Tinderbox Forum

Tinderbox Training Video 37 - An interview with Phil Scheuerman on managing a college class with Tinderbox

Thanks, Phil - very kind to answer that yourself (so @satikusala doesn’t have to anymore)!
I much enjoyed the video, being a professor as well, and thinking about managing my courses with TBX, I got a few ideas.
Thanks for the second hint - I had not discovered that table menu! Seems very practical.
The first I cannot replicate. At least not the way the Word files looked in your text area - where they were in a box with a scroll bar (see the times given in my post for what I mean). I noted, though, that some of yours also look the way they look on my screen - for the difference compare 20:00 to 23:30. What is the difference on your side between these two notes? Might it be different versions of Word or what else can explain the variation between the two notes?
Many thanks for your help!

Hi Andreas,

As record-keeping and reporting become more complex, I find using Tinderbox makes my record keeping and reporting much quicker and easier.

I have noticed some of the same differences you are describing between Word files imported into Tinderbox. Some of those are much older, and I think the version of Word and Tinderbox has a role. I think some has to do with how you formatted the files in word (e.g., use of style sheets, etc.) Whether you drag the file in or paste, it makes a difference in how it looks. Maybe the Tinderbox experts can explain. I create a link to the external file in my current use rather than put it in Tinderbox. As I move forward, I will make the content in Tinderbox and then, using export style sheets, output the material to HTML and paste it into a Word Document to do any final formatting. I will put various sections in several notes to control what material goes in each new document.


Thanks again, Phil - perhaps one of @mwra or @eastgate can comment on the Word question? Different versions might be an explanation.

Yes, this is a fine way to build a table. However, in my experience RTF tables are VERY difficult to manage and add little for long-term reuse. I find that building tables dynamically through attributes is much more reliable and scalable. If interested, I can do a lesson specifically on this.

If you drag the PDF or Word file on to the map it will convert to text. If you create a note and then drag the PDF or Word file into $Text it will replicate what you’re seeing in the video.

I just got the link for the Ordinary Human Language blog from Mariusz Pisarski. The blog has a wonderful set of Tinderbox lessons on how to build and manage a course with Tinderbox.


Does anyone have any other links with other work like this that other Tinderboxers have done? I have @beck’s, would love to find more.

Many thanks for your help, Michael! What you describe in the second part works for me for pdfs (great!), but not for Word files. I only get a small Word-file symbol (see screenshot). Any ideas?
Bildschirmfoto 2021-03-18 um 23.00.32

#1. At c.12:36 Phil notes the content in the $Text pane is a PDF, i.e. a PDF added to the $Text, and not a Word Doc. I assume the PDF is made from the DOCX and used to workaround the reasons you mention.

#2. The prototype mentioned a c.22:30 is mainly setting dates/times. The $Text aspect—not seen as it wasn’t working at the time—would be no different from any other prototype. Make the prototype note, add the desired table. Then when the prototype is applied to a note (with no existing $Text) the prototype’s $Text is inherited.

Tables & Export

Note that tables in text only exist in the RTF text layer so are not exported via HTML-type export; well, table cell content is exported but each cell as a discrete HTML paragraph. By comparison, if using expert as text and using the ‘doc’ option, the resulting Word DOC contains a table recognised as such by Word.

Alternatively you could created table via HTML export but you will need to use more than one note per lesson (e.g. additional child note(s)) owing to the way you need to generate HTML tables.

The HTML export method is the more powerful approach, albeit with a bit more (template) set-up needed. But if you export CSS-styled code with semantic headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) and open the HTML page in Word, that more structure survives.

The Text Export (to ‘doc’) is simpler but you are getting the verbatim RTF styling of the $Text as seen in the app so it may be more work one in Word form.

@satikusala is probably able to give a more hands-on view on this having recently used tables in his exports.

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Further to my last. Here is a Tinderbox note with an (RTF) table:

That note exported to text (DOC option):

The same Tinderbox note as seen in HTML preview:

and its raw HTML:

The latter shows how the RTF table is not seen by the HTML export that works primarily from the plain version of $Text (‘text’ vs ‘rtfd’) plus some styling like bold and emphasis.

I’ve note made an HTML table here as I’m just trying to illustrate my last post.

Thank you very much, Mark - very helpful comments! And I was glad to be reminded of the “export as doc” option which I had temporarily forgotten.

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Yes, I’ll work on a lesson for this.

My intent is not to use those tables for long-term use, it is to have tables to refer to in Tinderbox as I manage what happens in class during the session. Others might have a reason to output those, but I don’t. Sometimes keeping it simple makes it easier to use your notes for their intended purpose.

Once the class session is checked off, I rarely refer back to these previous sessions, and when I do the RTF table works fine. I do sometimes review what happened in the past as I plan changes to my course content or order. I have been using this format for seven or eight years and not needed to take that information out of Tinderbox to do those reviews. it’s simple and it works, so I don’t see a reason to do it differently.

The prototype is working in the demo file. It had not been applied to all of the notes when I created the demo schedule. I usually do that with a stamp.

In other sections, I can see the use of tables in an HTML output format, such as creating a table of what learning objective categories are covered on an exam to document that I test each learning objective. That is one of the things I plan to implement this summer when I have more time to refine my files.

Another use might be to create a list of topics covered and what semester week they were covered. That information exists in attributes, so all I need to do is create the output templates to create those tables.


Thats a really useful reflection about the tables—not over-formalising. For instance, making a note structure that allowed export of HTML tables would be completely wasted effort in this context.

Here it is tables being discussed, but I think the point goes wider. Don’t rush to build complex structures you don’t know you need. It can be done later if needed.

We tend to over structure at output because we’re generally taught to outline at school and much software uses an unstated constraint of a particular structure which we must use to get the most out of that tool. Tinderbox rather subverts that. You have to build what elsewhere is offered as a fixed feature, but the upside is you get something that works for you.


A quick question after sending appreciation to you and Phil for this outstanding video. You mention talking with Beck Tench re course design. Where might I find the video about which you spoke?

I‘d be interested as well! I‘m afraid it might be at the Feb. 6th Meetup, the one with the “missing tape”…

Hey there, go to this page: Mastering Tinderbox: Training Videos (Complete List)

Scroll to the bottom of the list of my videos and you’ll see links for other notable videos.

“Oops! That page doesn’t exist or is private.”
That’s the result of following that link for mere mortals :wink:

The URL was missing a character at the end. I’d fixed it (and Checked it) in the post above.


Thanks, Mark. Sorry all, for the inconvienenince. That is what you get when you try to copy and paste URLs on your phone.