Tinderbox Forum

Tinderbox Crash Learning


It used to be that there was time for everything and then time sped up. Applications were simple and then they became complex. No complaints there, they are now usually much more functional. Amazon showed up and now we have like a 30 minute delivery window for everything. I am even taking too long in writing this note.

Any suggestions on the fastest way to learn Tinderbox? Of course not all of it but just enough to set the foundation to understand where information should go (meaning complete pdfs, .md’s and snippets from those pdfs/md’s) and how that information can be linked together, and how to change 2 or 3 or 4… settings to get the colors and the visuals in a way to better see the connections between things.

This very moment I have 108 pdfs selected for reading in DevonThinkPro, I will highlight key points in each and then Tools>Summarize Highlights which will create a MarkDown document for each pdf with only the highlighted sections. No problem there. But then I would like to move those MD files with the associated pdf’s into Tinderbox and start linking information to form unified concepts. Perhaps from Tinderbox I will move the results (my notes, select MD text) to Scrivener for a final document.

But how do I learn Tinderbox quickly enough to achieve this?

I am thinking that there has to be 3 YouTube videos, 3 main topics in the Tinderbox Manual, 3 Forum posts that crystalize the steps to getup and run with Tinderbox in 1 day. I don’t want to drown in information by reading a hundred posts here or watching hours of videos where someone talks about their graduate thesis (not that I would not like to but there is no time!)

Can you please help me identify those resources?

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.


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Hi @shiiko and welcome to the forums.

I’ll go out on this limb and advise that there is no single way to ‘learn’ Tinderbox, simply because it’s a complex app that does a lot in a lot of different usage cases, and as well there are a lot of ways to achieve the same goals.

It’s all the more pertinent because you (ideally) want to have a command of how you’re navigating and organizing your data as you analyze it in Tinderbox; a good top-down sense of what you’re about to embark on. To be clear - while it’s certainly possible to watch 3 videos or read 3 posts to get your metadata in MD format into Tinderbox and linked to locations within source pdfs - what do you do once you reach there? Do you apply attributes to your notes? Should you import them with attributes? Are you going to work in Map or Outline View to start with? Are you going to eliminate, combine, augment your notes? At what point will they be transformed into or be incorporated into drafts? What will the resulting corpus look like, and how will you export it to Scrivener? And so on…

Next - far be it from me to defend anyone’s graduate thesis (I’m woefully unqualified!) - but I would suggest that it’s often very useful to look at other people’s usage scenarios, as they offer concrete data to work with. I find there’re invariably a ton of tips and shortcuts to be learned that tone up my overall Tinderbox proficiency. Also - many concrete examples are posted with Tinderbox project files that you can try out and extract good bits from.

That said - it’s helpful that you attached your usage scenario, and I’m sure there are others here who’ve done something similar. For example, @satikusala recently posted a video to his great youtube channel on grabbing citations/annotations from a pdf document and pulling them into Tinderbox (using Zotero) -

You might be able to use bits of these tips in your own process, adapting accordingly.

Lastly - perusing the forums, posting (as you have), and attending one of our Saturday meetups are the best and quickest methods of getting someone to help with your learning queries. On this awesome forum you will also find a list of all training videos ever posted to public streaming channels along with comments. You will also find a repo of files, Agent/Stamp/Rule/Edict examples, and so much more. This does not answer your query - but it’s probably best that you scroll through and pick the ones you think will help, then narrow down by elimination. Just my .02.

Good luck on your Tinderbox journey.


Art, awesome post. One comment, and not be be a contrarian, but Tinderbox is complex in its simplicity.

First, there is a note, a “stem cell” with unlimited potential.
Secondly, the note is specialized and becomes unique, i.e. as it takes on attributes with unique values.
Finally, there is Tinderbox, the biosphere of tools and bi-directional links to the outside world to help the lone note merge with other notes to make up a complex organize).

As Art notes, how you wade through this world and find meaning is where the complexity comes in. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s context and workflow, experience, goals and objectives are different. However, there are enough similarities where we can learn from each other.

Art, again, great post.

It is the old adage if you want to write, write. If you want to use Tinderbox, use Tinderbox. As you run into issues you can find the answer. For me, the biggest breakthrough was NOT in learning the tool, but in adopting a “meta-cognition” mindset, to see the world through the ends of attributes and boiling things down to their atomic level. TInderbox helps me think (collect, curate, create, contribute).

Reading “see spot run” was hard at first, now I can read War in Peace. It’s the same thing with Tinderbox.

Oddly enough, I just created a solution for this exact use case. Will have a video and demo in a day or two.


@archurhh and @satikusala

Thank you gentlemen for the cud to chew on. All good feedback. I understand your guidance since I had to go through the same learning process for DT3, which is why I can now dare select 108 very good documents from research that captured several hundred. But it is the memory of sloshing through the initial learning curve on that app that makes me now want to speed up the process for Tinderbox, aside from having a deadline. Then there is an inner enthusiasm imagining that there will be some good information discoveries through Tinderbox once I get past the hardest part which is the understanding of the interface and its configuration to my immediate needs. Please Michael, I would appreciate receiving notification of your ‘solution’. Perhaps I can be a tester?

  • what do you do once you reach there? I want to make connections between documents and within specific content. This I can do to a certain extent within TheBrain but there I don’t have the true mind-mapping capabilities of SimpleMindPro. In SMP I have all the capabilities of superficially linking words but not cross-referencing indexed content but not the depth for content. I imagine that Tinderbox is a hybrid between TheBrain and SimpleMind. Another example would be MarginNotes, which also aims towards the extraction and linking of content.
  • Do you apply attributes to your notes? Please define attributes. My .md’s will have h1, h2…bullets, etc.
  • Should you import them with attributes? Ideally yes.
  • Are you going to work in Map or Outline View to start with? Likely I will start with outline to do an initial organization then Map, then back and forth. Do that with SMP, I move, link and re-link items then go to the outline to tidy the logical organization.
  • Are you going to eliminate, combine, augment your notes? Yes to all.
  • At what point will they be transformed into or be incorporated into drafts? When they make sense. When they feel complete. Until new information is found to link concepts or add meaning.
  • What will the resulting corpus look like, - I would like it to be a structured presentation that allows unstructured wondering (mindmap). And a report format (outline format).
  • how will you export it to Scrivener? Don’t know? However Tinderbox allows.

I saw 1 video showing a thesis type usage and it was very good. It shows the end result and that was even more exciting but I am more about the start now, the finish can be anything. Today’s use is bringing together the extracted content of over 100 documents. Tomorrow it may be a blog that I may want to setup. Or delving deeply into any topic. I understand that I can go in many directions with Tinderbox, I just want to learn enough now to have the confidence to explore anywhere later.

Saturday meetups? I am free this Saturday….

By the way, I understand that I will have to put in the time and the effort, and that the reward will be accordingly. Don’t mind doing that. But sometimes a deadline is a good motivator to a forward leap.


Tinderbox is more appropriately a super-set of the typical mind-mapping software. It may not follow the predictable behavior of a pre-boiled app solution, but the tools are far superior to.

Attributes: Think of a shirt with many many pockets. Each Note is a shirt. Each pocket is an Attribute. Each Note can have a unique value per each Attribute/pocket. There are several “types” of pockets depending on format - text, number, date, boolean, list, and more. This helps to streamline data types. For example - any 2 Notes will have unique UUIDs in their UUID Attribute (think ‘pocket’).

Tinderbox comes already with hundreds of Attributes, and you can add as many more as you like. You can create Attributes for anything… “$DoNotDelete”… “$Urgent”… “$ToFollowUp”… and more.

Then you can perform operations (boolean, regex, logical, etc) on the Attributes, which allows you to line up, manipulate, filter, sort, etc. each of the notes by Attribute. Super powerful.

Note: the way @eastgate has architected it, even the $Name (or title) of a Note and its $Text are Attributes (The “$” is standard prefix for Attributes, helps us to grok faster). So you can theoretically even have 2 (or 100) $Text Attributes per Note, if you choose!

[The Note (or shirt) itself is only a backdrop for the Attributes/pockets, if that makes sense at this stage…]

You can do this, there are a couple of ways. I did a video with @satikusala that details my method of dumping note data into a csv table, then importing it. Tinderbox recognizes each column as an Attribute, and will automagically fill in on importing the csv. Tinderbox 9 introduces an incredibly powerful feature called the Tagger, which will search the $Text Attribute while importing your .csv or other source file - and will populate specific $Attributes per search patterns pre-defined by you. My explanation is clumsy, the actual process is slick magic.

Couple methods exist already, there is good interchange between Tinderbox and Scrivener, from what I know.

See the recent post from @eastgate with the zoom link for the meetup. Hope to see you there.

Any way you look at it, Tinderbox is a forward leap. Welcome to the machine.

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Here there, I’m releasing this a bit earlier than planned, still have a few kinks to work out, but I think you’ll like it. Enjoy, let me know what you think: Tinderbox Training Video - Annotating with Highlights App, Tinderbox, DEVONThink, and Zotero.


Wow! Awsome. Will definitely review.

Excellent. Meetup is in my calendar. Attributes….sounds very interesting, this is a plus. Forward leap…I like that.

Thanks @archurhh


Thanks, please do give me your feedback. Also, if you can help me refine a few of the workflow elements, especially because you know DEVONThink, that would be great. Few points.

  1. As noted in the video, having trouble parsing the Finder export process.
    Highlights does not split the file on the Finder export, that is problem 1. Problem 2 is Tinderbox is not recognizing *** as a delimiter for the attributes and thus I can’t explode the single file. I’ve reached out to both Highlights and @eastgate on this topic.

  2. When you export times into DT3 they get tagged, which if you do this often can create a huge tag list and from a UI point of view can get VERY annoying. I think there’s a “tagging” strategy that can/should be implemented within the workflow to improve this, I’ve just not figure it out yet. Also, this could help with the image path issue I raise in the video.

  1. Next steps in the 4C process
    This specific set of tasks only focuses on the collection and the smallest part of curation (aka annotation hygiene). It does not yet zero in on more refined curration. I think we can a deeper conversation about that.

Anyway, thanks. Looking forward to the conversation.


Think that you solved item #1.

For #2, Tags, I have really walked away from tagging only because managing them becomes a chore in itself. The indexing capabilities of DT3 are so powerful that tagging seems superfluous and takes time away from working on the content. Of course if the next step is to export from DT3 to Tinderbox, and the Tags are an important part of the workflow, then my ignoring them would not be a solution. I can point you to Preferences>Import>Tags, where you may want to select and deselect some of the options.

Thanks. You’ll not that Highlights is sending over the tags in a group and you’ll find this gets messy. Need to figure out a work around, e.g. remove the tags in Highlights before exporting, but then what? Where do you put them. Export them then delete them? But then what? What about the images?