Move text blocks between tear off notes?

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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If [Return] while editing a note name means “split this entry”, then it cannot mean “I am finished correcting this typo — for which task I have special arrow keys and command bindings — and I want to return to normal outlining.”

If [Delete] means “join this note to the previous note”, is cannot mean “delete this note.” And, if joining this note to the previous note is this easy, what do we do with this note’s text? With its attributes?

Note that you can sketch a tabbed outline in the text pane, and then drag it into the outline pane. Nice for quick lists!

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NO, NOT TRUE. It pays to read the documentation. There are an arrow-based shortcuts for this very thing, e.g. this and this—The task is just implemented a slightly different way. Moving focus from the content of a note to/from the view (Outline or other) pane has shortcuts too (see). In fact look ar the section of the shortcut look-up map under the Return (:leftwards_arrow_with_hook:) or arrow keys and there are a host of key-based features. So, it’s simply untrue to imply keyboard-centric rapid input is not possible. It is something (judging from other threads here) that some users to a lot without the problems being suggested.

Some of the lazy assumptions about how genres of tools work don’t hold water: just keeping pushing on the ‘Pull’ door will often disappoint; if no joy pushing, try pulling, or ask for help. Tinderbox notes have always has the notion of a discrete Title (that you see in the view pane) and optional text. If you want, you can essentially ‘outline’ in the View pane, especially if your note titles are short. But you do need to look at the documentation—Tinderbox isn’t a single-purpose/view app.Indeed, that’s why many use it as it transcends the limits of such narrower purpose tools (that are good at only one thing)

To the person who only knows ‘outliners’ (defined how?) I guess everything is/should be an outliner, but that’s a self-defeating perspective of a rich tool like Tinderbox. For a start, a lot of users ‘outline’ in views other than the Outline. :exploding_head:. So, it pays to be open to other and different ways of doing things. The most familiar way is not necessarily better or even the norm—it’s just what’s familiar to us. ‘Frictionless’ is a post-hoc justification of entrenched opinion and generally occurs in marketing hype or, as here, to throw shade without real substance.

If not understanding how things work in Tinderbox, a good idea is to consult the various available documentation and resources (Help, the tutorials in the app’s Help menu, aTbRef, @Satiskusala’s video demos, etc.) or simply ask a question here.

This is a user-to-user forum where we try to help fellow users of such a rich app (and have been doing so for over 20 years). Simply moaning that this app isn’t the same as one with which you are more familiar doesn’t give us much with which to help. We want to help but can’t create new features as we are only fellow users of the app: for app feature-parity you need to write in to the developer.

So, to get back on track what’s the actual question here? (without defining it in terms of an app we don’t know/use)

†. The term actually covers a wide and diverse range of tools. People get seduced by copy-cat methods normally used to help entice new users away to tool B from tool A. But such behaviour doesn’t, of itself improve the tools or the note-taking experience.


Looks exciting, @eastgate! Any news as to when it will be available?

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The book? Sometime in March, with luck.


This was neat ! I tried using bike outliner to create an outline. Then copied the outline and pasted it into Tinderbox to get an imported outline. The reverse from TB to Bike, copies the note titles and relative positions, but not the text of the notes.

@NiranS - it should work. Just Expand All in Tbx, select all and then Paste in Bike. You won’t get the $Text contents, but Note Names will pull over.

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That is expected. Pasted data in the form of a tab-indented outline will be exported as an outline rather than a single block of text. The new outline created is added inside a container which is always called ‘imported outline’.

The rationale for the container is thinking ahead to repeat use of the technique. At the basic level, pasting the occasional outline, the container might seem like overhead to remove. But, if pasting often it is easy to set an agent to look for an container of the $Name value imported outline and then onward process as desired. This container-based approach is the same as with Explode (although here there is no prototype created for new container, unlike for Explode).

I’d post a link to the aTbRef note on this … but it looks like in a re-organisation it got lost. No matter, there is one now! See Pasting tab-indented outlines into a view. (sitemap, TBX, image zip, etc. also updated)

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I meant something else. The shortcuts you linked to allow selecting next/previous note whilst the focus is inside the $Text pane. I was talking about editing inside the Outline view, not the $Text pane:

Here, the cursor is “trapped” inside the highlighted text input box. I cannot find any shortcut that would get my cursor in between the ‘e’ and the ‘r’ of ‘another’ in the example. That is what I was trying to get at in my earlier post.

Is there a way of doing that, I am unaware of?

So from where you show:

  • Press Return :leftwards_arrow_with_hook: to exit title ($name) edit mode.
  • Press Up-arrow to select the previous note (‘another note’).
  • Press Enter or Function+Return fn+↩ to enter title edit mode.
  • Use Left-arrow ← and Right-arrow → keys to navigate within the title’s text to reach the desired edit point. Whilst in title edit mode:
    • Use Up-arrow ↑ or ⌘+← move the cursor to to the beginning of the title’s text.
    • Use Down-arrow ↓ or ⌘+→ to move the cursor to beginning of the title’s text.

These shortcuts are documented in aTbRef—I find the Reverse look-up map the best place to get an overview of shortcuts available.

Does that help?

†. On modern Mac keyboards only extended keyboard, i.e. those with a full number pad, had a specific Enter key. Old Mac laptops may have an Enter key next to the Space key.

That is exactly the dance, that I tried to describe – and which I would love to avoid. I was looking for a way to do all that in a single keystroke.

It does strike me that, that the Up/Down arrows are redundant (or have alternatives) in edit mode. Perhaps make a feature request to the developer that these keys close current title edit and open the item above or below for title edit? I don’t really use the app in this way so am not well placed to advise on the detail of this, though I do see your point. HTH.

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This arrow-key request seems reasonable. I do have some questions, though these might better be discussed backstage…

  1. Should up-arrow place the insertion point in the last line of a multi-line note, or the first line?

  2. I expect that, after pressing up-arrow, lots of people will then want to move to the start or the end of the note. In fact, I think that might be more common than wanting to edit at the exact point above the insertion point. Which behavior is most common?

  3. I expect that, after pressing up-arrow, lots of people will want to select the entire title of the previous note and replace it with a better title. I think that might be more common than wanting to edit at the exact point above the insertion point. Is this behavior in fact common? Is there a key binding for select all whilst editing a text field? (Yes, it’s ⌘-A, but I had to check!)

  4. All of this can be done pretty easily with the mouse. Want to edit the previous note at the position above the insertion point? Click there and hold.. You’re done. I know: some people don’t like to use the mouse, but macOS is mouse-centric.

  5. TINE: Tinderbox Is Not Emacs. (How do you quit vi? It’s easy: press Esc-Esc-colon-q! How do you quit EMACS? Well, you have to abandon your ideology and abjure the idol of your youth.)

  6. At most, this is a mild quality of life issue (see 4 above). It competes for resources with issues that let people do things — things like finding answers to important questions — that they could not do otherwise. Now, I like quality of life as much as the next fellow, but this doesn’t strike me as a terrible hardship: is it the very best thing to do?

  7. One consideration is the outline tool in macOS. Other things being equal, I like to follow the HIG and Mac conventions. Offhand, though, I don’t know how NSOutlineView handles up-arrow while editing a text element. My guess is that it does what Tinderbox currently does, but true confession: I’ve never instantiated NSOutlineView myself. Does anyone know?

I used to refer questions such as this to OmniOutliner. Before that, my standard was Frontier. @tedgoranson, of course, knows more about this question than anyone. I wonder what he thinks? This discussion, it seems to me, may be influenced by Bike, Jesse Grosjean’s new outliner: it’s very cool and quite radical. Is that in fact the case?

On the whole, I’m more supportive of trying this than not, but I’ve almost talked myself out of it while writing this.


A relevant link: ATPM - Archives - About This Particular Outliner. About This Particular Organizer (APTO) was a marvellous series by Tinderbox user @tedgoranson on Outliner programs written 2003–2008

†. A pun on the name of the host blog ‘About This Particular Mac’ (APTM), which ran from 1995–2013. See:

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While not particularly elegant. You could:

  • expose the name of the note as a key attribute. (prototype)
  • navigate to the note of choice
  • option tab to select the key attribute (2 option tabs required)
  • return to edit the name
  • edit the name
  • return to finish editing
  • option tab to select the outliner pane again
  • to make it faster use, keyboard maestro to create a shortcut for two option tabs and a return
  • this works best if Name is the first key attribute
  1. All I used at some point (Bike, Notion, Logseq, Roam, Remnote) move to the point exactly above the insertion point. I think there is good reasons for that:
    a) It is consistent behaviour across the Outline and $Text… or anything else from Word to Visual Studio Code.
    b) If you need to move just up a line – you can take the shortest path.
    c) Jumping to start or end of line already has macOS-wide shortcuts (Ctrl-A and Ctrl-E). There is none to get you back to your previous horizontal position.
    Let’s assume you make the cursor jump to start or end, and that is, what the user wants anyways: you save a single keystroke. If it was not, navigating back to get where you almost were anyways needs the mouse or many keystrokes. Low benefit in scenario A, high cost in B.
    If you make the cursor keep its horizontal position, in scenario A, jumping to start or end is a single keystroke. In scenario B you already are at your goal :slight_smile:
  1. Last line, imho. I think it is easier on the brain, if the cursor always does the same thing when I hit up-arrow, regardless of there being a jump between notes made. Just move up a line – as it is in $Text, and inside $Name. And again: Ctrl-A brings you to the start anyways.
  1. Again, same as in 1.: You’ll make it impossible to not select all of $Name and thus loose your horizontal position, if you make selecting all the default. And there is no way of getting around that by automating hotkeys using Keyboard Maestro or similar. On the flip-side ‘select all’ already has Cmd-A.

  2. Yes, that is my go-to. But as somebody who regularly is on the edge of issues with repetitive strain syndrom, I’d really like to not need the mouse for this.

  3. see 4. … I totally get the point you make – and I think that not jumping onto every little “oh, we could make x a bit smoother” is actually quite a big part of what allows Tinderbox to be what it is.
    But moving through the outline is absolute core functionality, something a heavy user may do hundreds of times a day.

Not from my side – this was bugging me before I even heard of Bike.

This turns out to be not the case for Notion.

I just tried editing the name of Sub Page in the sidebar. Placing the insertion point after “b” and pressing up-arrow moves the insertion point to the start of the title as it does in Tinderbox, not to the previous note.

I was not referring to the page titles in the sidebar, but to the main body of the pages.

…pressing up-arrow…

2 posts were split to a new topic: Outlines: narratives, concepts and insights