Nested Collections?

My Collections are getting unwieldy, and it occurred to me that I’d love to be able to nest my Collections, like folders on a desktop.

For example, I am working my way through a math book right now, using Observable to explore the problem sets, keeping notebooks I create for the book in a Collection. It’s a long book with lots of problems, and it would be great to be able to create a hierarchy of Collections, where the parent Collection could be called, say, “Math Book”, and then the next level could consist of Collections called “Chapter 1”, “Chapter 2”, and so on. Even within those chapter Collections I’d like to have constituent Collections for different sections of the chapter.

I also use Observable to explore visualizations for my job. I create private Collections made up of notebooks, each of which contains an idea for a different graphic. It’s a useful way for me to quickly iterate through ideas and to keep all my work on a project in a single place.

Because I use Observable for varied aspects of my life – learning new things in books, creating projects for work, open source libraries I’m fiddling with – I’d like to be able to put each of these things in their own Collections (again, like I do on my desktop). So, I could have a Collection called “Books” in which I could nest all the Collections of books I’ve worked on, another called “Work” containing Collections of projects I’ve worked on, and so on.

Essentially, I envision Collections not only as a means for presenting related work to others, but also for organizing work for oneself. This will become increasingly vital as I continue to use Observable and my list of notebooks grows.

I’m curious to know what others – those working on Observable but also its grateful users – think of this idea. Thanks!


That’s wonderful to hear!

Of course, we’d love to continue to improve the organizational features on Observable, to make organizing and finding your notebooks easier — this includes better search as well as more advanced collections features.

But let’s talk about what can be accomplished today.

For what it’s worth, collections are non-exclusive, and many-to-many. So you can have a notebook that is at once in your “Mapping”, “Needs more editing”, and “D3 Techniques” collections, each of which may be public or private — focused on presenting the notebooks to others, or on organizing it for yourself.

So you could, if you wished, create collections for each chapter of the “Math book”, as well as a single ordered collection for the entire book, and have your notebooks exist in both, if you liked.

Observable notebooks, in their wiki-like nature, are also themselves useful for organizing. For sub-chapters, or to-do lists, I often mind myself putting a bulleted list at the top of a notebook with links to other related notebooks inline.