Tinderbox Forum

A Tinderbox Zettelkasten starter file

OK, like you, I use BibTeX (as seen in your screen grab). The reason @talazem’s code you quote isn’t working is that when I look at the $ReferenceRIS data there is no “U1”. Note also, his code is case sensitive, though I don’t think that is the issue here.

The result makes me assume the Cmd+Opt drag contains RIS info regardless of the formatted version that arrives into the Tinderbox note $Text. The latter depends on the current output format set in Bookends. Sorry, it’s all a bit complex, but it leads to an ‘aha!’ moment. If I edit my ‘RIS.fmt’ [sic] in the Bookends Format Manager (via ‘Biblio’ menu) to include the RIS ‘U1’ field (it doesn’t by default), then even though my drag inserts BibTeX format data, the $ReferenceRIS value now includes the ‘U1’ RIS key and the example code above works.

The edit I made, to the end of the RIS code in the format manager was this extra line:

$UR  - $z 
`ER  - `¬


$UR  - $z 
$U1 - $u1
`ER  - `¬

Note the extra line. Note too, i just tested by editing one reference type “Journal article”. To implement this properly you will need to make a similar edit to the “Book”, “Book chapter” and “Edited book” reference typed in the RIS.fmt.

You could as Bookends’s if they can tweak the defaults for the RIS.fmt to include the ‘U1’ field but that might affect other users. So this might just need to be a thing you do yourself.

I did skim @talazem’s updated demo file but I didn’t find this nuanced aspect there (I may have missed it!).

Thank you Mark and Talal. Now after making the change in RIS.fmt for Journal Article with what Mark suggested I was able to get TBX read the U1 and assign it properly to BibTeXKey.


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Hi @talazem & @mwra - firstly many thanks for creating this starter file.
I’m new to Tinderbox and was delighted to see this, as I have been experimenting with creating a simple Zettlekasten, but if I can get this working for myself it looks like a great solution!
To help me learn, I’ve been following through the User manual and adding a few notes and have got stuck in one place.
When I add a new Reference note manually, the Citation pane in Key Attributes isn’t automatically populating. It doesn’t seem to recognise the new Reference note, which as far as I can see has been correctly created & named using BibTeXKey.
I’m running on 8.5 so I can’t use a Ziplink to reference the Reference and create a Text Link.
Could you suggest any reasons why this isn’t working for me? Might it be as simple as upgrading from 8.5?
And a second question. After the “Getting Started with Tinderbox” guide, any tips for a good follow-on learning guide for a new starter?

Hello Ian, and welcome to the community.

The file is set up in particular way, as regards references. References are to be written directly into the note pane. It is easiest to do with the Ziplink feature, but it can be done manually by creating a text link to the Reference note. (The Ziplink automates this. Personally I find the upgrade well worth it, for this feature and a range of others.)

Once a link is created from a note pane to a Reference note, the Citation pane in the Key Attributes of the first note populates automatically. You should not intervene manually. What it seems you are expecting is that the Citation pane provides a drop-down list, with the name of all notes found in the Reference container. This is not how it works. Rather, the note pane is where the link is created, and the Citation pane simply gets auto-populated.

What is the point of this? By having an auto-populated Citation attribute, we can use the Attribute Browser (and other analytical features of TBX) to ‘index’ the collection of notes.

I hope this helps. As far as your second question, it might be worth doing a search through the forum for other threads that address this exact question. Unsurprisingly, I have found Mark Bernstein’s The Tinderbox Way to also be helpful.

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Hey @talazem - many thanks, that explains it very clearly.
Everything works fine once I added the textlink manually directly into the note pane, with the Citation pane automatically updating.
I’m learning lots working my way through the notes and seeing how you’ve designed this. Thanks once again for sharing.

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Thanks so much for this starter file, @talazem and also for the recommendation to ‘Taking smart notes with DEVONThink’ @seishonagon.

I know many folks use Tinderbox and Devonthink together. I have both, been using both in an amateur fashion, using them more intensely some years and then taking time off.

I’m planning to write a book in the fall which is translational in nature so I can see the power and necessity of the Zettelkasten method. I use Papers as my reference manager, will likely use Scrivener or Ulysses for writing.

Just trying to understand the pro’s and con’s of using Tinderbox as the homebase for the Zettelkasten and use DTP Smart See Also & Classify to analyse notes and PDFs or to use Devonthink as the homebase of the Zettelkasten and use Tinderbox to explore connections between ideas.



Remarkable work! I used version 1 and modified a bit (not much at all) but am trying to understand the changes between the two versions. Thanks for any clarification.

Sorry for the delayed response, Tom. There is no functional difference if I remember correctly – just a small bug (identified above) and some changes to the documentation (a link not working, also identified above).

Hello Mel. I imagine what you are suggesting would work well. It all depends on how you plan to move notes between the two, if at all, for the purposes of the analysis. I seem to remember other threads in this forum exploring a very similar set up. A search through the forum’s past posts may give you some good ideas.

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@melhopkop , if i may share my unsolicited and highly opinionated opinion, :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: i think the latter is the way to go. i think Tinderbox is a powerful tool for analyzing ideas!

I am thinking about pointing DT at my nascent zettelkasten so it can lend its own strengths to the zettelkasten’s ability to surface ideas and connections. That feels like a powerful one-two combo.

I hope you’ll keep us posted with what works—and what doesn’t! Perhaps you’ll consider joining our meetups on Saturday morning sometime. :wave:

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Thank you for this file, it is immensely helpful.

I have a question regarding the export templates.

I’ve created new ‘registers’ alongside the ‘Keywords register’ and ‘Persons register’ that you’ve included in the template to reflect additional attributes that I use (‘Theme’, for example) by modifying the edict code (replacing all instances of ‘Keywords’ with ‘Theme’). I’d now like to set up the document so these additional registers export as HTML (File>Export>as HTML), so have modified the ‘tmplt_Keyword register.md’ in a similar way to create a ‘tmplt_Theme register.md’. The problem is that the Theme register doesn’t export alongside the Persons register and the Keywords register. I’m not sure if there is something else I need to adjust to make this work.

Any advice much appreciated.

  1. Have you set the export template on the Theme Register?
  2. Select Theme Register and open the Export inspector. Is Export checked?
  3. If your problem is not one of these, could you post the document, or a part of it? The problem is likely to be straightforward.

This solved it, thank you.

I have a question related to this code change.

I’ve created an agent that gathers a particular subset of notes within the Zettelkasten. The Keywords register now lists each note gathered in the agent twice under a given keyword. Once for its original occurrence in the Zettelkasten container, and once for its occurrence in the agent.

I’ve tried to restrict the Keywords register to the Zettelkasten container using the code modification above, but this hasn’t solved the problem. Any note gathered in an agent is duplicated in the register.

I’m wondering if there is another way round?

great work. just browsed it briefly. will get on with my current project and got loads to learn. just wanted to say thanks for your work which added another future possibility for me to work with Tinderbox in the future. cheers, stay safe.

Thanks for sharing, @talazem. Best Zkn template I have come across so far.

P.s.: Just a minor correction. Zettelkastens should actually read Zettelkästen.

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Glad you’ve both found it useful.

p.s. You’re right, of course, Bernardo. But what with ‘zettelkasten’ becoming a household term (in an infintesmially small number of houses), one might be forgiven for slapping an ‘s’ to make the plural, as one does for all good foreign words that have entered the lingua franca of the internet. :slight_smile:


I have been using TBX for visual organization, and now I want to try the combination of Tinderbox and Zettelkastens. One year has passed. Has this template been improved and optimized?

Hello @Ting. I haven’t done any further work on the template, myself. It was more a template to inspire or help others learn how to use TBX for this purpose. I hope it remains helpful in that fashion. I think the additions of v9 do make this template even moreso for Zettelkasten-style note-taking.

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Very nice template, no friction with Zettelkasten.