Tinderbox Forum

Note taking in Tinderbox

I’m trying to improve my note taking system and have been a longtime Tinderbox user. Here are some things that I’d like to achieve and am not sure how to do in Tinderbox:

  1. Scratchpad. Quickly enter a note while working on something else. A key stroke or trackpad gesture to open a window to create a new note that then gets entered in some kind of inbox.

  2. Distraction-free writing. Full-screen writing environment for maximal focus when concentrating on writing the notes. You can currently have a text window of a note and make it full screen, but the text all ends in the left edge of the screen.

  3. Processing notes. While writing a note, I often come up with a task, like finding more information on a particular subtopic. Without breaking concentration or the flow of writing, I’d like to indicate a question, for instance by putting in “(XX)” in the text. The trick would then have an agent to find all notes that have that “(XX)” and highlighting them or, even better, creating sub notes with title equal to the preceding sentence and text equal to the whole paragraph to get the context.

Are any of these currently doable in Tinderbox?

  1. You can also try a service I wrote to clip-to-Tinderbox6. For apps supporting OS services, you select some text, select the service and if a TB6 doc is open, the text is pasted in as a new note. The selection will used for both the title ($Name) and text of the note.

  2. No comment as I never use full screen (not against it, just have on experience of it)

  3. Consider using the footnote feature.

  4. As regards the ‘XX’ search, you don’t even need an agent. Use Find in the main view, type ‘XX’ in the box and then the Return key. A pop-up on matches will open. If you deliberately use a string (you XX) that will be unique only as a marker, the list will be of your marked file. When the item is selected, the text pane shows that note’s text with any match(es) temporarily highlighted.

Further to earlier posts - and by way of expectation management - ‘child’ footnotes in v6+ are no longer created as children of the calling note, but rather as children of a container created at path /Notes (i.e. a root-level container called ‘Notes’).

YMMV as to whether this choice suits, but that but that is how things work at present. More on footnotes.

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Thanks for the suggestions!

  1. Scratchpad

This is interesting, but the whole idea was that when something new comes to mind, something not written in any app yet, I want to be able to quickly jot it down and get back to what I was working on

.[quote=“PaulWalters, post:2, topic:230”]
Another option is to use external apps as inboxes and move notes into Tinderbox as needed.

This seems like the best option. Something like Simplenote that syncs across Macs & mobile devices.

  1. Processing notes. The footnote feature could work, but it still requires interrupting the note writing, going back to highlight the written text, and making a keystroke.

Just saying: The fact that this has to be explained suggests that it’s not the intuitive result.

I think the tradeoff here is one of speed versus “proximity to the final destination.”

Like you, I want to capture stuff quickly. I have an “inbox” container in my main Tinderbox document that I keep open in its own tab. If I’m willing to spend a second or two to navigate to document and tab, and enter something, I do. It’s not instant, but the note is reasonably close to the destination (it’s in the same Tinderbox document, at least).

If I want to take a note instantly, then I use OmniFocus’s Quick Entry window. That lets me type in a note title and body if I want, and it files it to the inbox. Then at some point I can transfer the notes from OmniFocus to Tinderbox. Drag and drop works one-note-at-a-time, where it’ll set the $Name, $Text, and $URL (although I clear the URL since I’m deleting the note from OF anyway). It would be nice if it handled multiple drag-and-drop gracefully, but it doesn’t as of today.

So basically what other people have said. There’s capture time, and organizing time. If you’re willing to spend a tiny bit of organizing time upfront, then an inbox container in your TB document works great. If not, then go for the quickest capture method you can find, whether it’s OmniFocus, DEVONthink, nvALT, or something else. I like OF just because it’s on my iPhone as well.

As for “notes on the current note”, the footnotes are great because they create a link. I just treat the automatically created “Notes” container as a mini inbox.


btw another useful thing is “Copy note URL”. Now, I don’t find the URL itself particularly useful, because Tinderbox currently doesn’t find the note if you change its location in the document, but at least it gets you the note ID. So you can make notes that include the link / ID of the original note, to find it later.

I have an agent with the following query:

$ID == $Text(agent)

So to find a note with a particular ID, I just paste the ID into the agent’s body.

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Thanks everyone! I’ll have to think about these.

I love Omnifocus and DevonThink Pro for those features: a shortcut that lets you take a note on the fly. With Tinderbox, I use a shortcut that I created using Alfred app. In this way, on a simple request, I enter a note whether it’s in outline or map view. Nonetheless, the fact is that when it comes to work on a specific project, the more you can focus on your work, the better you work and a shortcut is then useless in my workflow.

As you can see on that picture below, my notebook contains different sections and I use the \Container attribute which allows me to archive some of my notes. I could also create an inbox and choose to move my notes in another containers as I use to do with DevonThink Pro. Generally, I move my notes in the section “Projects”. Some days, I dream and I nourish the hope that Tinderbox becomes a global inbox, accessible with a quick entry to capture my notes on the fly. Nevertheless, in this configuration and in my experience, I have the state of the art of note-taking.

I used the footnote command the other day and it worked, but today it seems that it is greyed out regardless of which note I select. Is there some particular way to make it active?

I knew I must be missing something simple. My GI doc won’t let me have coffee, so that is my excuse.

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  1. Distraction-free writing: The full width window is indeed not very suitable for this purpose, but there is a trick I use:
    Run the app Isolator. It basically isolates the front app from all others, which are blackened out. I have one Tinderbox window open, with Isolator, and I see nothing else. Once I need to see more it’ a simple click on the menu bar, or simply moving to another application.

Even better would be Tinderbox and Ulysses integration, my two favourite apps…

I don’t know Isolator, but I use daily a Scrivener’s functionality, which works very fluently with Tinderbox: the “Composer”, which allows you to work in full screen, without any other things than your page. When I export some parts of my text in Tinderbox, I visualize them with Chart View and process by opening little windows (using cmd + X). Two ways very useful for me for working in a distraction-free writing environment.

I agree with @PaulWalters for using a tool like Curiota(nvALT/NoteAway/simplenote) for your Scratchpad.

Omnifocus breaks the link because it doesn’t store plain text or rtf files. Curiota/nvALT store rtf/txt files. Tinderbox can easily sync or accept the rtf. I pesonally use Devonthink as a link between Curiota and Tinderbox. Curiota folder is indexed inside Devonthink: and I can drag the files from Devonthink to TB.

Without breaking concentration or the flow of writing, I’d like to indicate a question, for instance by putting in “(XX)” in the text. The trick would then have an agent to find all notes that have that "(XX)

I have been thinking the same for a while. But, the agents cannot search inside the $Text. Tinderbox is a machine built on attributes. It has little capabilities on directly manipulating and searching texts. Taskpaper does great at this. The Org Mode is even the best tool I have tried for this type of task.

But, the Org mode is too much a hassle. I gave up very fast. I have now built my system around the Latex output. Just like you are trying to do, I put %COM: before additional comments: %TODO: before todo’s inside my texts in TB. Once the text is exported in Latex format, Texstudio then autocamticaly picks them as tasks and comments. If yu are Latex user, you might try it.


An agent to find notes with “XX” in $Text simply needs the query $Text.contains("XX"). Better would be to use the agent’s $MyString to hold the search string: $Text.contains($MyString(agent)). Then, each time you altered the agent’s $MyString the results would update.

Note though that .contains() uses regular expression searches so you probably don’t want to leave the agent on all the time (at least in very large docs), but agents are easily switched on/off. Also, where possible, if you can put a scoping query at the front, you cut the number of notes on which to run the regex, e.g. $Prototype=="pToDoItem" & $Text.contains($MyString(agent)).

You could also use the view pane’s find bar and toggle out the user & title searches so only $Text is checked and then add your search term (e.g. XX).


Well, that one will pick the note containing the text “fish”. But, that is not the intention here. The intention is to filter out a specific line in the note–or, more usefully, pick the line that contains, for example the comment that contains the todo (marked X in the original question).

Assume your $TEXT contains 20 pages of text. The idea is for all TODO tasks to be somehow filtered and visible: not to find the note that contains “todo” text.
Look at how the technology is implemented in Texstudio (exact intention of the original post= filtering todos in a text, for example)

Look, I wrote the “%TODO: I need a citation here” inside the text. The todo however is filtered out and visible along my table of contents. That is the point of the original question, if I correctly understood. It is not about finding the note that contains the “XX” text. It is about finding the line that contains the “XX” text.

I see your point.
1)You first filter the notes which contain the “XX” texting using an agent
2) then, search “XX” using the Find command inside the note.

It is possible to do that way. Not very bad workaround.

I wrote an AppleScript with which you can create in effect an Inbox in a Tinderbox document.

You can read more details and get the code from my blog post: https://johnsidi.com/2017/04/20/how-to-create-an-inbox-in-tinderbox/.

Any comments or improvements are welcome!

Sounds neat. I like the idea of re-purposing the clip-to-Tinderbox service.

This Script is great, thanks! And I say that as someone who has never before used an Apple script !

Now I will self-educate on how to assign that script to a hotkey or something, so I can use it for on the fly note taking. This really is a big help, thanks.

Update: OK, I’m not (further) embarrassed to ask. What is the approved way of getting a script queued up for easiest possible use? It appears that you can’t assign a hot key via SysPref. I know there must be an easy and obvious answer to this. Just don’t know what it is!

One other Q about the script itself: each time I run it, it appears to create a new tab in the file that holds the Inbox note. It keeps adding sequential notes to the same container, as it should. But every time I add a note, the container is shown in an additional tab. (Now have added five notes, and have the Outline view shown in five tabs.) Harmless but am wondering if this is an expected or surprising result.

Do you have Keyboard Maestro? The other methods are a little more convoluted. (FastScripts == $$$; Automator == create a service to run the script; give the service a shortcut.)