Move text blocks between tear off notes?

Don’t have Tbx yet, still seeking to discover how well it will accommodate my use case (basically reworking & organizing thousands of existing notes). One thing I want to be able to do is put two notes side by side and easily move text blocks between them (part of reworking). I see that we can ‘tear off’ multiple notes (set them afloat), and documentation says yes we can edit them in this floating mode but cannot drag & drop blocks between them. Too bad. Is that something that might be contemplated in the future?
But meantime, ok, I can’t drag & drop but can I copy/paste and cut/paste blocks between floating notes? More clunky than drag & drop but much better than nothing.
Or is there any other arrangement for side by side cross-work with multiple notes? Multiple panes or whatever it might be called?
As an aside, I got Heptabase and was very excited indeed. A game-changer. But then I imported 6000 notes into it, and Heptabase crashed. Every time I launch it it crashes in about 3 minutes. It can’t handle that much data. They were kind enough to refund. It’s my understanding that Tbx can handle 10s of thousands of notes of various length without a hiccup. Hopefully that is the case?

The normal way to do this in Tinderbox is:

  1. Import Text 1 into Tinderbox
  2. Break it into a sequence of pieces — what you’re calling text blocks.
  3. Do the same with Text 2

Now, you can readily move notes between the sequences. Want to see how a new sequence fits? Just select all the notes in the new merged sequence, and see how things fit together. Realize that you’re now repeating yourself? Just edit the repetitious note.

I’m not visualizing this very well, are all these pieces (text blocks) floating on the canvas in readable form, and I can stack them up as I please and then integrate back into assembled notes?

And is the breakup accomplished by ‘explosion’? or another method?

I guess I’m not clear as to what a ‘sequence’ is, either.

If there is a video on this, please direct me and I’ll study it. Thanks.

No: Tinderbox isn’t anything like this. That’s Heptabase: this is Tinderbox.

You can break a textual monolith into pieces in several ways. The easiest, probably, is to cut text here and paste it to make a new note there.

If you want to do that repeatedly in a really big note, you can place a delimiter where you want to slice the notes. That’s what Explode… does. There’s lots of ways to customize Explode, which makes it a interesting to talk about, but that’s all it is — a way to slice a text into a sequence of little texts.

What are these texts you want to reorganize? Are these the “notes files from 30+ years of personal journaling” you were asking about in December? Or something else?

yes it’s my 30+ years of notes, many of them monoliths composed of many notes on many subjects (usually a year of freeform journaling in one file). I want to break them up, rejoin, reorganize, etc.
It sounds like this will go well in Tbx, but I’m still not quite clear: can I work with a bunch of text pieces all on the canvas at once such that I can read the texts on the canvas, or will only titles be seen on the canvas?
If I can see the text pieces, maneuver and reassemble at will, that should work very well.
Ok, re-reading your note, it seems Tbx doesn’t do this.
It would be a wonderful capability to have.

There are a few programs you can use to manually visualize your texts. I would take it a step further and consider applying metadata to your texts and having TB group/link relevant texts.

Let me be clear: I think Tinderbox is the best tool yet built for this task.

Tinderbox does not address the task in the way you have described. I’m not saying you are wrong (though I see several difficulties with your vision —happy to explore those if you like), only that Tinderbox addresses it differently.

You’ve been kicking the tires on Tinderbox for something like five years now. There must be some ideas here that resonate with you. If I am correct in this, it might be useful to see how those ideas function, look at what they rest upon, and to take them for a spin. You might take a look at The Tinderbox Way or at my upcoming Thinking In Tinderbox.

There are lots of people out there who will tell you “yes, we will solve your problems.” I’m not going to do that. I think Tinderbox might help address parts of some of your problems.


@andyjim – you’ve posted a lot of interesting “what if” / “how can I” questions over the past couple months, but have you ever just downloaded Tinderbox and used it? Abstractions are never as good as actually putting your hands on the product and trying it.

Is there a reason not to?

Though I think it’s likely it may fill the bill for me, it’s a bit costly for me to buy just to try it and see. I have downloaded it (9.0 because my iMac can only run Catalina) but almost every feature is grayed out and the screen is so dark I can’t read text. I can’t do much with it. If I could download a fully capable version to work with I would certainly do it.

I hope to buy a newer iMac one of these days. Have to convince my beloved money counter of the value vs other uses for the same funds.

Eastgate, I am very interested in your comment about Tbx addressing my issues differently than I am conceiving, and that despite my ‘objections’ you think Tbx is the best tool yet built for this task. Yes, I’ve been aware of Tinderbox for a few years. For some reason (now obscure to me) I did not like the whole concept of a canvas when I first saw it. Heptabase has just showed me the values that can be had with a canvas, but Heptabase fails when I load thousands of files into it. But what I learned there about use of the canvas is what brought me back here with renewed interest.

I have not read The Tinderbox Way (I’m very stingy, by necessity). But I will ask, what will be the differences between The Tinderbox Way and Thinking in Tinderbox? When will the new one be available? Which do I most need? Eastgate’s comments imply that the shortcoming may be in my conceptualization/understanding (i.e. between my ears) rather than in Tbx capabilities, and that one or both books may bring me up to speed and show me that I can accomplish my goals in the Tinderbox Way. Hope this is so.

NiranS, yes I think e.g. ‘pre-classing’ text blocks in a big file and exploding them out into separate tagged prototyped notes may prove effective for a lot of what I need to do. I have watched Michael Becker’s video on Explosion, and that looks very useful for disassembling my large files. As part of such an automated process, can I merge or append notes together that meet common criteria? And then, if I understand things, I could put that combined note into outline format which would allow me to move things around?

You’ve downloaded a version from 2021; which is pretty hard for us to support. But if you’re using dark mode, you ought to choose a dark color scheme. (This is handled more smoothly in Tinderbox today.)

Everything in the demo is enabled except saving and adding notes to larger files.

Thinking In Tinderbox is a new book, chiefly about the relationship between Tinderbox and the long history of ideas that underly computing. The Tinderbox Way is a more sprawling and more pragmatic book about Tinderbox and note taking. Here’s the current Table Of Contents for Thinking In Tinderbox:

  • Thinking In Tinderbox
  • Let Us Calculate
  • The Big Picture
  • Thinking With Things
  • Tidy
  • Hyperbolic
  • Actions
  • Software Tools
  • Functions
  • Literary Machines, Generosity, and Abundance
  • Roots Of Hypertext
  • Tinderbox At War
  • Beyond Boxes and Arrows

I didn’t choose dark with what I downloaded, and I’ve looked through menus for how to change it, but don’t see how. If I could read text I’d be able to play with it and try something things.
It’s my understanding that current Tinderbox will not run on my 2013 computer (10.15.7) or I’d try it. May have to wait until I have a better machine.

My understanding of TB is shallow. Watching the tutorials can give a much deeper understanding.

The difficult part of sorting through a large field of notes is deciding what goes together. Applying tags and then using agents, smart adornments, attribute browser etc to collect related tags in outlines or maps would be a good way to narrow your focus. A specific note does not only have to belong in one place.

TB notes composite view could be used to “glue” notes together. Newer version of TB will present a unified view of selected notes(something like Scriveners scrivenings). Take a good look at Micheal Beckers work with using metadata to include and exclude files on export.

In my own head, TB is the tool I use to understand a problem. What are my facts or ideas. Then how do these ideas relate to other ideas.

Just one more question for now: Is there any outline functionality in the text pane?
promote/demote, up/down, collapse/expand, hoist. My journaling style makes these outline functions indispensable in the text editor itself. So far I haven’t been able to find that Tinderbox does this.
Hope I’m wrong.

I did get 9.0 demo working. I don’t know why the first file I created went dark, but I relaunched and have a new instance that is ok, so I can experiment. Outlining in the text pane is the first thing I’ve tried to do. Dang, could be a deal breaker for me if I can’t do this. Maybe I’m the only fool who works this way.

OK: it’s a deal-breaker. Bye!

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Curious why you would want to outline within the text pane when you’ve got all that outlining capability right there in the … outline. The most robust outlining capabilities you will find anywhere, I think, if outlining is your thing.

As for disassembling and reassembling text, the possibilities are endless, many with a learning curve, but accessible to the non-coder, especially with the guidance available here in this forum.

@andyjim I think if I were doing this I would go about it in a different way. Moving bits of text around is very laborious (I’ve done a lot of it) and has the downside that it deprives us of the context in which the original text was written. I think I would approach the task in the way that I approached textual analysis in psychology: by reading the text and inserting codes in the text where certain themes or topics appear. This is how qualitative data analysis is often done (you can see examples in all sorts of text books, like Miles and Huberman’s Qualitative Data Analysis). An example might be inserting a code like $phenomenology$ in the text, and you could then search for and view all the instances of that code within your notes. However, using Tinderbox, a better way to go about things might be to create a kind of “index” note named “phenomenology” and then make links between text where the topic occurs and that index note. You can see that I have done something of that sort in this screenshot:

Anywhere in my text that I come across the word “anxiety” I can link it to the the note named “anxiety” and build up a network so that I can see where the topic occurs. Hyperbolic view would be useful in such an approach.

Each of us has to find our own method and practice, of course, but I think it is worth pondering and considering if the first approach that presents itself is the best.

  • I much appreciate all the feedback of all kinds.
    • I realize I have focused here on discussing the organizing aspect of my project, but haven’t really talked about my ‘daily creativity’ practice. I look at the former as ‘top down’, the latter as ‘bottom up’. And I need both.
    • in my crazy daily journaling style, I write in what I call ‘freeboard’ style. I’m writing along, and out of the blue a new thought bubbles up on a different (new or old) topic. I line feed and launch the new thought. If I don’t do that immediately, if I distract with the mechanics of launching a new note, new window or whatever, I may lose the thought. So ability to shift topic with a single (or a couple of) keystroke(s) without having to think about mechanics is a must.
    • Then, two or three sentences or a paragraph later I see what the heading should be for this block. I go to top of paragraph, insert the heading, then indent the text I’ve just written, below the heading. This can continue upward, where I may move this heading under an existing, higher echelon heading. Some call this reverse outlining; I think of it as bottom up journaling or bottom up thinking.
    • Of course when it comes to organizing thousands of thoughts, organizational features, in which Tinderbox excels, top come into play. I need both top down and bottom up.
    • And I do use the standard outlining features (move up/down, promote/demote, hoist (focus)) in my freeboard journaling. Hence my insistence on a text editor that is also a single-pane outliner.
    • But despite my despairing comment yesterday that lack of a single-pane outliner appears to be a deal breaker with Tinderbox, think I should not so easily give up on Tinderbox to accommodate my bottom up freeboard journaling, because with its robust capabilities, many of which I have not even heard of yet, perhaps it can yet pretty well approximate my journaling style right along with the organizing features, multiplying the gain.
    • I have just gotten The Tinderbox Way, and I will continue playing with the demo while I read that, watch more videos and browse the documentation. Hopefully I am premature in concluding that Tinderbox cannot accommodate my style.

All of what you describe and more can be accomplished with Tinderbox. However, like with most things in life, it is useful to approach Tinderbox for what it is and not for what you want it to be. If you’re successful with this, you can get the most out of the tool. You may find that the tool does what you want, just in different words than you expect, or you may find that you need to look at what you’re trying to do from a different perspective, which may require a slight or significant change in your workflow, but for the better.

Another important point, Tinderbox works wonderfully with a host of other tools. You don’t build a mansion with just a hammer; it takes several tools and perspectives to get the job done.

Good luck!

I get your wish for a frictionless outlining experience in the text-pane – I had it too.
Yes, there is the Outline view. And it is in-place edit. But there is a leap between in-place and frictionless. I think it stems from the outline in TBX relying on vanilla macOS-text-entry fields. We are editing separate items, one-by-one. It does not give the experience of the entire outline always being in edit-mode, like in other outliners. Some examples:

  1. The Outline view always requires the extra step of “activating” the entries, turning up the input fields, in which you then have to move the cursor where you want it. In other outliners you just click where you want your cursor and type. The closest I get in TBX is “double-click, click” on the outline, which kind of became muscle memory and will also leave you with the cursor at the position you want to edit in what at least feels like close to one action.
  2. You cannot simply split an entry into two by hitting Return, like you could in other outliners. Neither can you join them in a similar fashion.
  3. You cannot go to the item below via arrow keys and back without leaving, entering, leaving, re-entering the “edit mode”.

I find that the frictionless outliners are a double edged sword.
a) I can use them with my eyes closed, and type out heavily indented notes in one go, without really thinking about it. Great for brainstorming or meetings. I never reached that point in TBX – which is why I do not use it for that.
Sometimes the ability to move fast like that is really key.
b) Sometimes they make me stop and think less than would be good. Which I only noticed through using the less smooth outliner of TBX.

I am not saying, there isn’t still a part of me, wanting frictionless outline editing in TBX. But if I am honest with myself that is more because I would like to have TBX be capable of everything – not because that would leave me with a significantly more capable toolset compared to just using TBX and another outliner in parallel. The back-and-forth between programs always is annoying, yes. It would be great to not have to rely on workarounds or other apps, yes. But I think it was just never enough to make @eastgate think it weighs up against having to rebuild the entire Outline view.

PS: something else you can do: just do outlining within the $Text pane with just Tabs and Line-breaks. You trade in the ability to collapse and have bullets or similar, but you gain the fluidity and can stay within TBX. @archurhh has described working in this way in another thread on this forum.

Actually, if you do this using some form of markdown, i.e., the standard #, ##, *, - or your own made-up one, once your outline is stable, you can always explode it. I do this all the time. This method gives me the speed of “quick” outlining and notetaking but then later gives me all the power of Tinderbox to generate insights.

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