a look at the linked references to see what blocks you can bring to the page. Simply drag them from the linked references to the page to move them. Alternatively, you can reference (not move) them by holding the Option (macOS)/Alt (Windows) key when dragging the block. In the next lesson we'll dive into the world of block references.



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