Twig: Mini Tinderbox

an
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Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:36 am Post

I installed Twig -- http://www.eastgate.com/Twig/ yesterday, and am trying to work out how to integrate it into my workflow. It's a mini version of Tinderbox, and should be useful to writers.

Over the years, I've never used Tinderbox to its fullest, so I'm hoping that Twig might be the solution for me.

It could be a good brainstorming tool to use in conjunction with Scrivener -- I like the word cloud.

At the moment, I'm just using it as a note-collector; it's snappier than TB at first blush.

Is anyone else using it?

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AmberV
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Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:54 am Post

It looks interesting. I'd be curious to hear how people take to it. As someone who uses Tinderbox quite a lot, there really isn't any need to invest time and money in Twig, so I'd love to hear how others are getting on with it.
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kewms
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Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:29 am Post

Hmmph. IMO, Tinderbox has added so many features that it's all but unusable by novices. That doesn't make me terribly interested in spending $70 *more* for Twig, no matter how wonderful it might be.

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Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:46 am Post

I've downloaded it.

For someone like me who doesn't usually need the full power and complexity of TB, a cheaper, simpler substitute would be appealing. But discussion on the Tinderbox forum centres on Twig's use alongside TB rather than as a substitute for it. This appears to be reinforced by the fact, as I understand it, that Twig can't export in a word-processor-friendly way other than through TB - logical in business terms, but less attractive for users.

However, perhaps future versions may unlock this apparent restriction.
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Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:57 pm Post

I've been playing around a little with Twig. I use Tinderbox frequently for project-specific analysis and brain storming. Truly, I don't see Twig being of much use for someone who also has Tinderbox. The only feature it has that TB does not is the "Noter" which is essentially a feature grab from Notational Velocity -- that's not a knock on Twig or Eastgate... I think it's smart to incorporate that kind of functionality into Twig. But is it enough to warrant spending an additional $70 for Twig?

If you don't currently use Tinderbox, Twig might be a nice addition to your arsenal. It has basically the same outlining function as Tinderbox, which puts it among the elite outliners available, in my opinion. The export issue mentioned by Hugh is worrisome. I haven't checked that out yet to see what, if any, decent work-arounds there might be.

Steve

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Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:10 pm Post

Twig is growing on me.

I like the idea of shooting off notes quick and easy, with no order or structure in mind. Simply just a glorified Tinderbox "Inbox" for projects not ready for Tinderbox. Whereas Tinderbox is for my projects that aren't ready for Scrivener.

Being able to open Twig documents in Tinderbox and vice versa is neat, too.

Tinderbox has been a slow, but worthwhile learning venture for me. I'm still extremely weak when it comes to 95% of the features TB has, but it's starting to become my program because I just like the challenge it gives me to learn and I like the rewards it reaps back to me once I've "learned"...

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AmberV
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Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:30 pm Post

Vermonter17032 wrote:The only feature it has that TB does not is the "Noter" which is essentially a feature grab from Notational Velocity -- that's not a knock on Twig or Eastgate... I think it's smart to incorporate that kind of functionality into Twig. But is it enough to warrant spending an additional $70 for Twig?


And the interesting thing about that: Tinderbox now supports SimpleNote integration now, which means none other than Notational Velocity can act as a free front-end.
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Ti
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Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:37 am Post

Looks promising. There is definiteley a market for a 'light' version of Tinderbox. For many people, including myself, Tinderbox is just a little bit 'too much' of everything: to much complexity, too many features, too steep learning curve. I own Tinderbox, but I never use it.

But the fact that Twig data can only be exported to Tinderbox, is (for me, at least) an absolute deal-breaker. And it makes Twig self-contradictory: it is presented as an autonomous application, but in fact it isn't.

I shall return to Twig as soon as it will have decent export possibilities.
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Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:43 am Post

Timotheus, I completely agree. The whole thing is really confusing to me, as the website seems to be offering it as a light alternative to Tinderbox for those that do not have it, or an inbox for those that do. As an inbox, I suppose I can see the merit in that---the Notational Velocity style method is quite addictive and useful---but that's an awful lot of money for that kind of thing. The price seems to be more pointed at people who want a powerful notebook style collection application.

But as you say, without export (okay, so it has an exporter, but the exporter costs $250 USD and is one of the most complicated information management interfaces on the Mac) that makes no sense at all. I wonder if perhaps that is just an artefact of it being a pre-release? There was a comment in the Twig forum which could be taken to mean that East Gate simply hasn't finished the export interface yet.
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Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:56 pm Post

This lack of export options for Twig is certainly baffling, and really makes the application useless for anyone without Tinderbox and for those with Tinderbox... well, you already said it: there's the free Notational Velocity. This is such a strange decision by Eastgate, that I keep checking Twig to see if I've missed something. Not so far. And the help file actually says when you want to export your Twig notes, there's always Tinderbox! The truth is that it would make Tinderbox more useful for a lot of us if we could open a TB file in Twig and easily export it to a useable format, instead of having to live with the complex -- though admittedly powerful (if you can figure them out) -- export tools for TB.

Steve

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Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:19 pm Post

Vermonter17032 wrote:This lack of export options for Twig is certainly baffling, and really makes the application useless for anyone without Tinderbox and for those with Tinderbox... well, you already said it: there's the free Notational Velocity. This is such a strange decision by Eastgate, that I keep checking Twig to see if I've missed something. Not so far. And the help file actually says when you want to export your Twig notes, there's always Tinderbox! The truth is that it would make Tinderbox more useful for a lot of us if we could open a TB file in Twig and easily export it to a useable format, instead of having to live with the complex -- though admittedly powerful (if you can figure them out) -- export tools for TB.

Steve


Steve,

I think the explanation can only be that Eastgate doesn't want to damage sales of Tinderbox, an understandable sentiment but one which may result in Twig being much less useful, as you say. I'm hoping that as the software moves out of beta, it will acquire some limited export ability — OPML and csv, perhaps?

H
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Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:31 pm Post

AmberV wrote:---but that's an awful lot of money for that kind of thing...


Those are my thoughts about their software in general :D
I remember almost buying Tinderbox for $90, and these days that's the price for just the upgrade. I never made my purchase, but really liked the software. I'm still hoping to see Tinderbox at a reasonable price one day...

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Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:14 pm Post

The price of Tinderbox is (very) high indeed; there is absolutely no doubt about that.

But on the other hand: the Tinderbox company is free to ask whatever it wants to ask, and we, its potential customers, are free to pay or not to pay. It's as simple as that. And it must be admitted that Tinderbox is a quite unique application. There is no choice between Tinderbox and another similar application; there is only the choice between Tinderbox and many other, but always quite different applications.

But there is another thing I don't like about Tinderbox. In my opinion the Tinderbox company should become definitely more customer friendly. It should put at the disposal of those who are willing to pay the price they ask 1. a decent User Manual, and 2. a couple of tutorials worth the name. And presently they do not. And that's a shame.
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Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:12 pm Post

I have no problem with Tinderbox costing as much as it does. I'd rather a developer stay in business than to get a bargin and then have the developer disappear in a year or two because their business model is not sustainable. As Timotheous says, it is a program with features you just can't find in any other application. If you like those features and find them useful, the price isn't too terrible.

But I also agree that customer service is lacking -- although I don't think it is by design. If you ask a question, you get a quick response. I sometimes think that Tinderbox is even overwhelming to the folks at Eastgate.

Did you see the very nice tutorial about how to export an article as HTML, here:

http://decafbad.com/2010/06/tinderbox-a ... #article-1

The author does a great job, but it shows what a double-edged sword Tinderbox is. It has a lot of power and flexibility for those willing to wrestle with it and learn, but for the rest of us it is a mighty struggle. And the thing that's most telling, after outlining all these steps, he skips one of the most crucial -- how to write the export code in the template -- saying it is beyond the scope of the article.

I don't have a coder's mind. Maybe many people can quickly figure out how to write this code for various purposes, but I'm not good at it, so even if I were to commit all the steps to memory, I still wouldn't be able to adequately output an article using this method... not unless I also learn the proper coding!

That's why a few simple, common export options in Twig make so much sense (they also make sense for TB). So, Hugh, like you I am hopeful that that will come along down the road.

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AmberV
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Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:11 pm Post

I almost jumped in yesterday to say what Vermonter17032 as put forth. Support is actually very good in the grand scheme of things. When I fire off a question to Mr. Bernstein, I typically get a response very quickly that is accurate and helpful. On the forums, you get a lot of support from both the Marks as well as the community at large. It is not uncommon to see an issue get multiple, lengthy responses on the various techniques that can be used to solve it.

Where things have taken a step backward, in my opinion, is in the manual itself. It used to be they had a nice PDF that was released with every major upgrade. But I gather Eastgate was doing that entirely by hand in Acrobat or something and it took a lot of effort to keep it up to date. The switch to Apple’s Help system is, again in my opinion, not an appropriate venue for complicated software. Every since Apple made that window the superFloat monstrosity it has become, I’ve seen more and more software packages producing their documentation in PDF format, at least as an alternative. Even Apple produces documentation for their serious applications in PDF format. Tinderbox is one of those programs that really suffers under the Apple Help system. You can’t even search a document for a term! This makes long documents in it really hard to deal with. Anyway, that’s another rant.

Honestly I never use it. What I do use is Mark Anderson’s excellent TBX-based reference file. It’s all the documentation you’ll ever need, neatly written up in a Tinderbox file that can be exported into a large website if you don’t want to read the raw nodes. It’s kept very up to date, and couple with TB’s own data management systems, is quite efficient for finding obscure things.

Beyond the mere description of features, tokens, and syntax though, I again agree with Vermonter. It’s really difficult to document Tinderbox in a functional sense because it really is more akin to a programming language than ordinary software. When learning a new programming language, you focus on syntax and features, but the next step is very hard to address because due to the nature of a language, there are a zillion ways to do anything, and every solution is going to be different because every programmer has a different idea of what the implementation should look like. Tinderbox isn’t quite so bad as that, but it’s not far off. The interface is a set of tools, not a set of systems, and so building an implementation is learning to use those tools to accomplish what your vision is. That really isn’t something you can fully “document” outside of tutorial style abstracts which are hardly ever useful outside of the tutorial, except to help teach the concepts of implementation.

This is why you see things like “this is beyond the scope of the tutorial”, because once you get to a certain point, past the point of theory, every implementation is going to be different and the best you can do is just demonstrate a simple example that probably won’t work verbatim for anyone. Personally I like to take that extra step in the examples I produce for the Tb forum. I like to demonstrate how Attribute X will end up as Appearance Y in the final result, but this is just to show one possible way out of thousands.

That’s why a few simple, common export options in Twig make so much sense (they also make sense for TB). So, Hugh, like you I am hopeful that that will come along down the road.


I think TB 4 and 5 has made good strides toward that. There are number of prebuilt exporters that are always available, and now there are a number of prebuilt prototypes you can use to get your project going quicker. Tinderbox has always provided some default templates, but I think they integrated those in a much better fashion in more recent releases.

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.
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