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Related: Note Taking

Zettelkasten is a note-taking and knowledge management framework.

Perhaps the most famous Zettelkasten user is Niklas Luhmann who is a world-famous sociologist known not only for his work as a scientist but also for being extremely productive.

He has managed to write more than 70 books and 500 scientific articles for his life. In his productivity, he blamed zettelkasten (slip-box in German) which was his personal offline Wikipedia written on paper cards.

He is considered to be the pioneer of using card indexes for personal purposes.


Zettelkasten's main concepts:

  • Atomic Notes
  • Links
  • Types of Notes

Atomic Notes

Notes should be atomic. Meaning that a single note should represent a single idea or concept or something. Perfect of something meaningful.

The purpose is maintainability. When notes are small and atomic, they are easy to edit and understand. It's also easy to combine them together.

Notes should be linked to each other like with hyperlinks. This encourages the remixing of ideas and concepts with each other and creating new ones.

Types of Notes

Usually, Zettelkasten implies a set of certain note types serving different purposes.

The most common types are:

  • fleeting
  • permanent
  • literature
  • reference
  • index notes


Fleeting notes are used as quick drafts and "ideas inbox".


Permanent are atomic units of knowledge work. Notes that are sometimes referred to as Evergreen Notes


Literature notes are used for information coming from 3rd party sources, like books and articles in processed form.


Reference notes are links to the pieces of information contained in 3rd party sources.


Index - are sometimes called "map of content" notes. Outlines or tables of contents that contain collections of links to related notes.

*Usually, zettelkasten folks have their own set of note types according to their preferences.

The key takeaway here is to know where the piece of information has come from and not confuse your own ideas and 3rd party.*