Tinderbox Forum

Questions about the usefulness of Tinderbox


I use DEVONthink to manage my materials and Scrivener and Omni Graffle to organize my thoughts.
I am interested in Tinderbox and am trying the trial version but is there any better features included in this app than the way I am going?

Well, we don’t actually know which way you are going! But I suggest you look at the Tutorials and Examples section of the forum. There is plenty of material there to give you a better picture of what the application will do.

In addition to what @MartinBoycott-Brown suggested, a starter question would be: what’s missing from what you are doing? (Whatever it is you are doing.).

Thanks for answering my question.
I’ll be reading the forum posts for a while.

I’m looking for ways to reduce the burden of processing information, but I’ve found that I’m not at the stage of asking questions yet.

If by “reduce the burden of processing information” you mean some sort of “automation” of the kind provided by DEVONthink’s so-called AI, this is not really what Tinderbox is about. Tinderbox allows you to add a lot of meta-data to your notes, and display them in various ways, but you have to do quite a lot of work yourself.

This thread might give you some ideas: http://forum.eastgate.com/t/user-attributes-or-tags/1069?u=martinboycott-brown

Welcome to the forum. :slight_smile:

I understand the feeling of ‘burden’, but over automation can hinder if you never look at the data except when some other person’s ideas baked into code has finished with it. What did that process miss or do wrong (for your needs).

The is a fuzzy line between helpful automation and obfuscation. so it helps to think on which parts of the overall ‘burden’ you understand and can thus adjudge the quality of automation versus the parts where it helps if the opposite happens and the data definitely passes before you. As individual styles varies, there is no one style/process-fits-all-answer.

Echoing other commenters above, it would help us a lot if you could tell us a little bit about your work! For example:

I’m writing a deeply-researched musical based on the life of an eminent Victorian writer.


I have 150,000 lines of C++ spread across several hundred classes, which I must reorganize and port to a new operating system framework.


I asked people to send me suggestions for stories to investigate. Now I have hundreds of emails. How can I identify the best ones to look into first?


I need to develop a syllabus for next fall. The course has never been taught before; some of the course material was only discovered last year. There is an enormous amount of material to cover, and only 14 weeks of classes. Oh — and all the classes might be online. Or maybe not.


I’m giving a conference talk. I could summarize the paper point by point, but is there a better place to start?

These are (poor) summaries of some of the projects we’ve discussed here, and I think they’re all good Tinderbox examples.

I use DT and Scrivener. Haven’t used OG.

DT is still the way to go for the actual document repository, although count me in as one who laments the loss of 3-pane view in the transition to v3.

Scrivener is great.

Tinderbox is a different animal to both, but a fantastic companion to both. It is eminently more open-ended, which is both an opportunity and a (good) challenge – other than the fundamental tenet of being able to attach attributes to each granule of Information, linking between them and the myriad views provided, you are largely the one who comes up with the paradigm and framework for your data, not @eastgate (the auteur behind it all). You won’t get a turnkey solution out of the box, because it’s possible you don’t even know what you want going in. You may have a good idea, but often that will change as you progress, and this app allows your data and your relationship with it to evolve. Just start getting stuff down at the atomic level. You can always knit it together in new ways as you proceed.

I absolutely don’t want to dissuade you, but I think your early time with Tinderbox might leave you wondering “what is this?”. The answer might not sink in for a while, but you’ll come to see that that is a very good thing. It means the possibilities are almost endless.

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Here is a real-world illustration of how I have used TB, straight off having relied on it in my work.

The main reference thread I’ll suggest to you is one on “How to Use the Attribute Browser,” here: http://forum.eastgate.com/t/how-to-use-the-attribute-browser/394

Here are some orientation points:

  • I am a book and magazine writer, and I use TB to array notes when I’m finally putting together an article or book draft.
  • The Attribute Browser is my go-to tool in this stage of TB work. The reason is that it lets you see your material, grouped according to whatever categories or tags you have created.
  • When I am doing an article, I typically go through my research info and create a TB note for every point, theme, quote, or fact I might want to use in the article. Then I categorize each note in a number of ways: the source it came from; the themes it touches on; the section(s) of the article where I might use it; whether I have already used it (so I won’t repeat it); whether I have sent it out for checking; and whether it’s been OK’d after fact checking.

Here is a sample note of a quote I actually used in an Atlantic article this past week https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/how-white-house-coronavirus-response-went-wrong/613591/

That’s just to show you what one note looks like, with its various fields. The details are explained in the thread linked earlier.

Then, when I write, I work from a view like the one below. I have blanked out all of the “Source” fields except the ones I actually used in the article, because many of these were confidential. The story I was doing was organized in time-line style sections, an Intro and then Sections 1 through 5. Here is how it looked when I was writing from it. (Again, with one note that I actually used in the piece shown, and the rest having all Source info blanked out. Since many of the note titles began with the source’s name, I have blanked that out too.)

I have similar attribute browser views showing the notes grouped by source; or by Theme; or by whether I have used them; and by whether they have been checked; etc.

Everyone uses this software in a different way. This is an illustration of how I have found it powerful, flexible, and endlessly configurable for the idea-organizing tasks that I rely on as a writer. Your specific needs are probably different, but this might give you an idea of what is possible.


Thanks @JFallows – that example is about as “real world” as they get. Very interesting.

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Thank you @JFallows for yet another illuminating post. And I think perhaps (I may be assuming too much) this illustrates just how much you can achieve without loads of agents, queries, adornments and the like (though obviously I don’t know what else is going on behind the scenes in this Tinderbox file!).

I use DEVONthink too in order to read and annotate pdfs and I use Scrivener once my project — a research article, for instance — has reached its target: a broad text made of several parts that form a certain coherence. In this first part of my writing process, I use Map view to brainstorm my ideas-on-the-fly and I frequently use the Attribute Browser, especially to review my Tags. At this moment, I’m writing a big concept map to make a video presentation. A great great tool!