Twig: Mini Tinderbox

Ti
Timotheus
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:41 am Post

Thanks, Amber, for your thorough explanation! But … where is this "TBX-based reference file" you are hinting at? The most recent reference file of this kind I have been able to find, covers the development until version 4.6.2/3, but the present version is 5.5.3!
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Hu
Hugh
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:47 am Post

This is what Ioa means, I suspect.

Which illustrates neatly what Steve and others say above:

a) This file wasn't easy to find. (I eventually found it by clicking on a url that I found in an old Tbref file that I found in the signature of a post by Mark Anderson that I found in the documentation section of the TB forum... :? There must be easier routes to it, but I couldn't easily discover them.)

b) Unlike, say, Scrivener's documentation, it's not very clear how this material fits into the rest, for example the Manual. And the "Cookbook"? And the Wiki? And the book? Lots and lots of material, but it's of different vintages and doesn't always lock together.

For inexperienced users, it's sometimes like having multiple and competing versions of the Rosetta Stone.

What's needed in my view is a comprehensive structured up-to-date A-to-Z. TB is a wonderful piece of software. My limited use of it has taught me that. But there is an inescapable issue with it when so many otherwise intelligent users seem to find that understanding and applying the rules of usage are more challenging for them than getting to grips with the ideas and data that they want to put into it.

H
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
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Stacey Mason
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 6:53 pm Post

Thanks for the comments on Tinderbox and Twig. Eastgate is certainly listening and open to ideas.

When we designed Twig, we wanted to create a tool that was aimed more at quick-capture and was less intimidating to new users. We also wanted to provide a lower-priced option for users who didn't need all of the features of Tinderbox.

Deciding which features stayed and which ones were left out has been a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, we don't want to leave out the features that allow Tinderbox to be the open and fast tool that it is. On the other hand, we want to make things more simple and leave out features that are too advanced or intimidating for beginning users.

We're still deciding which features are left out and which ones are reduced or scaled down.

Consequently, we're still trying to decide how much, if any, export is appropriate for Twig. Tinderbox export is very rich and versatile. It is also extremely difficult for new users to understand, though we have been trying to make things more simple in past releases, as Amber mentions, with built-in templates and prototypes.

Documentation is a bit difficult, as with any open-ended tool. As Amber mentions, there's often not a "best" way to do something.

There is a lot of information available on Tinderbox, but admittedly much of it is scattered, so here is a list of some of the available resources:
  • The help manual - gives a basic overview of what Tinderbox does and how to do things.
  • A Tinderbox Reference (aTBRef) by Mark Anderson - provides a reference guide for expressions, attributes, export, etc. Gives pretty comprehensive explanations of the "coding" stuff.
  • The Tinderbox Way by Mark Bernstein - Tinderbox is a unique piece of software. We find that many of the problems arise not because people can't figure out the syntax, but because they're not used to their software being malleable and conforming to their work (not the other way around). This book offers the design ideas that went into Tinderbox and suggests ways to approach the software.
  • The Tinderbox forum - We have a very active and helpful community who will give you a more thoughtful answer than you probably expect.
  • The Tinderbox Wiki - a bit outdated, but getting a facelift soon. Still, it offers useful examples and tips on applications of the software.
  • Screencasts- these range from simple how-tos to more pragmatic usage demos. We are working to expand these as well.
  • Tinderbox Cookbook- something like a workbook for the "code stuff." This is a great hands-on way to learn Tinderbox's export features.
  • Tinderbox Weekend events-these take place every few months. They provide an opportunity for Tinderbox users to get together, ask questions, exchange ideas, and talk about Tinderbox applications. There are usually multiple ways to do things in Tinderbox, so having different perspectives is often helpful.
  • Tinderbox CDs (available on the Tinderbox Weekend page)- we offer a new CD every few months. Each CD contains screencasts, sample files to give you new ideas on how to solve certain problems, how-to walkthroughs, and previews of upcoming releases.

Of course, we also welcome questions and comments by email and phone as well.

Stacey Mason
smason@eastgate.com
Last edited by Stacey Mason on Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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AmberV
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:09 pm Post

Thanks for chiming in, Stacey. I was wondering when Eastgate would jump in here. :)

In my opinion: you could serve the goal of having Twig not stomp on Tinderbox's territory, while also providing a good workflow for non-Tinderbox users, by having some very simple pre-baked export options that produce either selected node, or "folders of RTF/plain-text files", with the option to export all attributes in a "field: value\n" method in the top of the file. There are no templates, and thus the complexity of TB's export is removed (and as well, TB's power remains unique for those who buy it), and meanwhile Twig users are not stuck with locked-in data (XML accessibility is only relevant to a small, small fraction of users). They can use Twig to keep notes and brainstorm ideas, and then have those ideas come to fruition in other tools (possibly TB, but maybe Scrivener instead :)).

Proposed menu structure:

Code: Select all

Export >
     Selected Note...
     All Notes...


Option one exports a single RTF or plain-text file with the option to include meta-data (all or nothing). Option two builds a folder structure matching the outline hierarchy and fills it with files using the same options as #1. This is not too dissimilar from Tinderbox's full HTML export, except it is just a regular file export with no templates.

That's my two cents.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
“Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.” —John Fowles

Hu
Hugh
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:25 pm Post

Stacey Mason wrote:A Tinderbox Reference (aTBRef) by Mark Anderson - provides a reference guide for expressions, attributes, export, etc. Gives pretty comprehensive explanations of the "coding" stuff.


I think this reference needs editing, Stacey — too many http's.

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.'

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kewms
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Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:43 pm Post

Hugh wrote:What's needed in my view is a comprehensive structured up-to-date A-to-Z. TB is a wonderful piece of software. My limited use of it has taught me that. But there is an inescapable issue with it when so many otherwise intelligent users seem to find that understanding and applying the rules of usage are more challenging for them than getting to grips with the ideas and data that they want to put into it.


This. The more the powerful a program, the more approachable it needs to be. A new user may not be able to fully exploit the capabilities of the technology right out of the box, but they should be able to do *something* big enough to be useful to them. Tinderbox itself is an amazingly powerful program, but its interface design and help materials are embarrassingly awful.

Katherine
Scrivener Support Team

Ti
Timotheus
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:55 am Post

The point Hugh made is essential for me too, and should be taken into due account by the Tinderbox team. When so many otherwise intelligent users, who are willing to invest a considerable amount of time and money into Tinderbox, continue to feel ill at ease with the application, there is definitely something important which is wrong.

And I agree with Katherine that the whole interface and the help materials are in urgent need of a complete revamp. As far as the interface is concerned, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to ask advice to an expert in the field of layout and typography. Tinderbox would greatly benefit from it: it would become less awkward and more attractive to the eye of the average user.

And as far as the help materials are concerned: personally, I prefer one decent User Manual which can be printed out to many documents full of hyperlinks. The used to be such a User Manual, but at a certain moment it hasn't been updated anymore.

And finally: it would be very useful if the Tinderbox site contained a generous amount of rather detailed databases built with the program. These would give the average user some concrete ideas of the possible directions to take.
Last edited by Timotheus on Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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AmberV
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:58 am Post

That's all an incredible amount of work you've put out there, Timotheus! :)

What did you mean by this, though:

And as far as the help materials are concerned: personally, I prefer one decent User Manual which can be printed out to many documents full of hyperlinks.


How would a printed out document have hyperlinks?
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
“Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.” —John Fowles

Ti
Timotheus
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:03 am Post

Amber, what I meant is a User Guide without hyperlinks, of course; a User Guide like those for Bookends, Mellel, etc.
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AmberV
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:14 am Post

Ah, yes that makes more sense. A comparative 'to' not an productive 'to' (English, got to love it!). With that I agree. Hyperlinks are not a bad thing, but a manual that can be printed out, or has proper paper-compatible cross references, like "see page 83", is good. I actually prefer a combination. I like it when a PDF has hard references, but is augmented with internal clickable links so it is both useful on a computer and as a desktop reference. EagleFiler has a good manual too, in this regard. As do many of Apple's more high-end products. Aperture's manual is just amazing, and amusing coming from a company that ships computers with a leaflet that basically tells you to press the power button to get started.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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Ed
Eddie
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:53 am Post

AmberV wrote:On price: I have no complaints about Tinderbox’s price. I usually skip every other year so I end up paying around $45 a year to stay up to date. That’s extremely reasonable for me, considering how much use I get from it.


Perhaps you're making it reasonable by NOT upgrading. :)

As I mentioned, I like Tinderbox. I'll add that I found support to be great. I've had 2 or 3 questions and Mr. Bernstein promptly answered them. I just can't imagine spending $229 on it, or in 2 years look back and realize I've spent $409 on Tinderbox. I would also skip upgrades!

Maybe I'll give it another try by version 6 :)

Ve
Vermonter17032
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 11:48 am Post

Well, price is all relative. I've foolishly bought applications that are a lot less expensive than Tinderbox, which I end up never using. Which is costlier?

[I may have already shared this story. If so, I'm sorry for the redundancy.]

I am the head of a committee for a nonprofit organization which is working to get a history book written about a local historical site here in Vermont. We hired an author and last June he turned in the first draft. After each member of the committee read the draft, I had a collection of six different sets of comments. It would have been cruel to have just handed these over to the author for him to make sense of -- not to mention entirely unproductive. But how to collate such a variety of input, which included comments on factual errors, content (missing or unnecessary), style, and organization. I puzzled over this problem for several weeks, until I belatedly realized that Tinderbox could be very helpful. Going through one critique at a time, I clipped each discrete comment as a separate note into a Tinderbox map. It was then a snap to organize these by subject and type using prototypes, adornments and key attributes. I then exported the results into a word processor to dress it up. In one afternoon, using Tinderbox, I had produced a five-page, comprehensive and -- most important -- coherent critique to let the author know the will of the committee.

I truly don't think I could have done this -- at least not nearly as well -- without Tinderbox. For this project alone, Tinderbox was worth every penny.

Ed
Eddie
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:52 pm Post

I certainly see the benefits in terms of functionality, but can't recall another application that had a 58% price increase while moving up 2 version numbers. Additionally, I tend to avoid applications with yearly upgrades. But if this pricing/upgrading model is working for them, more power to Eastgate :) I did put the effort to go through the manual, book, help, online resources, etc., but in the end it was price (initial + upgrades) that turned me away.
I do have more expensive software, and recently paid $200 to upgrade some software that IIRC cost me around $1200. It was one of the best upgrades I've ever purchased.
I'm pretty sure that I'll eventually buy Tinderbox. Perhaps by version 6, and skipping versions. I did like the software and the support.

ea
eastgate
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:25 pm Post

We don't have "yearly upgrades".

We are constantly improving our software, and try to issue upgrades as soon as the version we're using is clearly better than the version you have.

Looking over the release logs, I see 14 upgrades in the past year.

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AmberV
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Thu Jun 24, 2010 6:32 pm Post

Eddie wrote:Perhaps you're making it reasonable by NOT upgrading. :)


Well, yes, that is kind of my point, but I worded it poorly. I didn't mean for it to apply universally. $45/y is reasonable for me. The upgrade fee is entirely voluntary. A lot of people look at the price of Tinderbox, and then the one-year-of-upgrades cost, and think they'll have to pay this all of time to keep using it. If you upgrade every year, yes, it is expensive. If you can't afford it then you can space things out until it is affordable.

Another reason I take a year off is because Tb updates so rapidly and constantly. I'd rather let things get all lumped up into something that feels more like an upgrade where I can sit down and study the changes, rather than stringing them out all through the years one by one.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
“Whole sight, or all the rest is desolation.” —John Fowles