Newbie's questions: Notebook names, saving, and publishing

I’m just getting started and there’s a lot in the UI that isn’t obvious to me. I’ve made some errors, and I don’t know how to clean them up!

  1. My notebooks are always “Untitled.” How can I change that?

  2. When I make a new notebook, its name is “Untitled,” and so it over-writes my existing “Untitled,” and I lose all my work! If I can rename notebooks I could avoid this. Better yet, if the new notebook was named “Untitled2”, then “Untitled3”, and so on.

  3. Hoping to save my little test notebook with a name, I pressed “Publish”, hoping that would give me the option. Instead, it publicly published my notebook. Not realizing that, I pressed it again! I now have two completely useless tiny notebooks in the published area. I know from How to unpublish a notebook? that you don’t allow us to unpublish, for good reason, but I think it’s valuable to get rid of junk notebooks like these. Can you get rid of them for me? Both have the same name - you’ll never guess it! - “Untitled.” Even better: is there a way for me to delete them myself?




Hi Andrew,

Sure - so:

The title of a notebook is whatever is the header in the first cell: when you create a notebook, it’ll look like:

Editing ‘Untitled’ here to anything else will set the name of the notebook to that text.

Re: overwriting - let me know if there’s a more specific example, but generally notebooks won’t overwrite each other: for instance, you have two published notebooks named Untitled, one at and the other at Future notebooks named the same thing will follow the same URL pattern (untitled/3…) We’re explicitly allowing people to have more than one notebook named the same thing, so this is disambiguated at the URL level rather than restricted for people.

It sounds like for #3 you’re looking to remove the Untitled notebooks from public listings. To do that, go to your list of public notebooks, and click the next to the name of the notebook you want to trash, and then click ‘Move to Trash’ - that’ll remove it from the listing.

Hope that helps!

  • Tom
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Thank you, Tom!

I don’t recall reading about the titling convention - perhaps that could be added to the beginner’s docs (my apologies if it’s there and I overlooked it).

After following your link, and looking through the pages again, I finally noticed the “Drafts/Public/Trash” option bar in the upper right of “My Notebooks.” That was easy to overlook!

Thanks for your help!


Dear Tom,

I noticed that the above behavior for titles does not work when using HTML for example.
Please see
Is there any way to get around this?

Thanking you in advance.


At this moment - Observable only is able to extract titles from Markdown cells (md) and literal titles. We’re looking into the ability to customize the URL of notebooks independently of the first cell’s value, but until then, if you want to use HTML titles or something else in the first cell, the workaround is to publish it first with a simple Markdown cell as the first, so that Observable can detect the name, and then re-publish the notebook with a different first cell, like the html you have in that example. The URL title is only set on the first publish, so it’ll stick around in the URL even if the first cell’s value changes.

Thank you Tom. That workaround is fine for me.

Pulling this thread up from the dead to say that I’m also finding the management of notebooks to be a bit cumbersome. Specifically, this naming convention - why not allow a customized name outside of the context of the cells?

I have to alter the presentation of the file just to account for how to name the file, but the whole purpose of the notebook is to present… definitely a pain point. I tried the suggestion here of publishing and renaming but it didn’t seem to stick.

Also, the naming convention doesn’t work with:

md## Title

Do I have to use the largest-sized text header for the name of the file? If so, is there a clever way to hide this cell or hide the text so I can still have a filename for my notebook?

Thank you! This platform is fantastic.


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Hi @zgirson,

While we’re certainly hoping to improve our features around custom naming and list display for notebooks (we have custom thumbnails now, but still need custom titles and URLs) … for now, you can use CSS to style (or hide) your title h1 header in whatever way you like.

Just create a style cell:

  h1 {

… and go nuts.

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Appreciate you.

Yes, I have a notebook URL that is labeled ‘test’, which I’d like to change if possible. This is not a huge issue:

I probably did have md ##Test way in the past

Hi @metaphorz,

Easiest way to do this is to unpublish the notebook and then re-publish it. Your slug will automatically update.


That worked thanks!

FYI I don’t think this actually works anymore, if you delete the cell later, the title will revert to ‘’

FWIW you can now use the “Set URL” option in a notebook’s … menu to change its URL.

Yes, tried that, but there’s also a title and if you don’t set the first cell it will be Untitled where the title is used.

My workaround was to set the URL and hide the first cell using CSS

Ah, I see what you mean. Yes, I believe that’s the only solution right now.