Agent syntax question

(David Berreby) #1

Hi, all,
I want to create an agent that will constantly gather notes that I have marked with a string (what in many apps would be called a tag, though in Tinderbox ‘tag’ seems to be associated with bibliographic materials). My attribute is called majortopics and it has a number of different strings entered as its value in different notes.

So, I wanted to collect all notes in which majortopic includes among its strings the string “privacy”. Basing my attempt on the “Getting Started” doc, I created an agent whose query is


This does not work.

So, my questions are:

  1. Why doesn’t it work?
  2. Where can I obtain a more detailed explanation of Tinderbox syntax, so that I can make better guesses about how to create agents to do what I want?


(eastgate) #2


This looks OK to me. The most common problems here would likely be:

  1. Attributes are case-sensitive, so “majortopics” is not the same thing as “majorTopics” or “MajorTopics”.

  2. I expect that $majortopics is meant to be a set or a list. Double-check that it is.

  3. Remember that quotation marks in Tinderbox actions (and most computer languages) are straight, not typographic or “curly” quotes.

(Mark Anderson) #3

I appreciate that when terminology varies from what you are used to, things can get confusing. In Tinderbox, the term ‘tag’ is generally referred to as a common synonym for a keyword - people often talk of ‘tagging’ their photos when they apply keywords for searching purposes. As such, Tinderbox has a ‘Tags’ attribute as part of the ‘References’ group of built-in attributes as data copied from reference managers usually includes tags ( keywords).

If you want more info on how to use Tinderbox action codes I’d recommend this page as a starter (disclaimer: I’m aTbRef’s author, but I write it as a free public resource)).

The use of ‘string’ is the normal programming sense where it refers to what a non-programmer might call ‘text’. Tinderbox has 12 different attribute data types. I think what you’re calling a ‘string’ would, in Tinderbox parlance be called an attribute value or (in the query context) a search string

Note that attribute names are case-sensitive, so MajorTopics, Majortopics and majortopics would be treated by Tinderbox action code as referring to 3 discrete attributes. Assuming your attribute is called majortopics, and is the default data type of String-type then the query worked for an attribute value of ‘privacy’ and for ‘some privacy’. So, I’m guessing you may be using a multi-value data type such as List or Set. In that case, e.g. as a List type, you query works for a value of ‘privacy’ but not ‘privacy’. This is because you can’t do partial matches on List/Set type attributes - see more here.

(David Berreby) #4

Hi, thanks as ever for the quick answer.

  1. I am aware about the case issue and carefully checked that. Not the problem here.
  2. I don’t think I understand this. Entries in the $majortopics box in each note are strings, each string separated from the next by a semicolon. Is that the issue? Perhaps I don’t know how to properly create a list.
  3. Quotation marks are not curly.

I bet my problem is somewhere in item 2!


(David Berreby) #5

Hi, yes, it must be that I am using Lists or Sets wrongly. Thanks for the links! I suspect they will help clear that up.

If one can’t do partial matches on lists, then what is the best way to do them? Ie, if a note has 5 keywords, how do I tell an agent to react if it sees only one of those words?


(David Berreby) #6

Hmmm. Looks like I should be using String.contains(“privacy”) rather than what I tried.

(Mark Anderson) #7

Yes, it is likely #2 given your other answers. What data type is $majortopics? It is likely a String, List or Set type. You can check that in the Document Inspector (see here). My hunch is you’ve made a List or Set type and these only allow matches to complete list items, for reasons explained here.

If still having problems can you:

  • State the attribute data type you are using
  • The value or list of values that you expect to match the query but don’t

That gives us more of a frame of reference to solve your problem.

(eastgate) #8

Typically, $Topics would be a set. One note might have topics


Another might have topics

Pliny; Marcus Aurelius; Galen

In this case, $Topics.contains(“Pliny”) would be true for both notes, and $Topics.contains(“Tacitus”) will be true for one note. $Topics.contains(“Marcus”) is true for neither note, because neither set contains the element “Marcus”. (The second note contains “Marcus Aurelius”, but not “Marcus”.

(Mark Anderson) #9

No, not if your attribute is called ‘majortopics’. If you’re trying ‘string’ after looking at my page on action code, please understand it is written to indicate the data-type of attribute that uses that type of function. This is because .contains() works slightly differently in outcome on a String-typecompared to using it on a List or Set.

(David Berreby) #10

Problem solved. The I put the query into the Agent Action box instead of the Query box. A lesson in the important difference between those two concepts.

Thanks for the replies, in any event. I’ve learned some important things from them.