Tinderbox

li
linn
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:30 pm

Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:34 pm Post

mbbntu wrote: Sadly, I can't afford to buy The Tinderbox Way to discover how to use the program.


That's too bad. Perhaps you can persuade friends and relatives to contribute to a New Year's present? Or persuade the local public library to buy the book? I ordered it last week and it arrived yesterday. I read only through the first six chapters, but those were very effective for providing the Zen of Tinderbox, which I had been missing. However, I would suggest beginning with Ch. 14, "Why is Tinderbox so Complicated?"

Basically, Tinderbox can let one describe all the different kinds of notes that possible (scholarly notes, meta-notes, little nuisance notes [such as places, things and ideas that could be useful anytime between tomorrow and the next life--a carpet dealer in Istanbul, a good spelunking helmet, a stone carver] as well as offering at least three ways (ornaments, separators, links) to help one keep track of waffling and indecision--and then to do something with them, including forgetting about them in an orderly way. The book offers two pieces of advice I intend to follow: Write It Down, and Go Slow (meaning don't try to automate and categorize too early).

Vermonter who is also on Scrivener has written a five part chronicle of his experiences with Tinderbox
(http://welcometosherwood.wordpress.com/ ... tinderbox/), which may well be mine, too. He describes "hitting a wall" when it came to writing what basically looks like computer code. I did find a possibly useful guide by Mark Anderson (http://www.acrobatfaq.com/atbref5/index ... tions.html). But even this may be too advanced. Is there a "Dummies" for complete novices?

Hu
Hugh
Posts: 2340
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 12:05 pm
Platform: Mac
Location: UK

Tue Dec 28, 2010 10:21 pm Post

linn wrote:Is there a "Dummies" for complete novices?


Sadly, none that I've come across. As Vermonter indicates in his excellent blogs, the early stuff is fairly straightforward, but after a certain point the application becomes sharply more complex. See "Notes Blizzard" in the "And Now for that Latte" section of this forum for a discussion of why such complexity may be intrinsic to the power of the software.

However, there are signs that Eastgate is listening to users who are seeking more guidance and tuition on not just the simple bits but the more complicated stuff as well. Meantime, if you find the manual too terse, I strongly recommend downloading Mark Anderson's aTbRef5 folder, either as a Tinderbox document or HTML folder (which Safari can search), reading it first from top to bottom and then searching it when you hit a problem. It may bewilder you first time round, but then very gradually become more comprehensible.

H
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

ri
rickla
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 11:49 am

Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:06 am Post

linn wrote:Thanks, zikade. I had the same question as Martin. So are both of you envisioning a DTP, bibliographic manager, and Tinderbox workflow?


This is something that I have thought about many times over the years. My thoughts right now are that this could be a good way to go if you have considerable time for research:

Take notes on single sources in Sente/Bookends and be sure to copy all of them into DTP.
Store or index full PDFs in DTP, too.
Make your [generic "your": this is a memo to myself as much as a message to anyone else] own free notes in Tinderbox.
Copy selected source notes (perhaps only those connected to a particular project) into Tinderbox.
If you don't have enough notes, mine the DTP database for more snippets of info, and again copy the good bits into Tinderbox.
When your work in Tinderbox has allowed you to have a reasonable idea of what you want to write, move your focus to Scrivener.

The basic idea is that DTP is just a big storehouse with a really good and flexible inventory system. I guess in this scenario you would have only one big DTP database for research, and DTP would be something that you don't spend much time in (which would suit me fine, to be frank). The reason I think this system would only work if you have lots of time is that dividing one's time between multiple applications makes mastery of any one of them very difficult, unless you're able to spend time in each one regularly. It also involves ignoring much of the power of each application: DTP allows the creation of multiple databases, so it's perfectly reasonable to have a big repository database, and then a separate database for each project, containing a subset of the items in the master database. Making notes in Tinderbox deprives DTP of fodder for its AI, unless you remember to copy everything into DTP. Scrivener has lots of organizational features, which you may make minimal use of if you're doing lots of work in Tinderbox.

This all leads me to the conclusion that people with limited time should probably choose one or the other of Tinderbox and DTP (I have licences to both, but haven't upgraded Tinderbox for a few years). The ongoing cost of staying up-to-date with Tinderbox, and the fact that DTP is more suited to storing everything and has the AI stuff, leads me to think that DTP is the better choice. On the other hand, after having DTP for several years, I know that I don't make full use of it, and actually seem to have something of an aversion to it. I think if you have lots of time to devote to research, using both can be a great way to get different views on your data and ideas, and divide the workday up nicely into different modes.

I would actually love to find a way to use both Tinderbox and DTP regularly and effectively, so it would be great to hear some counter-arguments.

ea
eastgate
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:51 pm

Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:08 am Post

Tinderbox and DTP are very different programs, for distinct but complementary tasks. (Devon Think's ai is related to Tinderbox's "related notes" window, btw)

If you're working on a book or a dissertation or on a research project, the costs are trivial compared to the time you'll save and the insights you'll discover. Just in terms of keeping track of sources: how much is it worth to you to avoid spending a couple of days in the library, chasing a hAlf-remembered reference?

li
linn
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:30 pm

Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:44 am Post

Hugh,
Thanks for your suggestions--I think your recommendations are good, and it's just going to take some time for me to buckle down and learn what I need.

rickla, thanks for your thoughts on the storage/bibliography/notes problem. I've come to similar conclusions over time. DTP is a wonderful program for indexing and retrieving documents. This last year I've been through the crisis of the bibliography (Bookends, Sente, Endnotes [since Niles 1.0], Zotero and Mendelay), finally settling on Sente (but really they're all good and none are perfect). But the notes have been the bug-a-bear for me; always, starting in 4th grade with my first research project.

Last year I wrote to myself a 6-page, single-spaced memo on the problem of notes, and concluded that the version of the problem that I had couldn't be resolved. I had too many different kinds of notes in too many different places requiring too many different kinds of responses: mind-map this one; get that one too show up two weeks before a due date; find the most recent of the half-dozen packing lists; search emails for the tiny b&b above the bookstore in Venice; figure out which stack has the syllabus from 2007; find the reference that my friend told me about in a conversation that I remember from 20 years ago, and pick up shaving cream at the drugstore. Then--once all the stuff is found--figure out the order in which to attend to it and not lose anything along the way. Notes also change identities. What starts out a note for my journal becomes the solution of a writing problem, some lines for a review, and/or the closing paragraph for a colleague's obituary. Plus I move a lot.

DTP is good for a lot of notes, but not for the kind of shuffling I often feel a need to do for scholarly work (which requires at least a visual approximation to desk space and low overhead for input). I love Scrivener, and Scrivener 2.0 verges on magical, but it has a similar kind of problem (although the scratch pad, and many other kinds of pre-classified notes are great--and I cannot get over the QuickView for making notes on images--breathtaking!). But there is almost too much context for my notes, some of them quickly get mysterious. And its hard to delete crappy notes in scrivener. It really makes me think that all my words are precious.

So when I see something like Vermonter's "Thought Garage," (http://welcometosherwood.files.wordpres ... rbox-7.jpg) or Mark Bernstein's Dashboard mockup (http://www.markbernstein.org/elements/D ... dLarge.jpg), I do recognize it as, "Oh, that's the the kind of thing that I'm looking for." (Ok, the thing I'm really looking for is to have a Dashboard like Mark's, but with a button that says "Voilà!" and when I press it, it gives me a Forvo.com RSS feed with a pronunciation of a new word in French).

eastgate wrote:If you're working on a book or a dissertation or on a research project, the costs are trivial compared to the time you'll save and the insights you'll discover. Just in terms of keeping track of sources: how much is it worth to you to avoid spending a couple of days in the library, chasing a hAlf-remembered reference?


I assume that you're saying the costs of learning a program like Tinderbox are trivial and the insights are greater than compared to DTP? I didn't quite get the the second sentence either. I can see keeping an author-year-short title or a reference# from a bibliographic manager in Tinderbox. But is that what you meant? Or were you suggesting that Tinderbox could be used as a reference manager? The latter would only work for strictly disciplinary work with no variation among journal requirements. I think those days almost came, but didn't quite make it. If I can get Tinderbox to work for me as I imagine it can, it will solve 85% of my note problems. If TeuxDeux, Simplenote, my small-sized appointment calendar, and scraps of paper for errands can do the rest, that would probably be the most I could have in this lifetime.

Everyone, really, I appreciate the time and thought that's been going into the Notes Blizzard problem.

ba
bashosfrog
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:14 am
Location: New England, Australia

Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:28 am Post

I'm dedicating 2011 to Tinderbox. Like so many, I've been on-again, off-again with Tinderbox for years. I always give up when an apparently simple chore demands far too much time and frustration to complete. But having cycled through various unsatisfactory experiences with other software that otherwise "just works", I've decided to ride with Tinderbox for a year, no other downloads permitted, and see what shakes out. This will inevitably involve asking lots of dumb questions of Eastgate and the Tinderbox forum.
I know that Tinderbox (alongside DTP) is capable of doing everything I want to do with information. It's just knowing how to do it. I haven't really committed to learning the Tinderbox language in the past, but that's the intention for 2011. (Actually, it was the intention for 2010, but I was weaker then.) I can see that if I battle through my own ignorance, and am gracious towards some of Tinderbox's quirks* the rewards are there. I can't see anything else that allows me to look at things in so many different ways.

* eg. Why must I write "true" or "false" to change certain attributes, rather than click a checkbox? Typing five letters seems excessive for a binary equation.

El
ElegantlyMac
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:08 am

Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:33 am Post

I, for one, wished Tinderbox would stay a Mac app. (Mac apps are never the same on Windows). I see a lot of potential in Tb, and look forward to Mark Bernstein's improvements made to the software.

As both a Tinderbox and Scrivener user, I venture a thought, might it be possible to "link" individual scriv's in Scrivener to Tinderbox's "drop files here"?
(Or any particular way to marry the two for the time being?)

I thought that might be an exciting union, using Scrivener as the wordprocessing tool and Tinderbox as the information powerhouse and mapping tool. I would be able to see the same information in way more colour than ever before! :D

El
ElegantlyMac
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:08 am

Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:39 am Post

bashosfrog wrote:* eg. Why must I write "true" or "false" to change certain attributes, rather than click a checkbox? Typing five letters seems excessive for a binary equation.


Usually such changes are one-time only, and are really worth the 4-5 letters to type. Expecially considering the amount of benefits you'll be reaping from those 4-5 letters in time to come...
There are also easier ways to change certain attributes like "Prototype" etc, other than Quickstamp (which you will have to type). That said, Quickstamp remembers your last "quickstamp" as long as you don't close the window, so you can continue stamping onto other notes.

If you create your own attributes, you get to have them in checkboxes! Just use boolean and voila, it's a checkbox :)

ex
exegete77
Posts: 261
Joined: Sat Jul 28, 2007 3:57 pm
Platform: Mac

Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:26 pm Post

bashosfrog wrote:I'm dedicating 2011 to Tinderbox. Like so many, I've been on-again, off-again with Tinderbox for years. I always give up when an apparently simple chore demands far too much time and frustration to complete. But having cycled through various unsatisfactory experiences with other software that otherwise "just works", I've decided to ride with Tinderbox for a year, no other downloads permitted, and see what shakes out. This will inevitably involve asking lots of dumb questions of Eastgate and the Tinderbox forum.
I know that Tinderbox (alongside DTP) is capable of doing everything I want to do with information. It's just knowing how to do it. I haven't really committed to learning the Tinderbox language in the past, but that's the intention for 2011. (Actually, it was the intention for 2010, but I was weaker then.) I can see that if I battle through my own ignorance, and am gracious towards some of Tinderbox's quirks the rewards are there. I can't see anything else that allows me to look at things in so many different ways.


Looks like we are on similar paths. Having used Scrivener sporadically two years, I recently began a major project using it. I am very satisfied. But the other end of things is not where I want it to be. Having now purchased TB, I am beginning to see another major project where TB seems to be the best solution. So, as of this week, TB will be my learning environment.

So, fellow traveler, let’s follow the yellow brick road, er... one of those things, anyway. :D

User avatar
AmberV
Posts: 20612
Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2006 4:30 am
Platform: Mac + Linux
Location: Santiago de Compostela, Galiza
Contact:

Wed Dec 29, 2010 7:31 pm Post

bashosfrog wrote:Why must I write "true" or "false" to change certain attributes, rather than click a checkbox? Typing five letters seems excessive for a binary equation.


If it is an attribute that you access frequently, then it would be very useful to add that attribute to the note page as a "key attribute". The best way to do this, in my experience, is heavy use of prototypes. Prototypes are one of those features that can be complex, but they can also be very simple. At its most basic, you can have a "Simple note" prototype that everything uses, and using that prototype you can set up basic presentation defaults for your entire document so long as everything is set to use that prototype.

Here is a basic example:
  1. Create a new note and call it "Ideas", press `Enter` (not `Return`) and make it a Prototype in the "Function As" section
  2. Open the note with `Spacebar`
  3. Open attributes `Cmd-2` and create a new boolean attribute, like "Finished"
  4. Drag and drop "Finished" from the attributes list into the "Ideas" note editor.
  5. Create a container called "New ideas" and press `Enter` to open its properties. Add `$Prototype="Ideas"` to the "OnAdd Action" section.
  6. Now create or move notes into this "New ideas" container.

* Bolded lines are the only two required to get a Boolean attribute showing up in a note; the rest is just for prototypes.

As soon as you create or move notes into this container, they will become attached to the "ideas" prototype. When you open these notes to edit them, there will be a "Finished" checkbox at the top so you can quickly toggle them on or off.

Of course, for something like "Finished" you might as well just use the built-in checkbox, which you can add from the View menu. This way you can check things off right in the outliner with ease, but the above example suffices to demonstrate how you can easily add custom attributes to notes and toggle them with a click.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
“Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.” —John Fowles

ba
bashosfrog
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:14 am
Location: New England, Australia

Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:17 pm Post

Thanks, Ioa. I'm up to speed on using the checkbox for boolean attributes. I was referring to the manner of changing certain attibutes in the Information window. This doesn't greatly bother me, in fact, but it's a small example of the welding slag that you occasionally encounter in Tinderbox, reminding you that this is artisan software.

User avatar
AmberV
Posts: 20612
Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2006 4:30 am
Platform: Mac + Linux
Location: Santiago de Compostela, Galiza
Contact:

Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:38 pm Post

Ah ha, sorry for the redundancy, then. :)

Well for one-offs in the QuickStamp and Info inspector: don't bother typing in the whole thing. Tinderbox has a number of handy shortcuts for data entry. For Booleans, any non-zero or non-empty value is evaluated as true (as in many programming languages), and any empty or zero value is evaluated as false. So to change something to false, just double-click, backspace to delete everything, and punch Enter. To set something to true, double-click, hit any alphanumeric key other than zero and punch Enter.

There are other useful shortcuts for other data types as well. Dates have a lot of shortcuts, like "today +3months" to enter a date three months from now.

For stuff you toggle a lot, stamps are good. I often create little toggle stamp scripts for Booleans I use a lot. Here is an example that will toggle the checkmark for the current note selection:

Code: Select all

if ($Checked) { $Checked = false; } else { $Checked = true; }


Stamps, like other action code, can be compound, and this is often a more efficient way to affect visual changes than Rules. If for example you like to set completed items to grey, you could set that in the above stamp as well, rather than defining a Rule that evaluates $Checked and sets the colour there.

Code: Select all

if ($Checked) { $Checked = false; $Color=; } else { $Checked = true; $Color = "lighter cool gray"; }


But now I'm getting off topic. ;)
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
“Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.” —John Fowles

li
linn
Posts: 80
Joined: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:30 pm

Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:02 pm Post

bashosfrog wrote:I've decided to ride with Tinderbox for a year, no other downloads permitted, and see what shakes out.


Boy, are you going to save a bundle if your downloading is anything like mine! :wink:

cr
crimewriter
Posts: 119
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2007 11:47 am
Location: Cotswolds

Wed Dec 29, 2010 11:11 pm Post

You've convinced me. I've just bought Tinderbox and a copy of The Tinderbox Way. As soon as I've finished the current piece of work -- next week -- I shall set myself to learn how to get the most out of this new piece of software. I've tried to do so before, like many others here, but this time I'm determined to get to grips with it so that I can use it to help me sort out the ideas for my next book -- or at least to live happily with the chaos that accompanies a fresh piece of novel-length work.

Over Christmas I've been reading Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From. He refers to using Devonthink to organise his notes, but I'm hoping that Tinderbox will help me make connections, perhaps in a looser way.

And maybe it's because I keep reading that the way to keep my brain young is to exercise (I'm working up to a half-marathon in 2011) and to learn new skills (Tinderbox!), that I'm taking up the challenge. I was going to mention how old I'll be in ten days' time, but I think I'll pass on that one, after all. I'll just settle down to learn about Tinderbox before Time (not to mention his wingèd chariot) catches up with me.

A major thank you to all the contributors to this forum who keep me from taking anything for granted.

cw
Some quiet night when you've shirked your work because of fatigue or distraction, open a window of your house and listen. Do you hear that distant clicking sound? That's one of your competitors, pecking away at his keyboard in Paris or London or Erie, PA

ba
bashosfrog
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:14 am
Location: New England, Australia

Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:13 am Post

Thanks again, Ioa. Those tips are really handy.

Linn: I'm happy to say that I'm at the point of being bored, bored, bored by the whole software squirreling thing. Maybe a sign of delayed maturity? *Very* delayed, if it is the case.

Crimewriter: have fun! The more I learn about Tinderbox, the more I appreciate the intelligence behind it. With most software, it tends to work the other way.

I can appreciate the paranoia of your tagline after browsing the crime shelves this morning, looking to blow a Christmas gift voucher, and being boggled at the productivity of the crime writing set. You're not James Lee Burke or Harlen Coben or Reginald Hill, by any chance? In the end I bypassed crime and went for Literature, because it's December 30 and I'm in a self-improving New Years frame of mind. Crime will back on the agenda by late January.