Tinderbox Forum

100 ways to solve: writing prompts and writing forms

I know there’s a million ways to get from zero to solution and that’s causing me grief because I still lack grasp of the toolset in tinderbox to see the variety of possibility. Instead, it’s all just a lot of options with little comprehension to me yet when grasping this sort of problem.

So I turn to you guys to see the variety and how you’d assemble tinderbox tools to make this sort of document.

I run across a variety of recommendations on building a document from components. Often, the components have modules. Each module has a number of prompts or questions that make it easier to write that idea. The modules are arranged such that once each block is written and assembled, the sequence of modules create a coherent block for a document.

Example (very poor but illustrative):
Component X:
Module 1. Introduction. Why is this important to discuss? What is the thing no one sees in this topic.
Module 2. Pro. List the sources suggesting this is favorable or that hint at this solution.
Module 3. Cons. List the discussions that say this is wrong and why.
Module 3. Conclusion-call to action. Is the solution evident? If not, what must be investigated to determine? What challenge is remaining?

So that is rudimentary example of the guided writing. I picture that a bank of components is available and a new guided writing block can be made by selecting a few components and those are kept in order.

Then, to write, each module can be presented and a place to write content and the writing prompts are there. And there is the title/topic presented for that instance of writing.

Somehow, the whole document, once the modules are filled in for the components, is assembled as a single note.

Keen observers could see that I’m thinking towards a writing factory of sorts, but also having a way to make convenient checklists and such for some types that would require content.

Overall, I picture a place where ideas are quickly captured. Later, a skeleton document made by assembling some components from the pile of options. And that skeleton document worked on at intervals until complete, then document available in an easily copied/exported format to use.

The idea that alludes me is the central writing task. Almost like filling in a web form: couple boxes to type into but all the prompts and notes for that particular document instance right there. Fill in the blanks.

How would you do that? I know there has to be a million ways but I’m sort of stymied at all the movement in this ideal factory. So I’m not looking for someone to make this for me rather, looking for inspiration or a presentation of example solutions.

My suggestion is: don’t worry (now) about Tinderbox tools: just do it! Leap in, make a framework, and save a copy. Then, use the framework to write something. When you’re done, think about what might have made things better — and whether changes to the framework might help.

I’d just launch into Map view:

Here’s the Tinderbox document: JBManos.tbx (100.1 KB)

OK: there’s tons of thing I’d be tempted to suggest here, but there’s no need to worry too much. Map or outline? Try it one way; you can try it another way tomorrow.


How many copies of each component do you expect in a doc? If your component is for a chapter of a book (with appropriate modules for a chapter), this component will be repeated many times in a single document, one for each chapter.

If this describes your use case, then prototypes may be useful to you. Set up a note (maybe you can call it p_Chapter) and add the modules as children to it. Then, selecting the container note, make it a prototype (you do this by pressing ⌘-1, selecting the third tab (the one with “4” written on it), and ticking the “Prototype” checkbox).

Then, for a new note you wish to upgrade to being a chapter, set its prototype to p_Chapter: you do this by clicking the area near the bottom right of your new note and selecting the prototype you want.

Your new note will now have a copy of all the modules. Repeat this for as many chapters as you need.

Thank you!

See… I had an insight from this and I think it describes a segment of tinderbox users. Sometimes I read people give an exasperated comment on “had tinderbox for years and never could get it going”.

I suspect a good number of those comments are coming from Global/Open Learners (as opposed you sequential learners). I got tagged as a global learner back in undergrad by a professor that was trying to figure out game theory approaches to teaching optimization. I was the student that didn’t appear to do much and then suddenly “I’d get it” and become the ace in the class (sometimes only the day before the final).

Learning Tinderbox presents a challenge to global learners. Most of the advice I see appears to be towards sequential and analytical learners. Nothing wrong with that. But, I also think this approach can cause global learners to give up. For me, and I suspect a number of other global learners, there needs to be a toy box of finished examples - not rudimentary ones either. Those examples provide the skeleton against which we can test/learn.

I realize that suggestion is entirely against the approach - and I respect the approach - of presenting a hands off toolset — hands off in the sense of allowing the user to go about it without the finger of the author tainting the solution.

This point in my comment is only tangential to what I needed in the OP but I’ve been trying to figure out why I have such a difficult time yet with tinderbox. For me, my understanding of tinderbox hasn’t snapped yet where I “just get it”. That difficulty is coming from the learning type difference. If I parse some of the exasperated comments I see sometimes, I can see this same pattern suggesting that those making the comments are likely global learners as well.

Just two cents for the thought mill.


I’m not a sequential learner either. For me the way into the app was to set myself achievable tasks (i.e. not jumping straight to building a large complex doc) but just how things work. I found demos of varying value, as it very much depended on how close they were to my task—or perspective of the challenge—at the time. since then, having made many demos I’ve seen just that played back to me. A strongly recommend not picking a task with a strong existing pattern or you just end up lost in process. So, IMO/IME, making something like a zettelkasten isn’t an initial ‘learning’ job. Something like that is like disassembling a tourbillon watch so as to understand how clock work in general.

I’ve used the app for 16 years and I don’t get all of it. As importantly, I don’t expect to. Lots of features are quite niche and its enough to know they are there if needed.

I think the process is like learning code (as one with no formal compSci training). I use a bit of Python & R and it is through doing tasks (not looking at demos!) that I made progress in a way that hadn’t worked with normal course-work -type sequential learning.

I think a very good place to start is understanding inheritance. As docs are essentially 'just collections of (various types of) notes and links, and notes are just a collection of attribute values you are looking at a powerful aspect running right through the app. So, give yourself a task who outcome isn’t making a thing, but has an outcome designed to give you confidence to explore Tinderbox’s inheritance.

Interesting thread as I’d never realized I was a global learner. (Didn’t really think much about it.) But the way my mind works I can see that I certainly am. It also explains why my approach to TB (trying to make sense sequentially with a project as the end goal) has left me floundering at times. Also, it’s why the whole zettelkasten thing leaves me cold.
My problem is finding something rich enough in data that I can work with but which has no predetermined outcome and which is also not a waste of my time. OK. I know that sounds like prevarication or setting stupid bounds, but the way I get to see things more clearly is to get messy and finally see patterns. Now, I also know that’s one of the touted advantages of TB, but what I have difficulty with is how to get messy data (in all sorts of formats and from different places) into TB without also having to learn what places to click to do various things and what settings to alter to get it looking how I think I want it.
And that’s another thing. I’m never really sure how I really want things, so I alter and adjust and tweak and mess things around until I get the proverbial lightbulb above my head.
This, by the way, is not a complaint about TB or a plea for help, but more an explanation of how I approach such things which may (or may not) strike a chord with other (new) users.
One particular thing is important in understanding where I am is that I don’t have (seemingly) the same amount of time to spend on TB as I think others have. For them it appears that they have specific goals, tasks or whatever identified and TB is an integral pert of their daily workflow (or at least is a regularly used tool).
For me, I don’t always have the time to sit with it and play. When I do, I sometimes get lost as to what I wish to accomplish because I have different ideas at different times. So my learning curve is, shall we say, less than optimal. I know that the more time I spend with TB the better I would be, but I also know that the possibilities inherent in it can be daunting and too many choices act as a brake on my learning.
For example, if I uses a spreadsheet I know I’m going to be using n umbers and that I can play with numbers (primarily) and do all sorts of lovely things with them. But it’s basically numbers and display and maths.
If I’m using a database I’m reasonably happy with what I think I’m going to be doing with it (sorting and analyzing data).
But with TB, I can do so many things I get lost at the start… until I settle down and focus on one small thing at a time but then I want to do more.
I am sorry that this a rambling post which does not seem to be very clearly focused, but I hadn’t really thought too much about how I am reacting to TB instead of what I use it for (which is, to be honest, a huge mess of experiments at the moment). However, it might prove to be of benefit to others in similar positions to realize how their attitudes towards TB (and their learning styles) may dictate their progress.
(Writing this has helped me a little in my approach.)


“Huge mess of experiments “

I identify with that! LOL.

Let’s keep chatting — I think we have similar approaches a d maybe can talk each other through it

So, how has the experimentation been going?

I like the idea of the 4 point structure above, but for me this does not work as I tend to devise each of the individual pieces into sub-pieces, i.e. children of the top container. This helps me focus on atomic ideas that I can bring back altogether.

How are you at template use and development. I suspect that this may one area that could stump people, as it is the template, not necessarily with individual content blocks that automatically can pull a lot of the value together.

Like the comments above, I have tons of ideas, but they’re all pretty useless until I have a better idea of the audience, goal, output, etc. of what you’re trying to write.

What really helped me was to ton not focus on the output, but not the ideas and what I want/need to say. Once you have your ideas, we can get your output in pretty much any format: report, memo, presentation, spreadsheet…web page, pdf, word, excel, PowerPoint, etc.

Looking forward to hearing more.

I’d love to be able to describe what wonders I have unleashed but events have overtaken me for the time being in that I have recently moved across country and have been wrapped up in all that entails; from the necessity of moving (long story - not going there) to finding somewhere and settling in (which I am) but it’s taking its sweet time. I have merely dabbled without immersing myself as I wished to.
When I do get back to it, I’ll remember to let you know.

Can’t wait to hear from you! Once you’re settled in, DM me. Let’s set up a call and grok out on knowledge management and Tinderbox. Looking forward to learning your story, and learning from you.

I’m tempted to say, ‘don’t set your sights too high’. :sweat_smile:

By the way, the few videos I’ve seen of yours I really appreciate.

1 Like