Tags vs. References. When to use what?

Hi there.
Could you please explain to me when should i use a tag, and when a reference?
Which of these should be used inside a document, and which should be more global?

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  • Both are used make connections in your notes.
  • Both generate backlinks shown in portal stubs or as icons behind the rem.
  • Every rem can be used as tag or reference no matter if it is global/top-level or in a document. (Non top-level references/tags have a | in front of them.)


  • References are part of the text, tags are not.
  • Tags can be used to apply templates (make a TypeParent-TypeChildren relationship). They set a data attributes in the markup which can even be used to style rems differently. References only do this if they are the last thing of the Concept or Descriptor Rem (you see a little x then which can also be removed).
  • There is a Tag Power Up rem which collects all rems which have been used as a tag.

I personally use them like this:

  • References: To link concepts in text, to connect ideas (e.g. This is related to [[this other thing]]) and to list things in overview pages (structure zettel).
  • Tags: To categorize things, e.g. to express a subclass/instance relationship (e.g. How To Take Smart Notes #Book #Rating > 5 #Book > completed).

thank you soooo much


I would also add that it is possible to filter by tag(s) with Ctrl+F, but not by reference.

Ideally you’d be able to use portals to create desktops for organising of notes rather than creating a reference, which creates a backlink and therefore should be used as the last step to create keynotes, but the portal slowdown is too much at the moment.

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For some reason this forum eats my newlines, so I’ll make a new post to add: references can also have their full breadcrumb trail shown if you right click and pick “show full name”. Quite useful if you have a reference to a piece of text that means different things in different fields, e.g. statement in philosophy vs statement in programming. Tags only show this on hover, but you can right click them to filter by that tag rather going through Ctrl+F.


To clarify with some examples. Say you come up with a business idea and you’re in your daily document. Would you use a reference [business idea] or tag ##business idea for that?

@jcy1011 The easiest way to choose which one you prefer would be to alternately use both in roughly the same way for a few days, then go to the “business idea” rem and open the portals at the bottom. It’s easy enough to bulk reformat, just ctrl+shift+s to get the tag or ctrl+shift+r for reference and paste them in. Of course, if you need to have any slots, tags are the way to go (it would be quite awkward to reference and make flashcards just to add slots).

For, me it boils down to this. In the queue, you don’t get the tag displayed while a rem reference will be, so rem references remind you of the connection in the actual review process. Next, in the queue, hovering over the rem referencing will result in a preview. That is super useful if the rem I’m making is based off the reference rem.

We can filter by references using Ctrl + F. One can just remove that default Quote box in the Ctrl + F pop up and type in (or paste) either a reference or a tag and it will filter based on that.