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Index notes vs. tags in the Zettelkasten approach. Where should one be favoured over the other?

There are a few ways to turn non-connected heap of notes into highly organised and structured body of them in the Zettelkasten approach:
1) using tags;
2) creating links interlinking (some tautology here!) two notes;
3) creating index notes;
4) using separate directories for various kinds of notes (strictly speaking, this is discouraged, but in reality it may make some sense for high-level classification, for example, if you work in the field of particle physics and you hobby is studying the Byzantine Empire history, there is a little chance these two sets of notes will ever be connected; the obvious alternative is to have two different Zettelkästen).

So far so good, but I am not sure I understand where it is better to use index notes and where it would make sense to stick with tags in stead (direct linking of notes is more or less clear case). For example, I wonder if it is rational to add tags to «content notes» (the opposite of index note) at all. Or is it only index notes what should be tagged?

I would be grateful if you share your thoughts or your first-hand experience on how to find proper «indexing/tagging» ratio (clearly, I do not expect you to come with some universal strategy for there is none, because the needs vary from one person to another).

I know about this Zettelkasten philosophy «Start using it and you'll quite soon come to realisation of how it should be tailored in order to suit your specific needs best», but, I guess, I am a kind of person who feels more comfortable of having at least general, albeit vague idea of where to go before hitting the road.



  • As a newcomer myself, I cannot provide any more than my own attempt at making sense of these features. A commenter on Reddit suggested that while tags provide entry points to a topic, while links offer direct navigation. Index notes give an opportunity to give structure to our thoughts. Tags, for me, have been useful for stumbling upon items, links for referencing items, and index notes for stringing those items together to make a larger argument.

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