Tinderbox Forum

Love hate relationship and Tinderbox 7

If you are looking to dump note titles and note texts into single file, then I think File–>Export…–>as Text does exactly this.

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HTML Export (and OPML) exports the whole document by default. I’d agree that’s not necessarily self-evident at first encounter. To export a single note (using HTML export) use File -> Export Selected Note.


Remember folk are trying to help…

OK, we get your frustration, but so we can help what didn’t happen? IOW, what did you do and how did the outcome not meet your expectation? I ask in good faith as both help give a clue as to things you might have missed and/or things that can be improved.

Scrivener export. Bear in mind that Tinderbox opens Scrivener docs but not vice-versa. Thus Tinderbox->Scrivener export is constrained my Scrivener’s [sic] limitations. Whilst OPML may be an obscure format to most of us, it is the available workaround for Scrivener’s import methods.

The goal of this thread is not to identify what I should have done 18 months ago in a previous version of Tinderbox. It’s to figure out how I can avoid similar frustration now. The tips in this thread have been very helpful toward that end. Thank you.


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Just copy all your notes in TB and paste them (Data–>New --> With Clipboard) in Devonthink.
That is one easy way to export.

I’m not sure that there’s any export a lot easier than

1: From the File menu, select Export ▸ As Text.
2: Select options you prefer, such as RTF, Text, doc (Microsoft Word), OPML (outliners), or Scrivener
3: Choose whether you want to export the Entire Document or Selected Notes
4: Presss OK

Now, maybe you need something else. You don’t want to export the text – you want to export in a format that your favorite customer-relations manager, or instructional systems manager, or whatever will accept. Tinderbox can almost certainly do that, too. You’ll need to explain in some detail what you want Tinderbox to export and where the information is supposed to go; that’s a nuisance, yes, but Tinderbox can’t know how to talk to tools it hasn’t met – perhaps tools that haven’t been written yet! Odds are, if the file format is documented and reasonably modern, Tinderbox can manage it.

Belated thanks for your kind words – and, most of all, for subscribing to the magazine! We all appreciate it.

On your ongoing interactions with Tinderbox, my psychology-of-tech suggestion would be this: Compared with most off-the-shelf hardware, Tinderbox is both more powerful, and more demanding of some intention/attention about how to make it do just what you have in mind. I might liken it to a stick-shift car versus an automatic, although that undersells the difference in potential power. Or you could liken it to cooking a meal yourself, versus going to a chain restaurant – although that probably oversells the differential amount of ongoing time and effort that is required. You can do more with this program than most others, but also you have to to do somewhat more to learn the best path to the destination you have in mind.

I think the user-psychology question for you is whether you’re going to end up feeling more annoyed by the additional problem-solving effort that you do have to invest, or more gratified by the additional results you can get. I’ve been using the program for something like ten years now, and in the first while I had a number of puzzling, “how do I get the result I want? why did the program just do that?” moments. Now there are things I choose not to spend time on learning (mainly the complexities of HTML export). But virtually everything else I can do with no extra muss or fuss – and if there is a specific bit of syntax I need to look up or figure out, I turn to Mark Anderson’s aTbRef.

So: I can confidently tell you that just about anything you’d like to do in the program, there is a way to do. But I can’t say, nor can anyone else, whether you’ll end up feeling more frustrated about the investment of effort to figure out the specifics of each how-to, or more rewarded about being able to get the result you want. That’s up to you. If you’re wondering how to do a certain thing, people here much savvier than I can give you advice. (For instance, the Scrivener export tools are new in the current version.) But if you don’t like the idea of needing to look for those techniques or advice, this might not be the right tool for you. Good luck on whichever path!


Yes, hence the love/hate relationship. My satisfaction in making Tinderbox jump through hoops is at war with my frustration when the hoops seem to get in the way of getting work done.


I suspect that 100% of the users have that experience one time or the other – or more often. No one should ever expect to struggle with software.

In my experience, when choosing tools for anything moderately complicated, Tinderbox is generally not the path of least resistance. But it is frequently the path of greatest value. But, then some times it’s just better to decide “nah, I’ll take pass on this project – I’ll just do it quick and dirty in Notes”.

I’ve had a similar experience and in the end decided the investment was too great. I love the app, but found that as I was working along, I hit new problems I had to solve with TB. Perhaps I needed to sift through a TB to collate certain data or an attribute to certain notes, or look at the data in a different way that required new agents, prototypes and so forth. When I hit these points, the time investment became crippling. As helpful as Mark A and Mark B are, I ended up bottle-necking. I then started using other application deciding to solve it with TB later. The later never came and now my data is in various apps and locations. I also didn’t find v4 examples on the main website of much use. I think TB is an all or nothing app. As I’m a heavy user of Orgmode, it pretty much covers what TB can do. I miss the visuals of the map view, but tend to use iMindmap. Perhaps one day I’ll get the itch to use it again.

So I just want to sheepishly add an update. I again tried the export to Scrivener as explained by folks above and yes, it works. There was one thing I had not seen or recalled in the step by steps that folks listed, which confused me initially: in doing this, you will export to an entirely new Scrivener document (e.g., you don’t have to create or locate a current project). But that said, it’s not actually hard.

As, I’m sure, is true for many things in Tinderbox, once you learn them. I’ve been impressed with lots of the functionality, but of course also by how difficult it can be to either learn it or even explain how and why to otherwise super smart and skilled friends of mine. But so, appreciate the comments on this. I think it’s interesting, as a final point, that once you do "get"how to do something new with it, it does sometimes provoke you to start thinking about new uses for the tool, like ways this can be combined with some other things (like using the Attribute browser) to go into all those thousands of notes and extract tagged notes for compiling in new writing projects. Thanks for the discussion and ideas.

No, you do not have to make a new document. If you export to OPML using the Tinderbox Scrivener template all you do is select your Draft or your Research binder in your Scrivener document, and choose File > Import > Files… – pick the OPML file you exported from Tinderbox and it will import into that Scrivener document as a hierarchy of notes.

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[quote=“PaulWalters, post:33, topic:597”] you do not have to make a new document…
File > Import > Files… – pick the OPML file you exported from Tinderbox and it will import into that Scrivener document as a hierarchy of notes.

I do this fairly often; works without problems for me.

I was heartened by Katherine’s post and those following it. I’m very new to Tinderbox. I’ve been eyeing it from afar for a while but bought it last week. Tinderbox seems to have a strong following but I feel like a person in a room full of Russians and I’m the only one who doesn’t speak Russian! I’m trying to get to grips with Tinderbox and I am having a moderate amount of success but quite a lot of the programme remains beyond reach and, to me, confusing. The basics are well-covered but finding information that would take me beyond the basics isn’t so easy as things stand. When I have reached out to people, the question I get back is ‘what are you trying to do with Tinderbox?’ Well, the answer to that question is three things:

a) I would like to convert a Filemaker Pro database (a contacts database) into a searchable Tinderbox database (Filemaker is an expensive package). I think (hope) this will be straight forward but, the ultimate aim is to export the data from Tinderbox to InDesign so I can create a deliverable pdf file to all my contacts (I look after a special interest group).

b) I am writing (or trying to write) a novel. I have, now I have retired, time to do this and it is something I would like to do but want to make sure that if I use Tinderbox, I get the structure of the database right from the outset

c) Although retired, I still design training courses that I occasionally run and, again, Tinderbox will, I hope, be the tool I use for gathering and keeping all the data I collect, course notes, presentations, images and so on.

So, three things plus I would like to get to grips with Tinderbox just, more than anything, as an academic exercises.

And so, I am not reaching out for help here. I have decided to try and work it all out form myself but, from where I stand right now, I, like Katherine, am wondering if there are more suitable tools out there for my specific needs. Or, in other words, is it worth the investment in time I need tackle Tinderbox. I’m at the bottom of what appears to be a steep (and sometimes unclear and confusing) learning curve. Time will tell!



There is a lot left unsaid here about the structure of that database, but if you can get the data exported from Filemaker to Excel then you can select a range of cells, copy, and paste it into Tinderbox. For example this

when copied can become this

when pasted into a Tinderbox document. Tinderbox automatically created the necessary attributes, and guessed (correctly in this case) at their type (date, string, etc.)

Again, a bit more info would be helpful – such as what format can InDesign accept as input – import, or pasting, or placing. The answer to that would determine how to structure your export – questions such as whether the built-in export templates are fine as they are, or would need adjustment for your specific needs.

I suggest browsing the old forum, the Literature and Latte forum, and blogs such as Howard Oakley’s Eclectic Light Company – a lot of folks have written a LOT over the years about using Tinderbox for fiction projects. Don’t miss the “Getting Started With Tinderbox” document in Tinderbox’s Help menu. Or Mark B’s “Tinderbox Way”. (Sorry – I know some readers don’t like suggestions to go read something else – but in this case the amount of literature about using Tinderbox for literature is very broad, deep, and varied. As everyone’s novel is different – everyone’s writing style and toolset are different.)

And don’t worry about getting the structure right from the outset. The point of Tinderbox is emergent structure – start and then evolve. You’ll be less stressed and get better results if you don’t plan the structure in finite detail from the get-go.

Same opinion as “(b)”, but I’m not an instructional designer so I’ll leave that to others.

For any kind of writing, but especially (b), you need to look at Scrivener.


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Don’t worry too much about getting the structure of a Tinderbox document correct, right from the outset.

Tinderbox was designed for large and challenging projects. No one picks the correct structure for a project like that, right at the outset. Tinderbox makes is reasonably easy to adapt your document to your growing understanding of the project.

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I cannot but confirm the last, based on some years use of Tinderbox. I seems counter-intuitive. Most software punishes failure to follow rules, and in doing s limits one’s approach to the task at hand.

Tinderbox is very forgiving of error allowing one to back up. I don’t mean by way of a magic button - some effort is involved. The ability not to have to guess at outset the eventual structure of my data is why I keep using Tinderbox over the many other apps at my disposal.

Me too. What sets Tinderbox apart from any of the other “interesting” programs I’ve used since the early 1980s is its continuous malleability. Back in the early data-base days, a mistake you made in the beginning – really, a failure of imagination or an inevitable change in circumstances – constrained you forever after. Often it was easier just to start again from scratch. By contrast, you can constantly re-tune TB on the fly, as your needs evolve and habits change.