Tinderbox Forum

Struggling with Tinderbox and a suggestion

Yes, sorry I forgot to mention these before. They’re invaluable – carefully laid out and illustrated, step-by-step, covering most of the aspects of the program that require “learning.”

iOS Scrivener. Bluetooth keyboard. They will change your life, I promise.


I’m also a big Scrivener fan for collating/organising my novel and other long-form writing - I use TB for thinking and getting plot lines right - I agree the IOS versions are excellent - but I can’t recommend Ulysses highly enough https://www.ulyssesapp.com/ for long and short-form writing with perfect background no touch syncing - worth a look

This is a bit of a tangent to this amazing thread…

Not necessarily. Chances are you use your local public library. You do use your local public library, right?!?! OK, most that I know of have free access to Lynda in their electronic resources. I live in Jamaica Plain in the Boston Public Library system and Lynda is free. I work for a NYC company so have access to NYPL which offers Lynda for free. My parents are near Seattle and they have access to Lynda for free through their library. So look in to your library for access to stuff like this.

Is there something you do on the DT side to configure this? I just tried and created a new tb file from template in devonthink and I see xml. I am fine with xml, but it feels like there should be a better preview. How do you work with tb in dt?

@pat if you have come up with a nice workflow too, would love to hear it.

Yeah it just shows XML. There’s no quicklook preview for Tinderbox afaik, so DEVONthink can’t do anything with it. Not that I’m sure there’s anything it could do with it… Tinderbox can have so many different views. My best idea is that the quicklook preview would match the last known state of your Tinderbox window, but I don’t know how possible that is to implement, or if it’s useful.

So yeah, XML :slight_smile: I wouldn’t sweat storing Tinderbox files in DEVONthink if you don’t see a need for it… I like it because I’m in DEVONthink a lot anyway, and because I love the x-devonthink-item:// URLs that are truly universal. I can move a record within or across databases, and the URL will still find it. The native file system with path-based entries feels so primitive and fragile in comparison…

Good tip for some, I assume.

No. Haven’t needed a public library to 15 years+ Our locals are used only by people looking for internet access to find jobs, etc., I sure wouldn’t go to the library to access Lynda to see if I could learn to use software. I use the reading rooms at the LOC, but they don’t have Lynda.

For BPL and others, I just login to Lynda from home using my library card number.

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Getting back to the main point of this thread, which was started with a plaintive appeal for easing the burden of climbing the TB learning curve: I have sympathy with both sides of this debate. There are those who are frustrated by the challenge of learning this tool, and those who advise taking the time and utilizing this forum and the host of other resources mentioned above.

I have little to add except the perspective of having used ConnectedText, a Windows program, that to me is the closest thing I have seen to TB. It is complicated, brilliant, sophisticated and has a steep learning curve. It too is a flexible tool that defies an easy way to teach it for all the reasons that have been outlined above. It took me 6 - 9 months to “get it” and to feel that I was able to use it with enough proficiency to meet my needs. Unfortunately it is no longer being developed, and this is in fact the primary reason I switched “sides” to Apple in order to find a good alternative

I find myself much more challenged by learning Tinderbox, and feel that in large part this is due to the documentation issue. CT had a good, but not great “Welcome” file, that was in essence a a help file. In addition there was/is a robust forum that one could go to for additional help. So when I hit a brick wall, I could go the help file, and would be able to answer my questions 80 or 90% of the time. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it was difficult. On those occasions when I could not answer the problem I was trying to solve, I could turn to the forum, and receive the same generous help that is offered here.

By contrast, when I am stuck in TB, I find I go to a minimalist help file, then the Getting started and Actions and Dashboard tutorials, then ATBREf, then this forum to do a search, which usually leads to me to interesting reading for a few hours , but only solves my problem a percentage of the time. Then I either go to the one of the multiple other sources, or on occasion to ask a question on the forum. Perhaps it is partly my fault because I inherently do not want to bother folks who I assume are as busy as I am. In other words, the frustration comes not from the learning curve, but the complicated, time consuming and haphazard way the information is currently made available. I do believe it is incumbent on Eastgate to figure out a way to solve this problem, not any of the folks on this forum. ConnectedText cost $60 for a license and allowed for a much easier learning curve because the documentation was better organized and the workflow to find answers was much simpler.

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I looked at Connected Text. It doesn’t appear to work on Macs.

Correct, but that wasn’t the point

[Disclaimer. I am the author of aTbRef, and am a volunteer here (i.e. not an Eastgate employee)]

Tinderbox is a toolbox, not a one-task utility. So, I believe you should expect to need to ask questions, not least because we users are all doing different things. I looked at the two previous threads here to which you posted. One is on time/calendaring, which is actually a very complex issue, and the other on an obscure UI aspect. Both are things where I’d not necessarily expect a detailed answer. Plus, aTbRef—as a result of your question here—now explicitly covers the problem. Asking questions in the forum are not a failure of an individual’s effort or of comprehension. Documenting everything Tinderbox might do is a Sisyphean task given the open-ended nature of the app; I’ve the scars on my back to underwrite that view.

It’s good to ask questions, not least (in my experience) because explaining it to another clarifies understanding of the task. My observation is this forum is responsive and helpful - certainly where people ask understandable questions.

If you’ve a particular problem with aTbRef by all means ask here (in a discrete thread in the relevant sub-forum), but bear in mind that aTbRef is not a task-based ‘how-to’ doc but a description of the toolbox to enable you to pull the necessary patterns your for your discrete use.

meanwhile, if you’ve a problem with Eastgate’s own materials (which I don’t think are exactly lack given the nature of the app), a polite email to support is a likely route to faster resolution of your needs.

Last time I looked, the Tinderbox help file ran to about 200 print pages. Hardly minimalist.

Let me try one more time to make the point that I think I and others have tried to make.

Consider me as a newbie who has invested some time and effort to learn the basics (Still am, but have been using the program for a few months):

I want to do what should be a fairly simple and routine task, to move a note to another container.
Here are the steps I might have to go through:

  1. Create an agent with a query to identify the note
    2 Create an action $Container=“Target Container”
  2. Go to Target Container, get all excited because I see the alias appear. Then watch as the container fills with another alias every few seconds.
  3. Go to the help file, don’t find anything
  4. Go to Getting started - don’t find anything. Same with Actions and Dashboards
  5. Go to the forum, at this point don’t know I should be searching on $Container(original), so search on Container. Find multiple answers to the search,
  6. Pore over the searches until I find what I need
  7. Go back to TB, enter $Container(Original)=“Target Note”
  8. Watch while nothing happens
  9. Then either go back to the forum or ATBRef to get the final answer to the puzzle and realize I should not have capitalized “original”.
  10. Curse

I don’t recall if this is exactly what happened, but it illustrates the difficulty.

I realize that a program of this complexity needs time to learn, but it is the lack of a unified source of help that can give me answers that seems to be missing. It is also the middle part of the learning curve that is difficult. The easy simple . stuff is documented well enough. The complex uses do have to be gained through personal development over time. But the time spent between simple and complex is made unnecessarily challenging. Personally, I would willingly pay for the next upgrade if the only new change were a more user friendly help system.

As it happens, using agent actions is an interesting edge case and not a common task. Understanding rests on understanding:

… I could go on. I appreciate I’m citing aTbRef but as it is included in the blanket condemnation of its usefulness, I think it only fair to debunk that assertion.

The disconnect, if there is one, it to treat the app as transactional rather than a toolbox for doing things, i.e. starting by saying “I want outcome X” rather than “how do I go about achieving outcome X”. If Tinderbox billed itself a a “tool for doing X” then I’d understand. But it doesn’t, so I think this characterisation is fair. Still, trying to help people isn’t a task for those looking for praise.

As it happens, the “fairly simply and routine task” you select here had, for many years, a simple answer: “you can’t do that.” (That’s the answer adopted by many Tinderbox alternatives for many, many Tinderbox tasks.)

I don’t think that actions that move notes to a different container are a good idea. They’re certainly not routine. I don’t believe I’ve every used this kind of action myself. For years, my answer was simply that, if you want to do this, you’re doing the wrong thing. Don’t move notes around: use their aliases. That’s what agents do.

Nonetheless, a few expert users really did want to move notes around. So, we made it possible. Clearly, you think that was a mistake and that I am a fool for undertaking the task.

The problem you encountered in the second part of your exercise is straightforward: you wrote one thing and you intended to write another. All Tinderbox designators are lowercase; every Tinderbox designator is described in the current Help, and every Tinderbox designator is demonstrated in the Cookbook and document exhaustively in aTbRef. That said, I run into issues of this general description all the time — as do almost all people who use procedural languages.

But, to repeat myself, this task is not meant to be regarded as simple and straightforward: it’s an esoteric task for expert users that was only made possible on the request of specific export users.

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FWIW, designators are described in the app Help: Help -> Queries and Actions -> Designators. For reasons I don’t fully get, the page doesn’t show if using the Help windows’s search box. The designators are listed in the correct case and in ‘code’ typeface indicating the value (case) to use. As the listings are all lowercase with some mixed case, this alone ought to indicate the terms are cases-sensitive, even if the article doesn’t explicitly state that face.

It’s quite interesting: I had exactly the same. Only the last point was different: I did not curse, but I was happy :slight_smile:
It can be tedious sometimes to find the correct solution, but you get rewarded with a great software, that does in the end exactly, what you want it to do! And: You can accelerate the process immensely with the help of this forum: Without the forum, especially @mwra (or the support at @eastgate), I think, a lot of people would be lost…

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FWIW, and recognizing that I’m responding to the actual creator of the program!, I have a stamp that I routinely use to move notes to a different container. It’s an archiving stamp, and when I’ve marked item done and handled other housekeeping, I apply this stamp to one or more selected notes: $Container(original)="\Data\Archives\"

That’s a way of getting notes out of whatever working-data container they are in, to a different archives area. (And then, periodically, I manually collect notes from Archives and copy-and-paste them to a different Archives.TBX long-term storage file.)

Also I recognize that I am talking about a stamp, which you have to use intentionally, rather than an action to move items around in the file, which could have unintentional results.

My curse was the amount of time it took to get to an answer. Just to clarify to everyone. My issue is certainly not with the voluntary contribution of anyone on this forum, nor with the content of the responses which is universally knowledgeable, prompt and valuable.

My issue is that so many questions have to be answered by hunting in so many different sources. This tool cries out for a comprehensive go to source in which 80% of answers can be found. This is solely the responsibility of the developer, not othersEven the comments above about the fact that my efforts to solve the problem of $Container(original) was not routine, begs the question of “How was I, as a newbie, supposed to know that?”

I have tried to make my point. I am convinced byt his exchange that the help I and others have asked for with respect to documentation will not be answered, and I will need to stop trying to learn the program. For me, the reward is not worth the enormous effort required.