Tinderbox Forum

Footnote behavior

I’ve begun experimenting with using footnotes as a means to attach attributes to particular pieces of text in a longer note. My (experimental) workflow is this: highlight a word or a phrase; make a footnote linked to it; stamp that footnote so it contains Tags and some other attributes I need; fill in info about those attributes; go back to the “source” note.

What I hope to do here is to have a longish “natural” note – say, the transcript of several sessions at a conference – associated with a second layer, which contains information about pieces of that note. I can then use an agent or the attribute browser to find all footnotes containing a particular value for an attribute, and then use links from those footnotes to find the relevant text in the main note.

I don’t want to split my original note into many pieces, because this results in an exhausting and confusing array of small notes. I also don’t want to be stuck with my first decisions about how to classify information in the raw original note. I like having a simple chronological document at the root of my later work on the material.

So, my questions to the forum are

  1. Does this make sense? Is there an easier way to do what I am trying to do that I have missed?
  2. How come, when I create a footnote in Outline view, Tinderbox doesn’t take me to it? In order to work with my new footnote, I have to find the footnote in the outline and click on it. I’d rather be taken to its text window automatically. Is there a way to make that the default?
  3. How come, when I use Navigate to return to the main note from the footnote, I am not brought back to where I was? Instead, I end up at the beginning of the main note. Again, I’d like to change this behavior. Is there a way?

Thanks for any thoughts or comments!


There’s no right or wrong, though I think it worth noting that the general design of Tinderbox favours more, smaller, notes rather than long sections of text. That perhaps reflects the hypertextual aspect of the app’s genesis. Smaller notes are easier to cross reference. It’s currently not possible to link to sentence #2 of paragraph #43 of a note. Smaller notes thus aid better cross-referencing. Also, there are various forms of export or preview that allow a selection of notes to be assembled as a long-form piece of text. [edit: as helpfully illustrated 2 posts down by @PaulWalters]

It might help garner more comment if you were to post a small example document of where you are currently as it gives a more tangible common reference for discussion.

I have nothing against multiple, smaller notes and I use them. But my point is that multiple, small notes alone aren’t an adequate solution – not for me anyway. There also needs to be a level in which sources are left whole. For example, suppose I have a transcript of an hour-long interview, in which there are three or four passages that are useful for my immediate purposes, and another 3-4 that are relevant to some other chapter or line of thought, which I’ll attend to later.

Yes, I want each separate morsel to be referenced and cross-referenced. But if I have ONLY the separated pieces, I have lost
(a) the ability to rethink and change my original decisions about where to carve up the larger file
(b) the original context in which I received the information, which is often highly informative (did she make this interesting point in a discussion of the history of the discipline or in a discussion of important new ideas?; was this striking phrase coined by a major figure or an interloper?)

My point here is that I don’t want to choose between multiple small notes and big ones. And I don’t want the big notes to be too separated from the small ones they generated (because then to connect them I have to stop working with the notes in order to do bookkeeping – ok, I have a phrase in my Tinderbox note, now to find the source in DevonThink, I have to search a pdf).

This ability to keep two layers in tight accord is the strength of qualitative analysis software, as I understand it, but I am trying to find ways to do it in Tinderbox. And I think the footnote approach might work.

Will try to come up with a manageable example.


I have no opinion one way or another on this topic, but it seemed useful to remember that Tinderbox offers a bit of a path between the large-note / small-note viewpoints. As this image illustrates, a collection of “small” notes can be viewed as a “large” note when the notes are selected in Outline view. I threw in an example “endnote footnote” to show how these can be incorporated.

The note $Texts shown in the right panel can be selected in whole or in part and used in another application or pasted as text in a new, rejoined “large” note.