I am still conducting field tests on how to implement a practical Zettelkasten system within OneNote. I am less interested in the nuances of Zettelkasten, and more concerned with what makes it a useful system. What I have found most valuable has been the connections between concepts – having an idea and being able to link it to other ideas. This process tends to help me synthesize the information I am trying to learn. It is though I am using the overt process of identifying links to OneNote pages to help me make similar covert synapse linkages in my own memory.
It seems that a key feature of some Zettelkasten applications is the two-way link. That is, if I link note A to note B, the application will also link note B back to note A. To fully replicate this in OneNote, I would have to insert two links for every connection made. In note A, I would need to create the link to note B. Then, in note B, I would have to make a corresponding link back to note A. This certainly adds a layer of complexity.
The scenario could be as such: While creating a note on “Things,” I want to go into detail about things that have color. I can quickly type [[Things with Color]] and once I click this text with the brackets, OneNote automatically creates a new page titled Things with Color. On this new note I want to describe red, blue, and green things. So again, I use the brackets to create pages for [[Red Things]], [[Blue Things]], and [[Green Things]]. As I click on these phrases, OneNote creates the new pages.
The Zettel apps at this point would also create links back from the Red, Blue, and Green pages back to the Things page. OneNote does not do this. Thus, I do not readily have a way to trace my way back to the Things page from the Red page, for instance.
However, what OneNote has is a pretty good search function. Since I link from Things to Red Things using a link that specifically contains the words “Red Things,” I can use the search to find all instances of any page’s title. In this case, if I search for “Red Things” (including the quotes, so that it looks for the complete phrase), one of the hits will be the page Things. In effect, I can now easily move both forward and backward along my connections. To move forward, I simply look at the links on any given page. To move backward, I use the page’s title as my search string to see all other pages that point to the page I am on.